Truck accidents in Georgia and around the country kill thousands of people every year, but efforts to improve commercial truck safety are often thwarted by lobbying efforts carried out on behalf of the logistics industry. A recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, and a tractor-trailer rollover crash in Tucson, Arizona, that both required a hazmat response have highlighted the need for stricter safety regulations in the transportation sector. These incidents prompted the Truck Safety Coalition to send the U.S. Department of Transportation a letter that demands immediate action.
Automatic braking systems and speed limiters
The demands made by the road safety advocacy group include calls to mandate automatic emergency braking systems and speed limiters in all semi-tractor trailers. Speed limiting devices are required in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, but efforts to make them compulsory in the United States have not gained traction. The results of big rig accident studies suggest that speed limiters could reduce high-speed commercial vehicle crashes by 50%. The safety claims made about automatic emergency braking systems are also supported by data. After studying these benefits, researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded that automatic emergency braking systems could prevent tractor-trailer rear-end collisions about 40% of the time.
Fierce lobbying efforts
Attempts to strengthen current regulations or introduce the kind of measures the Truck Safety Coalition is calling for in its March 14 letter to the DOT are met with fierce resistance from logistics industry groups and the lobbying firms they hire. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration walked back revisions to its hours of service regulations after trucking industry groups filed a lawsuit, and a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2021 that would have mandated truck speed limiters did not even reach the floor.
Money over safety
These developments make it appear that the political and regulatory processes in the United States have been usurped by industry and lobbying groups that prioritize protecting profits over improving safety. A letter from a nonprofit organization is unlikely to change things for the better, but the Truck Safety Coalition should be commended for trying to get something done. When changes are made, it will likely be because a tragedy gave regulators and lawmakers enough political capital to finally take action.