Preventable or not?

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American Trucking Associations’ Safety Policy Committee plans to present this fall the findings of a working group formed to study the adoption of speed governors to improve highway safety. The committee expects to have a final policy statement ready for the ATA Management Conference in mid-October, and ATA’s Technology and Engineering Committee is expected to add input. ATA could petition Congress for legislation based on the committee’s recommendation.

ATA’s new Share The Road website (www.atastr.org) is designed to teach the motoring public about large blind spots that surround 18-wheelers. STR plans to update the site regularly with new information and fresh perspectives on how to keep highways safe. The STR program is sponsored by Mack Trucks and Chevron Delo.

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell last month ordered an increase in both state truck inspectors and inspections. State roadside truck inspections plunged from 24,414 in 2002 to 17,019 last year, according to DMV records – a drop of 30 percent. Rell, who called the cut in inspections “utterly unacceptable,” also ordered that trucking companies that rank in the top 25 for recorded safety violations be subject to immediate inspections.

Koch Trucking was recognized for having the most improved safety record in Minnesota for 2004-2005 at the Safety Award Luncheon. The luncheon, part of the recent Minnesota Trucking Association Annual Conference, was held in Alexandria, Minn.

A few minutes before his monthly accident, trucker John Doe had been listening attentively to a sport-talk show on his satellite radio, where the discussion centered on the upcoming NFL season. Last season, Doe’s beloved Philadelphia Eagles came up just three points short of a Super Bowl championship, but today the on-air personalities didn’t think Doe’s team would make it through the first round of this year’s playoffs.

“What a bunch of idiots,” Doe groused, wishing he could meet one of those smart-aleck sports shock-jocks face to face. “We’ll see who winds up holding the Lombardi Trophy,” he thought as he reached for the warm cup of coffee he’d bought earlier at the truck stop.

It was 8 a.m. on a warm, sunny morning as Doe, stifling a yawn, towed his trailer down a four-lane highway heading into Harrisburg, Pa. Doe, riding in the inside lane, had his mind on football and had been neglecting to monitor his mirrors.

A block ahead, a city bus began to pull into traffic from the right lane, trailing dense, acrid smoke. Doe, traveling at the posted limit of 35 mph, did not slow down. At that moment, an impatient Michael Monroe, faced by the rear of the turtle-paced city bus, decided to try his favorite NASCAR maneuver – by attempting to race his new gas-saving Ford Escape Hybrid through the rapidly-diminishing gap between the bus and Doe’s Class 8 tractor. Schrunch! Monroe wasn’t hurt, but unfortunately his Escape didn’t escape from becoming a hybrid sandwich.

However, Doe’s feelings certainly were hurt when he received a preventable-accident warning letter from his fleet safety director. Doe contested the ruling, and the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Accident Review Committee was asked to decide the issue. To Doe’s dismay, the NSC panel upheld the “preventable” ruling, noting that Doe had failed to slow down – and check his shotgun-side mirror for idiots in four-wheelers – when the bus began to amble into the adjacent lane.