Newspaper chart sparks anger among truckers

| 2/19/2003

An information chart on the front page of Feb. 13’s USA Today has sparked anger among many truckers.

The chart, referred to as the Snapshot, was titled “Truck crashes injure, kill thousands.” It says, in part, “Large trucks represent 4 percent of registered highway vehicles but are involved in 12 percent of fatal motor-vehicle crashes.”

Several truckers called Land Line Feb. 13 to complain about the graphic, and USA Today newsstands at truckstops near OOIDA’s headquarters were emptied.

Apparently, complaints made their way to USA Today’s McLean, VA, central offices as well. Graphics editor Shannon Reilly, who is listed as one of the chart’s authors, has changed the message on her voice mail to let callers know that a response to the chart would appear in an upcoming edition of the paper.

Land Line tried to get in touch with Reilly and with Hal Ritter, the paper’s managing editor for news. Neither was in the office Friday, Feb. 14.

“The reality is, in 88 percent of fatalities, there’s no truck anywhere involved,” Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said. “And of those other 12 percent of fatalities or accidents, in three out of four instances the truckdriver does absolutely nothing wrong. He’s a victim.”

“If there wasn’t a truck on the highway, 88 percent of fatalities would happen anyway.”

One of the truckers who contacted the national newspaper, Idaho trucker and OOIDA member K.C. Casebolt, cited similar statistics in his letter complaining about the chart.

In his letter to USA Today, he wrote, “You failed to mention that trucks drive way more miles per year per capita than ‘other vehicles’ and that, depending on which study you read, between 75 percent and 95 percent of accidents involving ‘big trucks’ and ‘other vehicles,’ the ‘other vehicle’ is at fault.”

Despite the complaints, the chart was added to the newspaper’s Web site the day after it ran in the paper.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor