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Big Trucks, Big Dangers

In May 2011, following a series of fatal bus accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board convened a two-day panel in which federal regulators, safety experts, and the truck and bus industries were on-hand to discuss strategies to prevent deadly accidents and address why past safety recommendations had not been enacted.

In 2009, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported 3,380 deaths and 74,000 injuries associated with truck accidents. For buses, the federal agency found that 254 people lost their lives and another 20,000 were injured in bus accidents. While big tour buses account for about 20 deaths per year on average, two major incidents in New York and New Jersey in early 2011 reported over 17 fatalities and 87 injuries.

The federal government has implemented several initiatives to tackle the issue of commercial vehicle safety. Through the recently implemented Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) initiative, the FMCSA has new enforcement measures and safety models in place to help improve truck and bus safety, as well as carrier and driver accountability. The CSA-related regulation changes have tackled risky driver issues-such as fatigue-and dealt with increased inspections.

Safety stakeholders, including the trucking industry, participate in the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's (CVSA) Operation Safe Driver Conference and various safety campaigns, such as Brake Safety Week. Through these educational campaigns and data collection efforts, the traffic safety agencies, trucking industry and special interest groups have a forum in which to share information, concerns and strategies for improving roadway safety.

Many of these initiatives have worked to significantly reduce truck and other commercial vehicle related fatalities; however, big truck accidents continue to happen. Trucks and other commercial vehicles represent almost 5 percent of all registered vehicles on our nation's roads, and they were linked to about 341,000 crashes in 2009 with an estimated cost of about $48 billion for injuries, deaths and property damage that same year.

Accidents have many root causes. Specifically for trucks; driver training, fatigue, speed violations and defective equipment are all possible culprits. Obtaining competent legal advice may be the best way for anyone injured in a truck accident to protect their rights and the rights of their family.

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