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Speeches and Presentations

Trucking Safety Summit | Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Remarks | James Owens, NHTSA Deputy Administrator

Wednesday, August 05, 2020 |


Hi, and thanks very much, Deputy Administrator Mullen.  I appreciate the opportunity to join you today to highlight our shared safety mission – saving lives on our nation’s roads.  I’d also like to thank our Secretary of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao, for her leadership on this important issue.  As she frequently says, safety is our number one priority, and I couldn’t agree more.

Trucking is truly the lifeblood of our economy.  Never has this been more apparent than over these past few months.  As our country responded to this unprecedented health crisis, our truckers and our trucking industry stepped up.   
Everything on our grocery store shelves – rice, flour, meat, cleaning supplies, and yes, even toilet paper – was there thanks to our nation’s truck drivers.  So many of us are able to work from home because truck drivers are out there delivering goods to our homes and to our stores.

And to the men and women behind the wheel, day in and day out – thank you.  Your work throughout the past months has been nothing short of amazing.  We know that life on the road has always been difficult, with rest stops and restaurants closed, but you keep persevering.  Thanks to you, our economy continued to run, our grocery store shelves were replenished, and vital PPE and medical supplies were delivered to our first responders.  You are truly essential workers.

Every truck driver strives to deliver their load on time and make it back home to their family, safe and sound.  At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, our mission is to make our nation’s roads safer for everyone, and that includes our truck drivers.  

But there’s still more work to be done.  In 2018, there were 4,415 fatal crashes involving large trucks, with 885 truck occupants killed.

In those fatal crashes, however, the majority of the fatalities were occupants of other vehicles.  In 2018, 71% of those who were killed, that’s 3,525 people, were occupants of other vehicles, and 541 additional people were pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users.

And that’s why safety must be everyone’s priority on the road.  For truck drivers, that includes obeying the speed limit, driving safely for the road’s conditions, avoiding cell phone use behind the wheel, staying well-rested, complying with inspections and regulations, and, of course, keeping your truck in good working order.  And of course, every truck driver knows this.

We work closely with other Federal agencies, like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, to advance our shared safety mission.  

NHTSA and FMCSA collaborate on many research projects and rulemakings involving heavy trucks.  For example, we conducted a joint study to develop guidance for cybersecurity for retrofitted devices on heavy trucks, and that presents a significant safety concern since retrofits are common on heavy-duty platforms.  

We’ve also collaborated on spreading the word on certain heavy truck recalls that pose a very severe safety risk to the public.  By working together, we achieved an extraordinary, amazing, 100% vehicle recall completion rate on a major Volvo recall a few years ago.  100%--that’s almost never heard of.  And we continue that collaboration today.

As Secretary Chao says, we are One DOT – and multimodal collaboration and cooperation are critical to that effort.  
I would also like to thank the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, Nicole Nason, for her leadership and strong partnership with us at NHTSA.  We’re all working together to advance safety.

We believe technology can and will play a large role in preventing crashes and saving lives.  Many manufacturers are developing and rolling out new advanced driver assistance systems, also known as ADAS, in passenger vehicles.  Examples include automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance, which can help drivers avoid crashes and reduce the severity of crashes that do occur.

NHTSA is currently conducting several studies to examine how ADAS technologies will benefit heavy trucks.  We’re nearing completion of a research study that explores the safety benefits of ADAS for heavy vehicles.

We are also in phase 2 of field operational testing of a new generation of ADAS features for heavy vehicles, including blind spot warning, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking.  This field study involves multiple fleets and approximately 150 commercial tractor trailers in daily operation.  This study will collect important information related to system benefits, reliability, and driver acceptance.  

In addition, NHTSA is working to issue a final rule in 2020 that would allow truck and motor vehicle manufacturers the option to install adaptive driving beam headlamps.  This advanced headlamp uses automated technology to provide more light for drivers, and identifies and shades certain targets from the upper beam headlamps, such as drivers in other vehicles.  And everyone knows, if a driver can get more light without blinding or affecting other road users, 

In addition to our work on ADAS, NHTSA is also actively engaged in research and rulemaking relating to the safe development and testing of automated driving systems, or ADS.  These systems hold the potential to one day help prevent fatal crashes, save lives, and reduce crash severity.  

We are currently conducting a project related to the implementation of ADS and ADAS in heavy vehicles.  This project will identify a variety of design and operational considerations with implementing ADAS and ADS technologies on commercial vehicles.  This is important, due to the unique size, configuration, handling, and operating characteristics of heavy trucks and buses.

Finally, as you may be aware, NHTSA is working closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address issues related to the Phase 2 fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.  
These standards and compliance requirements affect Model Year 2021 and beyond.  We will provide additional updates as we make progress.

I appreciate the opportunity to address you today and I hope this summit will promote collaboration and information sharing among local, State, and Federal agencies; private companies; and stakeholder organizations.  Thank you for your time and for your interest in this important issue.  And to all of our truck drivers – thank you for keeping America moving.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and thank you very much.