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Truck safety lobby pressures DOT on crash prevention

Call for reforms follows report on deadliest states for truck crashes

Truck safety advocates are calling on the Biden administration to act faster to prevent deaths resulting from large truck crashes, following new data compiled from federal sources.

The one-page report, released by the Truck Safety Coalition, ranks the 12 states with the highest fatality rates and overall deaths, based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

StateFatality rate*
South Dakota3.1
North Dakota2.7
South Carolina2.5
*Per 100,000 pop. (Source: DOT 2020 data)

Wyoming and South Dakota recorded the highest fatality rates by population, and Texas and California had the highest deaths overall, based on 2020 data, the latest available (see table). Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported a “crisis” level 13% jump in large truck fatalities.

“The large truck fatality crisis is an unattended and ignored public health crisis and it’s time for [Transportation] Secretary Buttigieg and members of Congress to act accordingly,” said former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook, speaking Monday at the coalition’s press conference on Capitol Hill.

“The solutions are not a mystery. The Department of Transportation has the full authority right now to require proven low-cost technology like automatic emergency braking [AEB] and advanced driver assistance systems [ADAS] for all commercial motor vehicles that over time will save thousands of lives and injuries.”

The infrastructure law enacted in November requires that NHTSA begin a study and initiate a rulemaking on AEB standards for heavy trucks. In a letter sent in June to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), NHTSA said it is “working to issue” the AEB rulemaking, which NTSB has included on its Top Ten Most Wanted list.

Referring to the coalition’s report, Claybrook, board chair for Citizens for Reliable Safe Highways, a coalition partner, said it is “striking” that the highest crash fatality rates are in rural states.

“Other than Senator Wicker from Mississippi, senators in these 12 states are often the sponsors of rollbacks in truck safety, even though their population is hit so hard,” she said.

Claybrook also railed against a NHTSA final rule issued in June that she and other safety groups contend does not go far enough on equipment standards for tractor trailer underride guards.

“[The final rule] should be updated immediately,” Claybrook said. “Many companies are already installing newer technology that has been fully tested by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. DOT ignored life-saving research, testing and analysis and issued an antique standard rather than a modern standard.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. This technology has never engaged when I was in a situation that needed braking yet engages randomly creating safety issues. The technology sounds good in theory but is unfortunately a safety hazard at this stage.

  2. The answer: Automated braking??? Safety guarantee? NO!! A few months back, I had a driver quit and abandon the truck in LA. I went to recover it. While coming up through Illinois, I came upon a car, in the left lane, that slammed on its brakes to make an illegal left U-turn. The brakes engaged very hard, immediately. I was already on the steering wheel and the accelerator with an out to the right lane. The braking continued until the truck came to a complete stop while I am repeatedly stepping on the accelerator fearful of being reamended. After a 3 second stand still, the accelerator reengaged.
    This was NOT safe. This technology is wonderful but is years away from a safety mandate. The people pushing to mandate this are deliberately or incidentally profiteering.

    Now, lets look at the data. Wyoming and South Dakota are 2 of the LEAST populated states in the country with and there is a “Per Capita” comparison? Compare the truck traffic to the population, nationwide, then see what this looks like for each state. Also, what is the terrain in these states compared to other states? Next, what type of accidents are these? Lastly, who is the cause of each accident? Now, you see that the automated braking might NOT assist in most of these situations.

    1. I bet you that, if they released more complete data, we’d see that most of those SD and WY accidents are weather related rather traffic related. No amount of safety technology is going to prevent idiots going too fast in winter weather.

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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.