As reports begin to roll in about the results of Roadcheck 2013, we are starting to hear more and more statistics designed to impress upon us the number of purportedly dangerous truck drivers taken off our public highways by the efforts of law enforcement. A closer examination of the statistics that are not being reported by the media is called for.
For those who do not know, Roadcheck is an annual program across the United States, Canada, and Mexico involving 72-hours straight of commercial truck inspections. This year’s program was conducted June 4-6, 2013.
The Associated Press Reported that one of Maryland’s Roadcheck inspections led to 19 drivers (3% of all drivers inspected) being pulled off the road because they were not “qualified” to operate their respective commercial vehicles. The “enforcers” (their word, not mine), inspected a total of 525 commercial vehicles. Ohio State Highway Patrol reportedly inspected 1566 vehicles statewide, of which 65 drivers (4%) and 363 vehicles were placed out of service. The five states with the most trucking accidents (California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania) have yet to report any statistics of their inspections.
Currently, the United States has 3.5 million truck drivers who move 70% of all freight across the United States. There are an estimated 15 million trucks in the U.S., transporting those goods. The trucking industry has a revenue of over $250 billion (another source reported this to be $650 billion), annually, of which the trucking industry reimburses the U.S. government over $21 billion dollars to keep our road and highways in good condition and over $37 billion in federal and state highway-user taxes. For that privilege, they also boost our economy by paying for almost 54 billion gallons of gas. Even though commercial vehicles only comprise 12% of all vehicles, they paid 36% of all highway-user taxes in 2006. Those taxes are paid in part by owner-operators, who comprise 1 in 9 of all truckers. Those men and women can expect to earn a mere $37,000 a year. Long-haul truckers can expect to spend a total of 31 days home with their family each year. Moreover, jobs for truckers are expected to grow more than 20% in the next ten years, and many of those jobs are expected to go to members of our armed forces returning from abroad. Indeed, more and more trucking companies are marketing themselves as “military-friendly” employers, offering many of the same benefits of military life (travel, camaraderie among fellow truckers, the willingness to serve a vital service to our country).
In terms of safety, commercial trucks comprise only 2.4% of all car accidents, and trucks are actually three times less likely to be in an accident than a passenger car. Of those accidents, only 16% are the fault of the truck driver—one reason organizations like OOIDA keeps suing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to correct their online safety statistics.
While there can always be greater safety in the trucking industry, one must question the amount of money spent on such an endeavor, resulting in so few actual violators, percentage-wise. Instead of reporting the number of truckers taken off the roads, the media does the public a disservice by failing to report the increasingly high number of trucks and drivers that passed the inspections.