Serious road accidents in the United States have doubled in the past decade

Serious road accidents in the United States have doubled in the past decade

This was the most expensive hazardous materials spill on a Massachusetts highway in the past decade.

It happened on a dry, clear, sunny day just after 2 o’clock at Revere Beach, just north of Boston, on April 17, 2020.

A Department of Transportation report showed that a tractor-trailer transporting gasoline mixed with ethyl alcohol veered at high speed and overturned. The accident spilled the large rig’s entire load, totaling about 10,000 gallons of fluid, onto Highway 1A and into a nearby saltwater marsh.

The police cited the driver, who was not injured, because he took the curve at an unsafe speed.

The cost of damage to the tractor trailer, loss of gasoline, and cleanup of the marsh exceeded $1.1 million.

This was the exact type of crash that highway safety experts told CBS News that a system called electronic stability control could have prevented had it been used.

Understandably, much national attention focused on the safety of transporting hazardous materials on railroads following the East Palestine, Ohio, train accident on February 3, 2023, when Smoke and fire erupted After it went off course 11 tanker train cars carrying hazardous materials Included Vinyl chloride. Hundreds of nearby residents were evacuated from their homes after some chemicals leaked and first responders were forced to release more chemicals to prevent an explosion.

But a CBS News investigation found that the likelihood of an accident involving dangerous and toxic chemicals is actually much greater on the roads where you and your family drive every day.

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CBS News analyzed 10 years of accident data from the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). It shows that for every hazardous materials accident involving a train, there are 33 serious accidents involving large platforms on our roads.

PHMSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation created to protect people and the environment by advancing the safe transportation of energy and other hazardous materials. To do this, the agency tracks the transportation of hazardous materials via various means such as air, highways, pipelines and railways. The agency also establishes national policy, sets and enforces standards, educates and conducts research to prevent accidents, and trains first responders in the event of an accident.

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Over the past 10 years, the number of large rig accidents involving hazardous materials has jumped two and a half times, an increase of 155%.

In fact, on-highway tractor-trailer accidents account for 64% of the total damage caused by any type of hazardous materials transport mode, or approximately $512 million.

In the past 10 years, according to PHMSA data, there have been 52 deaths and 160 injuries due to hazardous materials incidents involving tractor trailers during transport.

“There are more than two million shipments of hazardous materials every day in the United States of America,” said Bob Richard, former deputy associate administrator for hazardous materials safety at PHMSA from 2006 to 2010, under President George W. Bush. “And most of that stuff moves over highways.” . W. Bush.

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“Most incidents involve flammable liquids, primarily the combustible liquids of fuel oil for homes and home heating,” Richard said. “The first item (that should spill) is the paint. By far (this is) the thing that gets spilled the most.”

While working with the federal government, Richard helped develop and implement hazardous materials safety regulations in the United States and internationally. He is now the president of his own consulting company called Hazmat Safety Consulting.

“If you look at all the data published by the agency, you can see that human error is the number one cause of accidents,” Richard said.

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Human error accounts for 18% of transportation accidents, or approximately 1 in 5 serious road accidents.

“And when I was there (at the Department of Transportation), that was a concern,” Richard said. “That’s probably the most difficult thing to deal with. So, you know, some of the new technologies that are going to be rolled out to truck drivers can help address and reduce that problem, to help prevent accidents.”

Richard talks about safety technology like collision avoidance, cameras that monitor truck drivers, lane assist, satellite tracking, computer-assisted navigation, rollover prevention, and forward-facing radar that disables automatic braking if anything gets close. These features are already widely available.

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That’s why experts, from accident investigators to truck drivers to business owners, tell CBS News that onboard safety technologies are so valuable, they should be used, and they are needed.

But over the decades, safety technology has moved faster than government policies, CBS News found.

Federal regulators have yet to require all of this technology in commercial trucks, including those carrying hazardous materials, despite National Transportation Safety Board recommendations dating back nearly three decades.

Boyle Transportation, located near Boston, is one of those companies that doesn’t wait for government regulators. Boyle Transportation already fully utilizes all of these systems in every one of its 100 or so truck cabs.

