DOT unveils zero-fatality road safety strategy
Automatic braking, improving CDL accuracy included in department-wide shift to close agency oversight gaps
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced on Thursday an ambitious program to tackle what the Biden administration considers to be a national crisis: deaths and serious injuries involving cars and heavy trucks.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy tasks the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and five other DOT operating agencies involved with roadway safety with working toward a goal of zero fatalities and serious injuries.
“We cannot tolerate the continuing crisis of roadway deaths in America,” Buttigieg said. “These deaths are preventable, and that’s why we’re launching the National Roadway Safety Strategy today – a bold, comprehensive plan, with significant new funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law [BIL].”
At the core of the strategy is what the department is calling a “Safe System Approach” focusing on five key objectives: safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and post-crash care.
The strategy, according to DOT, is meant to shift from a nuanced and decentralized system of addressing road safety that leads to disparate outcomes to one that recognizes that humans are fallible, make mistakes and at times exercise poor judgment — but that such decisions should not lead to death and serious injury.
“FMCSA is committed to reducing commercial motor vehicle fatalities and overall fatalities,” said FMCSA Executive Director and Chief Safety Officer Jack Van Steenburg. “We will work across the Department to coordinate proactive compliance and outreach programs and work collaboratively with all stakeholders,” “Our goal is to prevent crashes and preserve the quality of life for all roadway users across America. Zero is our goal.”
The BIL, signed by President Biden in November, sets aside nearly $14 billion for road safety. That amount includes $6 billion authorized for the new Safe Streets and Roads for All program, $4 billion added to DOT’s Highway Safety Improvement Program and $4 billion added for improved data collection, vehicle safety programs and truck safety.
The National Roadway Safety Strategy includes key actions to be taken by DOT and its operating agencies to work toward the zero-fatality goal over the next three years. Those under FMCSA’s authority or that affect the trucking industry include:
- Implement the October 2021 final rule requiring State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) to access and use information obtained through the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and take licensing actions against commercial drivers who have drugs or alcohol violations in the system and are not cleared to return to duty.
- Implement the July 2021 final rule requiring SDLAs to develop systems for the electronic exchange of driver history record information. Work with SDLAs to improve accuracy of CDL driver records and to evaluate additional opportunities to use these more accurate records to take unsafe drivers off the road more expeditiously.
- Support the planning, design and implementation of safer roads and streets in all communities using all available and applicable federal funding resources, including existing formula funding programs to include but not limited to the Highway Safety Improvement Program.
- Initiate a rulemaking to require automatic emergency braking technologies on heavy trucks.
- Consider a rulemaking effort to upgrade existing requirements for rear impact guards on newly manufactured trailers and semi-trailers.
- Revise Federal Highway Administration guidance and regulations to take into account the safety of all users by encouraging the setting of context-appropriate speed limits and creating roadways that help to “self-enforce” speed limits. Provide noteworthy practices for reengineering roads to slow down vehicles rather than rely primarily on enforcement to manage speeding. Promote speed safety cameras as a proven safety countermeasure.
- Develop and implement an outreach plan for emergency medical services personnel for on-scene safety and traffic incident management training targeted at improved responder and motorist safety.