Regardless of consistent evidence that continually shows that the highest percentage of auto-truck crashes are caused by the driver of the auto, the debate between the trucking industry and regulators rages on as implementing additional regulations upon the industry is still the answer in improving safety among the highways.
The auto-fault percentage changes year to year, but the result is always the same, regardless of who instigates the study. The 2013 study by the American Trucking Association (ATA) placed the fault at 80%; a study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute resulted in an 81% fault rate and a 2009 study by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) show auto drivers were to blame 81% of the time.
Through the years, not much has changed. In 1998 for example, an examination issued by the Highway Safety Information System resulted in the same conclusion: ” the car driver’s behavior was more than three times as likely to contribute to the fatal crash than was the truck driver’s behavior. In addition, the car driver was solely responsible for 70 percent of the fatal crashes, compared to 16 percent for the truck driver. “
As it may seem that these confirmed statistics are used to cast blame, this should be further from the truth. As we can all agree that each fatal crash is a tragedy, one cannot continue compounding regulations upon regulations in the hope of ensuring a 100% safe driving environment because reality shows that driving has never been totally “safe.”
In 1899, the U.S. Government began keeping data records on motor-vehicle deaths. In that same year, there were 26 and by 1950 the number reached 33,186 and for 2012 there were 33,561. Between 1963 and 2007, numbers increased, ranging from the low 40’s to as high as 54,589 in 1972. Since 2007, where records show a number of 41,259 deaths across the United States, the numbers have declined.
In fact, as the number of motor-vehicle deaths remained within the range of the low 30’s and low 50’s between 1950 and the most current year data of 2012, records by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System show that traffic fatalities have been the lowest they have ever been within the past 65 years, with the number of 32,479 in 2011 being the lowest in 62 years.
Still, recent reports remain focused on stating that while overall fatalities have continued on a downward trend, accidents involving commercial trucks increased by 8.7% between 2009 and 2010. However, when one looks at the overall data for the period between 2008 and 2011, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes actually declined by 12%.
By focusing on only one area of overall statistical reporting such as this results in the call for more regulations to be placed on the CMV driver and the industry, i.e. Electronic Onboard Recorders (EOBRs) and changes in the Hours of Service (HOS) rules. Adding regulations on top of regulations will not help the industry become safer, and most often will have the opposite effect as carriers and drivers are pushed to further limits in meeting the demands of the consumer, business incentives and their own personal welfare.
The FMCSA can continue to implement as many regulations that they wish upon drivers and the industry, yet none will ever have a direct effect on the millions of auto drivers and their driving habits or on their way of thinking. It is impossible for any government regulator to devise a rule which will prevent the driver of an auto to not pass a CMV and then immediately swerve back in front of it to take the next exit. It is impossible for any government regulator to devise a rule which will prevent the driver of an auto from pulling out in front of an oncoming CMV in hopes of beating a few seconds of extra waiting time and it is impossible for any government regulator to devise a rule which will prevent the driver of an auto from driving while fatigued.
Further regulations are nothing more than compounding a problem with more problems. The trucking industry itself can be the one to ensure safer highways and further correct many of the issues faced within the industry, without governmental action to impose additional regulations:
- Develop and implement their own Entry Level Driver Training AND Hiring Standards
- Increase driver wages which have remained stagnant for the past 25 years which add to drivers pushing for more miles in anticipation for a livable pay check
- Develop a professional treatment toward their drivers, respecting the current rules in place as they relate to HOS rules, driver fatigue and drivers’ lawful rights
- Stop the intimidation, harassment and retaliatory behavior against drivers to work toward ending the industry’s “Us against them” mentality
- To further campaign and promote highway safety by providing educational resources directed at the general public in order to cultivate a deeper understanding and awareness for autos as it relates to sharing the road with the big rigs
As safety groups continue to play a major role in the addition of regulations placed on the industry, often these groups display a supportive approach for the drivers. Safety groups have called for better pay for drivers; they have voiced their concerns for the need of safer parking areas and appropriate rest time for drivers; they have expressed interest in the need to stop forced dispatching, causing the driver to be pushed beyond the boundaries of safety.
By all ways and means, the industry itself has been its own worst enemy. If the industry would step up and implement the solutions to the problems, would the government then have any reason to intervene on behalf of safety groups and attorneys? If the industry is so fearful of the CSA, safety ratings and interventions from the FMCSA, and is truly concerned about a driver shortage, why is it not possible for one of the world’s largest industries to create the solutions to the problems that they have allowed to continue for decades?
This industry must stop casting blame in all directions toward the FMCSA, professional drivers and even the general public, all for the sake of corporate greed. They must finally face these issues which they have generated over the years which in return, have forced the government into the equation with such actions as HOS, speed limiters and ELD’s.
© 2014, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.