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Criticisms of Congress and the trucking industry, Part 2

We introduced Howard Abramson to readers in last week’s blog post, noting therein that the former top-rung trucking industry executive is calling out the U.S. Congress for some sharp criticism in its handling — Abramson might say its gross mishandling — of the safety oversight it is entrusted with regarding commercial trucking in the United States.

The industry itself is also targeted by Abramson — a one-time ranking official with the national American Trucking Associations — in excoriating fashion. We note in our September 16 blog entry Abramson’s comments that trucking groups’ safety arguments and rationalizations are “laughable” and that the industry “has consistently resisted safety improvements.”

Much of Abramson’s critique, as reported in The New York Times, is truly frightening. He notes, for example, that large commercial rigs drive only a small fraction of the total miles traveled in the U.S., but are involved in about 12.5 percent of all fatal vehicle-related accidents. He adds that, while technology that minimizes the adverse effects of rear-end crashes involving the nation’s heaviest trucks is readily available to fleets across the country, only about 3 percent of such trucks are equipped with such life-saving features.

And there’s more. Abramson reports that truck-related fatalities nationally rose a whopping 17 percent from 2009 to 2013, with deaths rising for several consecutive years. He cites an estimate from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the dollar cost to the country annually relating to commercial truck and bus accidents is close to $100 billion.

Such realities demand material changes to the industry that are simply not being pushed by legislators, he says. In fact, he states that Congress “has pursued a number of steps to roll back safety improvements ordered by federal regulators.” Those include the endorsement by some legislators for an expanded work week for truckers, a willingness to permit ever-larger and heavier vehicles ply the nation’s roadways and agreement with industry voices that want the minimum driving age for interstate truckers lowered to 18.

All those moves reflect a strategy that is wrong and dangerous, Abramson contends. What Congress needs to do, he says, is defer less to powerful trucking interests and better protect the public by getting on with the task of “what must be done in order to reduce the continuing carnage on our highways.”

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