The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has just released annual traffic fatality figures for 2017 and they show trucking has work to do.

Overall, 37,133 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes on U.S. roadways during 2017, a 1.8%  decrease from the 37,806 people killed in 2016. This drop followed two consecutive years, 2015 and 2016, where the overall fatality numbers increased.

But the 2017 fatality numbers are not all positive. Alone among vehicle types, crashes involving large trucks and SUVs showed an increase. SUV-involved crashes were up 3%. Large truck-involved crashes increased 9%.

NHTSA defines “large trucks” as any medium or heavy truck, commercial or non-commercial, excluding buses and motor homes, with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds.

Breaking it down further, in 2017 crashes involving combination trucks (tractor trailers) were up 5.8%, while crashes involving straight trucks increased 18.7%.

The annual NHTSA traffic fatality report does not speak to crash causation – it reports “involvement” and not “fault” or “preventability.” But it is noteworthy that the overall 2017 vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased only 1.2% from the 2016 VMT. The increased involvement of large trucks in crashes cannot be solely attributed to a growing economy.

Regardless of cause, truck-involved crashes should concern every motor carrier. In its Compliance, Safety Accountability program (CSA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) employs seven different categories, known as BASICs (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories), to measure fleet safety. The seventh BASIC, the “crash indicator,” is deemed the most direct. Negative safety ratings can impact fleet insurance costs, driver satisfaction and customer retention. Fleets may not qualify for electronic bypass systems, like PrePass, losing an opportunity for improved efficiency. Most important, crashes can involve injuries, fatalities and costly lawsuits.

To combat truck-involved crashes, motor carriers can employ a “CSA” of their own. We call it Consistency, Sharing, Action.

  • Consistency in reviewing every roadside inspection, every citation and every state/federal audit finding and asking 1) is it accurate? 2) is it one time/one person or fleet-wide? and 3) what do I need to change?
  • Sharing through interaction with other carriers, commercial motor vehicle enforcement, state trucking associations and with local auto clubs – because we are only as safe as the other folks on the road.
  • Action – walking the talk. Taking the hard steps, as may be needed, with personnel, with training, with advanced equipment and technology, and even with customers.

PrePass can help. PrePass offers a business intelligence tool – INFORM Safety – to help fleets visualize safety and inspection data and improve their safety scores.

With INFORM Safety, interactive maps show violation, inspection and bypass information. A user-friendly dashboard overlays CSA BASICs and other information to help fleets identify trends that affect their safety scores and take corrective action.

INFORM Safety is available only to PrePass qualified fleets and is one more reason to conduct that “CSA” of your own: to prevent truck-involved crashes, and improve highway safety for us all.