WSU professor partners with OSU for transportation research

Engineering researchers are looking into the causes of semi-truck accidents

HANNAH WELZBACKER, Evergreen contributor

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Improving semi-truck transportation safety is the focus of a collaborative research project between WSU and Oregon State University professors.

Eric Jessup, WSU associate research professor in the School of Economic Sciences, is working to find a more accurate measure of the significance of confounding factors beyond just driver fatigue in semi crashes.

“We are looking at the factors related to infrastructure, driver attributes, environmental conditions and policies,” Jessup said.


Salvador Hernandez, the primary investigator and assistant professor in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at OSU, said crashes involving commercial motor vehicles have a considerable impact on the economy and society.

Hernandez has a personal connection to the research as he had a family member die as result of a heavy vehicle crash.

“Ever since then I have had the desire to see what I can do to make a difference in helping reduce the severity of such crashes,” Hernandez said.


The researchers are looking into both infrastructure factors, including curvature of the roadway, steepness, lighting, visibility, width and surface type, as well as driver attributes which include age, health, training, gender and miles per week.

Jessup is focusing on policy factors, such as electronic log data devices, parking availability in cities, and double-long trailers. Jessup said lack of parking in cities is also a common complaint of truckers. Narrow windows of delivery force drivers to park in unsafe areas.

These factors Jessup considers to be relevant in the policy arena.

“We want to be able to pick out which factors would lower the number of accidents,” Jessup said.

He is focusing on electronic log data devices because they will be required in all trucks by December 2017, in accordance with the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which was passed in 2012. These devices automatically track how many hours drivers have been on the road to maintain honesty when reporting hours of service.

Jessup is using national crash data and driver surveys, focusing on accidents involving freight trucks in the Pacific Northwest, to separate out the contributing factors and then identity possible mitigating strategies from these factors.

In mid-August the researchers sent a voluntary survey to commercial vehicle drivers in the Pacific Northwest asking questions about roadway safety and parking issues in the region.

“Our findings will hopefully change how we train our drivers, design our highways, and how we can mitigate environmental impacts,” Jessup said.

The research project, “Confounding factors of commercial motor vehicles in safety critical events,” is funded by the Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium or PacTrans, with WSU and OSU receiving $81,000 each.

PacTrans is the Regional University Transportation Center for Federal Region 10. It was established in January 2012 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Jessup is the associate-director of the Freight Policy Transportation Institute at WSU, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.