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Overdrive Extra

Max Heine

Safety advocates’ pathetic shell game

| February 28, 2013

One can only be sympathetic for those who’ve lost a loved one to a highway accident, whether or not a truck is involved. That sympathy doesn’t extend to the lobbying efforts of two groups representing those families — Parents Against Tired Truckers and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways.

Their recent letter to The American Trucking Associations criticized ATA’s recent compilation of studies that measure fault in collisions between trucks and four-wheelers. Averaging studies, ATA says it’s the passenger vehicle driver at fault about 80 percent of the time.

car-truck wreck

The safety advocates take issue with ATA’s assessment of fault in accidents involving a heavy truck and a passenger vehicle.

The letter employs the same sleight of hand of which ATA is accused. The groups’  complaint boils down to:

  • Don’t talk about four-wheelers’ fault because the real issue is that disproportionate numbers of car passengers get killed when their vehicles collide with trucks.
  • Experts say you can’t really tell who’s at fault in crashes.
  • ATA used old studies and “misused” the facts in “its fallacious attack.”

This isn’t the forum to rehash all the fine points of the very extensive research on this subject, so consider a few points:

  • “Fatalities in large truck crashes increased in 2010 by nearly nine percent, and then increased once again in 2011,” says the PATT/CRSH letter. True, those were bad years. But the bigger trend is that heavy-truck-related fatalities per vehicle mile traveled have been cut by almost two-thirds over about 30 years.
  • Yes, there can be difficulties in determining fault in a crash. Evidence might be unclear, or police don’t bother to investigate. Yet there are many cases where it is clear. Look at 2010: In fatal head-on truck-car crashes where a vehicle crossed the center line, it was the four-wheeler who wandered 87 percent of the time. That’s probably not too hard to assign fault.
  • How about a drunken driver? Is that enough to declare fault? These stats are not all car-truck wrecks, but from 1990 to 2010, drunken truck drivers were responsible for about 2 percent of fatal truck wrecks. Drunken four-wheelers were responsible for about 22-25 percent of fatal car wrecks.
  • The safety advocates note that an accident report “often fails to indicate whether other truck problems contributed to the crash causation. For example, improperly adjusted brakes or undetected truck driver fatigue” might have been a factor. OK, but the same is more applicable for the passenger vehicle, which is held to little or no testing, and its driver, who has no hours of service to abide by.


PATT/CRASH say it’s time “to stop the cruel public relations game of shifting attention away from the unacceptable death toll caused by big trucks.”

No, the cruelest public relations tactic is the attempt to smear safe, professional drivers as being worse than reckless amateurs. There are enough studies to prove just about anything in this arena, but the vast majority of studies, as well as federal data, bear out ATA’s assertion.


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  • Kurt Keilhofer

    And what the ATA should have said to start with, and the folks who allegedly are interested in “highway safety” always magically ignore, is the around 70% of all highway fatalities DO NOT involve a commercial vehicle!
    This argument that they are having is about the roughly 1/3 of highway fatalities that do involve a truck. All of those other deaths are never addressed.

  • Lonnie Liston

    I beginning to think that if every driver would just do their 34 hr reset, say, July 1st & 8th 2013? Hummm? Would THAT speak volumes to EVERYONE?

  • Mike Jones

    Company driver should get paid Salary..then he doesnt have to worry about some stupid “hours of service”…he will be happy to sleep if thats what the cops want..he gets paid anyway…he will deliver the stupid load when hours permit…the receiver can eat dirt if they dont like it…the driver can FOCUS on safe driving and THAT”S it…..driver doesnt own the truck OR the freight what the heck does he care….the PAY By MILE is financially a LOSER for the company driver as they continue to stop the driver from driving……

  • Barb

    Have a great point there. Love the way you think Lonnie! Been trucking since 1985, still waiting for that strike independently …….. Involved in a strike with the Teamsters Union in 1993, now they know how to………get-r-done!
    I get paid by the hour and love it! Everyone in the trucking industry must make this leap. Will change alot and will be for the best!

  • mousekiller

    One solution to fix this folly is to have drivers install dash cameras to verify the actions of the 4 wheelers. I have one looking forward out the dash and boy does it capture some dumb moves by car drivers. Every one with a dash cam should put these actions captured on CD’s or thumb drives and send them to OOIDA so they can be viewed by them and the so called experts that are against trucks. The blame does not fall on us as a majority.. Yes there are some truck drivers that should not be behind the wheel but in numbers no where close to drivers of 4 wheelers that should not be driving.. A solution is for these organizations like PATT and CRSH to clean their own house first. They don’t drive trucks and it is people like them that are causing accidents . It is due to them not being educated on how to behave around trucks on our highways that causes a majority of these accidents..

  • mousekiller

    Whether a driver is paid salary or hourly or mileage has little bearing on safety. No matter how a person is paid the person should not sacrifice safety for the dollar. If they do they are part of the problem.


