Statement on Selection of Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation

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

Statement on Selection of Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation

The Truck Safety Coalition, a partnership of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), looks forwards to working with Secretary-Designate of Transportation, Elaine Chao, and President-Elect Donald Trump on behalf of our volunteers who have lost loved ones in truck crashes to improve overall truck safety in the United States. Our volunteers know first-hand the devastating consequences of preventable truck crashes and have transcended their own losses and injuries to advocate for truck safety improvements to benefit all who drive on our roads.

A focus on safety is crucial given the troubling trends in truck safety. Truck crashes have skyrocketed by 45 percent between 2009 and 2015 and the injuries they cause rose at an even faster rate in that same period, climbing by a staggering 57 percent. Unfortunately, there are also more and more families like the ones who volunteer with our organization, who have an empty seat at their tables, as the number of people killed in truck crashes continues to grow. In fact, this past year marked the first time since 2008 that the number of truck crash deaths exceeded 4,000.

We wish Ms. Chao success on becoming our nation’s next top transportation official and offer our insight, experience, and assistance to her as she navigates the challenging issues in trucking that pertain to drivers, the vehicles, the industry as a whole, and the people with whom truck drivers share the road.

 

Kentucky Op-Ed: More dangerous highways? Give it (and drivers) a rest

As Thanksgiving travelers hit the highways for home, consider that the trucking industry is so desperate for drivers that it’s pushing to lower the minimum driving age from 21 to 18 and is aggressively recruiting retirees.

The industry estimates that it will need to hire 89,000 new drivers each year over the next decade to replace retirees and meet growing freight demand. Here’s a recruiting tip: Start treating drivers like humans rather than automatons that don’t need to sleep.

Instead, with help from friends in Congress, the industry is out to kill rules aimed at protecting all of us, which guarantee that drivers of commercial vehicles, including buses, get reasonable rest. Congress must pass a spending plan by Dec. 9, so the plan is to attach repeal of Obama administration rest rules to it.

Kentuckians Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s majority leader, and House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers are in positions to stop the permanent repeal of science-based requirements for 34 hours of rest, including two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. when sleep is most restorative, after driving 60 hours in a week and a 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of a shift to preserve alertness. The industry also is seeking to block state rest requirements.

At the very least, such critical safety decisions should be subject to public debate and not attached to measures that must pass to avert a government shutdown.

After years of study, the anti-fatigue rule took effect in 2013, but Congress suspended it — despite a 50 percent increase in the number of people injured in large truck crashes from 2009 to 2014. Truck crash deaths increased 20 percent from 2009 to last year when 4,067 people died in truck crashes, the most since 2008.

This won’t surprise: When tractor-trailer rigs tangle with passenger vehicles, 97 percent of the dead are occupants of the passenger vehicles. The lethality of truck crashes is evident in Kentucky where last year big trucks were involved in 4 percent of all vehicle collisions but in 9 percent of fatal collisions.

Driving a large truck is one of the most dangerous jobs; more than 700 commercial drivers died on the job in 2013, according to Bloomberg. Drivers are exempt from federal overtime rules and are usually paid by the mile.

A stunning 48 percent of truck drivers said they had fallen asleep while driving, according to a survey funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration .

Reducing fatigue-related accidents is one of the top priorities of the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates transportation accidents and disasters and makes recommendations for averting them in the future. “Fatigue degrades a person’s ability to stay awake, alert, and attentive to the demands of controlling their vehicle safely. To make matters worse, fatigue actually impairs our ability to judge just how fatigued we really are,” says the NTSB. A fatigued driver can be as impaired as someone who is legally drunk.

Instead of rolling back rest requirements, Congress and federal transportation officials should be looking at requiring regular skills tests of commercial drivers. CBS News recently reported a 19 percent increase in accidents involving commercial truck and bus drivers in their 70s, 80s and 90s in the last three years. More than 6,636 crashes in just 12 states involved elderly commercial drivers from 2013 to 2015, according to CBS.

We all depend on products moved by truck. Fortunately, the trucking industry is not unanimous in its opposition to the rest rule. By saving the rule, Congress can ensure that a commitment to safety does not become a competitive disadvantage.
Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/opinion/editorials/article117054288.html#storylink=cpy

Road safety advocates look to keep hours-of-service restart rule intact

Washington – At least one advocacy group and two truck safety advocates are calling for the federal government to maintain strict hours-of-service regulations for commercial motor vehicle drivers as a way to combat fatigued driving.

