Safety Continues to be DOT Priority

Posted By: Brody Garland NATM Member News, Trailer Safety,

Two years ago, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into law, authorizing $1.2 trillion dollars for transportation and infrastructure spending around the country. Two years later, the bill, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), continues to fund projects in every state to strengthen and modernize the U.S. transportation system. To make significant and lasting changes to our transportation infrastructure, the BIL directs the Department of Transportation (DOT) and its administrations to advance national safety priorities by more than “doubling funding for surface transportation programs that improve the safety of people and vehicles in the U.S. transportation system, including highways, trucks, rail, and pipeline and hazardous materials transport.”

A major focus for the DOT has been reducing roadway crashes and fatalities in the U.S. In September 2023, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its estimates for traffic fatalities in the first half of 2023, which showed they had declined for the fifth quarter in a row. Specifically, NHTSA estimated that 19,515 people have died in motor vehicle crashes in the first half of 2023 – a 3.3% decrease compared to 20,190 fatalities in the first half of 2022.

While this number continues to decline, the DOT’s work cannot – and will not – stop until the number of roadway crashes and fatalities in the U.S. is at zero. To reach this goal, the DOT implemented its National Roadway Safety Strategy in 2022 which outlines the agency’s approach to reducing crashes and fatalities on U.S. highways, roads, and streets.

As part of this strategy, the DOT has announced several initiatives, including proposed rulemakings and funding opportunities, such as the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Grant Program. The SS4A Grant Program, established by the BIL, will distribute over $5 billion in appropriated funds through 2026 to “regional, local, and Tribal initiatives … to prevent roadway deaths and serious injuries.”

In October 2023, the DOT announced $82 million in SS4A grants to help 35 communities “develop safety action plans, inform improvements along corridors with safety issues, [and] use ‘quick-build’ strategies to test out safety features, such as separated bicycle lanes or curb extensions at intersections.” The second round of grants, announced in December 2023, includes additional planning and demonstration funding but is focused on implementing and developing the strategies and projects identified in applicants’ safety action plans. The next SS4A funding opportunity is expected to open in February 2024.

As the DOT continues to prioritize safety across the U.S. transportation system, it is imperative that the trailer manufacturing industry has a seat at the table, and takes full advantage of the opportunities to leverage IIJA funding to help advance the safety priorities of the industry.