The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its Top 10 “Most Wanted” list of safety improvements in 2017-2018, and the highway transport mode dominates the list.
The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged with improving transportation safety across modes. NTSB is charged with investigating plane crashes and has the authority to investigate accidents in other modes of transportation as well.
Congress has also granted NTSB authority to make binding regulations in the form of “recommendations” to various Department of Transportation modal agencies. Although NTSB does not have authority to make binding recommendations over the highway mode, it does have authority to do so for the transportation of hazardous materials in any mode.
Further, when NTSB investigates highway mode crashes, it issues recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Many of those recommendations are adopted into policy.
This year, seven of the NTSB’s most wanted safety improvements apply to the Highway Mode:
• Expand Video Recorder Use to Enhance Safety: Including proposed FMCSA and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration requirements that all heavy commercial motor vehicles be equipped with event recorders and that motor carriers be required to use them.
• Eliminate Driver Distractions: Including recommending that states that have not done so ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving, restrict novice driver’s use of cell phones, and ban text messaging while driving. NTSB also encourages states to consider banning using cell phones with hands-free devices while driving.
• Reduce Fatigue-Related Accidents: Including recommendations that companies establish “comprehensive fatigue risk management programs” and adopt in-vehicle technologies to reduce fatigue related crashes.
• Increase Implementation of Collision-Avoidance Technologies: Including encouraging motor carriers and passenger car drivers to adopt various collision-avoidance technologies. NTSB also encourages NHTSA to include collision-avoidance technologies, particularly forward collision warning systems, as part the new car assessment program, which would incentivize car manufactures to provide them as part of standard vehicle packages rather than luxury upgrades.
• End Alcohol and Other Drug Impairment in Transportation
The NTSB also made three recommendations that do not apply to the highway mode. Of these, one remains important to the tank truck industry. The NTSB recommended DOT agencies Ensure the Safe Shipment of Hazardous Materials.
“However, the NTSB made this recommendation only in the rail and air modes,” says Boyd Stephenson, senior vice-president of government affairs for National Tank Truck Carriers. “This serves as a tacit recognition from the world’s premier transportation safety investigative agency that the trucking mode is transporting hazardous materials safely.”