Truckers and Carrier Execs Propose Very Different Solutions to Reduce Big Rig Crashes
Washington D.C. – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Truck Safety Summit spotlighted stark differences between those who make their living driving a truck, and carrier safety executives.
Last week at the FMCSA’s Safety Summit, more than two dozen speakers and invited panelists discussed possible solutions to curb trucker crash deaths and accidents involving commercial motor vehicles (CMV).
It quickly became evident that the truckers and carrier safety executives participating in the event had a host of disagreements on a broad range of safety issues.
However, before we dig a bit deeper, let’s take a quick look at what led the Agency to organize the Summit.
Trucking Industry Rocked by Alarming Reports
In 2019, the trucking industry was rocked by two alarming reports.
First, a bombshell academic study on the impact of the electronic logging devices (ELD) mandate concluded crashes involving commercial big rigs actually increased after the implementation of the mandate.
The study found that while crashes among mega carrier trucks decreased, crashes among independent owner-operators increased as much as 3.5% and 1.8% for carriers with two to six trucks.
The second disturbing report came from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), showing trucker crash deaths rose to a 30-year high in 2018.
An NHTSA report from earlier this year indicated trucker crash deaths for 2019 are expected to be even worse when the final data is released later this fall.
The Agency said it organized the Safety Summit in direct response to NHTSA’s latest data.
The Safety Solution Divide
The reaction to these reports among many carrier executives was to urge regulators and legislators to impose more mandates.
For instance, groups such as the American Trucking Associations (ATA), Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) and the Trucking Alliance openly expressed support for mandating speed limiters.
ATA updated its policy on speed limiters advocating for a 65 mph mandate, with the exception of trucks equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).
ADAS-equipped trucks would be allowed to travel at 70 mph under ATA’s policy proposal.
“ATA really truly believes the innovation will also harness existing commercial off-the-shelf technology solutions including electronic logging devices (ELDs), cameras, automatic emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive speed control,” ATA president Chris Spear said during a panel discussion last week.
An impressive list of long-time carrier safety executives championed the benefits of ADAS with some claiming it has dramatically reduced rear-end accidents.
Read more about what they said HERE.
While the Summit was packed full of mega carrier and trucking association executives, it only featured three invited panelists who actually have distinguished careers behind-the-wheel.
One of those drivers happens to have more than four million safe miles to her credit.
Owner-operator Ingrid Brown is opposed to one-size-fits all mandates and offered a very different perspective about technology’s role in reducing big rig crashes.
“I am my technology,” she said. “Once I hear a bell or whistle go off, it is too late.”
Brown told Transportation Nation Network (TNN) before the Summit that she believes ADAS can actually have a detrimental impact by adding stress onto an experienced driver, or by causing an inexperienced driver to become over-reliant on the systems.
She argued the best way to achieve better safety outcomes is to simply train drivers better and for longer than many of the large fleets and schools currently do.
“Training is such an important tool. That training doesn’t just come from a school. It comes from experience out on the road too,” Brown stated.
Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA) is a former owner operator of more than two decades.
He urged the FMCSA to listen to the voices of “real truckers.”
Specifically, he highlighted the need to address “poor working conditions and overzealous enforcement” as well as “inadequate driver training.”
Pugh also took aim at the ELD mandate.
“It’s no secret that most drivers don’t like ELDs,” he said. “ELDs have created more stress, more cost, and more fatigue. There’s simply no safety justification whatsoever for the ELD mandate.”
Pugh also pushed back on hair testing by raising concerns that it may disproportionately negatively impact certain ethnicities and result in positive tests for people who may have used drugs reaching as far back as six months.
Finding Common Ground
The Agency said it’s goal for the Summit was to foster a “collaborative dialogue” in order to improve safety.
In that spirit, both truckers and executives who participated in the event did seem to agree on one important truth.
Perhaps Dave Edmondson of J&M Truck Group said it best.
“The foundation starts with the driver,” he declared. “The biggest thing you can do for a driver is show them that you care about them.”
Surely that’s something we can all agree with.