Editor’s note: This newspaper is looking at where we spend increasing amounts of time: Our highways. Big trucks are getting safer, trucking industry voices say, but safety advocates say too many people still die in crashes involving large trucks.
Nationwide, fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses have dropped for decades. But with more trucks and more small cars on the road, the number of truck-involved crashes on Ohio roads has been rising in recent years.
Large trucks often get the blame when wrecks occur, but it comes to highway safety drivers of smaller cars have a key role to play, said Ed Feddern, manager of motor carrier enforcement for the Ohio Highway Patrol.
“The thing to impress on people is, don’t tailgate a truck,” Feddern said. “Give them plenty of room when you’re changing lanes. Don’t hang out in those blind spots.”
On Ohio 49 southbound, drivers are tailgating Joe Pryor’s truck, cutting him off when changing lanes, not signaling their intentions and hanging out in his blind spot – seemingly all at once.
It’s just another morning for Pryor. He has just dropped off a Jet Express trailer at the Dayton Origin Distribution Center in Clayton, a trailer that will be filled with parts for the DMAX truck engine plant in Moraine. A day later, Pryor will return to pick up the trailer and haul it to a DMAX warehouse in Dayton.
But on the way from the distribution center, smaller cars swarm Pryor’s truck. They follow too closely and edge into his lane in front of him, without signaling or allowing enough room.
“A lot of them, they’ll cut in front of you, and then they’ll slow down,” Pryor said with a chuckle.
The key, he said, is patience.
“You’ve just got to take it slow,” said the a 14-year Jet Express driver and retired Pittsburgh firefighter. “You’ve got to be calm, cool and collected. That’s part of your job.”
A 2013 study examining 8,309 fatal car-truck crashes, car drivers were “assigned factors,” or found at fault, in 81 percent of crashes versus 27 percent for truck drivers, according to a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
Cars were the encroaching vehicle in 89 percent of head-on crashes, 88 percent of opposite-direction sideswipes, 80 percent of rear-end crashes and 72 percent of same-direction sideswipes — “obvious indicators of fault,” according to an American Trucking Associations summary of the study’s findings.