By now, we’re sure you’ve heard and read plenty about the horrific accident near Asheville, N.C., late Oct. 24 in which five people died.
For the second time in less than 18 months, a big rig crashed full speed into a line of vehicles stopped on an interstate highway because of an accident, bringing to 26 the number of people killed in accidents involving big rigs in which five or more died during the aforementioned time span.
The truck involved belonged to Globe Carrier of Justice, Ill.
By all accounts, the company owned one truck and one trailer.
Also, by all accounts, the bulk of the media coverage related to the accident, most of it initiated by the Asheville Citizen-Times (whether intended or not), has been a hatchet job on Globe Carrier and the trucking industry as a whole.
You see, the Citizen-Times took one look at the SafeStat records on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website and reported that Globe Carrier had 21 “safety” violations during the past 30 months.
The Associated Press picked up the Citizen-Times account and circulated it all across the nation.
“Recent history of company involved in Asheville area I-26 crash shows numerous violations,” said one headline in the Citizen-Times.
“Tragic crash raises questions about truck safety,” read the headline on a Citizen-Times editorial.
“Trucking firm in NC wreck had series of violations,” read the headline on the AP story in the Chicago Tribune.
“Trucking firm had history of problems,” read the headline in the Daily-Herald, a newspaper that serves the suburban areas around Chicago.
Yes, during the past 30 months, the Globe Carrier truck has been stopped seven times, resulting in 21 violations.
Ten of those 21 involved one inspection in Pennsylvania earlier this year, and that inspection was flawed, very reliable sources tell us.
Yes, the Asheville newspaper and the AP failed to dig deep enough into the record, which would have revealed two of those 10 so-called violations were for regulations that no longer exist and five could easily been “stacked,” according to a reliable commercial vehicle inspections source.
On the Pennsylvania inspection report, there were three entries for “inoperable required lamp,” which should have been lumped into one entry, the source said.
In addition, the driver was cited twice for operating a CMV without periodic inspection, which meant that the driver wasn’t carrying the proper inspection papers on both the truck and trailer.
The driver was also cited for no pre-trip inspection and not having a driver vehicle inspection report.
Both of those requirements were wiped off the regulations 10 years ago, the source said.
Here’s the real kicker, and the real danger of arbitrarily labeling a motor carrier unsafe.
We checked the records of two major carriers with two of the best safety records in the industry.
During a week-long period in September, one carrier had 21 violations of FMCSA regulations, including bad brakes, logbook violations and bald tires.
During a three-day period, the other carrier, one of the nation’s largest, had 33 violations in a three-day period.
Many of the violations on the reports involving the two large carriers mirrored those on the Globe Carrier reports.
Using the same criteria the media used to claim that Globe Carrier had a history of problems, if a truck owned by either of these two companies was involved in a fatality, you could argue the recent history of those two companies showed a series of violations and/or had a history of problems.
How preposterous, and until all the investigations are complete (the National Transportation Safety Board won’t look into this accident, we’ve been told), we include labeling Globe Carrier a safety risk as preposterous.
The bottom line is this:
When it comes to trucking accidents, we as members of the media must dig deeper into the facts and report more than just surface numbers, which inflame the public and fire up the big rig wreck attorneys.
And bring on fiery anti-trucking editorials such as the one that appeared in the Citizen-Times.
The trucking industry takes bullets about safety every day without having to deal with media reports that just skim the surface and can so easily leave false impressions.
Lyndon Finney of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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