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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.

45 Comments

  1. I live in Ontario Canada and worked for an International Trucking Company, but stayed in Ontario only. I quit, for health reasons before weed became legal in Canada, and because our truck ran the USA, everyone in our company were subject Drug Tests. But if I was still driving, I would have smoked some weed, went to work and get Tested, and have the Doctor who is charge of this bullshit phone ma and say you had weed in your system, I would say so what, take me to court. you cannot penalize me for something that is legal to do.

    1. Strike is the answer. We all need to strike at tge same time. There killing us we are more tired these warehouses are killing drivers they fuck up our time they firce us to drive tired. Every driver is always freaked out. We all feel like convicts when we go agross scales. Even if we think we are good there going to dig and find something . Fuck these motherfuckers deliver this shit yourself

      1. #ThisShitRightHere

        Not only for this, but for municipalities that treat us like lepers. Don’t like trucks in your towns? Stop buying stuff that require trucks to bring to you. Oh, you can’t do that??? Then give us decent and safe parking at the outskirts of your town, so we can be rested and alert when we deliver to you.

    2. It’s about time court awards against truckers was limited.Many accidents are caused by 4 wheelers not leaving a safe distance between themselves& trucks.A truck,whether loaded or not,does not stop as quickly or easily as other vehicles!Too many young people like to mess with truckers too!I’ve had too many young guys think it’s funny to pull in front of drivers then slam on their brakes&if the drivers hits them,the driver gets blamed for following too closely!Not cool!!!

      1. That’s why you use a dash cam, so you can prove their bad intent.

        Sadly, corporations and lawyers prefer to settle out of court, giving the real perpetrator a payday, and encouraging others to do the same. It’ll just take one company taking a stand and winning, buy even that’s a crap shoot in the face of a jury.

    3. Hair follicle testing is unreliable for catching current drug use. The military still uses urine testing for that simple reason to catch current drug use or abuse. Drugs can be detected in a hair follicle for up to ten years. So if a trucker tests positive with a hair follicle test you can’t specify when that trucker misused drugs. So you will still have to rely on the urine drug test or blood toxicology to determine if a trucker has currently been using.
      If you want to cut down on 18 wheel versus 4 wheel motor vehicle collisions hold the four wheeler more accountable. Have them submit to a urine and blood toxicology upon the accident and a hair follicle test. I guarantee you that they are the ones abusing the laws.

      Truckers are trying to make a living for their family. More focus needs to be shifted to the accountability of the four wheeler. They need to stop trying to cut the trucker off. They need to stop tailgating. They need to take defensive driving course. The same technology that’s in a car is also in a semi. Most truck companies use the Bendix system now. Before you point fingers and make the trucker the guilty party ride with one for a couple of weeks. I guarantee your perspective of the trucking industry will be reformed by doing so.

      Planes and boats cannot go to places a truck can deliver to. Truckers don’t make the kind of money that “suits ” make. They are blue collar workers .
      If you continue to harass and mismanage the Truckers then you’ll close the doors of many of your trucking companies. If you don’t have a work force then you’ll be forced to turned to electric trucks. Then you’ll see the cost of everything skyrocket along with accidents. Management of the trucking industry needs to stop trying to drive from behind a desk. Get out with a trucker and see what they see on a daily basis. Last week I personally saw a car cut a truck off. The only way the driver could keep from hitting the car was to put truck in the ditch.

      Truckers are the reason why you can eat, watch TV, wash clothes, and have the comfort s that you do have. Truckers are actually Santa Claus. His truck is the sleigh full of goodies.

  2. A new driver can’t even get through a 90 day probation now. They are so scared and let them go if they sneeze. It’s also getting so hard to get. Past the physical. They are going to make it almost impossible is the goal. God Bless the ones who don’t try to do more than regulations say. Why request more than you need legally for a prospective employer “the ad t is stupid_ ah-ha the customers make them so they do roll over for them.

  3. The lawyers who bring suit against a driver or company for an accident that was caused by their clients stupidity are Crooks. I don’t really like ATA or most of the industry groups simply because they don’t like to represent the drivers as much as they claim to, but in this instance I do agree with them getting after stupid lawsuits for accidents that were caused by a 4 wheeler.

  4. Thank you so much OOIDA!!!
    These attorneys advertise huge signs about trucker accidents… This is cost horrific… Because people think they can deliberately cause accidents and get rich! That’s exactly what’s happening!
    We, as truckers and owner-operators for this to stop. Not only do the DOT Target us, so do money-grubbing attorneys! The trucking industry is already failing. As an owner-operator I struggle to make a living. To pay my bills. Something also needs to be done with the huge Trucking industries that are offering work visas to foreigners. Many can not even read or write English, many have never driven a vehicle before.
    But they bring them to the United States, and put them behind the wheel of a semi-truck!
    Then they continuously bid for very cheap Freight! Why isn’t the government doing something about this???
    Why are people from other countries coming in and setting up trucking companies. cheating the owner operators??? So many issues to address… Plz
    OODA… NEVER STOP FIGHTING FOR US

  5. Yeah that’s why I don’t drive in California yeah they see you coming there’s a lot of people’s a scaming the insurance companies you get the point

  6. I’ve been trucking for 23 years with no accidents. The grossly large lawsuit payouts and settlements have reinforced my determination to continue my going back to college to get away from trucking. I already miss the open road, but I can’t risk my Family’s financial future to keep driving.

  7. I drove semi’s for 8 yr’s the only thing after 8 yr’s o of drivin of O.T.R. For 3 1/2 years and 4 1/2 yr’s local, is that driving is too stressful, due to wreck less drivers all around you that have no defense driving skills. Your radar screen as a driver will be on constant alert, and if you take your eyes off the screen for one moment you can miss stupidity of disaster coming at you with total blame coming your way to try to destroy your life forever. If computer controlled trucks replace real humans that is the only perfect driver ther could be. Perfect in every way is what it must be. Hate to see drivers lose there jobs but either society slows down and drives safer or or more dead will multiply. Eld’s are, super stressful to deal with due to lack of drivers due to being in a hurry to keep up with the demand of society. More drivers is the only way slow trucks down. The other thing to maybe solve death rate is pay drivers by the hr, with really great compensation. The country does not survive without trucks. We should be the most important respected occupation out there. Instead we are the dirt under everyone’s feet. Trucking company ‘s abuse you then blackball u to give up on having a rewarding job that should be an adventure traveling the country, enjoying this awesome country we live in. Washington D.C. needs to get off the Evil quest it has been on for years and consider truck driving a skilled labor and have a huge increase in salary for truckers. B. Monnerjahn

  8. I like how the ATA looped the hair testing in with law suits on crashes. So typical for them to do that. ATA is nothing more than anti trucking group. Always has been always will be. As far as society goes. You cannot fix stupid. The moral of this country is so far into the crapper we now have bill boards to advertise lawyers to come after you. Greed on display. Country is on fire and it’s only going to get worse. There is hope. God Bless America!

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