White knuckles and a bad impression

By David Tanner, associate editor

The public perception of heavy trucks is not going to improve much as long as we have sensational reporting, perpetuation of myths and a few bad apples intent on spoiling the bunch.

If we surveyed a cross-section of the general, non-trucking public and asked, “Should heavy trucks be forced to slow down and be restricted to the right lane?” we would undoubtedly get a lot of “yes” responses.

It’s a loaded question.

People rarely remember the trucks they pass, cut off, force to apply the brakes or follow too closely in a given day, but they always remember the one that passes them. Those white-knuckle memories lead to complaints. Add in a story about a fiery truck crash and you’ve got a formula for a new law or regulation.

I think the public understands in a general way that trucks bring everything we eat, wear and use on a daily basis. But I also think that people are naturally afraid of large, heavy moving objects.

Let’s take a look at some rules or laws brought about in the name of safety. Proposed changes to hours of service for example. Even a leading expert on fatigue recently told us that regulators are spending way too much time and effort to “prove” a connection to safety.

Then, there are speed limiters, electronic on-board recorders, lane restrictions and split speeds. Lawmakers try to sell these ideas to the public on safety promises, but they all but rule out common sense.

How about enforcing current laws such as speeding, weaving, inattentive driving, construction zone safety or the biggie – following too closely? That would solve some problems out there.

The vast majority of truckers are the safest drivers on the roads today. But everyone seems to remember the incident that scared the sense out of them.

It’s time to stop overreacting and use some common sense in the way we think about transportation. LL