Are Truckers as Bad as They Are Made Out To Be?
Truckers get a bad rap in the media and from our own government. Just so you know; most of this is about money. Truck driver’s fines are at least double and usually quadruple the fines a car driver gets for convictions on tickets. For instance, if you get a seat belt ticket it might cost you $10-50.00, if a trucker gets a seat belt ticket, it will cost them $100-500.00 and points on their safety evaluation connected to their license; and it does not matter if they are in their personal car or the truck. While of course, truckers are professional drivers, the difference in fines is just a little over the top don’t you think?
It is popular in the media to deal in sensationalism and sadly at times in our governmental reports about truckers and the accident statistics. Why is this? Sensationalism sells newspapers and garners support for special interest groups. How many times have you read a story in a newspaper or heard a sound bite on the TV or radio about a truck crashing only to read on or hear the rest of the story and find out it was a pickup truck involved? It happens hundreds of times.
There is another facet to trucks and adverse media attention; that of trial lawyers. How many times have you seen billboards or other types of advertisement about Shyster, Shyster and Shyster, Attorneys at Law who will get you millions of dollars if you are involved in an accident with a truck? Talk about big business! Because of the thousands of miles a year that a truck will travel, the insurance a trucking company has to carry are high amounts. These types of accident chasing lawyers are itching to be able to tap into that money and will use anything they can to get the chance to do so.
I wrote the following article in 2008 using the statistics from 2006-2007. The numbers haven’t changed radically since then.
Getting Some Perspective
We are inundated with statistics from all sides about how many people are involved in large truck crashes and how truckers are always at fault. Organizations are formed to lobby for more regulations to be put on trucks and truckers using those same statistics to fuel sympathetic public opinion, and then the general media jump on the bandwagon with their fear mongering stories about all of the people killed by truck drivers. Most of us truckers just take the media reports and the statistics given by the anti-truck lobbyists as gospel; should we though?
Though statistics on crashes involving all sorts of vehicles are available from several government agencies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is most likely the most comprehensive site with statistics about all vehicles. The numbers are not showing up yet for 2008, but the statistics for 2006 and 2007, and the comparison between the two years, makes for an interesting read while all the statistics plainly shows that truckers are not the highway killers we are thought of being.
In 2007 there were 4,808 fatalities involving large trucks. 802 of those fatalities were the drivers of the truck; 502 were truck drivers in single vehicle crashes, 300 were truck drivers in multi-vehicle crashes. 3,601 were occupants in other vehicles, 405 were non-occupants (pedestrians and bicyclists). The numbers were slightly higher in 2006; 5,027 total fatalities, 805 were truck drivers with 500 in single vehicle accidents and 305 in multi-vehicle crashes. 3,797 were occupants in other vehicles with 425 being non-occupants. This means there was a decrease in fatalities involving large trucks of 4.4% between 2006 and 2007.
On the other hand, car and light truck crashes account for many more fatalities each year, in 2007, there were 28,933 fatalities down 5.7% from 2006. Motorcycle accidents accounted for 5,154 fatalities in 2007 up from 2006 where there were 4,837 fatalities. Alcohol was involved in 12,998 fatalities in 2007 down 3.7% from a total of 13,491 in 2006.
Injuries from traffic crashes provide high numbers. Passenger cars and light trucks; 2007: 2,491,000, 2006: 2,575,000 (yes, those numbers are millions), against the amount of people injured in traffic crashes involving large trucks: 23,000 for both 2007 and 2006 (this does not differentiate whether it was truck drivers injured or other type vehicle occupants). Motorcycles causing injury again come in with high numbers; 2007: 103,000
against 88,000 in 2006.
In a 33 month long study done by the FMCSA for congress from 2001 to 2003, statistics were collected from 24 sites in 17 states. These statistics were then extrapolated out to represent all crashes involving large trucks during that time period. Interestingly, the 967 actual accidents studied ended up representing a supposed number of 144,000 accidents for statistical purposes. The primary focus of this study was to find what caused most accidents involving trucks.
“Driver recognition and decision errors were the most often cited reason for both trucks and passenger vehicles. Truck drivers, however, were coded less frequently for both driving performance errors and non-performance problems (e.g., asleep, sick, incapacitated) than passenger vehicle drivers. In crashes between trucks and passenger vehicles, driving too fast for conditions and fatigue were important factors cited for both drivers. However, fatigue was coded twice as often for passenger vehicle drivers and speeding more often for truck drivers.” The study also found that illegal drug use and alcohol were very rarely found as factors in the truck drivers tested after a crash, though it was often a factor found in the drivers of passenger vehicles.
Looking at the numbers that are available easily on the internet one wonders why truckers and the trucking industry are being so maligned and regulated to death, we never hear or read a story about the millions killed and injured in crashes that do not involve trucks each year. Just looking at the difference for 2007 between the fatalities between crashes involving large trucks and crashes with only passenger vehicles, 4,808 and 28,933 respectively, then the number of motorcycle and alcohol related fatalities, 5,154 and 12,998 again respectively, it would appear that truckers and the trucking industry is being singled out for some purpose, some would say unfairly. Fatalities involving large trucks are much lower than for any other type of vehicle, yet we do not see laws affecting motorcycles or cars being pushed by anti-truck lobbyists.
Can we improve our numbers, yes, of course we can, there is always room for improvement and any death caused by us is unacceptable. However, the numbers show that we are professionals for the most part and do our best to do no harm. The numbers also show that we have something to be proud of instead of hanging our heads in shame as some think we ought to do. When you think of all the millions of miles driven by truckers in 2007, we are not doing so badly after all, it is all in your perspective.