Parade prepares second round of attacks on trucking industry

| Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The author of a damning 1999 story that overstated safety concerns and hours-of-service dangers in the trucking industry may be gearing up for a second assault.

Bernard Gavzer, reporter for Parade magazine, a weekly tabloid-format newspaper insert with a circulation of 34.5 million, is writing a follow-up to his 1999 Parade feature, “Is the Long Haul Too Long?” The article is expected to discuss the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new hours-of-service regulations, which go into effect Oct. 1.

An exact print date for the second story has not been given. However, the American Trucking Association said the story is expected to be published in September.

A source at Parade confirmed for Land Line the article’s existence, but would not comment on when – or if – it would be published.

“We don’t know if it’s going to be running,” the source said Wednesday, Aug. 31. “It may or it may not.”

Gavzer’s earlier article raised a great deal of concern from members of the trucking community, many of whom thought the article unfairly stereotyped truckers. Specifically, challengers of the story said Gavzer suppressed information from studies and sources that cast trucking in a positive light, and instead exaggerated dangers of truck accidents and the number of hours truckers are allowed to rest under federal standards.

“Most truck drivers viewed this as a hatchet job because the needlessly inflammatory rhetoric of the story implies that truck drivers knowingly and purposely kill people,” said Tom Weakley, a project manager for the OOIDA Foundation. “This is simply not true. In most of these accidents, the truck driver does not cause the accident – meaning the truck driver is a victim, too.”

Both OOIDA and ATA provided Gavzer with information for his original story, said Todd Spencer, executive vice president for OOIDA. Spencer said he also spoke to Gavzer about the as-of-yet-unpublished follow-up story.

“The majority of comments are probably going to be from people who have a different perspective on highway safety than we do. It’s not going to be balanced, from the reporter’s perspective, who’s going to be talking to various different people to get some of their comments,” Spencer said.

“Given that we’re going to be outnumbered, so to speak, by people that have a different perspective, chances are pretty good that the balance of the article is probably going to be something we’re not going to like.”

Weakley said the most reliable data on truck crash causation is a 2003 report by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, which was published for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to the report, which analyzed more than 15,000 fatal crashes, truck drivers were cited only 25 percent of the time.

In the same study, drowsiness was only listed as a cause in 3 percent of all accidents caused by truckers. During a press conference on the new hours-of-service regulations, FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg also pointed out research shows that only 5.5 percent of all truck crashes are fatigue-related.

“The hours-of-service debate is really a moot point as long as shippers, receivers and others are free to waste a driver’s time in non-driving work to the tune of 30 to 40 hours each week,” Weakley said. “This situation won’t be resolved without action and direction of Congress.”

The original 1999 article can be read at http://www.truckline.com/NR/rdonlyres/D1C29714-9768-4327-9F3C-D42DA07FFD83/0/99PARADEArticle.pdf

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer
aaron_ladage@landlinemag.com

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