Depending on your age, political bent, and other factors, the 1980s may represent a decade of decadence, big hair, neon, blockbuster movies, Reaganomics, and whether MTV (and TV in general) was rotting our brains. For trucking, the ‘80s were especially pivotal when you consider the decade kicked off with deregulation. But it was in 1986 that the industry began a more formal effort to not only enhance the image of trucking but to make tangible progress in improving highway safety.

That effort was the launch of America’s Road Team by the American Trucking Associations and its Share the Road program. Over the last four decades, professional drivers from a host of carriers have visited schools, fairs, small-town festivals, and big-city events from coast to coast to help educate the public on how to safely drive around large trucks – and impart wisdom to younger drivers on safe driving practices.

State trucking associations have gotten in on the act by introducing their road teams using in-state drivers to make the message even more personable and relatable.

It’s worth noting that FMCSA has a public-facing “Our Roads Our Safety” program to offer tips for all drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians to help share the road safely. Other organizations, such as the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, also have programs to further educate drivers on how to safely share the road with commercial vehicles.

Unfortunately, all this effort is largely left to chance, and much more remains to be done. It has been statistically proven that drivers of passenger vehicles are principally at-fault in more than 70% of all car-truck crashes with fatalities. After nearly 40 years of messaging and education on safe driving around CMVs, it’s time to take the experience and what we have learned to the next level.

Each state has varying degrees of truck-safety content in their respective study guides and manuals for non-commercial drivers. A few selections, while not exhaustive, include:

  • Arkansas – three pages (out of 107) devoted to “share the road” type material
  • California – around ½ of a page
  • Indiana – around 1/3 of a page
  • North Carolina – around 1/3 of a page
  • Texas – one page

We suggest that requirements for training and testing should be placed on states as a condition for their receipt of federal highway funding. This required material could take the form of driver’s education courses having a certain percentage of CMV-related content, questions on written exams from state DMVs, and road tests that assess the driver’s behind-the-wheel knowledge and ability to safely navigate around large trucks and buses.

Certainly, this will not be light work. Balancing states’ individual priorities and rights versus federal requirements is not a task taken lightly. However, everyone in all 50 states deserves safer roads, and it’s past time we focus more on the root causes of our highway safety problems.