With one in four trucks dangerously out of service, why is the truck lobby fighting safety efforts?
Last year, 22 percent of all trucks failed a roadside inspection. These trucks were found so dangerous that they were immediately taken out of service. Keep in mind the inspection dates were announced four months in advance and widely publicized within the trucking industry.
Last year, nearly 5,000 people were killed in truck crashes throughout the country, and more than 80,000 people were seriously injured.
Also last year, nearly one percent of all drivers were found under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Sounds like a small number, but with 9.25 million trucks and buses on our roads, that comes out to 92,500 truck and bus drivers impaired by drugs and alcohol. That number is nothing to scoff at.
The problems are getting far worse, not better. This year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report indicating that more than 500 unsafe trucking companies ordered shut down by the federal government are still continuing to operate under different names. In addition, another 1,000 trucking companies that have incurred fines and serious safety violations are operating under new names, but with the same owners, employees and trucks.
You might think that everyone would agree it’s important that trucking companies comply with mandatory safety rules that are meant to protect us all. Trucks are, after all, inherently dangerous. But my experience today proved otherwise.
Today, I had a live, one-hour, on-air debate with the public relations director for the American Transportation Association, on the Sirius Radio Road Dog Trucking station, Channel 147. As past-president of the Interstate Truck Litigation Group for the American Association for Justice, I was asked to present the information to the listening audience, field questions, and debate the industry position that truck safety efforts are “dramatically improving.”
Talk about the lobbying arm of the trucking industry putting its head in the sand!
This interview was in response to my initial report on dangerous truck companies in Michigan. Last week, the American Association for Justice released my project on a national scale, showing an astounding 28,000 trucking companies – representing more than 200,000 dangerous and unsafe trucks – with significant safety violations.
I was incredibly disappointed to see that the largest lobbying group for the trucking industry engage in typical industry talking points denying a problem exists, rather than working with consumer safety groups and the federal government to improve on the problem of dangerous, out of service trucks on our roads.
Instead of meaningful debate, I had the pleasure of being called an “ambulance chaser” on national radio. The lobbyist for the trucking company spent a lot of his time talking about supposed frivolous cases; whether they are actually real or urban myths is uncertain. He spent very little time dealing with the details and facts of the AAJ report itself. And that is by far, the most disheartening aspect of all.
As to being called an ambulance chaser by a hired gun lobbyist, the question I want to pose is, Why would myself and many other like-minded, concerned lawyers donate so many hours and so much money to improve truck safety? Isn’t that bad for my business? Wouldn’t I want as many dangerous truck drivers and bad trucks on the roads as I can get? It was a stupid thing to say, but I guess if you are the lobbying group for the trucking industry and you don’t want to participate in significant efforts to improve public safety, and you don’t have the facts, you may as well hurl as many insults as possible.
My point is, we have a real opportunity to work together to help improve a public safety crisis. Consumer advocacy groups, government and the trucking industry together can fix a real problem that endangers everyone. We can really try to lessen the number of dangerous, out-of-service trucks on the road. Instead, the American Trucking Association spent its time on typical talking points and bashing truck accident lawyers.
Later this week, I will further discuss the startling numbers of out of service trucks and impaired truck drivers, and why they’re most likely just the tip of the iceberg.
– Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top attorneys handling serious truck accident injury cases. He is on the executive board of governors representing Michigan for the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America. Steve has received the largest jury verdict for an automobile accident case in Michigan in four of the last seven years, including 2008.