Press Release: Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Advances Numerous Anti-Truck Safety Provisions in Transportation Spending Bill

In 2015, 4,067 people were killed in large truck crashes in the United States

Press Release: Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Advances Numerous Anti-Truck Safety Provisions in Transportation Spending Bill

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Advances Numerous Anti-Truck Safety Provisions in Transportation Spending Bill

Broad Coalition Says NO to Putting Corporate Profit before Public Safety; Crash Victims, Law Enforcement, Labor, and Safety Groups Urge Senators to Reject “Wish List” of Trucking Industry Interests

FULL APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE VOTE ON THURSDAY

WASHINGTON, DC (Tuesday, June 23, 2015) – Today, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) advanced the FY2016 THUD Appropriations bill which includes anti-truck safety provisions. A broad coalition including relatives of truck crash victims, law enforcement, labor and safety groups joined with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) afterwards to urge the Senate Appropriations Committee to reject these dangerous and deadly provisions.

The full Appropriations Committee will markup the spending bill on Thursday, when it is expected that Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) will offer an amendment, similar to the provision in the House-passed bill, to force every state to allow the operation of trucks pulling “double 33s” twin trailers that would amount to a combined length of 84 feet – longer than an eight story building.

A small minority of the trucking industry, including FedEx and the American Trucking Associations, is championing this major change in national transportation policy. It is widely opposed by trucking companies, the public, law enforcement, truck drivers, safety groups, short line railroads, and railway suppliers, among others. States and elected officials throughout the country have also spoken loud and clear on this issue.

A chronology of opposition:

  • On June 1, the S. Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to the House opposing the measures.
  • On June 5, the S. Department of Transportation released the long-awaited findings of the truck size and weight study and determined that because of profound data limitations, there should be no changes in federal truck size and weight laws and limits.
  • On June 5, Republican state lawmakers from Pennsylvania sent a letter pleading with Congress not to increase truck size and weights because of the enormous infrastructure, safety and financial costs to the state.
  • On June 10, 15 CEOs of major trucking companies across the country sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations leadership objecting to the economic and competitive consequences of such a major change in national freight policy to financially benefit a few select companies like FedEx and others.
  • On June 16, the Illinois State Senate unanimously passed a resolution against federal changes in truck size and weight laws.
  • On June 18, Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee stating that there has not been sufficient dialogue on the impacts of these provisions and the appropriate committees of jurisdiction have not reviewed them.
  • And, today, in the home state of Appropriations Committee Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS), the Mississippi Transportation Commission passed a resolution opposing bigger and heavier trucks because it will override their decision-making and degrade safety on Mississippi roads.

The following quotes are from speakers at today’s U.S. Capitol news conference:

Jackie Gillan, president, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety:

“Before today is over, 11 people will die in large truck crashes and 275 more will be injured. We urge Congress to put the brakes on the runaway trucking industry agenda of safety repeals and rollbacks. It is on a deadly collision course with public safety. Everyday opposition is growing and the evidence is more compelling that anti-truck safety measures will result in more crashes, deaths and injuries.”

Joan Claybrook, chair, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

“It’s not enough that trucking interests want victims and their families to bear the emotional costs of truck crashes but they also want them to bear the economic costs of hospitalizations and medical care. It is literally a trucking industry ‘hit and run’ leaving innocent truck crash victims and their families on the side of the road without sticking around to help.”

Lisa Shrum (Fayette, MO) whose mother Virginia and stepfather Randy were killed in a truck crash involving a FedEx double trailer truck:

“I urge the Senators on the Appropriations Committee to think about your families and their safety before you vote to put FedEx in the driver’s seat and ignore the dangers of oversized and overweight trucks. Our families need your protection.”

Fred McLuckie, International Brotherhood of Teamsters:

“More than 600,000 of our 1.4 million members start their workday by turning a key in a vehicle. The road is their workplace, roads that are congested like never before. It is irresponsible to allow larger, heavier trucks on our highways while potentially allowing employers to keep drivers on the road for more than 80 hours a week.”

Andrew Matthews, Chairman, National Troopers Coalition:

“On behalf of the National Troopers Coalition’s 42,000 members, we ask the Senate to oppose any amendment forcing the states to allow heavier and longer trucks on our nation’s highways. Every day our members witness the dangers that these longer tractor-trailers pose to the motoring public and our troopers. If ‘Twin 33s’ become legal, this could ultimately replace 53-foot singles as one of the most commonly used configurations.”

