A leading transportation researcher has characterized a report prepared for the railroad-funded Railway Supply Institute on the safety of larger trailers in trucking as fatally flawed.

“It has been demonstrated to a reasonable certainty the crash analysis suffered from numerous fatal errors. Trucks are misclassified,” said Daniel Blower, an associate research scientist at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and expert on truck safety and truck crash data. “Fatalities are miscounted. The errors are substantial and not recoverable.”

Blower's critique, done independent of UMTRI and at the request of American Trucking Associations, exposes serious flaws in the report issued by the Multimodal Transportation & Infrastructure Consortium on behalf of the Railway Supply Institute, according to ATA.

“Commercial motor vehicles carrying heavier loads or employing multiple trailers present significant concerns regarding the impact of their use in terms of increased accidents, accident severity and fatalities,” the railroad-funded report said. “Several proposals have been made in recent years to increase limits for truck size and weight yet significant disputes exist about the safety of heavier and longer truck configurations.”

Blower described his effort to recreate the basic data used by the RSI-funded study and his discovery that “all of the numbers in the tables are seriously wrong. In the process of trying to understand how the authors could have gotten the numbers so wrong, I found fundamental errors of analysis and evaluation.”

He said the errors include misleading labeling of tables and data, misclassification of truck types, analytical techniques that resulted in errors like double-counting of fatal injuries, use of incorrect crash statistics and unexplained estimates for vehicle miles traveled.

“In the end, I found errors and misconceptions serious enough to undermine any validity to the crash rate analysis,” Blower said.

“Dr. Blower’s analysis demonstrates what we have been saying for a long time,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. “Trucking’s critics have no qualms about stretching, sometimes well past the breaking point, data and arguments to smear our industry.

“When the real world experience of more productive trucks, like twin 33-foot trailers, shows they improve efficiency, while not creating the cataclysmic safety problems these groups claim they will, they’re forced to go even further, and in the case of this most recent report, so far as to stretch the facts beyond recognition and well past the point of being useful in constructive discussions about safety,” he said.