Opinion: Share the Message of Trucking’s Importance
This Opinion piece appears in the Feb. 6 print edition of Transport Topics. By Garner Berry
By Garner Berry
I read the chairman’s profile of Kevin Burch (10-10, p. 1), and quite frankly, he is a man after my own industry heart — and others should feel the same way.
As an attorney for the trucking industry, I have had a passion over the years to tell everyone how invaluable this industry is. I have written about this topic various times, and it all culminated for me this year, speaking several times to trucking associations and law groups.
I love driving. From the day I got my driver’s license, I’ve always offered to drive. When I was in law school, I would tell friends that if I wasn’t dating someone when I graduated, I would become a truck driver and explore America. There is something about being able to see all different parts of our country and experience all that it has to offer. Fortunately, I was dating someone and now have a lovely wife and two sons.
Ironically, when I talked of driving, little did I know I would end up defending trucking companies for a living. Funny how God works. I’m thankful he brought me here because it is the best industry to work with and the most important to our country.
I have never met truck drivers who didn’t take pride in their work. They seek to accomplish their jobs with the utmost integrity, and their companies do the same. Even the largest carriers are really just “small-town mom and pop” people.
But here’s the problem: The public does not see trucking through the same rosy glasses that I do. It’s really not the public’s fault. They’re inundated with stories that the trucking industry is bad and the public should fear it. An article in USA Today last year highlights what the public hears:
• “On an average day, large trucks are involved in nearly 10 fatal crashes.”
• “The death toll rose every year from 2009 through 2013.”
• “The worst idea making its way through Congress would allow drivers as young as 18 to drive commercial trucks across state lines.”
• “Despite safety advocates’ objections, much of the trucking industry’s agenda is moving successfully through Congress.”
You get the picture.
Jury studies also show that 78% of jurors worry about their safety when driving near trucks. Jurors believe that trucks are an accident waiting to happen, opposed to any fact-based decision. Fifty-eight percent of jurors feel drivers should be criminally punished when someone is killed in an accident, and 66% believe a case has merit just because it goes to trial. Finally, 91% of jurors believe that punitive damage awards are the best way to change a trucking company’s or a driver’s behavior.
Here is what the public is not told:
• Truck drivers are professionals trained in safety beyond what the casual driver will ever be.
• In 2009, about 10.8 million motor vehicle accidents occurred and only 2.4% involved commercial vehicles.
• When an accident does involve a truck, more than 75% of them are caused by a passenger vehicle and only 16% by the truck.
• Passenger car drivers are three times more likely to speed than commercial drivers.
The public also doesn’t realize that if they’re eating it, drinking it, wearing it, sleeping on it or driving it, a trucker brought it to them. For example, if trucks stopped:
• In 24 hours, delivery of medical supplies cease, hospitals run out of basic supplies, stations run out of fuel, causing skyrocketing prices, and mail and package delivery ceases.
• In two to three days, food shortages escalate, supplies of essential needs disappear, ATMs run out of cash, stations completely run out of fuel and garbage piles up.
• During the first week, auto travel ceases from lack of fuel, and hospitals exhaust oxygen supplies.
• During the second week, clean water begins to run dry.
• During the fourth week, clean water is exhausted.
I was once involved in welding fume lawsuits in which welders alleged to have been injured by exposure to toxic welding fumes. A successful defense at trial before the jury was, “Welding won the war,” referencing World War II and the massive shipbuilding that welders accomplished. Similarly, trucking makes our economy and lives go round. Look around and try to identify one product that wasn’t carried on a truck.
Our conversation with the public should explore biases against the trucking industry and use positive aspects of our industry to change opinions. Ask such questions as whether having the best- priced products available to them is important, whether they agree that certain drivers are professionals, whether public opinion can be misleading, whether drivers who have driven more miles than another are safer drivers.
The public needs to know this stuff. They need to know the care and safety that truckers use when on the road. They need to know that the wrong message about trucking can have a ripple effect on their own lives and wallets. They need to hear from someone who can communicate the compassion and care of trucking. They need to know that trucking has well-thought-out safety policies that are actually implemented.
Let’s tell our story. And if we do, the public one day will thank us for it.
Founded in 1984, Mississippi-based Markow Walker has grown over the past 30 years, expanding from three lawyers to a litigation team that consists of about 25 lawyers and 30 staff members.