As a representative of an industry segment that has had a long history of involvement operating longer combination vehicles, I was interested in reading the Transport Topics write-up of the AAA Foundation's Report on LCV crash data ("AAA Criticizes LCV data," 1-15, p.2).

The AAA study evaluates the accident data collection systems employed in five states and comes to two conclusions:

  • 1) The systems aren't very good; and
  • 2) Because those systems aren't very good, there is no way to really evaluate the safety record of LCV's.

I would like to offer a short critique of the AAA study. The observation that states don't require extensive reporting of accident/crash data nor of exposure (i.e., number of miles driven) data is not new, nor is it limited to LCV's. For states to put into place the types of reporting systems recommended by the AAA study would involve a substantial investment of resources. While that investment undoubtedly should be made if we are ever going to have a reasonable expectation of lowering the unacceptably high level of highway accidents and fatalities, those systems should involve all highway vehicles - not simply LCV's. While I have not polled the five states selected by the AAA Foundation for study, my guess is there's a very good reason why they have not had extensive reporting systems for LCV operations: They saw no need to. Governors and state legislatures generally try to use their resources to solve real problems and not waste time or money proving something they already know. All of the states reviewed by the AAA Foundation have allowed LCV's to operate since the mid-1960s. Presumably, if these states had perceived a problem with the equipment, they undoubtedly would have adopted changes in the reporting systems at some time over the last 40 years. If the AAA Foundation is looking for a model state to review, my suggestion would be Ohio and the Ohio Turnpike. LCV's have operated on the road since 1960; triples since 1987. The Turnpike Commission keeps excellent records on the type of LCV configuration, the number of vehicles operated and accident records. For example, in one three-year period - 1997 to 1999 - triple-trailer combinations operated a total of 359,496 trips, covering 56,450,569 miles and were involved in a total of 38 accidents. The Ohio Turnpike Commission determined that the triples operator was not at fault in 24 of those accidents. By all means, improve the data systems. By all means, continue the research and analysis. But with 40 years of operating experience - in both the wide-open West as well as on Eastern turnpikes - don't use the lack of perfect reporting systems to conclude that we can't judge whether the equipment can be operated safely. The facts say it can.

Timothy P. Lynch
President and CEO
Motor Freight Carriers Association
Washington, D.C.

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