“Starting about 25 years ago, around the late 1990s, we started early adopting many of the onboard safety systems,” said Andrew Boyle, co-president of Boyle Transportation.

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“It’s safe to say we’re investing very heavily and going a little low in terms of equipment, but we’re also trying to train people so they’re also in a position to be safe and successful,” Boyle said.

“We have greatly improved the use of these systems in conjunction with cameras and individual training and have achieved real results,” said Mike Lasko, Boyle’s director of transportation safety. “We have not had a preventable or recorded accident since 2019. The one before that was in 2014.”

Maverick Trucking, of North Little Rock, Arkansas, tells CBS News it has also seen improvements in accident rates since installing these safety technologies on its large rigs.

Big rig driver Jackie Wegener, who has been driving Boyle Transportation for more than a decade, says the new technology may be an adjustment for some of her fellow drivers, but it has made her job and life better.

“I think it fundamentally changes the way trucks are driven,” Wegener said. “I feel safer as a driver on the plane.”

When asked why people should care about this issue, she did not hesitate to give her answer.

“Human life,” Wegener said. This technology is “important and valuable no matter what else. And that’s the point.”

It’s a technology that the NTSB has recommended since 1995 be installed on commercial trucks.

In its most recent public notice on this topic, Top 10 Transportation Safety Recommendations for 2022-2023, the NTSB again recommended that collision avoidance technologies should be used in commercial vehicles.

The NTSB’s latest recommendation comes after its investigators released their report on a serial crash that occurred in Phoenix on June 9, 2021. NTSB investigators identified a large rig towing a tanker trailer that collided with a parked line of seven passenger vehicles at a distance of 62 miles. hour, killing four people and wounding 11 others, including a 6-year-old child.

During a hearing on March 28, 2023, where investigators released their findings, NTSB officials said the entire tragedy could have been avoided if there had been collision-avoidance technology aboard the large rig.

“We will do everything we can to enhance safety so this never happens again,” NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said during the hearing.

Even the federal agency that sets rules and regulations for trucks, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), estimated in a 2017 report that driver-assistance technology, such as automatic emergency braking, could prevent 11,000 crashes each year.

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However, despite all this, only a few of these safety systems have been implemented by federal regulatory agencies.

CBS News asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg why the Department of Transportation doesn’t require these safety technologies in every truck on the road.

“There’s a lot of new technology coming online that holds a lot of promise,” Buttigieg said. “It doesn’t mean that the minute you see something exciting, it’s something you can ask everyone to adopt.”

“On the one hand, (the technology) can help alert you when you’re veering out of your lane. It can help let you know there’s a vehicle in front of you and that you’re getting too close to it. And on the other hand, one of the patterns we’ve seen is that it can actually slow down Drivers are prompted to pay less attention.”

In 2020, the Department of Transportation awarded a 16-member research team led by Virginia Tech a $7.5 million grant to develop plans to safely integrate these systems into trucks. The research is scheduled to be completed in 2024.

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“Because sometimes the promises of these technologies have to be verified, especially when you look at these advanced driver assistance systems,” Buttigieg said.

He said that what worries Bob Richard is the occurrence of potentially large incidents of hazardous materials “in areas with high population density where there is a release of so-called toxic substances through extermination, such as chlorine, which will be one of these substances.” “It could evaporate and form a cloud. And depending on the wind conditions, you know, it could be very dangerous.”

Throughout his many decades of experience in the hazardous materials field, Richard said he has found that the federal government could do more to coordinate safety rules and protocols.

“There are multiple agencies working together. Sometimes government agencies don’t cooperate enough,” Richard said.

Safety Director Lasko points out that the cost of this technology may cause the biggest delay with regulators. Lasko says Boyle Transportation has spent $10,000 to $20,000 to put this technology into every tractor cab it owns.

In his experience, Richard said, these costs were taken into account when regulators chose not to require such technology.

“You have a lot of what I call trucking,” Richard said. “You know, you could have one person who owns their own truck. So, would they be able economically to go out and retrofit their truck with all of these systems? Probably not.”

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