published Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Bill ignites war of words over trucking safety

Ringgold, Ga., widow Cindy Whitaker lost her husband, brother and niece in 2009 when a bucket truck hit their vehicle head-on.

Now she’s pushing for tighter federal regulations for truckers, even as the trucking industry points to federal statistics indicating that America’s roads are safer than ever.

Whitaker, in conjunction with the Truck Safety Coalition, threw her support Tuesday behind the newly reintroduced Safe Highways and Infrastructure Protection Act during a press conference in Washington, D.C.

The bill would freeze current federal truck size and weight limits, disallow the operation of overweight trucks and establish an enforcement program, the organization said.

The coalition released poll results that said 74 percent of Americans oppose heavier trucks and 79 percent favor lowering the maximum number of hours truckers may drive daily.

But a spokesman for the American Trucking Associations slammed the Truck Safety Coalition’s poll results, calling them slanted and misleading.

The questions begin with a sentence or statistic from a safety advocate point of view before getting to the questions, according to the methodology posted on trucksafety.org.

“This is a push poll of the worst kind, and proves that while figures don’t lie, liars can figure,” said ATA spokesman Sean McNally.

Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations, accused the bill’s backers of co-opting the grief of Americans who have lost family members in accidents “to advance an agenda designed to hurt our economy and our industry, and benefit trucking’s competitors and well-heeled union interests.”

Trucking has improved its fatality and injury crash rate by 30 percent since the current rules were implemented in 2004, Graves said.

The rate of trucking accident fatalities fell to 1.17 per 100 million miles in 2009, the safest year since the government began tracking the statistics in 1975, according to data from the Federal Highway Administration and National Highway Safety Administration.

However, the Truck Safety Coalition released statistics showing that 4,000 people are still killed each year and 100,000 more are injured in truck crashes, according to Joan Claybrook, chairwoman of the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways.

“Families and truck drivers are being slaughtered on our highways because of the trucking industry’s relentless push for bigger, overweight trucks operated by drivers who are exhausted and pressured to meet unreasonable delivery deadlines,” Claybrook said.

Morgan Adams, a Chattanooga-based lawyer who specializes in truck accident cases, called for restructuring driver pay to an hourly rate instead of by the mile as an incentive toward safety.

“Truck drivers are the last sweatshop industry in America,” Adams said.

“Almost 20 percent of the trucks and drivers have a safety violation every year,” he said. “Two percent of the drivers have alcohol and drug safety violations.”

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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ccgibby01 said...

Shame on Sean McNally and the ATA. The trucking industry must have more restrictions. The industry is pushing for longer trucks, more weight, and the risk to the citizens are increased. He can claim the statistics are down but tell that to the thousands of people who are killed or seriously injured each year. The risk of moving product is NOT worth the cost of a life. It's clear that drivers should have a limit of 10hrs a day, no more. They should have electronic onboard devices, no more paper log books. Trucker fatique is a leading cause of crashes. I feel sorry for the truckers who are forced to follow these rules. Mr. Smith, follow the SHIPA 1574 bill, please don't forget this.

May 4, 2011 at 3:28 p.m.
peoplemover said...

I am very disappointed with the previous comment and what was said by ccgibby. All I can say is he must be a four wheeler. While it is true that fatigue is a problem not only in the trucking industry, but also the airline industry, the railroad industry too. I am a truck driver and it pains me to see comments like that made without even investigating what the cause is. Statistics have proven that 80% of the car/truck accidents are caused by the cars. Truckers are opposed to heavier weights also and the added expense of hauling the heavier weight. Onboard recorders aren't going to record the driver if he stays up all night playing video games when he should be sleeping. So again that comment was totally out of line. ccgibby needs to remember one thing..............what he eats, drinks,wears,sleeps in and drives was brought by a truck. For without trucks, America stops rolling. I sure would like for him in his four wheeler to abide by the rules and regulations that have been set up for trucks and see how HE likes to be treated and I guarantee you he will be hollering for change..........a change to benefit him. Keep things as they are with regard to the rules and regulations for trucks. THEY ARE WORKING!!!!!!!

May 4, 2011 at 7:47 p.m.
pwrmstng8 said...

If they are going to keep restricting how many hours we can drive daily, perhaps they should also look at restricting the number of hours the rest of America works daily. I mean they have to wake up very early and drive to work, put in long days then drive home usually very distractted both ways, with their texting, computers, and even newspapers. If the lawmakers want to make the roads safer they should share the treatment we get, start inspecting these cars a little more often and who knows even random inspections so they have to hurry on there way to and from work. Or when they cause a crash go through every detail of their life with a fine tooth comb.... Life could be alot easier if they small 4wheelers just had a little respect for the trucks. If we shut them down in may they'll never see June!!!

May 4, 2011 at 8:19 p.m.
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