Senator Schumer Speaks Out in Support of Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters

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

Senator Schumer Speaks Out in Support of Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters

Long Island Expressway (LIE) Speed Limit Is 55MPH But Any Long Islander Can Tell You That Big Rigs, Even Large Buses, Often Give It The Gas & Exceed The Limit, Putting Thousands Upon Thousands Of Everyday Drivers At Risk For Accidents—Or Worse 

Ready-To-Go Technology That Caps Big Rig Speed Has Far and Wide Support But Requires Feds To Approve Across-The-Board Installation

Schumer: Capping Big Rig Speed – On The LIE and Elsewhere – Should Get Green Light 

Standing nearby the Long Island Expressway, amidst passing trucks, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to swiftly finalize a proposed rule that would require electronic speeding devices in large trucks, buses and school buses over 26,000 pounds.

“For every Long Island driver who has been next to or in the crosshairs of a speeding big rig, a technology like this can’t come fast enough,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Trucks, and large buses that barrel down our roads unsafely put everyone in danger, but now that we have a sensible technology that can make extreme truck and bus speeds a thing of the past, we must push the feds to accelerate its swift adoption. The LIE is just one of New York’s big rig attractions, and so, capping speed in a safe and reasonable way will make this expressway and everyday drivers safer.”

“There is ample proof that speed limiting technology reduces crashes, prevents injuries, and saves lives.” said Steve Owings, who co-founded Road Safe America (RSA) with his wife, Susan, after their son Cullum was killed by a speeding big rig on Virginia Interstate highway. “When Ontario required speed limiters, they experienced a 24 percent reduction in truck crash fatalities. When truck companies that have voluntarily adopted speed limiters set them on their trucks, their trucks were less likely to be involved in highway speed crashes than trucks that do not set their speed limiters. With nearly thirty delays over the ten years since RSA filed the petition for rulemaking to require all trucks to be equipped with a heavy vehicle speed limiters set at a reasonable top speed, I am frustrated that NHTSA and FMCSA produced a proposed rule that only applies to new trucks. Susan and I hope that the agencies modify the proposal to apply to all trucks and issue a final rule immediately. We are grateful that Senator Schumer is pushing for this much-need technology that will make our roads safer.”

John Lannen, Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition, stated, “The heavy vehicle speed limiter rule is a life saving measure that is long overdue. At a time when truck crashes have shot up 44 percent between 2009 and 2014, and truck crash fatalities have exceeded 4,000 for the first time since 2008, our regulators should be working diligently to produce a final rule that applies to all large trucks as quickly as possible. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) note in their joint Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that this technology has been standard in most trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds since the 1990s. There is no reason this commonsense rule should not apply to all trucks. Our volunteers – families of truck crash victims and truck crash survivors – thank Senator Schumer for taking on this issue that causes too many preventable deaths and injuries.”

In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed installing large commercial trucks with electronic devices that limit their speeds on roadways, and requiring the devices to be set to a maximum speed. Schumer highlighted that while the federal rule making process can sometimes take years, this rule should be finalized as quickly as possible so that installation of the systems can begin quickly and drivers can be properly trained.

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), approximately 70 percent of trucking companies already use electronic limiters. Schumer today said that adopting this proposal could help reduce the more than 1,000 fatalities involving heavy vehicles and speed every year. Schumer highlighted that while many trucks and large vehicles are operated safely, technology like speed-limiters, when used correctly can help crack down on the few bad actors who are putting lives in danger.

According to NHTSA, in 2014 there were 3,903 people killed and 111,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks nationwide. Of the people killed in large truck crashes, 83% were occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians.

According to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, since 2009, there has been a 15 percent increase in fatalities and a 50 percent rise in the number of injuries in large-truck crashes.

According to the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, in 2014, there were 10,742 police-reported large truck crashes in the state of New York. Of these crashes, 990 were related to unsafe speed.

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), speed is a contributor to roughly 29 percent of all fatal crashes. And, driving too fast for conditions or over the posted speed limit was the primary reason for 18 percent of all fatal crashes where a large truck was deemed at fault.

