All Emotion Aside

Truck crash survivors will head to Washington, D.C., next month for the 6th annual Sorrow to Strength Conference. This event, billed as “a gathering of people whose lives have been altered by poor, inadequate truck safety,” is organized by Parents Against Tired Truckers and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways.

At first blush, this appears to be a support group to help those who have lost family and friends in car-truck crashes cope. And that’s partly right. But the organizers admit their bigger motivation is to trot the grief-stricken before members of Congress. They even promise to equip participants “with the tools to effectively tell their personal story and share their greatest concerns about truck safety.” Those who are too shy to speak in front of strangers will be teamed with an “experienced advocacy volunteer.”

Over the years PATT’s and CRASH’s tactics have – not surprisingly – been effective. Consider that PATT’s proposal for updating the hours-of-service regulations was one of two the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration used in developing the most recent rules. The other came from the American Trucking Associations.

Despite their role in the rules’ development – and the fact that they were part of a group that sued the FMCSA to have the rules issued in the first place – PATT and CRASH have now asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to review the new rules, charging that they are “a formula for more truck crashes, more deaths and more injuries.” The organizations are especially miffed that FMCSA chose not to include onboard recorders in the rule.

We can be sure that when the Sorrow to Strength participants converge on Capitol Hill the recorder issue will lead their list of concerns. Absent from that list will be that fact that 70 percent of car-truck crashes are caused by the car driver. The fact that trucking’s biggest competitor – the railroads – and a group of trial lawyers have historically funded CRASH’s efforts will likely also go unmentioned.

By using the victims of car-truck crashes to advance their own limited agenda, these groups effectively cloud the highway safety issue. Their goal is to prey on people’s emotions to coerce ever more stringent regulations on trucking. In so doing, they ignore many of the larger factors that make our highways unsafe: four wheelers’ ignorance about sharing the road, their tendency to drive under the influence of alcohol and the minimal requirements for their training and licensing, to name but a few.

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Commonsense truck safety rules are important, but until they work hand-in-hand with initiatives that address all of these factors, our highways will never realize their safety potential.