It’s important to keep in mind that while the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) serves an important function – especially around investigating crashes in all transportation modes – it has no regulatory authority. In other words, they can investigate and instigate, but the NTSB can only recommend, not regulate. Regulations and regulating are the responsibility of Congress, the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), and other agencies.
But, we’re in a different time now than when the last Most Wanted List came out – 2019-2020. A new administration is in charge – one with a different perspective and approach to regulations. What that can mean is that there is a higher chance that some of these recommendations find their way into legislation and then, eventually, regulation.
Which one or ones will find their way into the books? Good question! If I had any skill at prognostication, I’d have made my fortune in the stock market a long time ago. Since that hasn’t happened, consider yourself warned!
For trucking, the NTSB Most Wanted List recommendation I’d put my money on is the requiring of collision-mitigation and connected-vehicle technologies on all vehicles.
The NTSB has been advocating for this on cars (and eventually trucks) for over 25 years and backs it up with an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)/Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) research study from 2017 that found “rates of rear-end striking crash involvements with injuries were reduced by 20%, 45%, and 56%, respectively, by FCW (forward collision warning) alone, low-speed AEB (autonomous emergency braking), and FCW with AEB.” (Cicchino, 2/2017)
Further reinforcing the NTSB’s position on “all vehicles” required to be equipped with collision avoidance is a second IIHS/HLDI study that found that “FCW was associated with a statistically significant 22% reduction in the rate of police-reportable crashes per vehicle miles traveled, and a significant 44% reduction in the rear-end crash rate of large trucks. AEB also was associated with significant reductions – 12% overall and 41% for rear-end crashes.” (Teoh, 2020)
Lives lost in crashes is also a key reason for thinking this might make it to rulemaking. According to the NTSB: “36,096 lives (were) lost in motor vehicle crashes in 2019; (and) there was a 4.6% increase in the first 9 months of 2020, according to preliminary data from NHTSA.” (Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes in 2019; Traffic Safety Facts – Research Note; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 12/20)
Turn back the pages about six months or so to November 2020 and take a look at my earlier blog posts about the “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts” from 2018, and you’ll find some additional statistics that could support collision mitigation technology becoming regulated for large trucks. The Crash Facts report stated:
In 2018, 4,415 fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred. This is up 1.1% from the 4,366 crashes in 2017 and up 15% from the 2008 count. On the clock, this is one fatal crash involving a heavy truck every half-hour.
In 2018, 38,104 large trucks rear-ended a passenger vehicle. That’s about one rear-ender every 15 minutes. Regrettably, this is up 15% from 2017, when 33,094 truck rear-ending car crashes occurred. The majority of these crashes, in both 2017 and 2018, were property damage-only crashes, but in 2018, 9,104 were fatality (104) and injury (9,000) crashes. That’s roughly about a quarter of the total truck rear-ending passenger vehicle incidents.
Yep, more of the fatalities came in automotive (class 1 and 2) vehicles, but trucks generally tend to get more unwanted press when a crash occurs.
Finally, the idea for requiring regulation of collision mitigation technology passed a house of Congress in 2020. “The Moving Forward Act” (H.R. 2) from the last congress (116th) passed the House, but didn’t move forward in the Senate. The Moving Forward Act includes, among its many sections, a provision that “sets forth motor vehicle safety standards that require new commercial motor vehicles to be equipped with an automatic emergency braking system, establishes performance requirements for such braking systems, and requires the systems to be used while the commercial vehicles are in operation.”
H.R. 2 is expected to be the foundation of the safety section in a new highway or infrastructure bill.
Three strikes: two studies, “36,096 lives lost in motor vehicle crashes in 2019,” and a previously passed bill. They are why I believe there’s a good chance that this particular Most Wanted List item could pass over the finish line and make it into the books as a regulation – for both cars and trucks.
As with my stock portfolio, we’ll just have to wait and see if this was the right call!
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NTSB Most Wanted List Redux
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost two years since the last National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) “Most Wanted List (MWL) was published. A lot has happened, so let's revist it and refresh our memories regarding what’s on the list and potential impacts for our industry.