Jim Johnston, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), said the continued emphasis on developing stricter and more invasive methods of enforcement against truckers will not result in increased highway safety.
Delivering a keynote address to the International Truck and Bus Safety Symposium at the University of Tennessee, he said, “There is a price to pay for this philosophy of blindly pushing ahead with continuously increasing enforcement. Obviously the millions of dollars invested every year in this effort is a stiff price, but even more significant is the rule of diminishing returns.” According to Johnston, these result from the negative impact increasing levels of enforcement have on professional drivers, influencing many of the best to exit the business.
Johnston said, “The exodus of thousands of good, hardworking professional drivers who are sick and tired of being treated as second-class citizens or targeted for enforcement in every jurisdiction they pass through, is a substantial loss to the industry and to the effort to improve commercial vehicle safety.”
He said no pool of well-trained replacements exists to fill the seats of those experienced professionals leaving the industry. New, inexperienced replacements would only have a negative impact on highway safety.
Johnston criticized agencies, politicians, and other state and federal forums that continually depict truckers as careless, reckless, irresponsible lawbreakers in need of targeted enforcement. He cited several recent examples of law enforcement officials and politicians whose derogatory comments toward truckers were seemingly done for public relations motives, to seek additional funding, or to cover their “political behind.”
He quoted Department of Transportation statistics involving fatal collisions between trucks and passenger vehicles showing passenger vehicles were at fault in most cases.
Johnston recommended alternative considerations for budget allocation in addressing highway safety. Commenting on roadside inspections and enforcement for vehicle defects, he said efforts should be made to direct funding to research for correcting major vehicle defect problems.
Additionally, said Johnston, the lack of mandatory standardized has left the door open for many abuses and a continuing influx of new and unprepared drivers. “It is absolutely ludicrous that occupations such as barbers, hairdressers, and insurance agents are required to go through mandatory training in order to be licensed, but that no training at all is required to obtain a license to operate an 80,000-lb truck over the highway.”