Autonomous Driving: When Truck Tailgating is a Good Thing

Autonomous Driving: When Truck Tailgating is a Good Thing

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Autonomous Driving: When Truck Tailgating is a Good Thing

By: Doreen Lundrigan

Autonomous driving vehicles have been in the news more recently. As such, our future is looking much more ‘Jetsons’-like. While smart car technology is being implemented and placed in new cars, full automation is still many years away.

What is much more current and expected to be on the roads this year are partially automated tractor-trailers. Two companies are in the forefront of this technology, Peloton Technology and Omnitracs. Peloton develops active safety systems and is focused on bringing safety, efficiency, and data intelligence to the trucking industry. Omnitracs is a truck fleet management software company. Together, they are working on platooning.

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‘Platooning’ is when several trucks drive in close proximity to one another, approximately 30-50 feet, to leverage aerodynamics and save fuel. The trucks are coupled electronically and the close distance minimizes drag. The first vehicle serves as the leader with each successive truck in the platoon connected and controlled autonomously by the lead truck.

The two biggest advantages that platoons have over autonomous vehicles is that there is always a driver in a vehicle ready to take control at a moment’s notice, and they generally use technologies already in production and widely available. Those technologies include collision mitigation. A driver in a trailing vehicle could pull his vehicle out of the platoon at any time and all remaining vehicles would automatically close the gap between vehicles. Ultimately, they hope to be able to use the technology by having only a driver in the lead truck.

At first the trucks will travel in convoys of two and additional trucks will be added into the platooning once the public adapts to this new technology. Using the two-truck convoy will allow motorists to become used to the platooning. If a driver is inclined to slide their vehicle between two trucks less than 50 feet apart, the trucks will be programmed to broaden the gap.

This is the first step towards fully autonomous vehicles and will save fuel and change the trucking industry. Companies are working hard to develop self-driving cars, but that is still in our future.

 

Tractor trailer collision deaths increase while restrictions for big rigs decrease

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Tractor trailer collision deaths increase while restrictions for big rigs decrease

Tractor trailer collision deaths have increased 17 percent since 2009 and injuries have increased by 28 percent.  Unfortunately, instead of enforcing regulations to prevent these accidents, Congress has pushed for looser restrictions on the trucking industry.

Just this past year, there were over ten deaths due to tractor trailers on Georgia roads, including five young college girls in their last week of clinical training. Although one would think that regulators would be pushing for tighter safety controls, many have proposed allowing significantly longer and heavier trucks, younger drivers and to raise the weight of big rigs. Behind these proposals are thousands of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions from the trucking industry. Supporters of the proposals say that that the changes would actually improve safety on the roads by cutting down the number of trucks on the road. Safety critics and families of those who have lost loved ones don’t see how the proposal claims are logical.

Some of changes the industry has specifically sought include, raising the top weight of trucks and cargo from 80,000 to 91,000, giving states the ability to lower the minimum age of 21 for interstate truck drivers (allowing drivers as young as 18-years-old to drive), eliminating the requirement that truckers spend two nights resting after long treks of driving, revising the 30-year-old minimum insurance requirements for trucks, and removing safety ratings from trucking websites (where they are now visible by the public). Although none of these proposals have been approved, there is a chance that the changes could be made easily through larger authorized bills.

According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, trucking interest companies have spent over $19.6 million on campaign contributions to Congress since 2009. Even though there is no direct correlation with the lobbying versus increase in deaths, it does make one question if safety is the first priority.

There is certainly no reason to believe that the proposed changes will increase safety. With the rise and popularity of direct shipping and two day shipping through companies like Amazon, there is a growing need for big rigs. Adding more weight to vehicles will only increase the severity of the crashes and injuries. And in regards to lowering the minimum age – younger drivers are always inexperienced and are statistically proven to be involved in more fatal crashes. Unfortunately, safety advocates do not have the money to compete with the industry’s large lobbying funds. They have stories and facts, but as human greed has always proven, money is much more persuasive.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a tractor trailer collision, contact our law offices today for a free consultation.

5 Nursing Students Killed in Tractor Trailer Crash

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5 Nursing Students Killed in Tractor Trailer Crash

Five nursing students from Georgia Southern University were tragically killed in a tractor trailer crash on their way to a Savannah Hospital last Wednesday. The girls had left early in the morning for their final clinical of the school year at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital. All of the girls were in the nursing program and juniors at Georgia Southern.

