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Bill Graves vows to elevate emphasis on safety

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The trucking industry must elevate its emphasis on safety if it wants to capture the hearts of theAmerican public and legislators on Capitol Hill, Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations advised today in his “state of the industry” address kicking off the ATA Management Conference and Exhibition.

“It’s the right thing to do and our failure to do will leave us continually playing defense on every other policy and regulatory issue that confronts the industry,” Graves said. “Everything we do, or try to do, on Capitol Hill somehow or other revolves around the issue of safety.”

Graves said this means embracing this strategy in ATA’s planning efforts but he also advised that a better safety record is good for both the industry’s public image and the bottom line.

“Every accident avoided allows you to serve your customers better. Every trouble free mile leaves your drivers and their families more comfortable working for you. Getting freight to its destination without incident leads to financial success and bad public relations avoided,” he said.

But Graves cautioned against any thoughts this approach means the ATA will support every safety-related idea that surfaces.
“That’s not what this is about. What we’re going to do is embrace safety in a more holistic way. We want to be better in our assessment of which industry related initiatives truly work and how our industry and the motoring public will benefit from them,” he said.

Graves pointed to the industry’s drive to correct the hours of service rules as a “great template for our future efforts.”
“While it has been a tremendous frustration that Congress failed to act on the Appropriations bill that had our corrective language in it, we are very well positioned for the relief we seek whenever Congress gets back to doing business,” he said.

“Members of Congress understood our concern that any system of required rest that could potentially put drivers back on the road during peak morning traffic was not a good idea. No one ever argued that providing adequate rest wasn’t a priority. What we argued was that the added requirement of two consecutive 1-5 rest periods and the limitation on the use of the re-start was not only negatively affecting safety, but was seriously impacting productivity as well.”

The results from a new survey published by Public Opinion Strategies, and commissioned by the ATA, shows Graves’ plans to focus on safety as a way to boost the industry’s image is based on solid reasoning. Almost two thirds (65%) of the survey’s 800 respondents said they had a “favorable” impression of the industry and only 9% said their impression of it was “unfavorable.” That was higher than the favorable impression of rail (61%) and considerably higher than that of the airline industry (54%). The strong favorable impression was fairly even (topping 60%) across the country. The survey also found that respondents were more likely to have a positive impression if they knew someone who worked in the industry.

“Your trucking industry ambassadors are your employees and they are influencing the opinions on industry of the people they know,” commented Neil Newhouse, partner of the company who conducted the survey.

The survey also found that 57% of respondents rated trucking’s safety record as excellent to poor while 36% thought it to be fair or poor. But there were some differences based on the makeup of the respondents. Suburban and rural respondents were more likely to have a favorable opinion of the industry’s safety record than were urban respondents. A particular head scratcher was the difference ethnic background made to perceptions of the trucking industry’s safety record. While 61% of white respondents have a favorable impression, on 41% of African Americans and 41% of Hispanics had a favorable impression.

Lou Smyrlis

Lou Smyrlis

With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics.
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