OOIDA defends drivers at NTSB forum

| 5/10/2011

The voice of truckers was heard loud and clear during the first day of a two-day marathon NTSB forum focused on the regulatory scheme that truckers face.

The Truck and Bus Safety: A Decade of Progress forum hosted by the National Transportation Safety Board kicked off Tuesday morning with a hard look at motor carrier oversight.

The panel consisted of representatives from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer set the tone early in the forum by claiming credit for the drivers regarding the current historic lows in highway fatalities.

“The credit lies solely with the driver,” Spencer told the forum. “Everyone wants their piece of the credit, but it belongs to the driver.”

He laid claim to the historic low in traffic fatalities for the experienced drivers on the road – drivers who have weathered the economic storm and kept their jobs and trucking businesses.

“These are people who love what they do and are good at it. We should take every opportunity we can to recognize these people and reward the good ones,” he said.

Spencer pointed that with historic lows in driver turnover, the overall population of truckers were experienced veterans of the industry. He went on to question why the simplest approach to improving highway safety – driver training – still languishes in the regulatory process.

“Driver turnover can be linked to crash causation,” he said. “There’s no substitute for experience.”

As the agenda for the forum turned to specific enforcement and regulatory programs such as hours of service, electronic on-board recorders, etc., Spencer continued to stand his ground and pointed out that drivers routinely are not the problem.

“Carriers certainly should be accountable for the actions of their drivers. Drivers are the biggest casualties of misguided regulation,” Spencer said.

To illustrate this point, Spencer turned the conversation from fatigue to a very common reason drivers may find themselves tired – parking.

He told the story of Jason Rivenburg, a driver who was killed while parked at an abandoned gas station after being turned away from a shipper because he was too early to deliver. He had only $7 in his possession.

Spencer said the murder of Rivenburg highlights how motor carriers as well as shippers and receivers simply offer no support to drivers on issues such as fatigue management.

“Drivers are left on their own. That’s where the safety culture is,” Spencer said.

The two-day forum will continue tomorrow. To watch the event, click here.