Friday, September 2, 2016

Mainstream media’s coverage of truck safety is misleading

Earlier this week, Land Line Associate Editor Greg Grisolano called into question the mainstream media’s coverage of a proposed speed limiter mandate. CBS Evening News covered the story without citing any of the studies that show an increase in crash risk when split speeds occur.

This time, mainstream media has missed the mark regarding a story about truck drivers and crashes. Fox 28 in Spokane, Wash., reported on Thursday, Sept. 1, that Washington State University has planned a $1.4 million study to see if truck drivers are getting enough sleep. The story opens with a statistic from the Centers for Disease Control that says one out of every three truck drivers has reported being in a serious crash.

There are so many problems with that opening statement it’s difficult to know where to begin.

First, let’s start with the absurdity of the statistic. Does anyone really believe that 33 percent of the nation’s truck drivers have been involved in a serious crash?

Not surprisingly, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has evidence to refute that claim.

“The statistic concerning one in three truck drivers experience a serious crash was taken from a study that surveyed drivers at 32 truck stops in 2010,” OOIDA Foundation Researcher Andrew King said. “This is hardly a representative sample of the industry. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, as well as other organizations, has continued to state that 70 percent of accidents involving a passenger vehicle and a truck were at the fault of the passenger vehicle.”

Another issue is that the statistic has nothing to do with the study that Washington State University is conducting. Opening a story titled, “New study aims to curb crashes caused by sleepy truck drivers” with a statistic that one in three truck drivers are involved in a serious crash leads one to believe that truckers are dozing off and crashing into things at an astounding rate.

However, the facts tell us otherwise.

According to FMCSA’s 2014 Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts, driver fatigue was involved in only 1.8 percent of fatal crashes.

Even though statistics indicate that driver fatigue accounts for a minuscule portion of fatality crashes, Washington State University will spend more than a million dollars on a study that will likely tell us very little. The study will follow the sleep patterns of 200 drivers in cities such as Spokane. The small sample size alone calls the study into question. The length of the study and how drivers are chosen will also play a role in how effective the study will be.

But many will likely try to use the findings to give credence to requiring such things as sleep apnea testing, speed limiters or electronic logs.

What’s typically not mentioned in these stories, however, is that many of the large fleets already make these requirements. So if you followed the narrative by mainstream media, you’d assume that the large fleets with these strict rules would be much safer than owner-operators who are not required to have speed-limited trucks or on-board recorders.

But you’d be wrong.

“The owner-operator segment of the industry has consistently been among the safest drivers in the nation with a rate of 0.34 crashes per million vehicle miles traveled,” King said. “In other words, the safety performance of owner-operators is four times greater than the national average.”

That’s not to say all of mainstream media’s coverage is bad. This recent article from Cleveland.com on speed limiters makes a point to tell both sides of the story. It’s too bad that this type of coverage seems to be the exception.

9 comments:

  1. The article is more than just irresponsible journalism. I think it is the intentional dissemination of misinformation for the purpose of damaging the public image of our vital industry. There should be an avenue for legal action against such slanderous and unfounded remarks.

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  2. well to start with the main stream media is known to be bias and not forth coming with the truth, they rather have high ratings and to hell with the truth, we as truck drivers and ex truck drivers know the truth because we have lived the life and walked the walk. But until the media steps up and tell the truth about things this is the way of life

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  3. Mainstream media’s lie non stop everybody know

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  4. How come we never see any statistics on whether or not the drivers involved in crashes were foreign or American drivers.? I have often wondered about what Percentage that would be.?

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  5. How come we never see any statistics on whether or not the drivers involved in crashes were foreign or American drivers.? I have often wondered about what Percentage that would be.?

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. And of course the fact that around 70% of the total fatalities DO NOT INVOLVE a commercial vehicle. There needs to be an automatic reply pie chart showing the total number of highway fatalities, and the small sliver of that pie that truck drivers are at fault for. You can then further divide that small slice into segments for whatever the cause of the moment is that the media or government wishes to harp on

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  8. Kurt has the right idea - some people just need pictures! pie charts showing the % of truck involved fatalities vs cars, then smaller pies showing causes and the % of car drivers responsible vs truckers responsible. We are dealing with a corrupt government and a biased news media - we need to break it down to pictures they can't refute!

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  9. Because that would be discriminatory, unless they made sure to show that Americans were the ones at fault most of the time.

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