Ed Slattery (Lutherville, MD), board member, Parents Against Tired Truckers, whose wife Susan was killed and sons, Peter and Matthew, seriously injured in a triple-trailer truck crash caused by a truck driver who fell asleep behind the wheel:

“I urge Senators in both parties to think about the thoughts coursing through my head each night as I go to sleep. You think about re-election. I think about Matthew having another seizure in the middle of the night. You think about campaign promises that you’ve made. I think about what the last seconds of my wife’s live were like. Did she see the truck barreling down on her in the rear view mirror? Does she know her boys lived, albeit severely injured? You might wonder what you’d do if this happened to your family. I don’t have to wonder. I urge the Senate to vote for families. I urge you to vote against heavier trucks that threaten our highways and bridges. I urge you to vote for the American people who oppose larger and heavier trucks by a very large majority.”

Robert Mills, Officer, Forth Worth (TX) Police Department:

“I am on the highways every day for my job. I see firsthand the dangerous conditions motorists, truck drivers and law enforcement face. It confounds me that Congress is considering actions to make our roads even less safe considering 4,000 people die every year in truck crashes and nearly 100,000 more are injured.”

 

Media Advisory: News Conference to Stop Assault on Truck Safety

MEDIA ADVISORY

Truck crash victims, law enforcement, safety advocates to join Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) as Senate is poised to consider dangerous special interest riders including “Double 33 Trailers” and “Tired Truckers” provisions passed by House in FY 2016 transportation spending bill

WHAT:          

NEWS CONFERENCE to urge the Senate Appropriations Committee to stop the unprecedented assault on truck safety led by large trucking company lobbyists who used backdoor maneuvers to slip several anti-truck safety provisions into the FY 2016 transportation spending bill (HR 2577) narrowly approved by the House on June 9.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) will mark up the Senate’s FY 2016 transportation appropriations bill on Tuesday, June 23 and the full Appropriations Committee on Thursday, June 25. News conference speakers will call on the Senate committee to reject these stealth riders that made it into the House bill without any hearings, public input or evaluation of the impacts of these rollbacks on safety and the nation’s roads and bridges.

WHEN:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 2:30pm

WHERE:

U.S. Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) Room 208, Washington, D.C.

WHO:

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and a leading voice for improved commercial motor vehicle safety. On June 18, Senator Blumenthal and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations leadership urging them to reject any effort to legalize double 33-foot trailers on the nation’s highways.

Joan Claybrook, Chair, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Jackie Gillan, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (INVITED)

Andy Matthews, Chairman of the National Troopers Coalition, which represents 42,000 State Troopers from 41 states around the country, and President of the Connecticut State Police Union.

Lisa Shrum of Fayette, Missouri, whose mother Virginia Baker and stepfather Randy Baker were killed in a crash on October 10, 2006, involving a FedEx double trailer truck. Lisa is a victim advocate with the Truck Safety Coalition.

Ed Slattery of Lutherville, Maryland. On August 16, 2010, Ed’s wife Susan was killed and their two sons, Peter and Matthew, were severely injured when a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel of a triple-trailer truck on the Ohio Turnpike, forcing them into the semi-trailer ahead. Matthew suffered massive head trauma, and is permanently disabled. Ed is a board member of Parents Against Tired Truckers.

Officer Robert Mills, Fort Worth (TX) Police Department, one of the nation’s leading commercial motor vehicle safety law enforcement experts.

BACKGROUND:

The safety rollbacks, repeals and exemptions in the House-passed transportation spending bill (HR 2577) would result in more overweight and oversized trucks driven by overworked and overtired truckers across the nation at the cost of more death and traumatic injury by:

  • Forcing states to allow FedEx double 33-foot trailers throughout the country, taking away a state’s right to set trailer lengths. 39 states currently prohibit double 33 tractor-trailer combinations, which are at least 84 feet in length – the height of an 8-story building.
  • Permanently increasing truck driver working and driving hours up to 82 hours per week and killing the “weekend off” for two nights of restorative rest.
  • Defunding a public rulemaking underway at the Department of Transportation that is reviewing and assessing if minimum insurance requirements for trucks and passenger-carrying buses are adequate. They have not been changed since 1985.
  • Giving special interest carve outs to increase the current federal truck weight limits from 80,000 lbs. up to 129,000 lbs. in Idaho, raise truck lengths in Kansas and possibly additional state exemptions that could be offered during Committee mark-up that would further damage already-crumbling roads and bridges and rollback safety.

