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Safety regulators’ singular focus: single-unit trucks

Any seasoned passenger vehicle driver — that is, any motorist with sufficient behind-the-wheel time to truly understand the perils of driving and the unremitting safety focus required to do it well — notes well the outsized risks posed by large commercial trucks.

The truly big rigs that regularly haul goods across Ohio, Pennsylvania and the rest of the country come with some very singular characteristics that make it imperative for drivers of smaller vehicles to literally steer clear of them. They take a long time to stop. They obviously take up a lot of space. And when they are involved in accidents, the resulting human toll is often marked and tragic.

Candidly, though, heightened safety risks are posed by all trucks, even the so-called "single-unit" vehicles that don't quite pack the dimensions of a tractor trailer or other similar conveyance.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration certainly notes that in a recent rulemaking proposal it issued regarding safety protections for such trucks.

Specifically, the NHTSA is calling for the installation of rear-impact safeguard systems on single-unit trucks that will prevent occupants of other vehicles from sliding beneath those trucks in rear-end collisions. If enacted as a final rulemaking, the NHTSA's proposal could affect more than 340,000 vehicles.

Additionally, safety regulators want such trucks made more visible to drivers who are following them. That might be accomplished quite easily, with the NHTSA recommending that reflective tape be placed on the trucks.

The agency's proposals are currently only at the "advance notice" stage of implementation. A public comment period will now ensue, followed by further action.

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