By Robert Sumwalt
Today, I had the privilege of chairing the first day of the NTSB’s public forum on Truck and Bus Safety. We heard an outstanding exchange from a diverse array of organizations representing federal and state oversight agencies, the trucking and bus industries, safety advocacy groups, and labor organizations. I was especially pleased this morning to welcome Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro since much of our first panel on Carrier Oversight focused on implementing the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program.
We began by noting that injuries and fatalities from accidents involving heavy vehicles are at an all-time low. Clearly, much progress has been made in improving highway safety since the Board last held a motor carrier forum in 1999. As evidenced by the Board’s ongoing investigations into an October 2009 tanker explosion in Indianapolis and a March 2011 tour bus crash in New York City, however, much work remains to be done. The subject matter experts speaking today advocated a comprehensive approach to safety, involving a more robust system of carrier oversight, active management of driver fatigue, and adoption of safety management systems. Although some of our panel experts may have disagreed about the best tools available to advance motor carrier safety, each agreed on the need to reach that particular goal.
Tomorrow, the forum will focus on drivers and vehicles. We will hear from several motor carriers implementing novel programs to improve driver health, as well as companies developing groundbreaking technologies to mitigate – and even avoid – truck and bus accidents. I expect another day of lively debate on the state of safety in the trucking and bus industries.
Robert L. Sumwalt has been a Member of the NTSB since 2006. He is a frequent contributor to the blog.