Report: Traffic fatalities falling as miles traveled increase

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Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023:

NHTSA: Traffic fatalities trending down

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week released its early estimates of traffic fatalities for the first half of 2023, estimating that traffic fatalities declined for the fifth straight quarter.

An estimated 19,515 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first half of the year, representing a decrease of about 3.3% from the 20,190 fatalities in the first half of 2022. The preliminary report did not include vehicle-specific data, so it’s unclear how truck-involved crashes are trending so far this year,

NHTSA traffic fatalities 2023 first half estimateNHTSA estimated a decrease in traffic fatalities in the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2022, despite an increase in overall vehicle miles traveled.NHTSAContinuing the trend identified in the first quarter estimates released in June, preliminary data showed vehicle miles traveled in the first half of 2023 increased by about 35.1 billion miles, roughly 2.3% higher than the same time last year. More miles driven combined with fewer traffic deaths resulted in a fatality rate of 1.24 fatalities per 100 million VMT, down from the projected rate of 1.31 fatalities per 100 million VMT in the first half of 2023.

“While we are encouraged to see traffic fatalities continue to decline from the height of the pandemic, there’s still significantly more work to be done,” NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said. “NHTSA is addressing traffic safety in many ways, including new rulemakings for lifesaving vehicle technologies and increased Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding for state highway safety offices. We will continue to work with our safety partners to meet the collective goal of zero fatalities.” 

NHTSA estimated a decrease in fatalities in 29 states, while 21 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, are projected to have experienced increases. 

NHTSA has announced several safety initiatives aimed at reducing traffic deaths, including proposed rulemakings to require automatic emergency braking systems in passenger cars, light trucks and heavy vehicles

The agency has also published a proposed rule for seat belt warning systems and issued a Standing General Order to collect more data about crashes that occur when automated driving systems and advanced driver assistance systems are engaged. 

[Related: Highway fatalities continue year-long downward trend, NHTSA estimates]

Wabash recalling lift-gate-equipped dry vans

Wabash National Corporation is recalling approximately 3,448 model year 2009-‘24 dry van trailers equipped with a rail-style lift gate, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents.

In the affected units, the location of the rear impact guard is too far forward from the rear of the trailer, reducing impact protection. As such, the trailers don’t meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 224, "Rear Impact Protection."

In the event of a rear impact crash, the rear impact guard may not sufficiently protect light duty vehicles, increasing the risk of injury, the recall states.

Wabash said the “addition of a rail style lift gate was not taken into account when calculating the rear-most extremity of the vehicle,” leading to the misplaced rear impact guards.

Dealers will add an extension to the rear impact guard, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed Nov. 17. Owners can contact Wabash customer service at 1-765-771-5404. NHTSA’s recall number is 23V-646.

Hendrickson acquiring Brunner International

Hendrickson on Monday announced it has acquired Brunner International, a New York-based manufacturer of commercial vehicle axle shafts, brake shoes and s-cams. Brunner Manufacturing and Sales LTD, based in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, is also part of the deal. 

Brunner’s brake shoes and s-cams complement Hendrickson’s primary business of designing and manufacturing suspension systems for the medium- and heavy-duty truck and trailer markets. 

The Brunner product brand will be kept and used going forward, and Brunner will operate as a division of Hendrickson Brake and Wheel End. Its approximately 325 employees will become employees of Hendrickson.

“We are excited about this acquisition, as it will provide a platform for Hendrickson to expand our core competency in braking and provide additional components that will enhance our existing product portfolio,” said Matt Joy, president and chief executive officer of Hendrickson. “We look forward to working with our new associates and strengthening our business serving the Commercial Truck and Trailer industry.”