Reaction: Playing On The Public’s Fear Of ‘Sleepy’ Drivers

Reaction Article

Reaction Article Fear mongering is nothing new.  Special interest groups use vivid pictures to pull on the public’s heartstrings, politicians do it to get legislation passed (or not passed,whatever their cause may be) and the media does it to sell papers.  Right or wrong, there’s nothing illegal about it.  The only defense against fear mongering is the truth.

In Washington, cameras are being used to track drivers’ moves and some in the media are touting the technology will keep the public safe from sleepy truck drivers.

[pullquote align=”right”]”If you ever get nervous driving past a semi-truck, a high-tech web of gadgets could keep you safe.”[/pullquote]

KEPRV TV reporter Ryan Simms wrote and article entitled “Cameras guard drivers from exhausted truckers.”  In the article, Simms states, “If you ever get nervous driving past a semi-truck, a high-tech web of gadgets could keep you safe.”

Simms goes on to report that drivers are often forced to push the HOS limits in order to make more money and meet deadlines and states doing so endangers themselves and others on the road, “…It’s one of the reasons why so many truckers are constantly tired,” he stated.

The technology Simms is referring to is a series of cameras placed sporadically along the highway.  The cameras capture images of trucks as they make their way across the state.  The pictures are then sent to Charles Davis.  Davis uses the license numbers to determine how long the drivers have been on the road.  If it is determined that a truck has been on the road for too long, the truck’s number is called into the DOT and the driver is pulled over.

“Since the cameras went in a year ago, the number of violations given to tired truckers has surged 42%, while the number of trucking crashes has fallen 10%. Foster works to make sure he’s not part of either statistic,” Simms states.

The second to last sentence in Simms’ article states that only 8% of all tickets given to drivers for violating HOS.

What Simms fails to mention is that 2/3 of all accidents involving trucks, the truck driver is not at fault.  Many also fail to mention that drivers often do all they can to protect themselves, their cargo and others and  take every precaution to do so.

Truck driver Chris Foster told Simms,  “I want to protect my life just as much as anyone else, so I’m going to make sure to take care of priority number one.”

It’s laughable that some in the media will imply that a gadget–such as a camera– would keep the public safe from a truck, when statistically, truck drivers are the safest drivers on the road.  Where’s the technology to keep truck drivers safe from motorists?

Simms’ article drew ire from other commenters, as well.

TruckerGuy wrote:

“…Truckers in my experience will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money and put their own lives on the line to get freight delivered because this is their profession and they are very good at it. They pay thousands a year in income tax, highway tax, fuel tax, and heavy vehicle use tax only to be targeted by the very people they work for. They are the safest people on the highway and in their ability to maneuver their vehicles effectively, save more lives every day than all of the doctors in the United States.  Every little infraction on their license will cost them work and possibly their future, yet they are not considered skilled workers.  It is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and these people do it every day and night, yet they are still the safest vehicles on the road. 

“Stop demonizing these people and try to put yourself in their shoes and in the driver’s seat for once.  If you have a CDL, you need to join OOIDA.  They need all the help they can get.”

Curtis L. Mease wrote:

“I have wasted more time and energy during the course of the day doing the logistical mathematics to ensure I haven’t driven 11 hours and one minute. I’m OK at 10 hours and 59 minutes but two minutes later I’ve become a hazard? Human life is more important than satisfying some unreasonable Just-In-Time demands by a dysfunctional procurement department which failed to order their material in a more timely fashion. I will do my a job but I will not jeopardize my safety or anyone else’s to meet ridiculous demands. FMCSA should get on the shippers and receivers who enjoy banker’s hours and get off trying to regulate every minute of a driver’s life.”

OOIDA wrote:

The scariest thing about this article has nothing to do with safety on the roads.  Rather, it’s how easily society can be seduced into believing, even embracing, technology that invades every aspect of our public and private lives. 

We willingly allow our tax dollars to be used to monitor and track the most mundane of our daily activities with scarcely a thought as to whether the do-gooders’ claims of protecting us from others- and even ourselves- have any merit at all.

Motorists have little to fear from truckers and the implications that most or all are tired is just plain nonsense.  

Real data from the US DOT bears this out.  Their most recent data shows fatigue on the part of truck drivers is a factor in a miniscule 1.3% of fatal crashes that involved a truck.  And compared to all fatal crashes  the number is 13 out of a thousand – and les than half of thesedrivers had been behind the wheel for more than 11 hours!  A threat that nowhere compares to drinking drivers or those texting or just flat out not paying attention.  When it comes to tweaking permissible hours worked for truck drivers, you reach a point of diminishing returns.  A majority of big rig, over-the-road drivers believe the most recent changes that discourage drivers from taking breaks undermines safety.  Even more changes expected to go into effect in 2013 go even further in the wrong direction. 

While most truck drivers are true professionals that will do almost anything including risking their own lives to avoid a crash, they aren’t all perfect.  

Truck drivers are the most regulated of any workers, amazingly, there are no requirements that they actually be trained for the tasks and responsibilities they shoulder. 

Big companies like that.  It helps to hold down their costs, but it may not be the best public policy for safety or anything else.

Americans are great at many things, not the least of which is marketing.  What better example can we have than recent elections where reality is tortured beyond all recognition.  Reality is that truckers ain’t the boogeyman.  In this holiday season of plenty for most, everything we have, everything we wear and eat came to us because there are men and women that are willing to climb behind the wheel of a big rig and navigate the traffic, inclement weather with winds strong enough to blow them over to make certain our shelves are full and our needs and desires are met. 

We owe them thanks, not scorn and incessant scrutiny.