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Are Trucks the REAL Menace?


Bob (Ram) Muessig


     An article by Bernard Gavzer in the July 20 issue of Parade Magazine asks "Should The Big Trucks Get Bigger?". Apparently the issue is whether to reauthorize the existing highway and surface transportation bill, which is due to expire on September 30 of this year, or to write a new one.

     It would seem that Gerald A. Donaldson, senior research director of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety perceives large trucks to be a threat to motorists’ safety. Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a public-interest group, and chairperson of Citizens for Reliable and safe Highways (CRASH), a grassroots organization, says " average of 13 Americans die every day in truck/auto crashes, with 12 of the 13 being occupants of passenger cars.". Responsibility for these accidents doesn’t necessarily rest with the truck drivers. What these people don’t say is "How many of these accidents were caused by the drivers of the passenger cars?".

     The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that "...while trucks made up 3% of all registered vehicles, they accounted for 21% of all deaths in crashes involving two or more vehicles." C’mon...this is getting a little bit one-sided. Trucks may be INVOLVED in accidents that resulted in 21% of all deaths on our highways, but, once again, they’re not necessarily ACCOUNTABLE for those deaths.

     Motorists, too, offer their concerns: "They’re dangerous. I try to avoid them." As well you should. They’re bigger than you, and if you get hit by one, no matter who’s responsible, you’re the one who’s gonna pay the price! Another driver states "You have to go 75 if you want to pass them (trucks). They intimidate me." My question at this point is this: "If you have to do 75 in order to pass that truck, what the blazes do you need to pass for? You can’t be in that big of a hurry! You’re intimidated? Your car weighs what?...3000 - 3500 pounds, and that truck weighs 80,000? The truck weighs 25 times as much as your car does! That’s quite a difference. Now...imagine how I felt when taxiing out to the runway in my little Aircoupe (1200+ pounds) behind a 747 weighing over 650 times as much!

     Under Maritime Law, "...craft with the least maneuverability (balloons, large aircraft, ships, etc.) have the right-of-way over the more maneuverable craft (small planes, helicopters, boats, personal watercraft, etc.)". Perhaps Congress should write new laws granting those same considerations to heavy trucks. After all, they ARE the least maneuverable, aren’t they? Then we could probably pay off the national debt with revenues collected from citing drivers who insist on taking the right-of-way.

     Industry tends to pressure truckers into driving long hours in order to meet deadlines. Michael Scippa, executive director of CRASH, says "The individual truck driver is a victim in all this." Many companies push their drivers to meet impossible schedules that "force him, at the risk of losing his job, to exceed speed limits, or violate hours-of-service rules...". Some drivers suffer from "sleep deprivation" due to unreasonable scheduling, and that can even cause some forms of dementia. I, personally, would advocate re-writing laws that would provide realistic delivery schedules.

     Frankly, I don’t think the size (big - heavy line-haulers or small - RVs & delivery vans) has a whole lot to do with anything. If a driver spends too much time behind the wheel, that driver will become dangerous. And drivers of passenger cars are just as susceptible to fatigue as drivers of trucks, PLUS they become just as impatient, angry, intolerant, and sometimes enraged with RVs as they do with big trucks. That fact, alone, makes for some pretty dangerous driving, as is evidenced by the increasing number of shootings taking place.

Here are a few tips that will help you to stay safe...


1. NEVER tailgate. Stay at least 2 seconds or more behind the vehicle ahead and, if driving an RV, make it at least 4 seconds. That extra time will allow you greater stopping distance in the event of an emergency.

2. If you’re following a truck (or RV), keep his rear-view mirror in sight. If you can’t see it, he can’t see you.

3. Don’t stay along side of a truck. Each side has blind spots, so move away from him.

4. After passing a truck and before pulling in ahead of it, be sure you can see it in your rear-view mirror.

5. NEVER pass on the right. He might begin to turn, pinning you between him and the curb.

6. ALWAYS watch closely for his turn signal whenever you’re near a truck or RV.

Keeping all this in mind, drive safe, and I’ll see ya’ down the road.

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