Balderdash?

By Sandy Long

Two years ago, Steven Burks, a former trucker now a behavior economist at the University of Minnesota, decided to do a study on obese truckers to see if there was a correlation between obesity and truck crashes.  Working with Schneider International, Burk chose 744 rookie drivers with two years or less experience to participate in the study.  Using BMI as a baseline, those with a BMI higher than 25 were considered overweight, while those with a BMI greater than 30 were considered obese.  Burk then checked crash statistics on this set of drivers.

From TruckingInfo.com. “During their first two years on the road, drivers with a BMI higher than 35 (“severely obese”) were 43% to 55% more likely to crash than were drivers with a normal BMI, the team reports in the November issue of Accident Analysis & Prevention.”

When I first glanced at this article, I immediately went up in arms due to the first paragraph.  “That there’s a direct connection between a truck driver’s crash risk and his or her body mass index.  Obese truckers, during their first two years on the road, are 43% to 55% more likely to be involved in a crash when compared against those truckers with a normal BMI.”  “Balderdash,” I thought.

After sleeping on it, and rereading the article, there might be just a glimmer of truth in this study, though I still think it is propaganda to further the agendas of both the FMCSA and the medical device manufacturers.  I have seen drivers so obese, that they cannot fit behind the wheel without tucking their bellies down below the steering wheel by hand and cannot turn the wheel easily.  Now these sizes of drivers might be unsafe, but other than that, no, I do not agree with the findings.

The study cites that “some ideas behind the increased risk may include sleep apnea, limited agility, or fatigue associated with obesity.”  Sleep apnea affects many non-obese people and there are no studies or facts at all that correlate sleep apnea with truck crashes, just suppositions.  It takes little agility to drive a truck down the road safely other than being able to get one’s feet to the pedals and use the steering wheel freely.  While it is true that some diseases associated with obesity such as diabetes or thyroid issues may cause fatigue in obese people, I know of no studies saying that obesity alone causes fatigue.

So what is the deal here?  While Schneider has one of the most comprehensive training programs in the industry, the drivers studied were still rookies with two years or less behind the wheel.  Though the FMCSA has blinders on in regards to the correlation between student or rookie drivers and crashes, we drivers can attest to the fact that these training companies are usually the ones in the ditch or in trouble somehow.

This makes me wonder, with the discrimination shown to obese people, if the severely obese students did not get the quality of training the other drivers did; I would hate to think so.  Trucking has always attracted people who did not fit into other professions, in the last decade or so, many obese people have entered the industry.  Some have been openly discriminated against to the point that they have filed suit against companies and won.  http://www.slaterross.com/McDuffy.htm

In my opinion, I think that the elephant in the room in this regard is not how big the elephant is, but in how well they were trained.  This study would have much more merit if experienced drivers, five years or more, had been studied instead of rookies.  That would have taken out the possibility of slanting the statistics to make the point in the agenda by using inexperienced drivers.  Since I have well over 4 million miles to my credit with no accidents, and have been obese to some extent or another for all of them, I think that this study for the most part is total balderdash; and I am sticking to that.

 

 

Advertisements

Training Standards

By Sandy Long

There are regulations coming down the pike to rectify driver error, EOBRs and anti-rollover devices.  These regulations will cost billions of dollars for the trucking industry along with the cost of the regulatory process the taxpayer will pay.  Will these devices do anything to improve safety, not really.  The problem is not lack of technology; it is lack of good solid training and poor company attitudes.

The training required for entry level drivers is minimal, 148 hours of behind the wheel.  This is what the FMCSA stated in their proposed rulemaking 12/2007.

“In 1986, the motor carrier, truck driver training school, and insurance industries created the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) to certify high-quality training programs offered by training institutions. The PTDI used the truck driver Model Curriculum as the basis for its certification criteria. On January 24, 1999, the PTDI approved revisions to the curriculum and published three separate standards:

“Skill Standards for Entry-Level Tractor-Trailer Drivers;”

“Curriculum Standard Guidelines for Entry-Level Tractor-Trailer Driver Courses”; and

“Certification Standards and Requirements for Entry-Level Tractor-Trailer Driver Courses.”

As of December 2006, PTDI-certified courses are offered at 61 schools in 28 States and Canada, according to PTDI’s Web site (http://www.ptdi.org ).  PTDI estimates that approximately 10,000 students graduate from its certified courses annually.”

“The CDL standards require tests for knowledge and skills, but neither the CMVSA nor the FMCSRs requires driver training.  The private sector, with guidance from FMCSA, has attempted to promote effective training.  Formal, supervised training is available from private truck driver training schools, public institutions, and in-house motor carrier programs.  Many drivers take some sort of private-sector training at their own expense.  These courses vary in quality. Some provide only enough training to pass the skills test. (italics mine)  Generally, however, with or without formal training, drivers individually prepare for the CDL test by studying such areas as vehicle inspection procedures, off-road vehicle maneuvers, and operating a CMV in traffic.”

This proposed rulemaking was dropped due to no return on investment decisions for the companies and the thought that it was unnecessary to strengthen training regulations, it is obvious to anyone who works with new and prospective drivers that the FMCSA was wrong in their thinking.

Recently, Anne Ferro, director of the FMCSA stated that there was no indication that training companies had any more accidents than non-training companies did.  I would like to invite Ms Ferro to come out and ride with me for a week to see just how wrong she is.

The incidents, accidents and just plain getting into trouble that a driver sees training company drivers involved in during a week is tremendous.  Add to that the trainers that are having students back into tight places while the trainer is 100 yards away talking on their cell phones or playing games.  Then there is the dangerous behavior exhibited by these same company’s drivers; speeding through construction zones, truck stops and warehouse parking lots.

There are no real training standards in my opinion nor are there training standards or requirements for a driver to become a trainer.  Some companies allow a driver to become a trainer right after they leave their own trainer, others will allow a driver to become a trainer after the driver gets as little as three months experience.  Newbees training newbees is not good for them or the public.

A real horror that is allowed under the current regulations is that of the 24 hour guaranteed Cdl school.  There is one close to where I live and I see them ‘teaching’ often.  They use a class 7 single axle tractor and a 20-foot flatbed for both instruction and testing at the testing facility down the road.  Sure enough, a cdl is obtained, but can you imagine the quality of the driver?

Instead of requiring companies to install technology to fill the training gap found in drivers, the FMCSA would be better off setting standards to properly train the new drivers coming into the industry.  This would not only be cheaper for all involved, but also improve safety to a great degree.