CRASH survey slams trucking industry

OTTAWA, (Sept. 14, 2004) — The railway-funded lobby group Canadians for Responsible and Safe Highways (CRASH) picked the week the nation’s truck drivers are being honoured for their service to release a survey that criticizes the trucking industry.

CRASH — often described by the trucking industry as an anti-truck lobbying group — commissioned a new Ipsos-Reid survey which found that half (54%) of Canadians think that the country’s roads and highways are becoming less safe, and 68 per cent point to the number of tractor-trailers as the main problem.

CRASH President Harry Gow says the public is anxious when driving in the presence of big transport rigs. “Truck drivers,” he says, “are doing their best and are mostly good drivers and responsible people. But they are running marathons and then being pushed to run two more miles.”

While the survey didn’t produce evidence to back up that statement, it did indicate that 75 per cent of respondents feel that the number of tractor-trailers on the road increases stress levels, and 80 per cent of passenger vehicle operators “drive more erratically when they feel stressed or threatened by tractor-trailers on the road.”

The poll didn’t indicate what percentage of passenger cars drivers “drive more erratically when they feel stressed or threatened” by other passenger car drivers as well.

In fact, a recent study conducted by the non-partisan Traffic Injury Research Foundation found that drunk drivers, running red lights, drivers using cell phones, and
speeding, are perceived to be a considerably more serious problems than the number of large trucks on the road.

CRASH says that the overwhelming majority of Canadians voice concerns about the long hours truck drivers spend driving on the road. Nine in ten Canadians (92%) agree with the statement that “the long hours that truck drivers can be required to work place too much stress on them.” The poll also found eight in ten Canadians (82%) are in favour of a rule requiring that all trucks be equipped with electronic devices to record driving hours.

“Government is not listening to the public,” says Gow. “They are proposing new rules, which will increase the hours worked week in and week out by transport drivers. Instead of listening to the public, the federal government, in cahoots with the trucking industry, is trying to fool people into believing that the new rules will address driver fatigue, when it is only likely to get worse.”

However proponents of the new rules — which include the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Teamsters Union — argue that the two extra off-duty hours will give drivers more time to attend to their daily lives. Currently, drivers can still work 15 hours (13 driving), and then log off for eight. But since that system is based on a 23-hour rotation of on-duty/off-duty periods, drivers can legally work 16 hours in a 24-hour period.

Furthermore, non-driving time must be included in the daily log, which will dramatically reduce a driver’s allowable hours actually on the road. The final rules are expected to be published this month, and go into effect next year.

Rebecka Torn, communications director for the Ontario Trucking Association says the OTA will no longer respond to CRASH simply because ‘they’re a railway-funded organization with a vested reason for saying negative things about the trucking industry.” She said the OTA is more than happy to talk about the record of the industry, but not on a retaliatory basis. She says, however, the OTA will educate mainstream media when calls about CRASH come in.

“Our approach is now educating the mainstream media on exactly what CRASH is, and that’s paid off in spades,” she told Today’s Trucking. “I think most of the (mainstream) media turned on CRASH years ago. They are educated on the tactics that CRASH uses.”

As for the survey itself, Torn said the questions CRASH asks are based on emotion rather than fact, and are clearly framed to illicit a specific response. “It’s like saying ‘do you feel safe with people driving 20 hours a day?’ Well of course (people) don’t. The response is going to be obvious.”

The Ipsos-Reid/Canadians for Responsible and Safe Highways (CRASH) poll was conducted from August 27th to August 30th, 2004. For the survey, 1,000 adult Canadians were randomly interviewed by telephone. The results are considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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