KEY FACTS:

  • Every year 4,000 people are killed and nearly 100,000 are injured, on average, in truck crashes.
  • Large truck crash fatalities increased 17% from 2009 through 2013 while total traffic fatalities declined by 3%.
  • The number of people injured in large truck crashes increased 28% from 2009 through 2013 while the number of people injured in all traffic crashes increased by only 4%.
  • In fatal two-vehicle crashes between a large truck and a passenger motor vehicle, 96% of the fatalities were occupants of the passenger vehicle.
  • Commercial motor vehicle crashes cost our nation $99 billion annually.

CONTACT: Bill Bronrott, 202-270-4415 and bronrott@gmail.com

Truck driver charged in crash that injured at least 14 on I-55

Truck driver charged in crash that injured at least 14 on I-55

A Tennessee man has been charged in connection with a Friday morning crash that sent at least five people to the hospital and injured nine others on the Stevenson Expressway.

Mark Tipton, 52, of Crossville, Tenn., was driving a white Freightliner tractor-trailer that struck 12 cars near Summit just before 4 a.m. Friday.

Tipton was driving in the northbound lanes of I-55, just south of First Avenue in Forest View, near Stickney. Tipton failed to stop and caused a chain-reaction crash involving 12 vehicles, police said.

Tipton told police he fell asleep while driving, according to police and court records.

Tipton picked up a load and realized he might not make his destination, so he “kept his foot down,” prosecutors said.

Tipton, who declined medical treatment at the scene, was issued six tickets after the crash, including one for driving more than 14 consecutive hours and one for driving while fatigued.

He was released on his own recognizance Sunday following a bond hearing.

Link to Article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-truck-driver-charged-in-accident-that-injured-14-on-i-55-20150621-story.html

Op-Ed: Congress Should Halt Erosions to Truck Safety by Roy Crawford

The Courier-Journal

June 11, 2015

Congress should halt erosions to truck safety

By Roy Crawford

After a horrendous truck crash that results in deaths, injuries, and destruction, messages of sympathy and condolences from politicians are often scattered around like leftover debris at a crash scene. Unfortunately, seldom do we hear from our elected officials, “We should have done more.” This is especially the case with large truck crashes which kill about 4,000 people annually and injure 100,000 more.

The inaction and indifference after several recent fatal truck crashes in Kentucky should serve as a loud wake-up call. Instead of responding with measures to improve safety, there is a reactive cycle of inertia or, worse yet, efforts going on right now in Congress to roll back lifesaving truck safety laws.

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairs one of the most important committees in Congress, the House Appropriations Committee, which provides funding for all federal agencies and programs. As of now the House is debating the annual spending bill for transportation programs drafted under his leadership. The bill includes numerous anti-truck safety provisions pushed by well-connected and well financed corporate trucking lobbyists. None of these changes in current law were subject to any legislative hearing, agency review, or public debate.

These include a FedEx proposal to overturn the law in 39 states, including Kentucky, and force every state to allow extra-long trucks exceeding 84 feet in length pulling two 33-foot-long trailers.

Furthermore, the bill continues the “Tired Truckers” exemption that took away truck drivers’ vitally important weekends off and allows them to work and drive as many as 82 hours a week. The bill also stops an on-going rulemaking by the U.S. Department of Transportation to ensure adequate insurance requirements for trucks and passenger carrying buses.

Increasing the size and weight of trucks is unsafe and unpopular. Companies like FedEx pushing for bigger trucks are misleading Congress and the public by suggesting that trucks pulling two longer trailers are safer and will result in fewer trucks on the roads. That is wrong. The recent multi-vehicle crash in Kentucky involving a FedEx double tractor-trailer truck and causing the needless death of two people is evidence of how dangerous these big trucks are.

