Jeff Crissey

Avoiding a bum rap

Jeff Untitled 1Public education is key to improving trucking’s safety image

Recently, I caught a segment on one of the network morning programs that showed video footage from the North Texas Tollway Authority traffic camera of a violent crash involving a tractor-trailer. In the video, a Nissan Sentra traveling in the right northbound lane of the Dallas North Tollway clips the front end of a truck in the middle lane, causing the truck to lose control and veer across the left lane, roll over the concrete barrier (while taking out a streetlight) and skid to a halt on its side across all three southbound lanes. Fortunately – and amazingly – nobody was seriously hurt in the six-vehicle accident that resulted from the Sentra’s miscue. (To see a YouTube video of the accident, see the Editor’s Note at the bottom of this column.)

Regrettably, the morning show host gasped in horror at the end of the clip and commented about the danger trucks pose on the road, even though the video clearly – and in slow motion – showed the Sentra had caused the accident.

Dramatic footage like this makes for great TV, but the host’s reaction underscores a common problem carriers face in the court of public opinion. In the battle of perception vs. reality, the industry is left with another black mark.

Once again, public opinion unjustly convicts the trucking industry.

The fact is the trucking industry never has been safer, and responsible carriers, vehicle OEMs and suppliers, government agencies and enforcement organizations continue to work together to lower crash rates and improve vehicle safety. The results from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Roadcheck 2010 initiative bear that out, with near-record low out-of-service rates. And according to the American Trucking Associations, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes has declined 24 percent in the last 20 years despite a 47-percent increase in registered large trucks and a 65-percent increase in VMT. Depending on the source, car drivers are responsible for 70 percent to 80 percent of crashes involving trucks.

To combat the industry’s negative public image and to protect the motoring public, safety-conscious and proactive carriers are taking the conversation into their communities. For example, Bison Transport – one of the industry’s most-cited carriers for its safety initiatives – has taken its internal safety efforts to the public with “Let’s Bring Safety Home,” teaching motorists how to operate safely around commercial vehicles. CVSA just launched a similar program called “Teens & Trucks” in partnership with the Arizona Trucking Association, ATA and other organizations and funded in part by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. For more information, visit

In today’s safety-first climate, “How’s my driving?” just doesn’t cut it. Developing and promoting your company’s safety efforts can help improve the trucking industry’s image as well as your own. n

Editor’s Note: Bridging the gap with new technology

In order to offer you new and exciting ways to consume information, Commercial Carrier Journal is incorporating Microsoft Tag barcodes that enable subscribers to augment their reading experience quickly and easily by using their smartphones to unlock access to multimedia content. The service is available for free to users with many devices using Windows Mobile, Android, Blackberry and iPhone platforms. To download the free app, enter into your mobile browser and follow the instructions. Then open the app and scan the image to view the content.

Scanning the Tag on this page opens the truck crash video referenced above. Tags with editorial video content also can be found on pages 25 and 46, and a number of advertisements in this issue also are making use of the technology.

We look forward to bringing you new ways to enhance the reading experience and welcome your feedback.

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Jeff Crissey is Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal.

E-mail or call (205) 248-1244.