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ATA relies on deceptive truck accident data to lessen truckers’ fault in crashes

Written by Steve Gursten Posted August 8th, 2013

Figures premised on favorable data to confuse the FMCSA, transportation community regarding who is at fault in most truck accidents

The American Trucking Association (ATA) has released new figures suggesting that the vast majority of truck accidents are caused by other motorists.  Clearly, many truck accidents are caused by motorists. I, and the other Truck Roundtable Attorneys, represent many seriously injured truck drivers every year who are hurt by other motorists or by other truckers. No one is saying that that many truck crashes are not the result of other motorists on the roads, many of whom do quite foolish things around big trucks.

But that said,  these new figures released by the ATA must be taken with a grain of salt. You can find the ATA data on a recent press release from the trucking organization, “Relative Contribution/Fault in Car-Truck Crashes.”

The ATA is rather notorious for manipulating data, or selectively cherry picking data, in order to paint a picture consistent with its own positions.

Having reviewed these numbers, I took particular issue to the ATA’s suggestion that 71% of all rear-end accidents are caused by other drivers. As just one example, let’s dig a little deeper and explore why this 71% figure is misleading.

First, please note that this is not 71% of “all” rear-end truck crashes.  The figure stands for 71% of carefully selected truck accidents, which were cherry picked by the ATA.  The ATA has examined a series of two vehicle crashes — one car and one semi-truck — to produce this favorable number. When a transport truck rear-ends another vehicle, it is rarely only a two car crash.

For example, in this crash in 2009, a truck driver plowed into a line of cars causing a multi-vehicle pileup and killing 10 people, according to an story on news9.com, Truck Driver Could Face Charges in Deadly Turnpike Crash.  The driver was sentenced to 10 years of probation and barred from driving commercial vehicles.  These heavy trucks slam into other cars and thrust them into other vehicles. When a truck driver causes a rear-end collision on a freeway or major street, it is a rare occasion when it’s only a two-car crash.  None of these multiple vehicle crashes were taken into account in the ATA study.

In contrast, in those instances where a crash is just one car and one semi-truck, the case is usually that the car ran into the back of the truck.  A family sedan is not going to push an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer into other traffic.

By selectively examining these kinds of crashes, the ATA can say that 71% of rear-end crashes are caused by other motorists. However, all this figure really reveals is that 71% of crashes where a truck driver is rear ended by another motorist are caused by that other motorist.

The ATA numbers failed to mention that little caveat.

This type of misleading tactic is common from the ATA, which is pushing for looser commercial vehicle safety restrictions from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Additionally, and significantly, truck on truck crashes are also notably absent from the ATA’s figure, even though from our own experiences as lawyers helping truck drivers injured in crashes, these types of rear-end collisions are quite common. One is left to wonder: How many semi-truck on semi-truck accidents are caused by ordinary motorists?  The answer is none.

The ATA has been working overtime to change the way crash data is recorded on a truck company’s safety record by the FMCSA.  That is really what is driving these kinds of misleading “studies.”  Please, do not be fooled.

For more information, take a look at our blog post, “ATA seeks to change the way truck accidents are documented, so crashes are omitted from motor carrier evaluations.”

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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