At press time, the outlook for the HOS rule for CMV drivers remained uncertain as Congress weighed the Omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017. Language in the bill could repeal a requirement for drivers to take a 34-hour break once a week – including two stints between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

The Arlington, VA-based Truck Safety Coalition states that if such language is approved, CMV drivers would see their working and driving hours increase to 82 hours from 70 and the elimination of a required “weekend” off.

In a letter sent Nov. 10 to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Jackie Novak of the Truck Safety Coalition and Jennifer Tierney of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways wrote that “if this anti-safety measure is enacted, it will result in more overtired and overworked truck drivers driving alongside our loved ones, which will inevitably lead to more crashes, injuries and fatalities. … Clearly, the solution to this pervasive problem is not to add more driving and working time, but rather to consider ways to address and prevent fatigue.”

The Department of Transportation originally issued the restart rule in 2011 after considering material from about 21,000 formal docket comments, six public listening sessions, a review of 80 sources of scientific research and approximately 10 years of rulemaking, according to the Truck Safety Coalition. Any policy rider attached to the fiscal 2017 omnibus appropriations bill will not have been subject to public scrutiny, committee hearings or safety reviews, the coalition states.

On May 19, the Senate approved a transportation funding bill that would preserve the HOS rule, with specific details hinging on the results of a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association. FMCSA aimed to determine if the weekly break improves safety or creates additional crash risks during the morning rush hour. The rule was suspended, pending further research into its safety effects, as part of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015.

Letter from NC Truck Safety Advocates to Secretary Foxx on Hours of Service

November 9, 2016

The Honorable Anthony Foxx Secretary,

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave., SE Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary Foxx:

We appreciate your verbal commitment to improving safety of our roads and vehicles throughout your tenure as Secretary of Transportation. In public meetings and congressional hearings, you have consistently said that far too many people are killed despite decades of safety advances. We completely agree with that statement. Yet, it will be your actions that truly make the difference in decreasing the deaths and injuries that have left families like ours devastated and incomplete. We urge you to stand with us and oppose any provisions in the Omnibus Appropriations bill that will weaken the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations by overturning the Obama rule and increasing truck drivers’ weekly working and driving hours from 70 to 82 and eliminating their required “weekend” off. It is imperative that the Administration continues the position relayed in the May 16, 2016, Statement of Administration Policy on how changes to the HOS rules “have the potential to undercut public safety.” Now is the time when the rubber hits the road, and we need your leadership to ensure the safety of truck drivers and all motorists on our roads and highways.

With truck crashes having skyrocketed by 44 percent between 2009 and 2014 (the last available year of complete data), weakening any truck safety rule or law should not even be considered. The attack on truck driver HOS rules on Capitol Hill will undue rules that were issued by the U.S. DOT after consideration of 21,000 formal docket comments submitted from drivers, carriers, state law enforcement, safety advocates and trucking industry associations; six public listening sessions and an online Q&A forum; review of 80 sources of scientific research and data; a Regulatory Impact Analysis of nearly 50 scientific sources; 10 years of rulemaking; and, three successful lawsuits. Moreover, the anti-Obama HOS rule provision has not been subject to any public scrutiny, committee hearings, or adequate safety review, and this substantive policy overhaul is not based on any sound scientific research, independent expert analysis, or objective peer review.

If this anti-safety measure is enacted, it will result in more overtired and overworked truck drivers driving alongside our loved ones, which will inevitably lead to more crashes, injuries, and fatalities. As you know, driver fatigue is a well-documented and widespread problem in the trucking industry. In fact, the Department of Transportation’s own data shows that more than six out of ten truck drivers have driven while fatigued, and nearly half have admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel. Clearly, the solution to this pervasive problem is not to add more driving and working time, but rather to consider ways to address and prevent fatigue.

As the President’s top transportation advisor, you have the unique ability to demonstrate your commitment to safety and stop this attempt to weaken HOS regulations by recommending that the President continue to oppose and veto any spending bill that includes language seeking to increase the number of truck driver working and driving hours. We hope we can count on you to ensure that this Administration vocally opposes and does not sign into law any bill that will degrade highway safety in any way.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Tierney

Kernersville, NC

Board Member, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH)

Daughter of James Mooney

Killed in a truck crash 9/20/83

 

Jackie Novak

Edneyville, NC

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Mother of Charles “Chuck” Novak

Killed in a truck crash 10/24/10

 

 

Omnibus-HOS Letter to Secretary Foxx-Nov 2016