While on I-16, about 20 miles from Savannah, two tractor-trailers and five passenger vehicles were involved in an accident. Investigators have reported that a tractor-trailer ran into the back of on SUV, and then rolled over a small passenger car which burst into flames. The tractor-trailer came to a halt after hitting a tanker. The nursing students were driving in a Ford Escape and a Toyota Corolla. According to the police, four of the students died at the scene and three others were taken to Memorial Medical Center. At Memorial, the fifth student died.

One of the deaths included Emily Clark a twenty-year-old from Powder Springs, Georgia. Clark graduated From Harrison High School in 2012, where she was a cheerleader. Many classmates have shared how kind Emily was. Catherine “McKay” Pittman, a twenty-one-year old from Alpharetta also died in the accident. Pittman was the Georgia Southern chapter president of Alpha Delta Chi, a Christian sorority. “Today Heaven gained an angel,” the sorority posted on its Facebook page.

Georgia Southern’s President Brooks Keel shared on the university’s website, “The loss of any student, especially in a tragic way, is particularly painful. Losing five students in almost incomprehensible.”

Our hearts go out to the families and friends of these five young ladies as well as the two injured.

Source: AJC

Safety Tips While Sharing the Road with Large Trucks and Buses

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How to avoid tractor trailer and bus accidents

Many people think that large vehicles such as tractor trailers and buses are usually at fault for accidents and injuries, but The Center for Advanced Public Safety found that passenger vehicles were the cause of fatal crashes 78 percent of the time. Even though passenger vehicles should expect good safety habits from truck and bus drivers, passenger vehicle drivers should also remember special safety habits when driving around these large vehicles.

Because of the design of large trucks and buses, there are many opportunities for passenger vehicles to be caught in blind spots. These large vehicles also have trouble maneuvering and braking as quickly as passenger vehicles.

Here are a few good safety tips to practice while driving next to large vehicles:

–          Avoid blind spots or being on either side of trucks or buses. Always try to drive safely in front of or behind the large vehicle with a good amount of distance in between your vehicle and the truck or bus.

–          Do not follow too closely to large trucks or buses. Because of their size, it can be difficult to anticipate stops and can increase the difficulty of changing lanes.

–          Do not cut in front of large trucks or buses. Large tractor trailers need almost the length of a football field to make a complete stop.

–          Always use proper signals when changing lanes around large trucks or buses.

–          Remember that tractor trailer trucks and buses need a wider berth to turn. Make sure you are not in a position that could squeeze you in between objects or vehicles.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a large truck or bus accident, contact an attorney as quickly as possible to protect your rights.

Deadly Tractor-Trailer Accident Shuts Down I-75 North

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Deadly Tractor-Trailer Accident Shuts Down I-75 North

There were at least seven vehicles and one tractor trailer involved in a car accident on I-75 North Thursday, November 14, 2013. The wreck caused the wrongful death of at least one person and caused serious injuries to two others.

The accident caused all northbound lanes of I-75 to be blocked north of Wade Green Road. One lane re-opened shortly after 4 p.m.

We send out condolences to those affected by this accident. Please continue to drive safe.

Source: AJC.com, “Deadly wreck blocks I-75 Northbound near Kennesaw,” Alexis Stevens, November 14, 2013.

CBSAtlanta.com, “1 dead in accident that closes I-75 in Cobb County,” Rodney Harris, November 14, 2013

Freak Motorcycle Accident Kills Paulding Funeral Director

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Paulding County funeral director, Jeff Eberhart, 58 was killed in a “freak accident” on 1-75 in Bartow County. Eberhart was riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle on his way to Tennessee to go camping and was pulling a small trailer behind the Harley. A tractor-trailer passed him as he was riding in the right hand lane, when the wind created by the truck caught the trailer he was pulling. The trailer behind Eberhart started to sway and he lost control of the motorcycle. Eberhart rolled with the motorcycle and was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The tractor-trailer driver stopped when he realized what had happened. The investigation showed that the tractor-trailer was not doing anything improper when the accident happened. The driver will not face any charges.

“If you’ve ever been on the interstate and a truck’s passing you and you’ve felt the sway of your car, that’s exactly what happened,” Emerson police Chief Stan Bradley said.

Jeff Eberhart owned Jeff Eberhart Funeral Home in Dallas since 1982 and served as coroner from 1980 to 1992. It was a terrible freak accident and many are grieving the loss of Mr. Eberhart.

Source: AJC.com, “Paulding funeral director killed in a “freak” motorcycle crash,” Mike Morris, May 24, 2013.

Georgia driver looses fight for life after horrific truck accident

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One of the common reasons for a truck accident is that often truckers forget that the size of their vehicle limits the speed of which they can turn. Truckers can sometimes underestimate speed and distance, which subsequently can lead to hold-ups in traffic or, more tragically, a truck accident. Unfortunately for one Georgia driver, who was fatally injured after a truck turned in front of their car.

