Fleet Management

Ferro Responds to Critics of Zero Truck Fatality Goal During TRB

January 15, 2014

By Oliver Patton

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Is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s goal of zero truck-related fatalities an ideology or an appropriate aspiration?

Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., says it’s an ideology that leads to poor regulation.

Accidents are inevitable and there is no point in trying to drive the truck-related fatality rate down to zero, he says.

“If the goal is to reduce all deaths to zero, then we would close all our highways and park all our trucks.” This was in response to a question at a November hearing on the 34-hour restart provision of the hours of service rule.

“(Zero deaths is) an unrealistic, impractical goal that burdens the industry and is philosophically based, not reality based,” he said.

FMCSA Chief Anne Ferro has a different take.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. (File photo by Jim Park)
FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. (File photo by Jim Park)

“Zero is the right goal,” she said Tuesday in response to a question at a forum on FMCSA research projects. The forum was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C.

“At the end of the day I wouldn’t call it ideology. I think it’s appropriate to call it a stretch goal, an aspirational goal, because we really shouldn’t suggest that we can explain and justify the fatalities and serious injury crashes that happen today.”

Ferro added that the agency should strive to eliminate crashes because drivers want to get home safely and employers want their employees to be safe and successful.

“So, it is absolute that we need to continue to strive towards crash-free environment and absolutely zero fatalities.”

Aviation achieves this goal, and it is within reach for the bus industry, she said. And trucking can strive for significant improvements even if zero fatalities is not on the near horizon.

“To do otherwise is to question each other’s motives and incentives,” Ferro said.

“Aspirational? Absolutely. Ideological? Not at all,” she said, drawing applause from many in the audience at the forum.

In practical terms, and by law, regulations have to meet cost-benefit standards.

“We have to find a balance,” observed Ron Knipling, a noted truck safety scientist and author of a seminal book on the issue, Safety for the Long Haul.

It’s also important to recognize the limitations of FMCSA’s reach, noted Rob Abbott, vice president of safety policy at American Trucking Associations.

For instance, the majority of car-truck crashes begin with a mistake by the car driver, he said.

“We have to evaluate if it’s … within (the agency’s) capability to impact every truck-related crash, knowing that 70% to 75% of crashes are the other motorist’s fault,” he said.

It is true that truck drivers cannot account for what other drivers will do, Knipling observes in his book. But that’s not the end of the matter, he adds.

“Motor carriers can do relatively little to prevent foolish and irresponsible acts by the public, but they can educate, monitor and control most aspects of their own safety operations. Truck drivers are professionals, driving amidst amateurs.”


  1. 1. Gary Bary [ January 15, 2014 @ 12:34PM ]

    “A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.”

  2. 2. Roger [ January 16, 2014 @ 03:28AM ]

    The regulations enacted and proposed by the FMCSA since Ferro was appointed are those of people trying to justify their position. If she truly believes her comments denying that her stance is not ideological then her thought process is no longer based in reality.

  3. 3. Dan [ January 16, 2014 @ 03:43AM ]

    You can't fix stupid.

  4. 4. DAVID BROWN [ January 16, 2014 @ 04:31AM ]

    Does her fairy tale dreams coincide with a federal balanced budget? Just another way to control trucking. She knows what the pressing issues are but tends to ignore them just like Congress. Congress can only pass legislation that benefits them. Ms. Ferro how about riding along to some grocery warehouse chains and see how you like them!

  5. 5. AW [ January 16, 2014 @ 04:35AM ]

    This is incredible....aviation achieves this goal??? That is an apples to oranges comparison. Take 99% of all the amateurs off the road, widen the roads to 100ft and yes, trucking can achieve what the aviation industry achieves. Unbelievable that some people are lost in a world of their own. Trucking is hard enough without someone putting impossible goals on drivers. That Knipling guy agrees that truckers can't account for other drivers but "that is not the end of the matter". What does that mean Knipling? That's right...you don't know.

  6. 6. Paul [ January 16, 2014 @ 06:24AM ]

    Zero truck-related fatalities is not possible! Zero AT fault truck fatalities is possible. The industry and the feds can't control others with a death wish.

  7. 7. BarbRRB [ January 16, 2014 @ 06:57AM ]

    Unrealistic goals.... Trucking industry has come a long way since the 70's with crashes. Ferro has taken on the impossible.

  8. 8. Jeff [ January 16, 2014 @ 07:23AM ]

    Striving for excellence is not ideological and while if we don't loose the reality that 0 fatalities may not be possible then what should the goal of industry set? If the agency does not set higher goals for drivers and carriers then it's a trickle down affect. I do not agree with everything the agency puts out but in this case I have to agree with them. I do agree that zero fault to be a more possible goal to reach.

  9. 9. Del [ January 16, 2014 @ 07:35AM ]

    Zero is impossible, and it's irresponsible for her to speak like it is.

    Wisconsin, yesterday, three more "truck-related" fatalities, and again, specifically the fault of the auto driver. Anne, you're a hack.


