Lexington Herald-Leader: OPINION: More weight in trucks does not equate to having more accidents

By Jamie Fiepke – President and CEO of the Kentucky Motor Transport Association.

Does a heavier truck really increase the hazard on the highways?

There is no research I am aware of that supports the claim made in the commentary by Thomas Adams of the Kentucky Ambulance Providers Association.

In fact, research conducted last year by the American Transportation Research Institute showed that medium-sized trucks had a higher accident ratio than heavier trucks. While big-truck accidents decreased almost 25 percent from 2000-2010, medium-sized trucks accidents increased over 38 percent over the same period.

Last year in Kentucky, there were eight accidents involving an overweight commercial truck. There is no way to tell if weight played a significant role in those accidents.

With proper commercial driver training, a good maintenance program, better technology and education of the general public on giving proper space the commercial truck can operate safely with the additional weight.

What are some of the best indicators that indicate a future crash? In 2011, the American Trucking Research Institute study showed the leading indicator was a driver having a conviction for failure to use or improper use of signals. The likelihood of a crash increased 96 percent if a driver received a conviction.

What about a weight violation? The likelihood increased 18 percent and was last on the list of 22 events or behaviors that increased the likelihood of a crash.

The National Traffic Center recently said more than 90 percent of traffic accidents are due to human error. Of accidents involving a commercial truck, 75 percent are caused by action or inaction of a passenger car.

Kentucky Motor Transport Association members supported legislation requiring annual safety training for commercial trucks which passed last session, thanks to our legislators. Our industry has supported electronic logging devices to help manage our driver’s hours, a drug and alcohol clearinghouse, rollover stability technology and placing hazardous carriers out of service.

The KMTA and the motor-carrier industry host an annual truck-driver championship where the safest drivers compete. KMTA members have participated over the years in No Zone, Leave More Space Campaigns along with other safety initiatives that have resulted in lowering highway fatalities. Our members are always willing to provide drivers, safety directors and equipment for safety-training events beneficial to the industry and the general public.

There is no silver bullet in making the highways safer. Everyone has to work together and be aware of the dangers of being a distracted driver. Leave more space and stay out of the blind spots of commercial trucks. Respect the bigger commercial truck and the damage it can cause.

Everyone, including truck drivers, needs to practice defensive-driving techniques.

Adams referred to the damage heavier trucks cause to our state highways; he doesn’t believe big trucks pay their fair share.

The commercial trucking industry pays the following taxes: International Registration Plan, International Fuel Tax Agreement or Kentucky Intrastate Tax, Unified Carrier Registration and Kentucky Weight Distance Tax before they pay any other business taxes.

All these are Road Fund taxes, a portion of which is funneled back into the counties. These taxes pay for roughly 45 percent of the fund, even though commercial trucks only represent 14 percent to 16 percent of the miles traveled on interstates and state highways.

In the near future, commercial trucks will be paying tolls, projected to pay for 48 percent of the Louisville bridge project. Even with all of this, KMTA has supported raising the fuel tax to support building and maintaining our highway infrastructure.

Working together with a variety of groups and organizations, we can improve commercial truck safety by giving motor carriers (most are small businesses) the resources to operate safely, but at the same time holding them accountable when they fail to do so. We can also:

? Make the proper investments in our highways.

? Make smart decisions on where to locate manufacturing plants, businesses and industrial parks that rely on commercial trucks to move their products.

? Discuss and research how to move freight more efficiently in this new economy.

? Make sure Kentucky has an efficient tax system and administrative processes that have low costs.

Kentucky has made significant progress improving highway safety, SB 44 doesn’t change that fact and doesn’t guarantee increased hazards on our highways.