Fatigue statistic ‘not accurate,’ report author says

| Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An often-repeated statistic that fatigue is a factor in 30-40 percent of fatal crashes involving trucks is not accurate, according to the author of the report in which the number first appeared.

Speaking this week before the National Transportation Safety Board, research scientist Ron Knipling admitted he was at least partially responsible for the number being out there in the first place, but says it started as a “research note” in a larger report.

“We had data suggesting a much smaller problem, but that was the number that was cited,” Knipling stated. His remarks came in response to a question from the Teamsters: “Is the 30-40 percent number accurate?”

When the questioner asked the question for the third time, Knipling answered, “It’s not accurate.”

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer was seated next to Knipling on the panel, answering questions on a variety of subjects related to drivers and safety. During the discussion that followed Knipling’s remarks about accuracy, Spencer said fatigue is an issue in far fewer truck crashes than the number commonly cited.

Spencer told attendees matter of factly: “1.4 percent – that’s a hard number. You may not like it, but it’s a hard number.”

The two-day NTSB forum in Washington, DC, focused on a decade of progress in heavy truck and bus safety. Day one topics included carrier oversight and new entrant screenings, electronic on-board recorders, hours of service, safety culture, and vehicle size and weight. Day two focused on driver safety and health including crash risk factors, medical oversight, crash avoidance and crash mitigation.

Spencer participated in panel discussions on both days, speaking on behalf of drivers on a number of fronts.

See related story:
OOIDA defends drivers at NTSB forum

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