The number of deadly accidents involving semi-tractor trailers rose sharply in California and around the country in 2017 according to data gathered by the National Safety Council, and many of these crashes were caused by truck drivers who were distracted, fatigued or impaired. Road safety advocates have long lauded the merits of automatic emergency braking systems, and a bill currently before the House of Representatives Highways and Transit Subcommittee would make the technology mandatory equipment on all commercial vehicles in the United States.
In a July 17 press release, the lawmakers behind the Safe Roads Act said that engineers had done their part by developing and testing potentially life-saving safety systems and it was now up to the government to see that the fruits of their efforts are put to good use. However, the legislation faces an uphill battle. Similar bills were introduced in 2011 and 2015 following fatal truck accidents, but they both failed to garner the support needed to reach the president's desk.
While organizations including the Truck Safety Coalition and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety support the legislation, trade groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association oppose it. When asked about automatic emergency braking systems, an OOIDA representative said the technology was still in its infancy and only works when trucks are moving slowly.
Police investigations into deadly truck crashes tend to be thorough, and they may reveal that brakes were not applied and evasive action was not taken in the moments leading up to a collision. Experienced personal injury attorneys might use this type of evidence to establish negligence in lawsuits brought on behalf of accident victims. Attorneys may also check hours of service logs to find out if fatigue may have played a role and have the trucks involved in accidents inspected for signs of inadequate repairs and neglected maintenance.