  10. 10. Buddy Garrity [ January 16, 2014 @ 07:52AM ]

    I've not agreed with a lot of things that Mrs. Ferro has done or said, but I actually think it's a good goal to strive for. While I'm realistic is that its very unlikely ito be achieved, I'm also not in favor of setting any goals that may be perceived for any fatalities to be acceptable.

  11. 11. Kathrine Jenkins [ January 16, 2014 @ 07:54AM ]

    She might be able to get truck caused fatalities to zero but with all the extremely poor drivers on the roads, it will never get to zero unless you shut down all traffic which, along with her goal, is totally unrealistic!
    She needs to focus more on education of sharing of roads with trucks by making it part of Driver's Education and a part of the driver's licensing.

  12. 12. terry [ January 16, 2014 @ 12:11PM ]

    While her desire may be unrealistic, isn't that what every trucking company strives for and every driver as well? One will never be able to ever make this possible. My fear is that she will regulate us even more unnecessarily in an effort to achieve this.

  13. 13. LCK [ January 16, 2014 @ 03:18PM ]

    Ferro is on target. The trucking industry should have a zero tolerance for fatalities. Regulations should strive to help the industry reach that goal. Case in point. Highway fatalities involving trucks were much higher, with fewer trucks, before the FMCSA.

  14. 14. LJG [ January 16, 2014 @ 03:45PM ]

    If you don't strive for zero...then you strive for flaw. I felt her entire speech was spot-on, including her response to zero tolerance.

  15. 15. GREG FOREMAN [ January 16, 2014 @ 04:23PM ]

    Zero deaths from eighteen wheeler accidents is neither realistic nor obtainable. The mere fact that Ms. Ferro, the head of the FMCSA, would present such a goal as “realistic” epitomizes the parallel universe she subscribes too. It would be equally unrealistic to suggest forbidding four wheelers from operating to obtain a similar goal. After all, there are many more operational four wheelers, like 20 registered four wheelers to one commercial vehicle, than commercial vehicles. Prohibiting their operations, four wheelers, would considerably enhance the likely hood of reaching Ms. Ferro's unrealistic and unobtainable goal. Ms. Ferro's ignorant comment undermines the existence of certain other facts effecting the logistics industry the most glaring of which is infrastructure. The U.S.'s infrastructure has been neglected by all levels of government for over fifty years. It's hard to be a safe driver when one's dodging pot holes in the middle of the road. The 2013 REPORT CARD FOR AMERICAN'S INFRASTRUCTURE conducted the ASCE, American Society of Civil Engineers, determined 66,749 structurally deficient bridges make up one-third of the total bridge decking area in the country, showing that those bridges that remain classified as structurally deficient are significant in size and length, while the bridges that are being repaired are smaller in scale. The average bridge in the US is 42 years or older. Moral of the story, though unobtainable, reaching the goal expressed by Ms. Ferro would be enhanced considerably if both state and federal governments would maintain and improve the interstate and highways of the country.

  16. 16. Rob Behnke [ January 17, 2014 @ 05:44AM ]

    I certainly can relate to and appreciate the comments in this thread. I too have been a part of the industry for many years, a driver for most of those years, and now in truck driver education. Reality for me is our industry pride has dimmed considerably and in some cases gone out. I'd like to point blame and its likely we could but first I need to check my greed and attitude at the door. Our industry is not entirely broken, there are many good companies as well as good drivers. Honestly there are great regulations out there as well. If we could bring the levels of pride back into this profession I believe it is a great start. We have tried top down approaches for years, what about a bottom up approach. Hold drivers accountable, reward those with great characteristics. Hold companies acountable, reward great practices, hold Regulators accountable, and yes reward those that measurably make a positive impact in our industry.

  17. 17. MIKE [ January 18, 2014 @ 01:24PM ]

    HEY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT,GET THE HELL OUT OF MY LIFE. If we are concerned about safety and fatalities, why do we continually raise the speed limits that EVERYONE EXCEEDS.I can remember the argument for higher speed limits " just raise them to 65 no one will speed then , they'll be satisfied. Now speed limits are 70-75 and people still cant drive the speed limit. And where is law enforcement, holed up in a scale house making sure the roads are safe from those dastardly truckers. As far as road conditions, do you remember back 30+ years ago when I 80 was worse than a plowed field ? How about 80/94 in Indiana and Illinois. Highways are far better shape than they used to be not to mention there are more 4 lane highways. The problem is the motoring public. Everyone is impatient ,discourteous and downright rude on the highways. Truckers get along great driving overnight when all the "kids" are at home in bed. Slow people down. The public has NO fear of law enforcement because they're simply not there. Make speeding fines start at $500.00 or lose your license for 30 days. THATS an attention getter! If you want to solve problems, take a major swing at it and, quit screwing around

  18. 18. TW [ January 19, 2014 @ 09:43AM ]

    This woman, just like 99.99999% of the people in government, is incredibly stupid.


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