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Congratulations to the trucking industry for dramatically reducing highway fatalities and fatal accidents. Are Washington politicians and bureaucrats paying attention to what the free market is accomplishing on its own? Or are they too busy concocting burdensome new regulations (CSA 2010, hours of service changes) that may or may not improve safety but will surely increase transportation costs and harm the economy?
Highway crash deaths involving large trucks plummeted 20 percent in 2009 to 3,380, a new all-time low. This data is courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which began tracking fatal accidents in 1950. Nobody would deny that 3,380 deaths are a tragedy or that we should strive to reduce that number every year, but the fact of the matter is that our everyday tasks of driving, crossing the street, riding a bike, etc., all involve some element of deadly risk that we assume every day in the pursuit of happily living our lives. Despite the recession, all highway miles increased in 2009 although truck highway miles have yet to be determined for 2009. The recession can't be credited for the improvement.
The data shows that fatalities and the rate of fatalities were rising prior to trucking industry deregulation in 1980, but since then absolute fatalities have trended down while truck miles driven have increased substantially, driving the fatality rate from over 5.5 per 100 million miles driven to less than 2.
Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations, rightly states, "These latest figures illustrate the trucking industry's deep commitment to improving highway safety." The decline in both the number of accidents and the accident rate per mile is quite noticeable since the 2005 revision to the hours of service (HOS) regulation. Graves points to the 2005 HOS changes as a positive factor in improving the work-rest cycle. HOS rules are currently under attack with proposals to reduce driving hours from 11 to 10. There is no data to suggest that this would have any positive impact on safety for existing drivers, but if adopted the change would cut truck utilization meaning more trucks and more drivers on the road which would almost certainly increase accidents and would also increase costs.
Our heartfelt thanks and congratulations to the trucking industry and to professional truck drivers for a stellar result. To the popular press, we encourage you to stop bashing the trucking industry with your distorted reporting on "killer" trucks. Do your homework and stop using isolated bad apples to paint the industry as dangerous. To the Washington crowd, we implore you to trust the free-market system to deliver better and faster results at a lower cost than you can deliver through legislation and regulation. The 30-year history of safety improvements following 1980 trucking industry deregulation should be all the proof you need
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