A very recent New York Times op-ed piece written by Howard Abramson (formerly of the American Trucking Association) claims that the trucking industry has resisted industry regulation with dire results. Titled “The Trucks are Killing Us,” the article claims that fatalities and injuries have increased due to the industry’s resistance to mandated safety measures and to congressional rollbacks of what the author sees as essential regulatory measures.
In response, Jack Roberts of the trucking industry journal CCJ wrote a response article which counters Abramson’s claims. He argues that the leaders of the trucking industry are and have been focused on safety for many years, and that major trucking concerns invest heavily in new equipment with updated safety features. Roberts also challenges Abramson’s statistics.
So who is right?
It’s not about who makes the most persuasive argument, it’s about the facts. To get to the bottom of this dispute, Stillman and Friedland examined the actual statistics gathered by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Regarding fatal crashes involving large trucks, here is data from the latest NHTSA report (December 2014) with our emphases:
“There was a small (0.5%) increase in the number of people killed in crashes involving large trucks [largely pedestrians]…Very little changed from 2012 to 2013 with respect to those who died in the crashes involving large trucks. The number of large-truck occupants who were killed and the number of occupants of the other vehicles who were killed both decreased by less than 1 percent….Note that the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks is relatively small compared to those involving other vehicles, so even small changes in the numbers of fatalities may result in large percentage changes.”
Stillman and Friedland have been handling truck cases for many years. We and our clients know that every fatality is one too many. Here is our professional take on this debate:
Accidents do not necessarily result from insufficient regulation or lack of up-to-date equipment, but are due to driver error, fatigue and lack of judgment.
While a 34-hour rest rule may be employed by a trucking fleet firm, if the driver opts to drive for another concern in his off hours, the rule is effectively useless. In our experience, independent drivers who overwork themselves are a danger to others on the road.
Here is another statement from the NHTSA report:
“Large-truck drivers were the only group to show an increase in the number of alcohol-impaired drivers”.
This is yet another element that points to the role of the individual driver, and not regulatory fixes. Having black boxes and automatic braking equipment may be helpful, but in the end it is up to the driver in the cab. If the driver chooses to drive while unfit to do so, accidents can and will happen.
The debate over the need for trucking regulations will go on, but the public will continue to face these issues where the rubber meets the road. Always drive defensively and only when you are alert and not distracted. We hope you will stay safe, but if you ever need our help due to a truck collision, we are here to help you professionally. We pledge to serve you to the fullest extent of our considerable expertise and ability.
Because we care…
Stillman and Friedland Attorneys