The accident happened when a driver was traveling west on Ga. 316 in a Nissan Maxima. All of a sudden, a semi-truck that had been traveling east towards the car attempted to turn left in front of it onto Hurricane Trail. The car’s driver was unable to avoid striking the truck.

Their collision was so hard that the Nissan became wedged beneath the trailer of the truck. In order to even get to the driver, the emergency crew that responded had to use air bags and large timbers so that the semi-truck could be lifted from the ground and the Nissan dragged out. Afterwards, they had to cut the driver from the car. Surprisingly, the driver lived long enough for the emergency crews to administer medical attention before they were sent to local Gwinnett Medical Center in critical condition. However, unfortunately, the driver later died as a result of the serious injuries sustained.

For the surviving family of the victim, there are no words that can describe how painful it must have been to have lost them after a long and agonizing battle to survive the crash. While nothing can replace the person who is gone, under Georgia law, the family may be able to file for monetary compensation from the truck driver, who is currently facing criminal charges for the truck accident. This way, family members may be able to cover the sometimes expensive costs associated with medical and final expenses accrued, as well as any expenses related to pain and suffering caused by the accident.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Charges pending in fatal Ga. 316 crash,” Mike Morris, Sept. 27, 2012

An Atlanta woman was struck by a tractor-trailer Wednesday night

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Lois John, 77, also known as “Granny,” is on life support at Grady Memorial Hospital after she was struck by a tractor-trailer last night. Ms. Johnson was crossing Virginia Avenue near Harrison Road in Atlanta when the tractor-trailer attempted a left turn, striking her with its left bumper and running her over.

The tractor-trailer driver, who stated he did not know he hit anyone, left the scene but returned after receiving a phone call with details of what occurred.

Witnesses told investigators that Ms. Johnson was jaywalking when she was struck.

Accident involving tractor-trailers often lead to serious personal injury and even death. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act is very specific as to what is required by the trucking industry and its employees. Failure by companies and drivers to comply with these rules and regulations demonstrates a complete disregard to the consequences.

Often tractor-trailer collisions are a result of the following:

  • Driver Fatigue
  • Driver under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Aggressive Driving/Tailgating or Speeding
  • Improper loading or weight distribution
  • Illegal Schedules/Illegal Logbooks
  • Improper Maintenance and safety equipment
  • Negligent hiring and training
  • Unqualified drivers

In Ms. Johnson’s case, it appears that the driver may have not seen her crossing the roadway. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Johnson and her family.

Under-ride guards on tractor trailers still failing-death likely

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In 2009, approximately 3,163 people were killed as a result of a crash with a tractor trailer. At leaset 97 of those deaths were reported in Georgia. Many of these accidents were caused by a passenger car rear ending the tractor trailer and becoming imbedded under the truck body. These types of accidents are referred to as “under-ride accidents.”

Under-ride accidents makes death or serious injury more likely since the upper part of the passenger vehicle’s compartment crushes as the truck body intrudes into the vehicle safety cage. The problem is that the car sits low and the tractor trailer sits high. So, of course, when they make impact, the car is going to go under the truck body- resulting in death.

In 1996, the NHTSA published a final rule establishing two Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) – 223, Rear Impact Guards, and 224, Rear Impact Protection. FMVSS 223, the equipment standard, specified strength requirements and compliance procedures for rear impact guards on semitrailers. FMVSS 224, the vehicle standard, specified mounting instructions and location specifications for those guards. (The NHTSA has done very little to improve these standards over the past 15 years.)

Earlier this year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performed a series of crash tests to determine which under-ride guards performed better as well as what type of failures occurred. The testing was performed on both Canadian and U.S. tractor trailers using a low speed impact of 35 miles per hour. As you can see in the video attached below, the Canadian tractor trailer withstood the impact significantly better than the U.S. tractor trailer. Clearly, the Canadian requirements for strength and absorption are much stricter than the U.S. requirements.

On February 28, 2011, the IIHS filed a petition for increased rear impact protection with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requesting that the NHTSA reopen FMVSS 223 and 224 to:
  • Substantially increase the quasi-static force requirements, at least to levels that would guarantee all guards are as strong as the Wabash;
  • Move the P1 test location father outboard to improve the offset crash protection;
  • Require that attachment hardware remains intact throughout the tests;
  • Require guards be certified while attached to the trailers for which they are designed;
  • Investigate whether the maximum guard ground clearance can be reduced; and
  • Reduce the number of exempt truck and trailer types.

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