Spike in fatalities leads Ohio County to push truck safety

However, study found the problem did not lie with truck drivers

After a spike in the number of fatal crashes involving commercial vehicles – 33% of all fatal crashes involved a commercial vehicle in 2011, up from just 8% in 2010 — Delaware County Ohio officials and trucking-business owners teamed up to study the issue.

However, despite the fatality rate of commercial vehicle accidents having gone up, the problem did not lie with truck drivers, the study found.

Last week, officials presented findings that showed that of nearly 800 commercial crashes in the past three years, most weren’t the fault of commercial drivers. The accidents were caused by four-wheelers following too closely, changing lanes improperly or losing control of their vehicles, according to a report posted by The Columbus Dispatch.

Motorists need to be reminded of the limitations of big rigs when it comes to stopping short or turning and so drivers need to put extra distance between them and the trucks, said Jackie Bain, County Health District Safety Coordinator. “It doesn’t matter who is to blame,” Blaine said. “It’s never going to be an outcome that’s going to be pleasant.”

As a result of the survey findings, officials said they are planning to bring back the “No Zone” campaign that explains trucks’ blind spots and are attempting to implement a truck safety awareness program in area high schools.

Despite the study showing that truck drivers aren’t the problem, steps are being taken to improve truck safety as well. “When four of your first five fatal crashes [in 2011] involve commercial vehicles, you have a commercial-vehicle problem — and not necessarily because they were at fault,” said Lt. Kevin Knapp of the State Highway Patrol.

Larger trucking companies with proven accident-prevention programs have offered to try and help smaller companies with safety improvement efforts. For example, Waste hauler Rumpke —  one of 10 trucking businesses that took part in the task force — plans to open its accident-investigation class to other trucking businesses on April 27.

Commercial drivers are subjected to lots of training, and they usually have their employers looking over their shoulders, noted Dan Katt, corporate loss-control manager at Rumpke.

“In reality, they’re the safest vehicles on the road,” Katt said.

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