During the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 2020 Trucking Safety Summit, held virtually on Aug. 5, Federal Highway Administration Administrator Nicole Nason and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Acting Administrator James Owens lauded the trucking industry for its ongoing work to move essential items across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The American trucking industry is carrying more goods on U.S. roads now than ever before,” said Nason, who went on to discuss the safety issues U.S. carriers are continuing to face, including parking shortages. “We know truck parking shortages are still a major transportation safety problem…with implications for the safety of everyone on the highways, not just the women and men who drive trucks.”
According to Nason, the FHWA will continue to encourage the creation and funding of projects that expand truck parking availability “as the economy improves.” FHWA is currently encouraging states to implement automated permitting systems for the issuance of “emergency permits to help expedite oversized or overweight vehicles needed in emergencies.”
“We are doing everything we can to help you,” added Nason, highlighting how the FHWA also encouraged states to keep rest areas open and make it possible for states to allow commercial food trucks to operate in interstate rest areas, which will remain in effect for the duration of the national emergency declaration.
Owens, after calling trucking “the lifeblood of our economy,” began reciting 2018 large truck fatality statistics, citing the fact that of the 4,415 deaths, more than 4,000 were either occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists or other vulnerable road users.
“That’s why safety must be everyone’s first priority on the road for truck drivers,” said Owens, adding that this includes obeying the speed limit, driving safely for road conditions, avoiding cellphone use, staying well rested, and complying with inspections and regulations.
Owens also highlighted the work NHTSA does with other federal agencies, including a joint study with FMCSA to develop guidance for cybersecurity for retrofitted devices on heavy trucks, which, according to Owens, present a significant safety concern since retrofits are common on heavy-duty platforms.
“We’ve also collaborated on spreading the word on certain heavy truck recalls that pose a very severe safety risks to the public,” he added.
Technology can and will play a large role in preventing crashes and saving lives, according to Owens, who detailed the advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) found in many passenger vehicles and commercial trucks. NHTSA is currently conducting several studies to examine how ADAS technologies will benefit heavy trucks. The agency is doing field operational testing of a new generation of ADAS features for heavy vehicles, which includes blind spot warning, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking.
“These technologies hold the potential to assist the driver in avoiding crashes,” said Owens, explaining that the field study involves multiple fleets and approximately 150 commercial tractor trailers in daily operation. “This study will collect important information related to system benefits reliability and driver acceptance.”
NHTSA is also working on issuing a final rule later this year that would allow truck and motor vehicle manufacturers the option to install adaptive driving beam headlamps, which use automated technology to provide more light for drivers, while also identifying and shading drivers and other vehicles from the upper beam headlamps.
“NHTSA is also actively engaged in research and rulemaking related to the safe development and testing of automated driving systems,” said Owens. “These systems hold the potential to one day help prevent fatal crashes, save lives and reduce crash severity.
NHTSA is currently conducting a project related to the implementation of automated driving systems and ADAS in heavy vehicles that will identify a variety of design and operational considerations with implementing these technologies on commercial vehicles.
“NHTSA is also working closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address issues related to the phase two fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. These standards and compliance requirements affect model year 2021 and beyond. We will provide additional updates as we make progress,” concluded Owens.