The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that fatalities related to large truck crashes dropped 3.7% to 5,018 in 2006 compared with 2005, according to its preliminary data. Meanwhile, the number of persons injured in large truck related accidents is estimated to have dropped 0.9% to 113,000.
Total traffic deaths are expected to be down to 43,300 in 2006, a very slight decrease from 43,443 in 2005. The total number of vehicle miles traveled is projected to have increased 0.3% to about three trillion.
A DOT official told FleetOwner that the number of large-truck-miles traveled has not been estimated yet, and therefore there is no projected large-truck fatality rate.
According to the American Trucking Assns. (ATA), for-hire truck tonnage in 2006 was down 1.7% but the number of loads was up 0.3%. ATA said that its economic data indicate, “at best we think a very modest increase in miles is possible, but basically the category is flat,” David Osiecki, vp of safety for the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) told FleetOwner
Clayton Boyce, ATA vp of public affairs told FleetOwner that ATA is working to further reduce large truck fatalities by lobbying DOT to mandate that large trucks be limited at the time of manufacture to travel no faster than 68 mph.
“Slowing vehicles down will not only reduce the number of crashes, but also the severity of them,” Osiecki said.
Transportation Sec. Mary Peters emphasized the importance of safety belts as a means to reduce the fatality rate. She pointed out that over half of passenger vehicle occupants killed died unbuckled.
“Bad things happen when people don’t buckle up, and no one is immune from the damage and devastation that comes from not wearing a seat belt,” stated Sec. Peters.
Osiecki said that while ATA supports increased safety belt usage, he’s disappointed that DOT didn’t emphasize “active” safety measures that would prevent crashes from occurring in the first place—such as truck speed limiters.
“[Safety belts], while important, are clearly a passive safety device,” Osiecki said. “We need to have a national policy for active safety countermeasures.”
Bob Inderbitzen, director of safety and compliance for the National Private Truck Council, told FleetOwner that the surge in demand for trucks equipped with ’06 engines might have had a positive safety impact as advanced onboard safety technologies were also purchased along with the trucks.
“I think we’re seeing that fleets going to the new safety technology, such as lane departure warning systems, sensors that alert the driver if someone is in their blind spot and roll stability systems,” Inderbitzen told FleetOwner.
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