Voices on NYT’s ‘Trucks are killing us’ column: Readers respond, ATA says column riddled with ‘falsehoods’

James Jaillet & Todd Dills | August 25, 2015

Trucks are killing usIn an open letter response to a New York Times column (The trucks are killing us) posted this weekend, the American Trucking Associations says the author of the column presented misleading statistics and both outright and implied lies that were not properly vetted by the New York Times before publishing the piece.

The column was written by former ATA executive Howard Abramson, whose main duties consisted of running Transport Topics magazine. Abramson wrote in the piece, which also included a cartoon cabover tractor as a skull, that Congress needs to “stop coddling” the trucking industry or highway safety will continue to be jeopardized.

Overdrive blogger Wendy Parker posted a response to the column Monday, pointing to the ridiculous nature of Abramson’s piece. Click here to read it. 

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ATA writes in its response that the NYT column is riddled with debunked stats and talking points, along with statements that are “simply and totally wrong.”

For starters, ATA says, the NYT fails to differentiate between a truck-involved crash and a truck-caused crash, which implies “the trucking industry is responsible for all [the] deaths” in fatal crashes in which a truck is involved. “This simply isn’t true,” the group writes. “Per the most recent federal data available, upwards of two-thirds of all serious crashes involving large trucks are caused by the actions of someone other than the professional driver.”

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Other falsehoods in Abramsom’s column, says ATA, include: (a) the trucking industry is resistant to safety systems like airbags, stability control systems and anti-lock brakes and (b)  trucks are disproportionately represented in crashes. DOT data “makes it clear,” ATA says, that “trucks are underrepresented in crashes” relative to the amount of miles driven.

Abramson’s points on hours-of-service rules also are “almost exactly the opposite” of what actually has occurred, ATA says. Abramson wrote that Congress last year removed the requirement that a driver “take a two-day break each week.”

[gtblockquote quote_text_size=”” background=”#ffc4c4″]There are so many things wrong with his editorial I could make a syllabus for a community college “transportation myths” class with it. Actually, I think we should take a moment to thank Mr. Abramson for outlining pretty much every single half-truth about the trucking industry re-hashed and doled out to the general public in one concise place. —Overdrive contributor Wendy Parker in this response to Ambramson

Overdrive readers, likewise, weighed in in numbers.

Via Overdrive‘s Facebook page:
Matt Whitelaw: [Wendy Parker] “touched on the attempt to educate the public on the many things the media will not say. They say that crap ’cause it sells — we all acknowledge this as one of the truths of the lamestream media. What gets my goat is the simple fact that if they truly wish for us to be safer, why lie? Why waste print to tell so many lies, when you can actually help the issues that truly affect the entire line of all phases of transportation? … Sad.”

Ron Craig: “Trucks are what are saving you. Get in one before you criticize one.”

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Tyler Foster: “Seems like the media asks everyone but the truckers what is going on in our industry!”

Kevin R. Smith: “Finally, someone is calling these so-called experts out.”

Via OverdriveOnline.com:
“Roge160”: “And once again all it takes is one story like this and the whole world sees it, but no one sees the rest of the story that you write here. Only us, doing the job. We need more positive media on our side out there, not just here on Overdrive. Every time I go to my doctor’s office or anytime I am going to be in a waiting room I take old copies of Overdrive and leave them for the public to read. If we all did that little thing we could get more truth out there and it costs us nothing. Try it. Not hard to do and it will help a little.”

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“Old Lady Trucker”: “The very interesting and completely needed instruction for driving anything larger than a personal vehicle should be part to the educational training for the future in all schools. Youngsters (preteens, teens or early 20s) should be given an opportunity to find out if they would want to drive larger vehicles. It is a fact that youngsters growing up on farms or around heavy equipment know a lot more about what to do driving around trucks in general. It is another world to most people and they do not even have a clue.”

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