Burns Challenges Validity of Newspaper Article

July 9, 2013

January 25, 2006

Letter to the Editor

Kansas City Star

1729 Grand Blvd

Kansas City, MO 64108


Dear Editor:

The caption for the photo on your front page article on cars and commercial trucks sharing the road perpetuated a false myth that was invented by the trucking industry. The caption stated "statistics show cars cause most of the wrecks involving cars and trucks." No valid statistic or study has ever shown that to be the case. This public relations statement originated from a gross misinterpretation of the data from a study by Dan Blower at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Although a full discussion of the ways in which this study has been misused by the trucking industry would exceed the length limitations on this letter, suffice it to say that Dan Blower is on record as stating that his study has been misinterpreted and misstated so badly that he wishes that he had never conducted it. In addition, at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington D. C. earlier this week, Ralph Craft, the senior researcher for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on the issue of truck crash causation, stated that basing crash causation on data from police reports is "absurd," and that it is like coming to the conclusion that he is a dancer for the Rockettes because he has two legs!

I don't want to leave your readers with the impression that statistics show the contrary to be true. The truth is that there are no valid statistics either way. What we do know is that large trucks account for 3% of vehicles on our roads, but are involved in almost 12% of fatal crashes. While no one knows what percentage of crashes are "caused" by truck and car drivers, we need to stop the carnage. As long as the industry can make the public believe that the industry doesn't "own" the crash problem, it will not have to take the serious steps necessary to fix the problem. We don't need to play the industry's false public relations "blame game."

Your paper has now compounded the misinterpretation of data as though the Kansas City Star were the public relations arm for the trucking industry. Repeating this false conclusion was a disservice to your readers and to the motoring public.


Jeffrey A. Burns