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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently announced the results of a safety study it conducted on single-unit truck crashes. Single-unit trucks are large trucks that have a gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 pounds with non-detachable cargo units and have all axles attached to a single frame.

The agency conducted the study because single-unit trucks are exempt from some safety rules applicable to tractor-trailers, yet pose high risks on the road. The study was done using a variety of data sources, including state records of police and hospital reports, federal databases, and case reviews of selected single-unit truck crashes.

The NTSB looked at single-unit truck crashes that occurred between the years 2005 to 2009, analyzing the injury severity and crash characteristics in these accidents. According to the study’s statics, there were about 1,800 deaths in each year and thousands of injuries.

The study concluded that these vehicles are involved in a “disproportionate number of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multivehicle crashes” and their impact, measured by fatalities, injuries, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits, is substantial.

The NTSB urged a change in safety rules, requiring these trucks to be subject to many of the same rules applicable to tractor-trailers, including requirements for rear underride guards and treatments to enhance visibility. Recommendations were also made for additional vehicle-based countermeasures needed in order to protect occupants of passenger vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists involved in single-unit truck crashes, including side underride protection systems and technology to compensate for single-unit truck blind spots.

The adverse effects of these truck crashes are underestimated because of frequent truck misclassifications, leading to significant underreporting in federal and state databases. The NTSB study also recommended improving federal and state data on large truck crashes, examining the magnitude and consequences of single-unit truck drivers operating with an invalid license, and evaluating potential benefits for expanding the requirement for commercial driver’s licenses to lower truck weight classes.

All of the study’s recommendations have been issued to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and the US Department of Transportation.

One style of a single-unit truck.

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