In late September 2020, FMCSA quietly posted its latest Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts report with finalized 2018 CMV crash data and trend information. There was no FMCSA news release, no Agency tweets about this new report, and the crash trends reflected in the data may be one reason why. If you follow truck safety news and CMV-related crash data, it should come as no surprise the fatal, injury and property damage only crash numbers in 2018 continued to move in the wrong direction. In fact, large truck-involved fatal and injury crashes were up for the 4th year in a row, and in 8 of the last nine years (2013 being the odd year out). This is a troubling trend that the truck safety community must figure out how to reverse.
What’s also interesting (and troubling) to STC is a trend within this trend: Single-unit truck crashes are also climbing, and at a faster pace than other types of large truck crashes. For example, the number of fatal and injury crashes involving single-unit trucks (i.e., aka straight trucks) climbed 88% and 125%, respectively, in the last 9 years. To be fair to the industry, the crash data collection process changed a bit in 2016, and FMCSA cautions data users and analysts in making pre- and post-2016 comparisons. Having said that, the single-unit truck crash trend is clear, and it’s one that’s likely being driven by the growth in eCommerce and last-mile segment of the industry. This also happens to be an industry segment likely to take advantage of the recently expanded hours-of-service short-haul exception. If so, use of this expanded exception (which was effective September 29, 2020) comes with driving time at the end of longer days (now 14 hours vs. previous 12 hours), more miles due to the larger operational radius (now 150 air-miles), and no requirement for ELDs. The use of this exception, and how it might affect the single-unit truck crash trend, is in STC’s view, worthy of close attention and perhaps a near-term safety-focused research project.