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Straight Truck Training

While heavy-duty truck crashes have gone down over the past decade, the rate of crashes for medium-duty trucks has gone up, according to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). The innovative study (press release here) used federal crash data analyzed in a more granular way to show the pressing need for more straight truck training.

Though the purpose of the study was likely to take political pressure off pending safely legislation aimed at heavy duty trucks, the undercurrent of the story is that medium-duty truck crashes are on the rise. As ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said, "When it comes to truck safety, clearly one-size solutions do not fit all scenarios." Graves speaks to the heart of why Instructional Technologies added straight truck training to the Pro-TREAD curriculum.

 

Study Conclusions

ATRI made a few conclusions based on the data:

The need for straight truck training became clear when ATRI analyzed data of large and medium trucks separately. The need for straight truck training became clear when ATRI analyzed data of large and medium trucks separately.

  • Heavy Duty trucks have experienced a decline in their Crash Rate Index: -24.6% between 2000 and 2010.
  • Medium Duty trucks have seen an increase in the index: 38.3% between 2000 and 2010.
  • Non-interstate carrier crashes exhibited a steep increase in CRI compared to interstate carriers, particularly among Medium Duty truck crashes.
  • Two and three-axle single-unit trucks experienced the greatest increase in CRI for Medium Duty trucks.
  • An increase in Medium Duty truck crashes on roads with full access control in urban core counties were responsible for much of the increase in Medium Duty truck CRI.
  • Bad weather conditions reduced the differences between Medium Duty and Heavy Duty truck CRIs. ATRI speculated the reason being bad weather affects everyone, and "in many cases, drivers will reduce speed and drive more cautiously in adverse weather conditions."
  • There was a larger increase in the Medium Duty truck CRI during off-peak hours compared to normal business hours, particularly from 2003 to 2006.
 

Why Straight Truck Training is Critical

We'll quote from the discussion section of the report:

"One speculative consideration for the increase in Medium Duty truck crashes rests with driver quality. Given that the largest CRI for Medium Duty trucks was recorded at the height of economic expansion, it is plausible to assume there was a shortage of qualified drivers. In fact, ATRI reported in its 2006 annual survey of critical trucking industry issues that a driver shortage was the issue of most concern for the industry.27 Many Medium Duty truck drivers are not required to obtain a CDL to operate their vehicle.28 Furthermore, many are also not subject to federal Hours-of-Service regulations. One piece of evidence from the MCMIS data that supports this hypothesis is the increase in CRI for non-interstate carriers. In many cases, drivers of trucks belonging to non-interstate carriers are subjected to fewer requirements than drivers with interstate carriers."

Put another way: many fleets have adopted medium-duty trucks as a way of getting around the current driver shortage. Straight trucks allow fleets to offer more home time to drivers, and possibly to hire non-CDL drivers. However, those fleets still face the same liability issues. You can bet that a plaintiff's attorney will go after a fleet for negligence if that driver hasn't received safety training — the size and type of the truck doesn't matter a whit.

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