Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, released information during her testimony on the pending truck driver hours of service (HOS) reforms before a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Wednesday, November 30th, 2011.
As part of the press release by the Truck Safety Coalition (TSA), Ms. Ferro revealed that initial 2010 data on fatal truck crashes indicate truck crash fatalities have increased to nearly 4,000 people. In 2009, 3,380 people were killed in truck crashes and 74,000 others were injured.
Supposedly, this data supports the position of safety groups, families of truck crash victims and labor groups who have been urging the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Obama Administration to issue a safer truck driver HOS rule to reduce driver fatigue.
What these statistics fail to reveal however, is the FAULT of these fatal crashes. The statistics did not include who caused the fatal accidents: the CMV driver or the non-CMV driver?
For accurate statistical purposes, this is a crucial piece of data that the FMCSA must include.
- Estimates of 41,000 to 45,000 traffic deaths occur every year within the U.S.
- Fewer than 9% of those deaths involve commercial vehicles.
- More than 80% of those accidents are the fault of the non-commercial driver.
- Of those death related accidents, only 4% of trucks are fatigue related.
What is the cause of the truck accidents?
- More than 75% of truck driving accidents are due to the driver of the passenger vehicle.
- Only 16% of all truck driving accidents are due to the truck driver’s fault.
According to the FMCSA, truck driver fatigue was a factor in just 1.4% of all fatal truck accidents last year. Another fact that has not been included in Ms. Ferro’s announcement, is how many of those fatal truck crashes were the fault of the rising “automobile distracted driver” statistics?
Truck driver fatigue is being correlated with the need for changing the current HOS, yet the FMCSA has ranked truck driver fatigue low on its list of causes for fatal truck accidents. The agency placed fatigued driving at number seven on the list.
Statistics should also include other concerns regarding fatal crashes involving trucks, such as: how many commercial drivers had less than one year of driving experience?
For years, many of us have questioned the adequacy of CDL training, including continual training after CDL school graduation. Since there are no statistics for fatal crashes involving drivers with less than one year of driving experience, it is difficult to create an accurate description for adequate CDL training concerns. The motor carriers may or may not keep this information, and if this statistical information is being maintained, nobody is sharing it.
We understand and empathize with Daphne Izer, Founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), statement:
“I am deeply saddened that more families have suffered the loss of loved ones in truck crashes last year. I urge policy-makers to take heed of this new data and move forward on truck safety improvements including a revised, safer Hours of Service rule. The trucking industry’s greed, evidenced by their manipulation of data, should not come before the safety of everyone on the roads.”
We understand her safety concerns, however, we believe that these safety groups should take a closer look at the data in its entirety which has not been included in the press release. If they would, perhaps they would understand major concerns that should be addressed and investigated. Furthermore, these non-commerical driver “safety advocates” have no understanding that our professional truck drivers are themselves, targets of “industry greed” as well.
By only focusing on truck drivers, fatigue and HOS, they are totally ignoring areas of safety that should indeed be seriously confronted. The data has been manipulated by the omission of relevant facts and figures that have created a vague and biased picture.
Many people are opposed to the current HOS ruling, such as The TSC (Truck Safety Coalition) and have joined with Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and other safety groups to urge the DOT to issue a safer truck driver HOS rule to reduce driver fatigue. What they all have failed to realize is that driver fatigue is created by aspects other than the present HOS rules:
- Lack of adequate truck parking.
- Dispatchers pushing drivers to driver when they say they are either ill or tired.
- Shippers and receivers holding drivers up at the docks for hours, cutting into their rest time.
- Dispatch waking drivers up via qualcomm etc., to ask questions, failing to respect and abide by the HOS regulations.
- Retaliation tactics from carrier if the drivers states he or she is too fatigued to drive (a topic that Paul Taylor of the Truckers Justice Center discussed at the 1st Annual Truck Driver Social Media Convention.)
Unless the above concerns are addressed, professional truck drivers will continue to face added work-load pressure to complete their scheduled pickups and deliveries and fatal crashes could increase.
