Accident Rates and Safety Policies for Trucks Serving the San Pedro Bay Ports

Roughly 2,400 accidents occurred within the last year on Californias Interstate 710 serving the Port of Long Beach. Of those, about 30% directly involved trucks, in addition to those that may have been caused by debris shed from poorly maintained trucks. In contrast, heavy trucks are involved in only 4% of all highway accidents for the nation as a whole. Are trucks on highways serving the San Pedro Bay Ports especially hazardous and, as such, are safety policies that specifically target port-related travel warranted? If so, which policies are likely to be most effective? This project has two primary objectives. First, it will empirically investigate if trucks on highways serving the ports are indeed more dangerous than on other highways. By measuring truck accident rates on each highway (defined as the number of accidents per vehicle-mile), the relative danger of port-related truck travel can be determined in a manner that controls for truck exposure. This will yield an "apples to apples" comparison for assessing the relative risk posed by inadequately-maintained trucks. Second, the project will evaluate two policies proposed to increase truck maintenance by independent owner operators: (i) increased pay (i.e. higher freight rates) and (ii) direct maintenance subsidies. Economic theory predicts that increased pay will have an ambiguous effect on maintenance expenditures. At one extreme, all additional pay is spent on maintenance; at the other extreme, this additional pay is simply converted into operating profits. Predicting the actual outcome is an empirical matter. However, maintenance subsidies will unambiguously increase maintenance expenditures. Yet this begs the question of "how much" maintenance effort such subsidies would induce. Empirical analysis is required to estimate how a given subsidy level would translate to maintenance expenditures. Estimating these effects would ultimately allow for determining which policy, dollar for dollar, is most likely to induce the greatest return on public safety investment.