As a plump American, I resent being considered dangerous

One of my favorite Presidents is Thomas E. Dewey. I watch the History Channel often (can’t wait to find out who won WWII) and was stunned to recently find out that the hard-charging New York governor had LOST the 1948 presidential election.

Dave Millhouser

Golly, the Chicago Daily Tribune’s headline said, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.” If you can’t trust the Tribune, who can you trust?

The National Transportation Safety Board may be in a league with the Tribune, publishing a story whose relationship with the facts is strained.

NTSB’s recent report on a fatal October 2016 California accident seems to fit that mold.

If I understand correctly, nighttime traffic was stopped for utility work when a motorcoach plowed into the back of a stationary truck, killing the bus driver and 12 passengers.

The NTSB cited several causes for the accident, including Caltrans’ inadequate transportation management plan for dealing with stopped traffic. Police officers hadn’t noticed that the truck had remained in place after traffic was allowed to proceed.

This was virtually the same conclusion that the police came to within 24 hours of the crash. But, in a leap worthy of Olympian Jesse Owens, NTSB added that undiagnosed sleep apnea in the truck driver and type 2 diabetes in the bus driver were likely contributing factors.

If the sleep apnea wasn’t diagnosed, how do they know he had it? Isn’t sleep apnea ferreted out by an expensive, lengthy test (which this gentleman apparently had NOT had). He was overweight, but so are many folks who don’t have sleep apnea.

They assume that he didn’t move because he was fatigued, but maybe he was just filling out his logbook. If he hadn’t slept well, perhaps it was because he ate spicy food or was worried about paying his growing tax bills.

The only hint that it might have been sleep apnea was his weight (compounded by NTSB’s stated desire to add sleep apnea testing to USDOT regulations).

Is it possible that police didn’t notice the stationary truck because THEY were fatigued? In many jurisdictions officers commonly work many hours of overtime. They drive AND carry guns.

In the bus driver’s case, the reference to diabetes is frivolous. Thousands of commercial drivers work every day with this condition.

In this particular case, the medical examiner found glucose in the urine and ordered a second test that proved normal. There’s no indication that diabetes had anything to do with the accident.

It appears that the NTSB has embraced the dictum espoused by the famed law firm Dewey, Cheatem and Howe: “Never ask a question unless you already know the answer.”

While good advice for trial lawyers, it may not be appropriate when doing investigations. The NTSB’s report read like the agency had been looking for an incident useful in promoting its sleep apnea and diabetes agenda and sorta plopped it into this accident’s documentation.

One industry observer said, “There are some huge questions that need to be asked about how we treat the drivers we depend on to deliver goods and services.”

“We might start with an increasingly politicized over-funded NTSB that lacks a clear mission. With virtually no airline crashes to look into, they’re investigating incidents with little relationship to overall safety. In this incident, the police knew what happened by the afternoon of the crash. Case closed. Yet, NTSB spent millions investigating the incident only to come to illogical (and a few logical) conclusions to fit a narrative some want to advance.”

Is there any empirical evidence that sleep apnea or type 2 diabetes are serious problems, and if testing has resulted in improved safety?

As a plump American, it’s troubling that a government agency profiles me, presuming I have a condition that makes me dangerous. I confess to occasionally sleeping poorly for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, too much pizza, Monday Night Football and fears about bureaucrats with agendas.

On a related note, am I the only one who has noticed a change in NTSB’s behavior immediately following highly visible accidents?

In ye olden days, the agency’s comments resembled those offered by New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick in post-game interviews: a few grunts and minimal information.

Rather than allow the public to jump to conclusions that might eventually prove inaccurate, NTSB investigators insisted we wait for their final report.

These days one of the most dangerous places at an accident scene may be the area between NTSB’s spokesman and a live microphone. One could be trampled.

What has changed at NTSB? It has done a fine job of improving airline safety, but appears to have succumbed to a virus that infects bureaucracies: the need to replicate even after the goal is reached.

Never one to give up on a good metaphor (or simile — I get confused), it seems to me that NTSB’s leadership has morphed into a Huey, Dewey and Louie style.

Dave Millhouser is a bus-industry marketing consultant and freelance writer. Contact him by email at

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