According to NHTSA and FMCSA, even a small increase in speed among large trucks will have large effects on the force impact in a crash, and that’s why, Schumer said, this proposal is so important. According to estimates in the proposed rulemaking, limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 60 miles per hour would save an estimated 162 to 498 lives annually; limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 65 miles per hour would save 63 to 214 lives annually; and limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 68 miles per hour would save 27 to 96 lives annually. The FMCSA proposal would also prevent an estimated 179 to 551 serious injuries and 3,356 to 10,306 minor injuries with a maximum set speed of 60 miles per hour; 70 to 236 serious injuries and 1,299 to 4,535 minor injuries with a maximum set speed of 65 miles per hour; and 30 to 106 serious injuries and 560 to 1,987 minor injuries with a maximum set speed of 68 miles per hour.

Schumer today urged the USDOT to quickly approve this rule so that electronic speed limiters would be installed in trucks as soon as possible. Schumer said the rule should be finalized in a way that also ensures the continued safety of truck drivers by allowing them to safely accelerate and merge. Schumer said that the benefits of this proposal are two-fold: requiring electronic speeding devices in trucks would not only help save lives and prevent injuries, but also positively impact the environment. According to NHTSA and FMCSA, requiring speed limiting devices could result in fuel savings and greenhouse gas emissions reductions totaling $850 million annually.

Schumer pointed to the number of fatalities involving large trucks in New York between 2009-2015, according to NHTSA:

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
New York State: # of Fatalities 107 120 114 100 118 98 126
Long Island: # of Fatalities 16 15 19 17 14 14 18
Long Island: % of Total Fatalities 14.95% 12.50% 16.67% 17.00% 11.86% 14.29% 14.29%
NYC: # of Fatalities 27 24 38 28 27 28 27
NYC: % of Total Fatalities 25.23% 20.00% 33.33% 28.00% 22.88% 28.57% 21.43%

*NYC includes Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island; and Long Island includes Nassau and Suffolk

 

Schumer’s letter to FMCSA Administrator Darling and NHTSA Administrator Rosekind appears below:

Dear Administrator Darling and Administrator Rosekind:

I write to you today to both applaud your efforts to commence a rulemaking on truck speed limiters and urge you to finalize this rule as quickly as possible. As you know, truck speed limiters, if implemented safely, have the potential to save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of crashes. While most truck drivers and other heavy vehicle operators operate safely, truck speed limiters can help prevent the handful of dangerous actors from inflicting high-speed damage on our roadways.

I appreciate the need to have a careful and thorough rulemaking process, but feel strongly that your agencies should do everything they can to move through this process and finalize this common sense rule as quickly as possible. I’d also urge your agencies to work closely with truck drivers to ensure that the rule is implemented in a way that still allows them to safely merge and operate their vehicles.

Throughout New York State we have had a long-history with high-speed truck related crashes. In 2014 alone, there were 10,742 policed-reported large truck crashes, 74 of which were fatal and 990 of which were related to unsafe speed. While truck speed limiters will not prevent all crashes, they will certainly significantly reduce both the number and severity of these accidents. It’s for these reasons that I urge your agencies to move swiftly to finalize this rule.

Thank you for your consideration, should you need further information please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

 

 

Letter to Secretary Foxx from Rick Watts

The Honorable Anthony Foxx

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E.

Washington, D.C. 20590

 

Dear Secretary Foxx:

Today, I sat through the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) meeting as they determined the probable cause of and adopted a report on the truck crash that killed my wife, Tiffany, my mother-in-law, Sandra Anderson, and my step-daughters, Kelsie and Savannah.  As I listened to the NTSB staff present the report findings, my sorrow, anger and frustration grew at the painful reminder of how avoidable this crash was and how little your Department is doing to promote policies and adopt regulations that could have prevented it. The lack of urgency, the delays in issuing regulations and the inadequate oversight of the motor carrier industry are just a few of the major problems plaguing the Department.

