This morning we all woke to the news that a FedEx semi crossed the center median of a freeway in California and collided with a tour bus filled with students touring college campuses. At least ten people are dead. The crash is being described in any number of ways, though this morning most of the focus is on the tour bus. One of the headlines I found actually calls it a tour bus accident. Of course tour bus accidents are as horrific as semi crashes and certainly are issues that need to be worked on. But this was not a tour bus crash.
The news media is slow to mention that it all started with a semi crossing the center median. That’s not the most news worthy aspect of this crash so it’s getting little press. Rightfully we need to concentrate on the families of those killed and injured, on the students who were headed toward bright futures as college students who will never see another day, on the survivors who are traumatized, and on the drivers, both of the truck and the bus who were also killed. But when things calm down we need to take a serious look at why that semi crossed the median in the first place.
There were two FedEx drivers. Were they tired? Were they distracted? Did some medical event cause this traumatic crash? Was speed involved? How long had they been driving? Or were they just avoiding something in their path? This will not be an easy investigation as both drivers are dead. It will, of course, be done, but you and I won’t hear the result. By the time this investigation is complete the media will have moved on to the next horrific event. Most of us won’t even remember this story a month from now.
And that’s how the trucking industry likes it. If investigators end up concluding that the semi was at fault, that rules were broken, allowable hours of service exceeded, texting happening, whatever the reason, we won’t know, and if we don’t know the outragousness of this whole event will be lost and nothing will change, our roads won’t become safer, and truck companies will continue to profit at the expense of other drivers. Somehow we need to convince the news media that there is more to the story than the initial crash details. That there are many more important facts to uncover than how long the road will be closed to commuter traffic.
It’s hard to make a big noise when you’re only a small group of safety advocates. It’s hard to get noticed when we aren’t splashy, or over the top. It’s hard but it’s something we have to figure out how to do.