NTSB’s ‘Most Wanted List’ likely to push truck automation, sleep apnea, drug testing, and ELDs in 2017-2018
Every two years, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) releases its “Most Wanted” list, a two year road map from lessons learned to lives saved in transportation.
Established in 1967, the NTSB is an independent federal agency focused on transportation safety improvements that investigates accidents, determines their probable cause, and recommends ways to prevent them from happening again.
NTSB is charged with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States as well as significant accidents in other modes of transportation, including highway, marine, pipeline and hazardous materials, and rail. The Board’s five members are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
After establishing this most wanted list, what happens next?
After the NTSB releases its list, the board enlists the forces of government, industry and the public to achieve its goals. The board’s stated priorities are not required to be implemented. In addition, research must be completed to determine the best ways to potentially implement each recommendation.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), highway fatalities increased by 7.2% from 2014-2015. Additionally, in the first half of 2016, the organization found a 10.4% increase vs. the first half of 2015 in motor vehicle deaths. As truck drivers understand all too well, safety on the road is of utmost importance.
NTSB’s 2017-2018 Most Wanted List
Below are seven transportation safety improvements directed towards highway transportation:
Increase Implementation of Collision Avoidance Technologies
As we have discussed in a past article, trucking automation has multiple levels of autonomy that leads to full self-driving vehicles that are safe on the road. Technologies that help automate avoidance are part of the story when looking toward the future of full self-driving vehicles.
Current technological development has moved to and is generally available now for “level 3” truck automation as evidenced by developments in vehicle-to-vehicle machine communication and crash avoidance systems.
NTSB has highlighted collision avoidance technologies for the next two years. According to NTSB, transportation operators must always walk a demanding line of alertness and vigilance, but collision avoidance technologies can provide a lifesaving safety net.
Technologies such as collision warning and autonomous emergency braking in highway vehicles and positive train control in trains will result in fewer accidents, fewer injuries, and fewer lives lost.
NTSB wants the technologies that are already available today to be implemented today.
End Alcohol and Other Drug Impairment in Transportation
Alcohol, marijuana decriminalization, increasing use of dangerous synthetic drugs, and a dramatic rise in over the-counter and prescription medication use and abuse mean that impaired vehicle operation has become a more complex problem than ever.
NTSB says that every transportation death caused by alcohol or other drug impairment is preventable and to end the epidemic of impairment in transportation, we must pass and enforce laws and educate the public.
As everyone is well aware, the DOT Clearinghouse rule is published and is coming online in 2020 and the DOT is wanting to add 4 common opioids to urine drug testing screens that may increase positive rates by an additional 1%, effectively keeping the random pool of drivers to be tested from 25% currently to 50% for the foreseeable future.
Reduce Fatigue-Related Accidents
According to NTBS, fatigue can be just as deadly in transportation as alcohol and drug impairment, and fatigued drivers and operators regularly cause accidents. Finding and treating fatigue-related medical issues and knowing the fatiguing effects of medications are part of the solution.
Some regulations in the pipeline to answer this call include the Sleep Apnea rule, likely to be killed by the Trump Administration, and the 34 hour restart rule, likely to stay as is during this administration.
Require Medical Fitness
Operators, maintenance personnel, and other safety-critical transportation professionals must be medically fit to keep the public safe.
NTSB is calling on company owners and government regulators to develop policies to ensure that safety-critical personnel are medically fit for duty, and transportation professionals have a personal responsibility to ensure their own health and welfare.
According to the NHTSA, over 8 people are killed and 1,161 are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in the US. NTBS wants drivers must keep their hands, eyes, and minds focused on operating their vehicle. Ultimately, eliminating distractions in transportation will require changes in regulations as well as in driver and operator thinking and behavior.
This will be interesting to watch as evermore technology in entering the truck cab. Having a training program is a first step in making sure drivers are staying as safe as possible behind the wheel.
Strengthen Occupant Protection
Proper use of seat belts and restraints— specifically for young children, even on airplanes—is key to surviving an accident or crash. But the threat doesn’t end there.
Once passengers survive a crash due to effective occupant protection, it is important they don’t then succumb to post-crash fire or injury caused by structural or debris impacts.
NTSB says that to minimize deaths and injuries in all modes of transportation, occupant protection systems need to be better designed to preserve survivable space and ensure ease of evacuation.
Expand Recorder Use to Enhance Safety
Data from recorders can help investigators determine the cause of an accident, but an operator can also use recorders to identify and correct unsafe operations and prevent accidents in the first place.
This includes the ELD mandate that will go into effect Dec 2017 as well as video recording devises, and other technologies that might collect data that could be used to prevent accidents in the future.
For the full list of recommendations for all modes of transportation (rail, aviation, marine, etc), click here: https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/mwl/Documents/2017-18/MWL-Brochure2017-18.pdf