    It`s about time we got involved and did just that. We are getting slammed by old groups, now new groups and i do think some problem is fact that we are now being put on a “time card’ sort system with 10 hour break and now EOBR and this is forcing us to drive and drive unsafe when we do get the hours to drive. With this 14 hour rule, slow load/unload every driver out here puts the pedal to the medal when we get hours to drive simply because we are now losing time for breaks rest etc because these stupid pencil pushers that have no idea of what this job is about. With this many rules and this much idle time it also forces companies to put more trucks, more unqualified drivers on the road to meet the freight demand,,,Your`re right,,time for us to stop for a few days and give the world a chance to see what we mean here. Without us running there will still just as many auto accidents as none them can put the damn CELL PHONE down and DRIVE SAFELY

  • Ken Nilsen

    Bigred, I did not know you had someone inside the cab forcing you to violate the law and drive unsafely. Could you please explain to us how you have someone holding you in the seat and moving your hands and feet and forcing you to do anything. While what you say about unqualified drivers may or may not be true, then you must be one of the unqualified ones since you think someone is forcing you to operate a CMV unsafely.

  • Ken Nilsen

    Is that why union membership is at its lowest levels in history? There will be no strike, get out of the 50’s and join the real world. Being a grown man with the ability to speak professionally for yourself is stronger than any union would ever hope to be. I don’t have to run to mommy and daddy every time I think I am being wronged. I create a solution, work through the problem and get on with doing my job.

  • JB

    To me drivers are the main problem, accepting frieght at too low of a delivery price and agreeing to a delivery time that makes them break the law, just say no to cheap freight and delivery times you can’t run legaly, what ever the rules are, Simple.

  • TeddBear

    Anyone who has a dashcam on their truck should take their videos of car stupidity and post it on youtube. Use a a standard naming converntion and make them easily searchable.

  • William McKelvie

    THANKS LONNIE! I have been preaching that same time restart for many moons many many months now, thank GOD someone else sees it!

  • Scott Lawrence

    I was recently rear ended by a 4 wheeler in Idaho. It was 1 a.m. in the morning and there was absolutely nobody on the road but the 2 of us. He was traveling at a high rate of speed and fooling around with a cell phone or something.
    Bottom line is this, The Idaho Trooper drove out the accident scene 3 times. The 4 wheeler was at fault and ticketed. At 80,000lbs, I didn’t even realize I had been hit. Rather, I thought it was a gust of wind pushing me to the right. I blame split speed limits (75/65). I felt bad for the car driver and his girlfriend (both unhurt). But I was doing what I should have been doing and they were not.
    When you get right down to it, people like to blame the truck drivers because of the “deep-pocket” insurance payouts. We are at fault because trucking companies would rather pay out on a claim than challenge it.

  • Allen Smith

    March 1st 2013
    FMCSA Announces Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee Appointments

    Established by Congress in 2006, the MCSAC is charged with providing
    information, advice and recommendations to FMCSA on safety programs and regulations for large trucks and commercial buses.

  • Bob_Hearns

    Thank you, Max. Great article. Now if we could get this into the mainstream media, the focus might change and the major problem (4-wheelers) might get addressed. Keep’em coming. Thanks again, Max.

  • Facebook User

    I TOTALLY AGREE!!! This will teach the 4 wheelers and general public to treat us with the respect that they demand on a daily basis. A strike by Drivers and the trucking industry would stop all the stupid regulations. like the strike in the 70’s that shut down I-40 because of the high price of fuel. the only reason the politicians want most regulations is to tax and fine Drivers look at the city of Wheatridge,Colorado they have an ordinance that you can not even park in the wal-mart off I-70 and youngsfield if the T/A is full you have to go to watkins or farther east.the ticket is $90.00 and a CSA violation. How about Warner Robins Drivers boycott them and they changed their tune if drivers would get together instead of cutting eachothers throats wages and freight would pay better. when I started driving in 1989 customers were happy to see you there was no wait to get unloaded you showed up and people were ready to unload you and if you had to layover it was paid on all days not after 2 days like they get away with now. Paying a shipper/reciever to unload their product/things off my truck when they contracted me to deliver it that nonsence did not exist. why do we allow this to happen. last summer in California I made a delivery and they wanted $100.00 to unload I asked is this your stuff on my truck. the responce was YES. I told them that I would be back after I went out on the highway and SOLD $100.00 Dollars worth of their stuff for $5.00 per case.they said door 10 the load was prepaid but the point is if drivers would have the brotherhood like we did then as a group we can change the disrespect and way we are treated and maybe put a couple of extra dollars in our pockets. who would like fuel prices to be decent. truck stop in ohio charging 4wheelers 0.60cents less for the same diesel being sold to Class8 vechicles (@ the same station just @ a different Island) what kind of sence does that make? READ the report by the ATA titled “When Trucks Stop, America Stops. it is downloadable.

  • Facebook User

    I agree with you no load or amount of money is worth a life or my luck would be that I get crippled.

  • Facebook User

    Before cell phones was no better!!! I saw a guy reading the paper opened across his stearing wheel, or the lost couple with the driver with the road map all the way open covering the windshield, the girl doing her make-up, etc… you name it as drivers we have probably seen it,

  • Facebook User

    You are wrong!!! It is the dispatatchers and load brokers that accept the freight then charge the drivers late fees for being late!!! I picked a load from santa maria,ca to phillidelohia,pa. last summer (2900 miles) the schedule was for 90 hours/6hours less than 4 days not only Illegal for a solo but not possible with any sleep. I was 1day late and they charged $500.00 late fee this load only paid $900.00 they ripped me off for that fee and when I quit driving for that company thay owed me $2200.00 which I have not been able to recover. the lawyers told me that since I was a company driver that it was not worth their time to help me recover my wages owed.

  • Dave Nichols

    i am in the process of putting dash cams in all my trucks along with existing gps tied into trck ecm’s. no arguement about what the damn truck is doing! strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.