As president of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), I represent thousands of this country's most responsible trucking companies. On behalf of those companies, I am responding to Robert L. Asher's July 8 op-ed piece, "Rattletraps on the Road."

Responsible carriers welcome the news that law enforcement is pulling unsafe trucks off the road. They have no place on American highways. However, in stating that "a good 35 to 50 percent of commercial vehicles that Loudoun County inspectors pull over have safety violations," Mr. Asher misleads.

Trucks are not randomly selected for roadside inspections. Inspectors look for poorly maintained trucks. Additionally, Mr. Asher fails to point out that the "commercial vehicles" being pulled over include dump trucks, delivery trucks, vans and many other types of large vehicles.

The American Trucking Associations' carriers are proud of their safety records.

ATA carriers were the first to call for and work to implement the commercial drivers license program, mandatory drug and alcohol testing, a ban on radar detectors in trucks and annual driver state-record checks. Our carriers also called for such safety-equipment improvements as anti-lock brakes, radial tires, lighting and reflective tape for trailers. Most of the above was done by the industry before a government mandate.

We're now road-testing the latest in electronic technology, which will make our highways safer. And we're calling for a doubling of federal funding for state-level roadside inspection programs of the type described in The Post.

Mr. Asher is correct in that unsafe trucks remain on the road. However, he cites a minority view that the way to address the safety issue would be to transfer trucking oversight from the Office of Motor Carriers to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The secretary of transportation, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, the American Automobile Association, and some law enforcement officials, union leaders and government officials oppose such a transfer. ATA has joined these groups in advancing another option: the creation, by Congress, of a separate administration within the Department of Transportation with trucking safety as its core mission.

Trucking is the only mode of transportation not regulated by a separate Department of Transportation administration. But trucking is regulated by a small office, tucked away in our nation's road-building agency.

Safety can only improve if the Department of Transportation and Congress also advance a safety agenda. Imperative in that agenda is reform of the 60-year-old, hours-of-service rules. Also imperative are additional funding for more law enforcement officers to do safety checks, more rest-stop parking spaces for fatigued motorists and reforms in the commercial driver's license system. I want to assure my fellow road users that the vast majority of large-truck drivers and owners are doing all they can to ensure that our nations' roads remain safe.


President and CEO

American Trucking Associations


Robert L. Asher's op-ed article regarding the condition of many of the trucks on our highways was timely and correct.

The only problem with Mr. Asher's article is that it contained just one sentence regarding the condition of drivers. Driver fatigue is the number-one safety issue confronting the trucking industry. As bad as the condition of the equipment may be, the condition of many of the drivers is worse.

No single "fix" can be used to cure the trucking industry's problems. Enforcement has been so lax for so long that the entire culture needs to be addressed. Many suggestions have been made over the years to the Office of Motor Carriers (OMC) by other government agencies responsible for public safety on which the OMC has failed to follow up.

Mr. Asher's article also indicated that drivers may not report safety violations because they fear they may be fired. Since 1982, a federal statute has provided "whistle-blower" protection to drivers, but very few know about this. Two years ago, Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater agreed that an informational poster should be required, and instructed the OMC to take care of the problem. The OMC still has made no progress toward requiring such a poster.


Kansas City, Mo.

The writer is a lawyer who works with highway safety issues.