Unfortunately, I know firsthand the dangers of truck crashes. My 16-year-old son, Guy Crawford, was killed on Jan. 12, 1994, near Isom, Ky. He approached a grossly overloaded coal truck traveling at only about a third of the speed limit, a situation that violates the expectations of other drivers. The truck did not have proper rear lights and reflectors or any underride guard at all.

As of now, in fatal truck crashes involving a car and a truck, 96% of the deaths are the occupants of the car. Although I am a forensic engineer I don’t need to rely on my professional expertise to know that longer trucks are more difficult to maneuver in traffic, resulting in loss of ability to avoid collisions and sometimes causing rollovers; have increased blind spots; when overloaded travel dangerously slowly on high-speed highways, especially here in Eastern Kentucky where we have such long, steep grades; run away with overheated brakes, and cause much more serious crashes.

Fatigued truck driving is a serious problem in the trucking industry, yet the bill in the House of Representatives will, against all logic, make things worse. An average work week for most Americans is 40 hours, but Congress is considering extending the already long work week of a trucker to more than double that amount of time — almost all of it surrounded by traffic.

From 2009 to 2013, large trucks have been involved in nearly 40,000 crashes on Kentucky roads, killing almost 500 people and injuring more than 9,000. And, truck crashes, deaths and injuries are on the rise compared to the drop in overall traffic fatalities and injuries.

Another provision in the bill would stop a public rulemaking to review minimum insurance requirements for trucking companies. The current federal minimum is only $750,000 and has not been changed since 1985. This is grossly inadequate to cover the medical costs of severe and often lifelong debilitating injuries or death in a crash when there are multiple victims.

In the next few weeks the U.S. Senate will take up this spending bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is a member of the Appropriations Committee. I urge him not to support these provisions, and I also call upon Rep. Rogers and the rest of the Kentucky congressional delegation to put the safety of Kentucky families first.

Kentucky families will pay the price if these measures become law.

Roy Crawford is a retired forensic engineer living in Whitesburg, Ky.

Link to article: http://louisvillecourierjournal.ky.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=0095ea891

U.S. DOT Issues Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study Technical Reports: Profound Data Limitations Necessitate No Changes to Current Laws

U.S. DOT Issues Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study Technical Reports: Profound Data Limitations Necessitate No Changes to Current Laws

As Deaths and Injuries from Truck Crashes Have Been Increasing Over the Last 5 Years, Groups Urge Congress to Take Heed to DOT’s Recommendation and
Stop Attacks on Current Truck Safety Laws

June 5, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Truck crash victims, public health, consumer and safety groups, labor, law enforcement, rail suppliers and state transportation officials commend U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Under Secretary Peter Rogoff and their team for publicly releasing the Technical Reports of the Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study (Study) and concluding that “current data limitations are so profound that no changes in the relevant laws and regulations should be considered until these data limitations are overcome.” This Study was required in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act (Pub. Law 112-141). The groups also laud Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Lou Barletta (R-PA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) for their leadership in making certain this Study was conducted in an open, transparent and public process with comprehensive consideration of the wide-ranging aspects of national transportation policy.

“Today’s announcement by Secretary Foxx that no changes should be made to truck size and weight policies is sound, sensible and will ensure safety. This is another critical reason why the House and Senate should reject any truck industry proposals to change truck size and weight limits. Right now the House is poised to vote on H.R. 2577, the annual spending bill for the U.S. Department of Transportation, which contains numerous anti-truck safety riders. None of these measures has been subject to any congressional hearing, government review or public input, yet all of these measures are certain to result in more truck crashes, deaths and injuries. For example, the H.R. 2577 will overturn state laws and force families across the country to share the road with bigger, longer, heavier and more dangerous trucks pulling double 33 ft. trailers,” stated Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

Jack Gillis, Director of Public Affairs, Consumer Federation of America, remarked, “The American public has loudly and repeatedly said ‘No’ to bigger, heavier and longer trucks in countless public opinion polls. Now, the House and Senate should stand up to the outrageous demands of the trucking industry and say ‘No’ as well”.

“The safety of the motoring public is my top priority as Transportation Commissioner. The policy rider attached to the Transportation Appropriations Bill regarding increasing the length of double truck trailers and extending the maximum work hours of truck drivers to 82 hours per week will do nothing but result in more crashes and traffic fatalities,” remarked Dick Hall, Mississippi Transportation Commission Chairman.