Public-health investigators, The Journal of Public Health Policy investigators, felt that a reduction of the economic pressure on the professional trucker would more effectively reduce the driver’s incentive to drive past the point of fatigue.
Quotes from article: Driver Fatigue In Truck Drivers
- “If drivers are accurate in their reports, carriers and shippers are contributing to the problem by assigning unrealistic pick-up and delivery deadlines and penalizing drivers for late arrivals, the investigators wrote. Changes in the hours-of service regulations to put more burden on the carrier and the shipper should be made… Carriers and shippers must go beyond merely having a policy against violating hours-of service rules; they must take effective action to prevent violations when giving driving assignments, to monitor the logbooks to detect violations, and to discipline drivers who do break the rules…Effective actions are urgently needed to protect the public from the risk posed by the many tractor-trailer drivers who spend illegally long hours at work and behind the wheel. These actions must be directed toward the carriers and shippers, who set schedules that cannot be met even under current regulations, as well as the drivers themselves.”
- “In the last several years, some safety advocates have called for new regulations requiring the use of monitoring devices to track sleep periods. These devices have merit, but only if and when their costs can be substantially lowered. The problem of fatigue will only be effectively solved when unfair shipper pressure is sharply reduced.
- “Recently, a new factor has arisen to exacerbate the driver-fatigue problem. In many parts of the country, local and county officials have rejected requests by truckstop owners and developers to open additional rest-stop facilities where long-distance truckers can sleep, eat, shower, shop, make phone calls, and have their vehicles serviced. Lack of safe, comfortable and reasonably priced rest stops makes truck driving unnecessarily difficult and increases the likelihood that a driver will push himself past the fatigue point in an effort to find a place to pull off the road and sleep.”
“The article supports the position that although federal government regulators attempt to promulgate regulations based on current circadian science, the regulations are ineffective as stand-alone measures. Labor policies and practices must foster a work environment that facilitates sleep and safe driving performance.”
In other words, regulations alone are not the “fix all” when resolving fatal truck accidents, nor is truck driver fatigue the only culprit.
There are many variables that the FMCSA is not looking at, nor including in their “studies” and unfortunately, if these variables are not considered, highway safety can actually be compromised and worsen.
Problems we see:
1) The safety advocacy groups are not researching the entire problem. Their tunnel vision of changing HOS as a solution to reduce fatal truck accidents, and then only focusing on truck driver fatigue as the ONLY cause of those accidents, has not allowed them to look at the entire picture of the true causes of fatal accidents involving big trucks. If they would research more, they would be investigating ALL the reasons and causes of fatal truck accidents, not just truck driver fatigue. In doing so, they would most likely be advocates for truck drivers rather than opponents.
2) The FMCSA must also look at the entire picture of fatal truck crashes, the true statistics, including those non-CMV drivers at fault. Their recent announcement, correlating truck driver fatigue to a need of new rulemaking for hours of service, has too many unanswered gray areas and contradictions that need to be confronted.
Education of non-cmv license holders, such as Share the Road on FaceBook, created by Kari Fisher to create awareness and teach drivers how to drive around large trucks is a must, especially since 80% of fatal truck crashes are the fault of the non-commercial driver.
3) The need for more statistics on drivers involved in fatal truck crashes, which would include a very serious look at the lack of CDL training standards in this country, by measuring fatal truck crashes involving drivers with less than one year experience. Simply put: create CDL training industry standards.
4) Truck Driver Salary- What would you rather do? Work 40 hours for your present paycheck or 70 hours? The answer is obvious, but unfortunately for drivers it is not a choice. They only get paid when the “wheels are rolling” and when events occur which interfere with their miles ( weather, traffic, mechanical breakdown, being ill, shippers and receivers holding them up at docks etc.,) they have a reduced paycheck. Perhaps we should be taking a closer look at the Fair Labor Act which exempts truck drivers from receiving fair pay.
To provide a direct response to the FMCSA, the U.S. trucking industry and the safety groups involved, I will tell you that this industry can not have professional skilled drivers who are well rested as long as they are having to fight to earn a living because of over-regulation and current industry conduct.
Related Post: FMCSA Hours of Service Listening Session Review