The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is supposed to undertake certain safety analyses to ensure, for example, that America’s drivers are not at an unreasonably high risk of sustaining injuries in a trucking accident. However, a recent article in DC Velocity Magazine reported that the FHWA “failed to assess the impact of increased truck size and weight limits on the cost, condition, and safety of the nation’s highways even though it had enough data to do so.”
If the FHWA has not conducted sufficient analysis of truck accident risks and predictors, should Chicago area residents be particularly concerned about commuting to work on the highway?
Research Committee Cites Federal Highway Administration Assessment Failure
The allegations against the FHWA come from a committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), which is a part of the National Academy of Sciences. The committee is made up of a 13-person panel, and it released its findings in a report. The TRB committee did acknowledge that the FHWA, which is a subagency of the Department of Transportation, “did not have optimal data sets to work with.” Yet in its report, the TRB emphasized that “a more comprehensive and useful response would have been possible” with the amount of data in the FHWA’s possession.
What did the FHWA allegedly fail to do? The TRB panel cited numerous issues that could drastically impact truck accident safety and prevention, including but not limited to:
- Frequency of truck collisions;
- Costs of developing infrastructure on specific roads; and
- Estimations of bridge structural costs.
Of utmost importance for drivers, particularly commuters who spend a substantial amount of time on the highways around Chicago, is the incidence of trucking crashes.
Required Study on Truck Weight and Height
Back in 2012, Congress required the DOT to “conduct a study into the effect of raising the weight and length ceilings of trucks on U.S. infrastructure,” and to provide detailed analysis to legislators within three years. The FHWA was responsible for gathering data, after which the DOT requested that the Transportation Research Board review the relevant conclusions. Yet nothing came of this analysis. As the article points out, this past June the DOT reported to Congress that “no change should be made to current truck size and weight laws.” What was the DOT’s reasoning? The agency told Congress that it did not have enough data about the impact of tractor trailer size and weight to “make accurate assessments.”
How did the DOT explain that it could not make an accurate assessment? It cited the following pieces of information (or lack thereof) that it was able to glean from crash reports:
- No way to determine whether a large truck’s weight before an accident;
- No data to show when and where a truck was running overweight in connection to an accident;
- No evidence to prove or disprove that a truck had its weight distributed unevenly before a crash; and
- No data indicating whether a big rig, before a collision, was running at the legal capacity for its particular axis configurations.
Safety commentators have emphasized that DOT and FHWA need resources in order to provide this information, as it could help to prevent trucking accidents in the future. In the meantime, if you or someone you love suffered serious or fatal injuries in a truck collision, you should discuss your case with an aggressive Illinois trucking accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact The Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. to learn more about how we can help with your claim.