Why Can’t the Trucking Industry Give up just some of its Profits to Save Lives?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015
(photo: Sue Cockrell, Davis Enterprise/AP)

The trucking industry is pushing for federal legislation that would weaken rules governing truckers, who are involved in crashes that kill thousands of people each year.


In fact, fatalities from truck-involved crashes have been on the rise, climbing 17% from 2009 to 2013, according to Howard Abramson, a former executive at American Trucking Associations. In 2013, death from truck-involved crashes totaled 3,964, primarily automobile drivers but also 586 people who were truck drivers or passengers.


During the same period, car-related deaths declined more than 3% thanks to “technological improvements like airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes,” Abramson wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “The trucking industry has resisted most of those safety devices.”


The industry instead is trying to move in the other direction by pushing Congress to loosen rules on trucking. These changes include allowing truck drivers to work 82 hours a week, up from the current 70 hours over eight days and eliminating the requirement that drivers take a two-day rest break each week. The legislation also would allow longer and heavier trucks on American roads, and lower the age of drivers of large trucks from 21 to 18 years old.


Abramson says his former employer, American Trucking Associations, has argued that longer work weeks and bigger vehicles will reduce the number of trucks on the road, and thus reduce the number of accidents. He calls this logic “laughable, but Congress seems to be buying it.”


“The industry also bases its opposition to safety-rule changes on money, saying that increasing costs will hurt profits and raise rates for shippers and, ultimately, consumers,” he wrote.


Some in the trucking industry believe that driverless trucks may be the answer to reducing truck-related deaths on the nation’s highways. New technology is being developed that uses cameras and a radar system to allow the truck to drive itself, allowing the driver to tend to other matters. “A computer…will naturally take fewer risks than a person and remain perpetually attentive, so collision risks go down when people are taken out of the equation,” wrote Andrew Soergel at U.S. News & World Report, relating the view of Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America.


There are currently more than 1.6 million tractor-trailer and heavy truck drivers operating big rigs in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor. As of this year, the industry is short by about 50,000 drivers, given the demands of cross-country transport of freight—which has increased by 15% during the past eight years, stated Soergel.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

The Trucks Are Killing Us (by Howard Abramson, New York Times)

An Industry Stuck in Neutral (by Andrew Soergel, U.S. News & World Report)

Traffic Deaths Up Sharply in First 6 Months of this Year (by Joan Lowy, Associated Press)


The Daily Rant 8 years ago
It would be nice if the articles written about the trucking industry by those not IN the trucking industry, provided all the information the readers need to make an informed decision. Try this: http://www.salenalettera.com/2015/08/theyve-mastered-chocolate-cheese-and.html
Nate 8 years ago
Did this article seriously just use trucking and profit in the same sentence?
robert 8 years ago
Really this person needs to get our in a truck to see what the real problem is. I get passed by cars and I will say that 99 percent of them are doing everything but paying attion. Also we need better training this is the biggest problem. Also how about saying who is responsible for these crashes. If you get the facts you will see that the car is responsible around 85 percent of the time. So before you write do your research.
Marianne Karth 8 years ago
I hope that we can all work together for the benefit of all. Please keep an open mind. I work hard to uncover the truth of the matter. No matter who is at fault, crashes with LARGE TRUCKS are more likely to be DEADLY. As in our case. And truckers (thank you) spend their job on the road--so being drowsy on the job is riskier. So, naturally, Hours of Service (time on the road) is of greater concern. And, with underride guards, no matter who caused the crash, a weak underride protection system is deadly (the "second collision). http://annaleahmary.com/2015/08/face-to-face-with-our-congressman-george-holding-to-discuss-truck-safety-concerns/ See this Large Truck Study: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810646.pdf From the NY Times OPED: "Fatalities in truck-involved crashes have risen four years in a row, reaching 3,964 in 2013, the latest data available. Those crashes are killing not only car drivers but also, during 2013 alone, 586 people who were truck drivers or passengers."
thomas adams 8 years ago
Mr Abramso is very UNINFORMED! Abs, esc, airbags, have been on trucks for years. Also seatbelts, and various other safety devices. The problem still is drivers of cars do not know how to drive around trucks. Every day, several times, we are cut off, passed on the right, tailgated, brake checked, usually because the other driver is texting or talking on a cell phone
Dave Patrick 8 years ago
Reporters are long on headline but way short on facts.75-80% of the truck related crashes are caused by the non-commercial vehicle drivers,but that fact will not fit your preconceived article.. The 82 to hours of work is a popular theory among the wing nuts that belong to CRASH, or PATT or other alleged highway safety organizations. Too bad the reporters are too ashamed publish their e-mails so they might be contacted directly.

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