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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.

42 Comments

  1. Yes, indeed. Its about time some one stands for us truckers with class A license. Laws are too harsh for us, they dont give us no break. They come at us with all they got. Costing a lot of money. Thanks ATA, god bless you!!

    1. They need enforce the laws already on the books.against these 4 wheeler’s. They cut us off causing us to slam on our brakes. They make a exit from the left lane to exit to the right cutting us off. They won’t let us keep our distance fro from the vehicle in front of us. And what’s the deal of them getting away with running 20 miles over the speed limit. Even when I’m in my 4 wheeler I dont do that I would loose my c.d. l. License .also you can be passing another Semi and a 4 wheeler will pass you on the right just barely missing the semi. You r passing. A lot of times they dont miss. And a lot of these 4 wheeler’s have children in them. Make the Hammer take down them Bill boards. Dang him. And get those cell phones out of these people’s hands. Iam tired of wondering is this the day I’m going to get killed out here. I have been driving a semi for 47 years I can’t afford to retire I’m 65 years old. Going to work 5 more if I live that long. Just make these 4 wheeler’s obey the law . Accidents will drop. And dont give them this automatic lottery. Thank you I could rant on and on.

  2. I’d like to add that not only are we being blamed for the 4 wheelers incompetent driving, but what also needs to be looked at and investigated is the fact that SOME of these Truck Driver’s aka Steering wheel holders, do NOT speak , write, or read English, YET they are out there driving on AMERICAN roads with ENGLISH WRITTEN SIGNS. So it begs the question, If they can’t speak or read English, how on this God’s green earth are the holding a VALID CDL???? I’ve been in this industry for 30+years, been driving almost 17 of that, I also drive nights. It’s clear to see their phones as they are driving and watching a movie. Not merging when left or right lanes closed. They have to wait to see which way the flashing arrow is pointing. Why are those drivers not being caught, shut down, and banned from the industry?? If someone can answer these questions it sure would set my mind at ease. Somewhat anyways.. Baffled on the road. Sincerely Lady Wolf

    1. Probably one third are from Somolia, the middle east or former Russian countries, great point.
      Our company made us sit through a presentation from the “insurance guy” at a particular location.
      It was all about safety, etc. When I brought up the fact that these yabba-dabba-doos and Vladimirs can’t read the amber/flashing warning signs, he got sideways on me. LOL

  3. It is about time the Anti Trucking Agency steps up and does something for this industry instead of being the paid for whore used by big companies to lobby ill regarded mandates. How about you also fight against these big conglomerates and stop taking their money! No reason we need to have fleets that have well over 2k trucks and they keep buying each other.

  4. Mega carriers been under cutting drivers pay for decades treating drivers like trash while they bank billions and drivers barely can send money home. Karma is somthing else I tell yeah. Who is protecting the drivers from zipcode to zipcode miles and 70% FSC how about leasing equipment from a carrier who prohibits a driver from using that equipment with another carrier. Karma is a good thing for shady trucking companies. Cant have it both ways steal from the drivers but cry when a lawsuit is pending for the same money you kept from your drivers.

  5. A Ryder truck hit me from behind almost 5 years ago They never paid for my tractor my lost income or medical bills I stopped in a snow storm Jan 2 2015 because of a stopped car blocking my side of the road The Ryder truck had a new driver who never even hit the brakes righting off a new tractor he was driving and the the trailer I was pulling. The insurance companies delay payments making me have unpaid medical bills and ended up in the homeless shelter. Their lack action cost the Ontario and Federal taxpayers over $30,000cd and cost me over $75,000 U.S. 716 860 4681

  6. Do you really think the ATA is on your side you have got to be out of your freaking mind. The ATA is the reason why the trucking industry is the way it is. They only stand up with the big boys, don’t let them Blind Side you and pull the wool over your eyes. Look at their history and what they have done to the trucking industry in the past and now all the sudden they want to change gears and supposedly help us that is a bunch of b******* and they know it.

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