ATA debunks trial lawyers’ truck scaremongering

ARLINGTON — A group of trial lawyers’ claim that more than 28,000 U.S. motor carriers have been violating federal safety regulations is "an attempt to scare citizens into suing motor carriers," says the American Trucking Associations.

The American Association for Justice — also known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America — says that by analyzing data obtained through the Motor Carrier Management Information System, which is maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, it found that more than 28,000 motor carrier companies, operating over 200,000 trucks, have violated federal safety rules. 

In a memo to its members, ATA says the report ignores key trucking facts. Along with out-of-context statistics, the release sent to reporters contains sensational quotes, like these:

"As millions of American families pack-up to hit the road for the Labor Day holiday, most are completely unaware they share the road with trucks that are ‘rigged for disaster’," said AAJ President Anthony Tarricone.

"Commuters are sharing roads with trucks that have incurred thousands of safety violations – such as defective brakes, bald tires, loads that dangerously exceed weight limits and drivers with little or no training or drug and alcohol dependencies."

The ATA quickly countered, pointing out that the truck-involved fatality rate is now at its lowest since the U.S. Department of Transportation began keeping those statistics in 1975. 

The trucking group also notes that results from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Roadcheck 2009 show nationwide improvements and the highest compliance rates ever for the most comprehensive roadside inspection.

The lawyers’ release says that although trucks make up less than 4 percent of all passenger vehicles on U.S. roads, they are involved in 12 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities.

Of course, what the group neglects to mention, and as the ATA rightly points out, is the fact that the overwhelming majority of fatal truck-involved crashes are caused by passenger vehicles — as high as 80 percent, some studies show. Studies around the world have concluded much of the same

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