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’s happened – from everthing surrounding COVID, supply chain impacts on our personal and business purchasing, a new administration in the White House, and a resurgence of inflation. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the bi-annual cadence of this list highlighting the Agency’s advocacy efforts for transportation safety improvements necessary to help prevent accidents, reduce injuries, and save lives.

You might recall a blog series we did back in 2021, NTSB’s Latest Recommendations for Improving Transportation Safety, It’s a Lovely List…Why the Heck Should I Care? and What’s in a Word? Avoidance vs Mitigation. Since the list isn’t changing, the blog isn’t changing. But, it might be time to revist those pieces and refresh our memories regarding what’s on the list and potential impacts for our industry.

But first, why the change?

Originally an annual occurence, the NTSB moved to a two year cycle in 2017. This year the NTSB has decided to move to a three-year process extending the 2021 list through 2023. Why move to a longer cycle? According to NTSB: “The NTSB Board extended the current MWL an additional year and approved transitioning to a 3-year cycle. This will provide more time to accomplish the goals on the MWL and for regulators and others to implement MWL-related recommendations.”

With lives in the balance, why would NTSB want to deliver an extension to regulators? Well, it appears progress on implementing their recommendations by the agencies* responsible is slow.

In May of last year, NTSB reviewed progress on its MWL recommendations to Congress. The report, “National Transportation Safety Board Evaluation of The US Department of Transportation (DOT) 2021 Report to Congress on the Regulatory Status of the Safety Issue Areas on the National Transportation Safety Board’s Most Wanted List” provides a submission by recommendation scorecard on what’s being done (or not done) to implement actions to address NTSB’s MWL.

NTSB’s thoughts on progress on some of the areas we discussed in the original blog? Let’s take a minute and review the key five which impact our industry and what NTSB had to say about forward momentum on these issues:

  1. Implement a Comprehensive Strategy to Eliminate Speeding-Related Crashes

    • NTSB: “The DOT modal administrations have not yet fully implemented our safety recommendations related to this issue area.”
  2. Protect Vulnerable Road Users Through a Safe System Approach

    • NTSB: “We currently have 26 open recommendations issued to the U.S. DOT, NHTSA, or the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) related to this safety improvement, including 10 that are classified “Open— Unacceptable Response,” and one to the DOT for which we have not received any response since it was issued in December 2019.”
  3. Prevent Alcohol- and Other Drug-Impaired Driving

    • NTSB: “The NTSB appreciates the thorough outline of DOT progress and activities tied to the MWL safety item, “Prevent Alcohol- and Other Drug-Impaired Driving.”
  4. Require Collision-Avoidance and Connected-Vehicle Technologies on All Vehicles

    • NTSB: “The NTSB currently has nine open recommendations issued to NHTSA related to this MWL safety improvement, including six that are classified 'Open—Unacceptable Response.' However, movement on our recommendations appears to be slow or, in some cases, has completely stalled.”
  5. Eliminate Distracted Driving

    • NTSB: "There are no safety recommendations issued to DOT under this safety issue."

Bottom line, the extension and subsequent move to a tri-annual process is, from my perspective, because the agencies responsible for implementing NTSB recommendations haven’t done much to implement rules and regulations to address NTSB’s concerns. With the exception of making some progress on alcohol- and drug-impaired driving – and the fact that NTSB, surprisingly, has made no recommendations on distracted driving -- agency progress on the recommendations seems to be moving at a glacial pace.

Progress requires action. In this case, action may mean a real redution in crashes, injuries, and fatalities. DOT: It’s time to put the glacier into high gear. It’s time to act!

*For the trucking industry, those agencies are primarily part of the U.S.Department of Transportation (DOT), specifically, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

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