In the past 20 years, trucking’s fatal crash rate declined by 50 percent, while the number of large truck registrations increased by 42 percent. During the same period, the annual miles traveled by truckers increased 146 percent – to 400 billion miles in 2003.
That’s impressive, but you won’t read about it on the front page of your local paper or in your favorite magazine. Trucking has long battled the negative portrayal it receives in the consumer media. In March, for example, Ladies Home Journal ran “Hazard on the Highway.” This tug-at-your-heartstrings piece focused on a mother’s death when her Ford pickup was rear-ended by a truck.
It was a rare case in which the truck driver was at fault. As virtually every trucker knows, nearly 75 percent of car-truck crashes are caused by the car driver. But in the LHJ article, that important piece of information was relegated to a short sidebar. The remainder of the article carried the usual righteously indignant quotes from Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Tired Truckers.
Now trucking is bracing for another onslaught. Parade, the magazine delivered with millions of Sunday papers, plans a reprise of its 1999 article about hours-of-service regulations. Heavily sourced to unidentified “safety advocates,” that older article stated that fatigue plays a role in up to 40 percent of heavy truck highway crashes. It ignored the larger point – that of all fatigue related fatal crashes, only 3 percent to 6 percent involve truck drivers.
True, trucking must keep working to improve its safety record. But the responsibility for reducing the accident rate is not trucking’s alone. Continuing to make truckers the enemy does nothing to advance what is supposedly the goal: safer highways. Consumer media coverage of trucking rarely, if ever, points out the role car drivers can play in preventing accidents.
You can help change that. The Parade story should hit the streets by September. Now is the time to contact Parade to talk up trucking’s strong safety record. Describe steps you take to be well-rested and safe. Explain – again – that you can’t see cars if they are in your blind spot.
Contact Parade at (212) 450-7000, [email protected] or 711 Third Ave., New York NY 10017-4038. You’ll find that info, as well as relevant trucking safety statistics, at eTrucker.com. Let’s do what we can to encourage a well-balanced article. That will do more to improve trucking’s safety image – and perhaps its relationship with the motoring public – than a host of angry letters after the fact.