Monday, August 24, 2015

They've Mastered Chocolate, Cheese, And Watches. Maybe They Should Tackle Trucking.

Scary "skull as the cab of a big rig" drawing credited to Harry Campbell.
Annnnddddd, we have another article written about the horrors of truckers and the trucking industry.  On Friday, this piece of crapaganda showed up in The New York Times.

The kicker about this particular op-ed is that it's written by Howard Abramson, a former executive of the American Trucking Associations. He spent almost 16 years there as the Senior Vice President of Publishing and has over 25 years of experience covering the transportation industry.

Yet he produced a patently misleading article omitting important facts.

His piece starts out with a mention of the crash involving comedian Tracy Morgan.  It immediately grabs the reader's attention by forming the image of a sleep-deprived, out-of-control driver of an 18-wheeler who killed the friend of a celebrity and injured nine others. 

It's one sentence, but it puts the reader exactly where Abramson wants them, in a state of fear, before they continue reading the rest of the piece. In his next sentence, he goes on to tell the already fragile, frightened reader that "more people will be killed by trucks this year than were killed in all domestic airline crashes over the past 45 years".

Boom! There it is. The Trucks Are Killing Us. The title of his op-ed.

You know what else will kill more people this year than all the domestic airline crashes over the past 45 years?

Guns.  Hell, they've already surpassed airline crashes and it's only August.

Cigarettes.  In the United States alone, more than 480,000 people will die this year from smoking.

And Passenger Vehicles. In 2013, 28,413 people died as a result of a passenger vehicle crash.

Although people write about these dangers on a regular basis, it seems no one is really paying attention to or doing much about them because people still smoke, still drive cars, and the United States is still the most gun-crazy country in the world.

So why all the terror about truck-related deaths?

Seems to me they trudge out this rhetoric every time they want people to support legislation to implement stricter regulations on an industry that's run by people whose only concern is the bottom line. It doesn't take much to stir the stupid pot.

Abramson's piece implies - by its photo, the HOS references, the Tracy Morgan reference, the "longer and heavier trucks" reference, and the opening line about "coddling the trucking industry" - that he's ONLY talking about 18-wheelers.

Abramson doesn't disclose that his stats, which I assume have been taken from the FMCSA Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2013 report (since he uses the "3,964 fatalities in 2013" number), include information about ALL trucks over 10,000 pounds. According to the FMCSA's report, "a large truck is defined as a truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds".

That means the box truck used for delivering bagels in Brooklyn, the refrigerated straight truck taking fish to Seattle's Pike Place Market, and the 24' moving company truck used to take Grandma's furniture from her former home in Des Moines to the mother-daughter apartment she now lives in, are included in this report.

These are not the trucks people fear.

The numbers in the report are NOT representative of the 18-wheelers driven by owner-operators like me, or million milers like Ed, or even the driver of the Walmart truck in the Tracy Morgan incident, which is what Mr. Abramson is trying to make everyone believe.

In 2010 there were only 2.3 million Class 8 trucks (over 33,000 pounds) being used for business purposes, but there were 10.7 million registered large trucks (which includes everything over 10,000 pounds). Because the report doesn't differentiate between vehicles under 33,000 pounds and vehicles over 33,000 pounds, the figures can't tell you how many of the 3,964 fatalities can be attributed to the big, bad, scary 18-wheelers everyone and their mother is trying to regulate, shut down, and demonize.

If you've ever driven I-95 in New York, or New Jersey, where Tracy Morgan's crash took place, you'll see oh, about a bazillion little straight trucks - covered in graffiti and sporting shattered side-view mirrors, banged up bumpers and doors and lift gates - speeding through traffic, cutting across multiple lanes, and essentially supporting the notion that drivers in the Northeast are crazy. These guys, who narrowly escape crashes on an hourly basis, are part of the same report that contains the numbers Howard Abramson is using for his op-ed piece.

So if that bagel truck in Brooklyn rams into a cab and kills the driver and passengers inside, it's included in the fatality statistic. Unfortunately, the report doesn't break down which fatalities were caused by 18-wheelers and which fatalities were caused by all other types of "large trucks".  The report numbers are quoted time and again with a deceptive air of authority. It helps that many people 
believe what they read, and repeat what they hear without question, and don't bother to do any research on their own.

The biggest fact Ambramson leaves out - which was presented in a white paper by the very same organization he used to shill for - is that 81% of the time, the crash is the 
fault of the CAR DRIVER.  

The Commercial Carrier Journal, using the same facts I used in my post last year, has also written about fault in car/truck crashes. In addition to the American Trucking Associations (ATA) report - whose data comes from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute - they provided National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) numbers, and Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) numbers, all having to do with cars and trucks crashing.

ALL of them assigned fault to the car drivers - 91%, 85%, 81%, 77%, and 71% - every single time.

