As American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves and others have discussed, a recent New York Times opinion column titled, “The Trucks are Killing Us,” was published without anyone properly vetting the statements contained in it. Despite the author’s implied “insider” credentials, there are several falsehoods in the text that have grossly mischaracterized the current state of highway safety and left the misleading claim that if Congress keeps “coddling the trucking industry,” trucking-related deaths will become more common.
The author’s caricature of his former industry as stingy, safety-be-damned villains who are resistant to technological progress and who willingly put the motoring public at risk couldn’t be further from the truth. Frankly, I do not recognize the industry of which he speaks. As Graves detailed in his comprehensive rebuttal, the truth is that trucks are not killing us. In fact, the overwhelming weight of the evidence reveals the trucking industry’s commitment to advancing industrywide safety measures.
In light of the author Howard Abramson’s simplistic and misleading opinion piece, we want the public to know of our industry’s determination and commitment to safety. It is not an overstatement to say that we, the American trucking industry, value safety above all else.
And, in many cases, Arkansas is leading the way.
Our own state is home to companies that are leading the pack in both advocating for far-reaching, safety-driven regulatory change and in the adoption of cutting-edge safety technology.
For example, the final rule mandating electronic logging devices (ELDs) is to be published Sept. 30. This new regulation will require all trucks to have ELDs by 2019. These devices will allow drivers to log their time on the road electronically, rather than keeping manual books, and will ensure that drivers do not drive past the legal limit.
The Arkansas Trucking Association and its members advocated for ELDs, and former Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor (D) introduced the bill to lawmakers with the support of the Arkansas trucking companies. Congressman Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas) also joined our efforts to make sure the ELD bill would be passed into law.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will soon require electronic stability control (ESC) systems on heavy trucks and large buses. ESCs have been standard on every passenger vehicle for years, preventing rollovers when the roads are treacherous and the vehicle is moving too quickly for sharp curves. Now, this proven technology will be mandatory on large commercial vehicles. These are just two examples of technologies that the major motor carriers in the state have leaned into and proactively advocated for.
Abramson suggests, nay accuses, trucking companies of being resistant to regulation and new technology. My concern is that the public, despite the overwhelming weight of the evidence, is left with that impression as well.
There are many other examples of wide-ranging safety measures that our industry is leading the way on. All are vetted in light of data, evidence-quantified and analyzed by federal regulatory agencies. Some require years of study and planning. The anticipated laws that will fund our highways will also regulate our industry. Abramson wants regulation to come swift and hard when a highway bill is passed. The process to enact industrywide safety measures is — at times —complicated, but our industry’s No. 1 priority is still safety.
We all want the same thing — for Congress to pass a bill to ensure reliable, safe, well-maintained highways and bridges for EVERYONE who has to share the infrastructure. After all, our families are on the roads as well. But appealing to fear of an evil, penny-pinching, reckless-with-public-safety villain will not accomplish that.
No one has more to gain from highway safety advances than the trucking industry.