HOS Bogus Claims v. Common Sense in Debates
I was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I've done everything from working in an automotive factory to fabricating dentures, but I have always loved to read and write. If I'm not writing, you can probably find me kayaking, playing bass, traveling the world or simply sitting on the couch with my beautiful wife.
The updated Hours of Service (HOS) rules were partially put into action due to the claim that an additional 19 lives can be saved a year, but a recent article written by a Detroit attorney makes the bold claim that truck drivers do not care about fatalities on the road. Does this mean that he interviewed everyone who drives a truck? Or does it simply mean that he is a lawyer who needs the vast majority (the jury) to come into the courtroom with predisposed false opinions? Should truck companies be forced to comply with lawsuits and settle out of court because they know public opinion is against them? If someone does not like HOS, does that mean they do not care about people?
There are so many questions that everyone is asking. It is not just Detroit that is weighing in. All across the web there are lawyers, trucking agencies, and individual blogs either supporting or defaming HOS standards.
What is one to do?
Lesson One: Watch those tricky statistics
- An ABC story says truck driving is the deadliest job in America with 852 drivers fatally injured in the year 2000.
- But ABC’s numbers are old. In 2011, according to Business Insider, trucking is ranked as the 8th deadliest occupation (and that is bunched in with salesmen!) with 774 deaths.
- Business Insider seems off as well. Yahoo! Finance puts truck driving as the 9th most dangerous job with 485 deaths.
Let’s summarize with some of those tricky statistics. There are over 5 million car wrecks reported each year with nearly 40,000 fatalities. FMCSA’s March 2013 Data shares that in 2011, 3,341 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes. That is compared to 29,757 fatal total crashes of that year.
In the United States, there are 2.4 million deaths a year of which an estimated 40,000 are car wreck fatalities. That means car crashes are .017% of total deaths in the U.S. each year. Just in case you are wondering, that means .00139% of all deaths in the U.S. each year are related to truck driving accidents.
The point is that the average person sees a statistic about 19 deaths and is horrified that someone would not care. This simple statistic does not take into account the thousands of lives already saved by safe driving, training, and proper roadways. We all wish the roads were completely safe, but anyone with a shadow of common sense knows accidents will always happen. When you consider 3.5 million trucks carrying thousands of pounds more than the average vehicle, then the statistics actually show how careful and professional these drivers are already.
Lesson Two: Basic economics
Why would truck driving companies want to be involved in lawsuits and lose millions of dollars? Why would the drivers want to push themselves to be more likely to die or kill others? The HOS changes assume that all truck drivers are inconsiderate of others on the highway. It assumes that they are inconsiderate of their own lives and families.
Business is business. Money is money. Any good business wants to increase profit, retain employees, and avoid controversy. The claim that truckers are completely unworried about HOS and highway deaths is absolutely absurd. It’s just not good business.
How much is too much?
That’s where HOS comes in. I admit that I am conflicted on this issue. I used to work in a plant in which we regularly worked 8-12 hours, swapped shifts, and occasionally worked weekends. The idea that I cannot work longer than 8 hours or that I have to sleep between the hours of 1-5 AM would not have worked there. Yet, we were building $60,000 vehicles and operating around dangerous equipment. Now, I know this is completely different than truck driving, but it illustrates a point that I think most people who are supporting the new HOS neglect: Some people have to work harder than you.
I think a grown, responsible man or woman can take a break whenever they need it. I also think someone who works a night shift would rather be on the road between 1 AM and 5 AM to beat traffic. Aren’t there less people on the road at this time? I think that would prevent more fatalities. Just a thought.
On the other hand, let’s give HOS a chance. There have to be limits. There have to be laws. What if there were no limits? What if you were only willing to drive 10 hours a day and work 75 hours a week and then your company told you they found someone willing to drive 14 hours and work 90 hours a week? These rules do help even the playing field.
Lesson Three: Moderation, Moderation, Moderation!
HOS is a good idea with some major flaws. Micromanagement is a big one. Anything that looks after the health and safety of drivers on the road should be given consideration, but there has always been a struggle between freedom and security.
Security is proper training and upkeep on behalf of the driver, their company, and road regulations. Freedom is the responsibility these trained professionals exercise in making quick decisions behind that wheel. The more security you have, the less freedom you have. Not good for a Democratic-Republic; too much freedom and you have anarchy.
There is a healthy middle ground for every decision in life.
There have been advancements in all manner of technology and safety over the past several decades. We have safer roads, better cars, and better laws, because there are more people on the road. There is room for HOS guidelines, but I think the trucking industry can figure out how best to improve its business without stifling regulations. Truck drivers would also be helped if careless lawyers quit posting false claims that only seek to harm the men and women who are actually working in this country.