2018 Scholarship Winner, Conor McNellis

Congratulations to our 2018 scholarship winner, Conor McNellis!

Bio: My name is Connor McNellis. I was born in Albuquerque New Mexico in 2000. I am currently enrolled in Sandia High School. I have taken AP Courses throughout high school, and maintained a 4.5 GPA. I compete in Cross Country, and Track & Field. I am the captain of the Cross Country and Track Teams. I am graduating ranked #7 of 336 in my graduating class. I am a member of the National Honor Society, as well as the Spanish National Honor Society. I volunteer with my church’s youth group twice a week, and volunteer with various clubs and teams. I have volunteered with the hiking club to clean up protected lands in and around Albuquerque, and have helped run races with the Cross Country team. I will be attending Texas A&M University in the fall, where I will be joining the Corps of Cadets and majoring in either Mechanical or Electrical Engineering.

Prompt: 18-wheelers are some of the largest vehicles on the road are subject to specific rules and  regulations. However, 18-wheeler accidents still occur, and are on the rise in developing areas.

What sort of laws and/or safety regulations could be implemented to decrease 18-wheeler accidents?

Essay: 3,986. That is the number of people killed in “large truck accidents” in 2016. We can’t however, dismiss this as an insignificant fraction of the people out on the roads, or even the people lost to these accidents, but consider who these people were: mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. Something must be done to protect from this senseless loss. Even though large trucks are heavily regulated they prove to be a hazard upon the roads. This is because companies have not updated their trucks to the newest safety technology available, and the drivers are pressured to cut corners. Trucking companies are choosing profits over people. By minimizing costs spent on truck safety they can maximize their revenue. Several things can easily be done to reduce these numbers: better brakes for trucks, lane departure warning and emergency braking systems, video blind spot elimination systems, and driver monitoring devices such as the “Snapshot from Progressive.”

Large truck brakes are proven to require 40% longer to come to a complete stop than cars travelling at the same speed. This is due to the load weight and road conditions; however these brakes are put to use quite frequently and put under severe amounts of stress. Legislation should be passed mandating that brakes be replaced after every 250,000 miles. Currently most trucks are serviced by “mechanics routinely lubricating the chassis peer through the access holes in the dust shields – when they are fitted – to discover the linings are worn thin.” This “eyeballing” is a great example of company corner cutting, so if a brake is potentially too worn they will more than likely send the truck out without new brakes to avoid costs. Trucks should also be incentivized or mandated to use air disc brakes instead of drum brakes. These could prevent 2,411 crashes, 1,447 injuries, and 37 deaths annually.


Today lane departure warning systems and emergency braking systems are common place. Why haven’t trucking companies integrated this safety technology into their vehicles? Companies want to avoid the cost of implementing these. If legislation were passed mandating this integration or incentives offered, the roads would be a much safer place. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that if lane departure warning systems were used, up to 6,372 crashes, 1,342 injuries, and 115 deaths annually could be prevented. If emergency brakes were also implemented, they could prevent up to 5,294 crashes, 2,753 injuries, and 55 deaths annually. These two simple additions at minimal costs to companies could result in saving up to 170 people annually.

Trucks need 54 feet to make a full U-turn. There are signs detailing trucks blind spots, but what if these could be eliminated? If cameras were put into place so drivers could see their blind spots it would greatly reduce the number of accidents involving these large trucks. Large trucks blind spots account for 80% of all large truck accidents according to Fried Rogers Goldberg Truck Accident attorneys. If these systems were implemented Triple A estimates, 63,000 crashes, 17,733 injuries, and 293 deaths annually could be prevented.

Truck drivers are mandated by law not to exceed more than 11 driving hours per day. However many face enticing incentives to deliver goods early, or punishments for exceeding deadlines and will ignore this rule. If companies were mandated or incentivized to use driver monitoring technology which observes the drivers speed, habits, and time the companies could determine if their drivers were breaking the law. They could impose penalties on drivers for exceeding this limit. This would reduce the number of accidents due to drivers falling asleep. In Los Angeles alone trucks were found to exceed their limit 470 times a day.

With all of these systems in place, the roads would be a much safer place. The time a truck requires to stop would decrease due to the emergency brakes taking out the reaction time needed, the massive blind spots would no longer exist, and drivers wouldn’t be allowed to succumb to “highway hypnosis” and drift lanes. Drivers would be held to the law and be unable to irresponsibly fall asleep behind the wheel. With these changes trucking companies would be forced to choose people over profits, and the roads will be safer for truck drivers and the millions of others who share the roads with them.


  • “Large Trucks.” Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Dec. 2017, www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks.
  • “How an 18-Wheeler’s Brakes Differ from Those of a Regular Passenger Vehicle.” Clay Dugas and Associates Personal Injury Trial Attorneys, www.claydugas.com/commercial-trucking/how-an-18-wheelers-brakes-differ-from-those-of-a-regular-passenger-vehicle/.
  • Sturgess, Steve. “Brake Maintenance.” Article – TruckingInfo.com, July 2008, www.truckinginfo.com/article/story/2008/07/brake-maintenance.aspx.
  • Hanowski, Richard J., et al. “Lane Departure Warning Systems: Leveraging Large-Truck Technology and Engineering to Realize Safety Gains.” AAA Foundation, 13 Feb. 2018, aaafoundation.org/lane-departure-warning-systems-leveraging-large-truck-technology-engineering-realize-safety-gains/.
  • Goldberg, Michael. “Blind Spots on Tractor-Trailers Larger than Most Drivers Realize.” Truck Accident Attorneys, 17 Oct. 2017, www.frg-law.com/firm-news/tractor-trailers-blind-spots/.
  • Brett, Murphy. “Asleep at the Wheel.” USA Today, 28 Dec. 2017, www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/news/rigged-asleep-at-the-wheel/.
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