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BusinessTrucking

ATA prepares to fight outsized legal awards against truckers

Marijuana legalization presents next costly legal threat to trucking

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is gearing up to fight against multimillion-dollar legal awards against truckers and their employers who are not at fault but blamed in many car-truck crashes.

“We’re fed up,” ATA President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Spear told members October 7 at the association’s Management Conference & Exhibition in San Diego. “I’m sick of playing defense while trial lawyers buy jets and yachts at the expense of trucking jobs. These ‘nuclear’ verdicts are strangling our industry.”

Two-thirds of the accidents involving trucks are caused by passenger vehicles, Spear said.

“If a car going the opposite direction veers out of control, crosses the median and crashes into a truck going 25 mph below the speed limit and is brought to a controlled stop after the collision, you shouldn’t have to pay $90 million for a tragedy your driver didn’t cause!”

Yet the number of trucking fatalities through 2017 was a 29-year high, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Speeding and failure to wear seat belts contributed to deaths in many of the crashes, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

A weed problem

The legalization of marijuana in 11 states, Washington, D.C. and Canada could be the next cudgel used against truckers, Spear said.

“You can just see the trial lawyers – sitting on the edge of their high, wing-back leather chairs – drooling over the thought of more legal ambiguity,” Spear said in his speech. “We can’t just sit back and hand them yet another opportunity to litigate our industry.”

The association scheduled the initial meeting of its Controlled Substances, Health and Wellness Subcommittee during the convention. The goal, Spear said, is creating a trucking-led policy platform that helps lawmakers and regulators make informed decisions about the impact of substance abuse on safety and interstate commerce.

The ATA also will continue to press federal agencies to allow hair follicle testing in place of urine testing for drug use and have those results included in the FMCSA’s commercial driver’s license Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse that begins operating in January 2020. The database will contain information on violations of the controlled substances and alcohol testing program.  

By the numbers

The U.S. trucking industry spends more than $10 billion each year on safety, including technology, training and compliance “all part of a concerted effort to save lives, not our bottom line,” Spear said.

Trucking employment exceeds 7.8 million people or one in 16 jobs in the U.S. Trucks move more than 71% of domestic freight.

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is a Detroit-based award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press and most recently as Detroit Bureau Chief for Trucks.com. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.

43 Comments

  1. ATA are hypocrites! For decades they’ve been buying “jets and yachts” at the expense of drivers, now that they’re getting hit in the pockets they’re crying foul. They have no problem throwing innocent drivers under the bus too. A wise man once said “You heard the music, you danced to the tune, now its time to pay the piper”

  2. Start testing hair and the trucking industry will lose more than half of its drivers, for sure. Some of these drivers smoke pot and drink alcohol on their days off and it is still in their system when they come back to work. So there goes trucking out the door. Why isn’t the truth being told here about accidents in the US? Small cars are a big problem and women drivers are awful drivers. I’m a woman trucker who is retired and I still see the dangers on the road with texting and holding phones even with truck drivers. States need to make these fine much bigger so people understand the laws. I do agree pot is a big problem in the US and NO ONE should carry a CDL who does drugs, period. Let me tell you who the worst drivers are today, those idiot’s with rags on their heads, they don’t care about human life at all. 4-5 in a truck and one with a CDL, no one cares about checking all of them. Obama’s people, 🤣🤣🤣 more innocent people will die on the road as long as those camel rides are out there.

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