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FMCSA plans large truck crash study

(Photo credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) plans to take factors such as texting and other cellphone distractions into account in gathering data for its first large truck crash study in more than 15 years.

In a formal proposal made public Tuesday, the agency said it is seeking information on how best to design and conduct a study to identify factors contributing to all FMCSA-reportable crashes involved in tow-away, injury, and fatal accidents.

“The methodology should also address the use of on-board electronic systems which can generate information about speeding, lane departure and hard braking,” according to the proposal. “The study should be designed to yield information that will help FMCSA and the truck safety community to identify activities and other measures likely to lead to significant reductions in the frequency, severity and crash rate involving commercial motor vehicles.”

Comments on the study are due 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register.

A primary finding of the last formal large truck crash causation study, conducted from 2001 to 2003, was that “the vast majority” of crashes were attributed to a driver-related action or inaction (where the critical reason for the crash was assigned to the large truck). A subsequent report to Congress on that study was issued in 2006.

But FMCSA pointed out that since that time, “many changes in technology, vehicle safety, driver behavior and roadway design have occurred that affect how a driver performs.” It noted that since 2009, fatal crashes involving large trucks have steadily increased to 4,415 fatal crashes in 2018, or 52.6%, and increased 5.7% over the last three years (2016 to 2018).

The agency expects the new survey to take into account factors such as the increase in distraction caused by cellphones and texting, along with the advent of in-cab navigation and fleet management systems and safety equipment such as automatic emergency braking systems.

The updated study, according to FMCSA, will also develop a baseline of truck crash factors and “help guide mitigating crash avoidance strategies to prevent future crashes,” even in Level 4 and Level 5 driving automation (high and full automation). “Knowing more about driver behaviors will identify areas where new driving automation systems can be of help and aid in formulating performance metrics and standards that may need to be considered if they are to reduce crashes involving large trucks,” the proposal stated.

In addition, because some driver-assistance systems are already deployed in many fleets, “this study can provide data on their effectiveness in determining what crash avoidance capabilities may need to be incorporated in the Automated Driving Systems that may be provided on the [commercial motor vehicle] platforms in the future.”

The FMCSA requests that comments include answers to four questions:

  • Should FMCSA pursue a nationally representative sampling approach or can convenience sampling serve the needs?
  • What type of study are you recommending (e.g. nationally representative vs. convenience sampling), and what are the pros and cons of this approach?
  • How important is it for the new study results to be comparable with findings of the original?
  • What other sources of data can enrich the new study, and how can they be identified and included?


  1. Elbert White

    I have harped and harped about the danger of ELD’s and nobody at the government level wants to listen. You can’t force drivers to have to drive 11 hours in 11.5 hours and not expect them to get sleepy, especially through the night. 14 hours to complete the work day is ridiculous. You can drive 11 hours and have to waste 30 minutes before 8 hours. Then you have two 15 minute PTI’s, a minimum 15 minutes for fueling which can easily turn into 30 to 45 minutes or more with a line of trucks ahead of you and then standing in line at the cashier and taking a restroom break. You will also need more than 1 restroom break and food during the 14 hours. So you are normally looking at a 13 hour workday which only leaves 1 hour for rest or whatever. Then you are also looking at the distraction of the ELD itself to make sure the every change of duty doesn’t cause you to waste time.
    I drive a 70mph truck and before ELD’s the majority of trucks that pased me were the independents. After ELD’s at 70mph I am constantly blown off the road by trucks running 80 – 85mph. Everybody is in a hurry, impatient trying to save precious minutes, even seconds. We get aggravated with shipping and receiving, with truckstop cashiers, with slower traffic because they are using up our driving time, our workday. When a driver needs rest he needs to be able to take it without worrying about losing his workday and failing his delivery appointment. As your statistics show it is more dangerous to use ELD’s to force drivers to work than it was when so many butcherd their paper logs to get the rest they needed. I have been driving for 35 years and I don’t need the government fueled by special interest groups telling me how to drive. Additionally the ELD has to be hurting the gross portion of the gross national ptoduct attributable to the trucking industry since implementation of the ELD immediately cut 20 to 25% off the miles a truck can legally go in a 70 hour week. The ELD needs to be repealed, but if not then the maximum driving time needs to be raised to 12 hours and the 14 hour day eliminated.


    There is Too much stress on the driver period. The people who are so called suppose to be making things better (FMCSA) are actually making it worse. ELD and other Technologies put more stress on the driver to make demands. Driving a commercial vehicle is stressful on its own. Now there is EVEN MORE STRESS. Obviously the administration or the powers that be don’t care to hear the drivers and or owner operators voices. A commercial driver is not a slave. Fatalities, crashes etc will increase as long as again *the powers that be* keep implementing and passing laws with unreasonable restrictions that doesn’t take drivers into consideration. Although I agree with cell phone distraction as one culprit but there is a bigger picture. Cell phone is a side problem. STRESS is the main issue! The question is how can you make things better for the operator/driver.

  3. Ahrataza

    Pay drivers according to the sacrifice they make and accidents will go down. Do a study on THAT!
    Pay them for ALL their time and they will stop rushing.

  4. Harold Bass

    I totally agree I had 1 accident was rearended by a woman who had her license suspended for life she had 9 DUI’s and still driving I have been out here 40years.i am quitting do to all the government bullshit

  5. Harold Bass

    ELD is one big cause of more crashes driver has to race against a clock. Less time to get out of the truck for more than a 30 minute break. Also 4 wheelers are a cause of the majority of accidents. Besides the government. Tell you when to sleep and when you can drive. The government has no idea what the hell trucking is about

    1. steve

      yes i agree ELD and a vary vary Big!! buisness/ government thug agenday…driverless trucks an 4+ million out of work.All i cansay is May GOD rest the souls of these politician s and buisness owners – for what he will do to thwm

Comments are closed.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.