My family was killed in a work zone truck crash near Chattanooga in June 2015. At the meeting today, the NTSB determined that there were no mechanical issues with any of the nine vehicles involved, weather was not a contributing factor, and there were ample visual cues to alert the truck driver of the impending work zone and traffic. Unfortunately, the truck driver far exceeded the legal limit on hours of service (HOS) leading up to the crash, was under the influence of narcotics, and was speeding – traveling approximately 80 mph which was well above the posted limit of 55 mph. These factors greatly diminished his ability to operate safely and, ultimately, resulted in his truck hitting seven vehicles and traveling 453 feet from the initial impact area to its final rest position.  Six people were killed and four more were injured.  Worse yet, all of these factors were completely preventable with known and proven solutions, many of which have been previously recommended by the NTSB.

The rapidly rising number of truck crashes, fatalities and injuries is a clear indicator that the Department of Transportation has a double standard for safety.  In 2009, there were 286,000 truck crashes; by 2014 that number shot up to 411,000 – a 44 percent increase. From 2009 to 2014, there was a 50 percent increase in truck crash injuries. From 2009 to 2015, there was a 20 percent increase in truck crash fatalities, which resulted in deaths exceeding 4,000 for the first time since 2008. Yet, your Department has adopted a standard of zero tolerance for commercial airplane crashes and achieved that goal for seven years now.

Considering these facts, I urge the Department to take immediate action and make truck safety your priority.  One of the most important steps is to commence a rulemaking requiring crash avoidance technologies as standard equipment on all large trucks. Using this proven, life-saving technology will reduce the number of truck crashes and increase the number of lives saved and injuries prevented. According to one estimate by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), current generation automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems can prevent more than 2,500 crashes each year and future generation systems could prevent more than 6,300 crashes annually. Yet, NHTSA has still not initiated any rulemakings requiring AEB.

Additionally, the agency is working to complete a rulemaking to update a 20-year-old underride guard standard with one that will have little impact in advancing safety.  Right now 93 percent of trailers sold in the United States already meet or exceed the proposed, ten-year-old, Canadian standard. Likewise, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has done little to increase the minimum levels of financial responsibility for motor carriers, which has not been raised in 35 years.  This is particularly infuriating to victims like me because the Secretary is empowered to raise the woefully inadequate minimum insurance requirement. Instead, this agency is more concerned with appeasing members of the trucking industry by creating a crash weighting determination process, which will be burdensome, costly, and unnecessary while it does little, if anything at all, to improve prediction of crash risk.

The DOT has also failed to meet deadlines required by Congress that could have ensured that my wife, her mother, and two daughters were not killed. Even though your Department was mandated to promulgate a final rule for a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for commercial drivers by October of 2014, one has still not been produced. In those two years, the truck driver who caused the crash was twice charged with possession of methamphetamine, once for a previous incident and once after causing the crash.

I, along with thousands of other families who have suffered the loss of a loved one in a speeding truck crash, am also waiting for the long overdue heavy vehicle speed limiter rule, which has been delayed nearly thirty times over the span of ten years. While NHTSA has released a notice of proposed rulemaking, it is exceedingly weak and it would be preposterous for the rule to only apply to new trucks considering this technology has been a standard capability in most trucks since the 1990s.

We urge you to use your remaining time of 4 months as Secretary to direct NHTSA and FMCSA to issue regulations that will make trucking safer for all of us sharing the road — truck drivers, motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. We also urge you to oppose any efforts in Congress to attack the HOS rule in the government spending bill.

Requiring AEB on all new large trucks, issuing a strong rear and side underride guard rule, and raising the minimum levels of insurance to levels appropriate in 2016 are urgently needed now. This could be the difference between directing a Department that stood by and allowed truck crash deaths to exceed 4,000 for the first time in eight years, or implementing real solutions to real problems that affect real people like me.

Thank you for your time and consideration.  I look forward to receiving your prompt response.

 

Sincerely,

 

Rick Watts

Morristown, TN

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Husband of Tiffany Watts,

Son-in-Law of Sandra Anderson,

Step-father of Kelsie and Savannah Garrigues

Killed in a truck crash 6/25/15

Letter to Secretary Foxx – Rick Watts