Truck safety survey biased: CTA (March 25, 2004)

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TORONTO, Ont. — A public opinion survey "is a deliberate attempt to tarnish the image of the trucking industry,” say CTA officials.

The survey, from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation and sponsored by the Railway Association of Canada, the Brewers of Canada and Transport Canada, “is and does absolutely nothing to promote TIRF’s stated mission to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries,” they say.

The TIRF report is "fear-mongering of the worst kind and ignores the realities of truck safety and the regulatory safeguards that are in place to ensure trucks are safe,” says David Bradley, CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

The report contains the results of a survey of public attitudes toward trucks and truck drivers, which showed that a majority of respondents were concerned over fatigue and drug use by Canadian truck drivers.

"It is most unfortunate that an organization like TIRF would publish such alarmist and misleading information. The safety performance of Canadian trucks and their drivers, had it been properly revealed to the survey respondents, would very likely have dispelled their concerns over fatigue and substance use among truck drivers. We are profoundly disappointed that TIRF would overlook the real safety facts. However, since the railway association was allowed to be a primary sponsor of the survey, we might have predicted that the outcome would be biased," says Bradley.

However, these survey results "are at odds with well documented facts on the safety performance of commercial drivers,” he adds.

"While the survey results show a quite negative view of trucks, it doesn’t square with what is actually happening out on the highways."

Bradley cites Transport Canada’s own statistics that show driver fatigue was a factor in only 1.3 percent of fatal collisions involving commercial vehicles. In addition, commercial drivers involved in fatal collisions were determined to be driving properly 80 per cent of the time. Bradley says there is an abundance of evidence to show that drug and alcohol use among truck drivers should not be a concern to the motoring public. Accident statistics show that truck drivers are far less likely to consume alcohol than is the general motoring public. He notes that the results of random drug and alcohol testing conducted by the medical consortium used by most Canadian truck drivers who must comply with United States testing rules to operate on international routes show that the incidence of drug use among 20,000 drivers tested is about 0.6 per cent, while positive tests for alcohol occur in only 0.07 per cent of cases. (While CTA supports random drug testing of drivers in Canada, governments have been loath to act given the traditional stance of the Canadian Human Rights Commission).

Bradley disputes the view of TIRF that its report can serve as a guide for road safety program development and policy decisions by the government.

"The trucking industry has taken the lead over the years in the development of regulations aimed at increasing driver and vehicle safety. In Canada, we are now in the final stages of developing a modern and scientifically sound rule governing the hours that truck drivers can work. Among its other benefits, the new rule will reduce a driver’s workday by a full 25 per cent, providing the ability for drivers to take more and better rest," says Bradley.

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