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January 13, 2015 3:30 PM, EST

Commercial Truck Safety Makes NTSB’s Most Wanted List

Jonathan S. Reiskin/Transport Topics

WASHINGTON — Strengthening commercial truck safety is one of the new issues on the Most Wanted List of policies and actions issued annually by the National Transportation Safety Board.

It is a list of the top 10 areas that need safety improvements.

“The Most Wanted List is our roadmap for 2015,” NTSB acting Chairman Christopher Hart said. “We want it to be a roadmap for policymakers and legislators as well. These are safety improvements for which the time is ripe for action.”

Hart, along with two NTSB colleagues, unveiled the 10 concerns for 2015 during a press conference here Jan. 13. The event was connected to the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board.

The other three new areas of focus are: requiring that transportation operators be medically fit for duty; increasing safe movement of rail tank cars that carry crude oil, ethanol and other hazardous materials across the country; and requiring pilots to strengthen procedural compliance.

“At the NTSB, we want to make new strides in transportation safety in 2015, and we want to lay the groundwork for years that are even safer,” Hart said.

NTSB does not regulate any industries, but its staff investigates major transportation accidents and makes recommendations to regulators and Congress on how to improve transportation safety.

Distraction and impairment are still key issues for NTSB, and both are on the list again this year. It said that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2012, about one in 10 drivers in fatal crashes were distracted. In almost a third of fatal crashes, a driver was impaired by alcohol. Safety of helicopters operated by local, state and federal governments also made the list.

NTSB also said it is focusing on all modes of mass transit for greater operational safety — a statement that came a day after it began investigating an accident here involving a Metro train that abruptly stopped in a tunnel and filled with smoke, killing one passenger.

Hart, who has been nominated by President Obama to become the board’s permanent chairman, will be the board member in charge of the truck safety segment of this year’s campaign. Hart said each of the 10 items will have a specific board member as its champion.

Hart said truck safety should be approached as a “broad spectrum” of policies, including vehicle maintenance, driver fitness and deploying new safety technology in trucks.

The main safety regulators for trucking are the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.