Howard Abramson, as an employee of the ATA for over 16 years, knew these facts and yet chose to mislead the readers of the New York Times piece by not including them.

The ATA (American Trucking Associations) is the largest trade association of its kind for the trucking industry. Their mission, stated plainly on their website, is to "advocate and communicate efforts designed to improve safety and profitability" for their members. Their members are large trucking companies and affiliated industry-related businesses. Because they represent the interests of the trucking company owners, they are the voice of the trucking industry. They are NOT the voice of truckers.

Owner-Operators, whose safety records directly affect the operation of their business, their lives, their sole way of making money, often have years of experience under their belts and operate in a safer manner than your average bear because NOT CRASHING means they get to provide for themselves and their families that much longer. Without a good record, you're pretty much done out here. And now with CSA, which affects not only your standing but the standing of the company that leases you on, you won't be touched if you have a shitty record.

A driver can have front-facing cameras, EOBRs, collision-avoidance technology, collision-detection systems, and every other kind of device deemed to be used to promote safety, and still get behind the wheel not prepared to drive safely. Or, be a bonafide safe driver, with accolades and millions of miles to prove it, and still wind up as a crash statistic because an idiot in a car caused an accident.

You can't regulate stupid. You can't regulate ignorance. You can't regulate people who are going to break whatever rules are in place.  You also can't regulate what we do during the 10 hours we spend in our sleeper - watching TV, reading books, playing video games, eating Doritos, having sex - there's no way anyone will ever know if you've gotten a wink of sleep.  

Same thing with our time off - Congress, the FMCSA, safety organizations, the head of your company, your dispatcher, the president, even your own mother will never know if you spent the day before work resting, mowing your lawn, building bookshelves, or perfecting your golf swing.

But there are a few things you can do.

You can pass regulations that reign in the abuse of shippers and receivers, who waste our valuable hours of operation.

You can raise rates so drivers don't have to work 70 hours a week to make a living, which for most drivers means around only $40,000 per year.

You can pass the cost on to consumers, who are the ones complaining that we are dangerous criminals flying aimlessly down the highways.

You can force the companies, who the ATA kisses the asses of, to stop threatening the livelihood of drivers by pushing them to operate unsafely - harassing them to drive when they're tired, to speed up when they're not comfortable doing so, or making suggestions that can only be interpreted as a direction to falsify logs. 

You can insist on elevated training standards, with a mandatory training period, instead of cranking out drivers who aren't safe from the get-go.

And you can stop promoting lies, feeding the fear, and blaming the drivers.

That's just a start.

I am one person.  I don't have the resources or millions of dollars organizations like the American Trucking Associations have to throw at this problem.  These people, and others like them, are facilitating the passing of legislation that affects my life. And they keep cranking this fear message out, year after year after year, every chance they get.

Do not be fooled by them.  It's not because they care about safety.  Because if they did, they'd spend the money needed to do all of the things I mentioned above, and more.  It's all about the money.
As Abramson mentioned in his piece, the trucking industry generates more than $700 billion a year in revenue.

That's almost as much as the GDP of Switzerland.

And if the Swiss can create a knife that has 141 functions, the trucking industry should be able to tackle the six things on my list.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This Is What Sweeping Looks Like
2013: This Takes Fresh Chicken To A Whole New Level
2012: Exemplary Exemplar Prints
2011: Hurricane? What Hurricane?
2010: The Summer Of 1947
2009: From Pablo Neruda To Mother Goose
2008: Almost Two Beautiful To Eat On
2007: Sweatin’ Eddie Friday
2006: Steel City Glow
2005: Bravo, Bravo


J. Rayl Transport said...

First, I love your term...crapaganda...priceless! The first thing I ever learned when driving a vehicle was defensively. You always need to anticipate what the other driver is going to do, assume it is not going to be looking out for you, adjust your speed or spacing to accommodate this and lastly think/and look for ways to escape should the worst thing happen. This can prevent so many accidents in the long run. It's usually not the trucker, it's the little cars trying to get away from the trucker, cutting in and out. Great article.

MAE said...

Great article. You did it again! Informing the public about the 'real' truths of the subject.

The Daily Rant said...

J. RAYL TRANSPORT: So you like the term, huh? I think it fits! I'd like to say Ed was the one who taught me how to drive defensively - well, he was, in the truck - but it was my step-father and grandfather who really taught me how to drive defensively, way back in my car driving days. Plus, I really grew up driving in and around New York City and all over the east coast, so I have battlefield training. LOL Being in a truck is difficult because you can't move quickly and looking out for idiots consumes so much of our driving time. Thanks for taking the time to comment, it's much appreciated!!

MAE: Someone has to do it! :)

Sue J said...

Nice piece, Salena. We need to make this go viral, as they say.

The Daily Rant said...

SUE J: Thanks for the comment! We do need to make more people aware of this. So, share the link and maybe it'll get around. I can only do so much - I have naps to take and exploring to do. LOL