Trucking industry lobbying group adopts the Ford Pinto defense — that safety rules are too expensive to save lives in preventable truck accident deaths
Shame on the American Trucking Association (ATA). The ATA has filed a petition with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking to review the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMSCA) recently published final rule changing the Hours of Service regulations for commercial truck drivers.
You can see the final Hours of Service regs here.
The petition specifically seeks for the court to do no less than “set aside the final rule as arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law.”
In an article on Fleetowner.com, the ATA president and CEO Gov. Bill Graves alludes that the costs created by the new safety rules will outweigh the safety benefits (i.e. saved lives).
Specially, he said:
“… the costs created by (the FMSCA) rule still outweigh those benefits. We need this issue to be resolved in a credible manner, taking into account the undisputed crash reduction since 2004, so we can focus limited government and industry resources on safety initiatives that will have a far greater impact on highway safety.”
So, I ask: by benefits, is the ATA referring to the lives that will be saved by preventing truck accidents and truck accident deaths that would otherwise occur at the hands of over-tired truckers?
This defense sounds very familiar to me… Ah, yes, it is the Ford Pinto defense!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ford Pinto defense, Ford recalled all Pintos produced from 1971 to 1976 to repair their defective gas tanks. The recall only came after news reports of the vehicles’ propensity to explode in flames after rear-end auto accidents had caused sales to take a dramatic hit. Then it was revealed that more than 50 people had died in Pinto-related accidents amid lawsuits that were piling up.
In a criminal action filed in relation to one of the crashes, where three teenage girls burned to a grisly death, prosecutor Michael Consentino proved that Ford officials knew that Pinto gas tanks would rupture after a rear-end collision. Rather than install a part costing $16.65 to prevent this, Consentino proved that Ford had performed a cost-benefit analysis and determined that higher profits would be achieved from NOT installing the $16.65 part. The litigation settlement costs for people killed would be less than recalling and installing the safety part.
The ATA seems to be taking a very similar position here. The “cost” to the industry of “34-hours restarts” that must include two periods between 1 a.m.- 5 a.m. home terminal time and that may only be used once per week will cost the industry more in lost profits than the people who are killed in otherwise completely preventable truck accidents. Last year, 5,000 Americans were killed in truck accidents.
The ATA feels that the cost of the new Hours of Service rule is not worth the hundreds of lives that the new rule will save. It’s an example of the trucking industry putting profits over people, and literally, saying the lives that would be saved are disposable. Disgusting.
On a side note, Bill Graves seems to be in complete denial about the state of our truck accident death rates. Apparently ignoring the 8.7 percent increase NHTSA preliminary data showed in truck-related fatalities between 2010 and 2009.
Before a decision on the merits of ATA’s case against FMCSA can be made, the petition must make its way through the court system. The new Hours of Services rules are set to go in effect in July 2013.
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– Steven Gursten is head of Michigan Auto Law and one of the top truck accident attorneys in the country. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Lawyer Litigation Group, and has received the top-reported jury verdict in Michigan for a truck accident case. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his work to promote national truck safety.
Related information to protect yourself:
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