“USDOT has spent nearly three years on this study and they have found the safety data to be seriously limited,” said Bruce Gower, Chief of Police for Clyde, OH. “There are warning signs in the report about the added dangers of bigger trucks that we would be foolish to ignore. I don’t want to experiment with bigger trucks on our roads. Allowing bigger trucks on our roads would be turning motorists into guinea pigs.”

“RSI is pleased to see that US DOT has released its technical reports on the long awaited Truck Size and Weight study. While we are still reviewing the report(s), we hope that the current data limitations referenced by DOT is taken seriously by Congress and that our nation’s safety and infrastructure are not further compromised by legislation which provides for heavier or longer trucks,” stated Tom Simpson, President, Railway Supply Institute (RSI), Inc.

“Clearly the Technical Reports show that raising truck size and weights will divert freight traffic from our nation’s railroads and onto our already overburdened highways and would be terrible public policy,” said John Risch, SMART Transportation National Legislative Director.

“Congressional backroom deals that result in policy changes which will increase truck crash deaths and injuries should be based on scientific data and objective research and not generous campaign contributions from powerful corporate interests. Congress should not buy a pig in a poke and impose heavier trucks on the American people with no evidence they are as safe as trucks today. The importance of basing any changes to national transportation policy on a fair, impartial and objective Study cannot be emphasized enough. Assembling the data to evaluate larger trucks is a massive task and should not be slapped together because of industry pressure. I commend the Department of Transportation for their measured hand when reviewing the information and deciding the data is lacking,” responded Joan Claybrook, Chair, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways.

“As we have long warned, it would be dangerous and irresponsible to increase truck size and weight without the proper data on the consequences of such a move. Now the Department of Transportation has released the technical reports from its long-awaited Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight study, it has validated what we have been saying all along. There is insufficient information to make such a seismic change, and when complete and accurate data is gathered, we are confident it will show that truck size and weight should not be increased,” said Daphne Izer, Founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers.

“The technical reports of the Department of Transportation’s Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study have confirmed our concerns with the study. It is encouraging to know that the DOT did not cave in to industry pressure and are recognizing that the safety of the American public should not be put in jeopardy based on incomplete data. When the DOT conducts further research and has more data on truck size and weight, I know they will see what everyone in the safety community has long been saying, longer and heavier trucks will result in more crashes, more deaths, and more injuries,” said Jennifer Tierney, Board Member of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and member of the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee.

Truck crashes are a serious public safety threat. Every year on average, over 4,000 people are killed and nearly 100,000 are injured in crashes involving large trucks. Commercial motor vehicle crashes cost our nation $99 billion annually. 96% of the fatalities are occupants of the passenger vehicle in fatal two-vehicle crashes between a large truck and a passenger motor vehicle. There has been a 17% increase in fatalities and 28% increase in the number of people injured in large truck crashes over the last four years.

Read the DOT Technical Reports and Q&A here: http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/sw/map21tswstudy/technical_rpts/index.htm

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For Immediate Release: Contact: Beth Weaver | (301) 814-4088 | beth_weaver@verizon.net

TSC Statement on Cartwright Amendment

June 4, 2015

Today, 247 Members of the House of Representatives turned their backs on hundreds of thousands who are seriously injured or killed in crashes every year. The defeat of Rep. Matt Cartwright’s (D-PA) amendment to ensure rulemaking to review minimum insurance coverage for trucks was allowed to proceed, will allow some trucking companies to continue to be underinsured and unable to properly compensate victims for lifelong, serious debilitating injuries or the death of a loved one.

This provision along with the other assaults on truck safety laws clearly shows that the priority of the House is corporate profit before public safety.

We are calling on the Senate to ensure they do not allow any anti-truck safety measures to make it into the Appropriations bill, including any provisions to defund rulemaking review for minimum insurance. When someone survives a truck crash they deserve a fair settlement. They should not have to fear going bankrupt trying to pay medical bills because the truck that hit them did not have enough insurance.

“Minimum insurance was introduced at $750,000 35 years ago and has not been increased since. All we are asking for is to let rulemaking continue to allow for the collection of data and the subsequent analysis to determine what level would be appropriate,” said Dawn King, Davisburg, MI, Truck Safety Coalition volunteer.