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Panel to examine ways of reducing deadly truck accidents

In our previous post, we discussed a horrific fatal truck accident that left three people dead when a trucker working for a La Crosse company slammed into vehicles stopped on a highway while his big rig was going 68 mph.

Authorities say the trucker had been driving all night and was distracted when the violent collision took place.

It's the very sort of accident the National Transportation Safety Board will be looking at when it conducts a two-day forum this week, listening to safety experts, government regulators, and truck and bus industry representatives on what can be done to reduce the number of highway tragedies involving fatigued, distracted and otherwise unfit-to-drive truckers.

NTSB members say there's been progress in trucking safety in recent years, but much more work remains to be done to make tractor-trailers safer. They point to the big drop in large-truck-related fatal accidents: 5,200 in 2005 down to approximately 3,200 in 2009.

About 20 tour bus passengers per year are killed out of more than 700 million bus passenger trips annually in the nation. Between the years 2000 and 2009, tour buses were in an average of 338 deadly accidents.

The Obama administration wants to put stricter limits on truck and bus drivers, requiring mandatory breaks, installation of devices that record how many hours drivers are behind the wheel, reducing the daily driving limit from 11 hours to 10, and requiring more rest for drivers who reach the weekly limit of 60 hours on the road.

Trucking industry figures are adamantly opposed to the proposals, saying the new regulations will hurt business. They want to go in the opposite direction: making big rigs bigger, longer and heavier in order to maximize profits.

We'll try to keep readers updated on the progress of these safety proposals.

Source: WKBT: "Panel to focus on deadly truck, bus accidents" by Joan Lowy: May 10, 2011

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