Professional drivers are still the safest drivers

For all the talk about how unsafe big rigs are on the highways and all the people who are killed each year by truckers, there has been a steady flow of good news for the industry to tout in recent years.

general-highway-2.JPGOf course everyone in the industry knows all about the statistics. The American Trucking Assns. recently noted improved crash statistics, such as a 33% decline in truck-involved highway crash fatalities in 2009 compared to 2003, and how the rate of fatalities is at its lowest point since DOT started keeping records in 1975. On top of that, ATA said crash-related fatalities, injuries and property-damage-only crash rates for large trucks are at their lowest level since DOT began keeping records three decades ago.

But once in awhile, it’s nice to get some “outside” confirmation of just how professional and safe today’s trucks and truck drivers really are.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), in cooperation with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, recently concluded its 4th annual Operation Safe Driver campaign. And the results seem to prove that those who drive for a living are much safer than those who use their vehicles solely to reach their next destination.

The campaign found that for both commercial and non-commercial operators, speeding remains a major concern on the roadways, but much more so for the non-commercial drivers.

“CVSA’s Operation Safe Driver is targeting each and every driver, whether they drive a passenger car or a CMV, and alerting offenders that their poor driving behaviors result in lives lost,” said Stephen A. Keppler, CVSA’s executive director. “We will continue to emphasize this point, through both education and enforcement tactics, until we eliminate those driver behaviors that are specifically linked to causing crashes.”

Failing to use a safety belt and failure to obey traffic control devices finished second and third, respectively, as the most common violations.

Law enforcement officers pulled over nearly 53,000 vehicles during the campaign, which took place Oct. 17-23, 2010. More than 5,000 law enforcement personnel at nearly 2,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada participated.

Here are the details:

When warnings were issued to commercial drivers, 20.3% were for speeding, 4.2% for failure to obey traffic control devices, and 2.6% were for failing to use a seat belt.

When compared to passenger vehicles, though, we get a clearer picture about just how good our professional drivers really are. Passenger drivers were warned for speeding 61.2% of the time; for failure to obey traffic control devices 5.8% of the time; and for failing to use a seat belt 2.6% of the time.

The spread between CMVs and passenger vehicles is not much different when citations were handed out. CMV drivers were cited for speeding 13.7% of the time vs. 51.6% for passenger car drivers; for failure to obey traffic control devices 4.6% vs. 1.5%; and for failing to use a seat belt 10% of the time vs. 8% for passenger car drivers.

The only alarming statistic is that commercial drivers, after years of improvement, showed a significant increase in failing to use their seat belts. Warnings and citations for this infraction jumped from 672 in 2009 to 1,055 in 2010.

A more detailed look at the numbers, according to CVSA:

* 39,784 CMV Roadside Inspections (5.3% resulted in the driver being placed out-of-service; 27.4% of the Level I Inspections resulted in the vehicle(s) being placed out of service. In 2009, there were 30,294 inspections conducted and a driver OOS rate of 5.3%, vehicle Level I OOS rate of 26.1%;

* For Drivers: 0.44 violations per roadside inspection (0.44 in 2009); 0.08 OOS violations per roadside inspection (same in 2009); 0.04 citations per roadside inspection (0.04 in 2009);

* For Vehicles: 1.04 violations per roadside inspection (1.12 in 2009); 0.23 OOS violations per roadside inspection (0.19 in 2009); 0.08 citations per roadside inspection (0.05 in 2009);

* 21,555 CMV Driver Traffic Enforcement Contacts: 7,062 warnings were issued (0.33 per contact); 8,724 citations were issued (0.40 per contact); In 2009, there were 20,198 contacts, which resulted in 6,887 warnings (0.34 per contact) and 8,067 citations (0.40 per contact);

* 12,926 Non-CMV Driver Traffic Enforcement Contacts: 7,126 warnings were issued (0.55 per contact); 7,700 citations were issued (0.60 per contact); In 2009, there were 10,917 contacts, which resulted in 3,818 warnings (0.35 per contact) and 10,365 citations (0.95 per contact);

* 31,737 CMV Driver License checks (27,903 in 2009) and 9,878 Non-CMV Driver License checks (8,577 in 2009); and,

* 64 targeted Compliance Reviews on truck and motorcoach operations were conducted on carriers employing the “worst of the worst” commercial drivers of which 53 received a safety rating as a result of the review. Of those fifty-three, 13 carriers (or 20%) received a Conditional Safety Rating. (compared to the national average of carriers rated Conditional in 2010 at 23.1%); and, eight carriers (or 13%) received an Unsatisfactory Safety Rating. (compared to the national average of carriers rated Unsatisfactory in 2010 at 2.5%).

Operation Safe Driver was launched in 2007 by CVSA in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, to address the problem of improving the behavior of all drivers operating in an unsafe manner — either by, in, or around commercial vehicles — and to initiate educational and enforcement strategies to address those exhibiting high-risk behaviors.

There’s still plenty of work to be done, but it’s always nice to know that the big bad truckers are not so bad after all.

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