POLITICO PRO: BIPARTISAN OPPOSITION TO TWIN 33s SURFACES AT HEARING

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

POLITICO PRO: BIPARTISAN OPPOSITION TO TWIN 33s SURFACES AT HEARING

By Tanya Snyder – Politico Pro

03/14/2017 05:16 PM EDT

Bipartisan concern emerged today at a Senate hearing about a proposal to allow trucks carrying twin 33-foot trailers on highways.

“A federal mandate would preempt laws of states that do not want them on road, overriding state legislative decisions to protect public safety,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), whose amendment blocked a proposal in 2015 to allow the double trailers nationwide.

At today’s Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation hearing, Wicker cited statistics showing that twin-trailer trucks have an 11 percent higher fatal crash rate than single trailer trucks and that 22 percent more people died in large-truck-related crashes in 2015 than in 2009.

Currently, states can choose whether or not to allow the double trailers.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), highlighted the damage the double trailers cause not just to safety but to infrastructure — a $1.1 billion toll, he said, citing DOT statistics.

The truckload industry — the 78 percent of trucks on roads which deliver a truckload of goods to a single customer — strongly opposes allowing twin trailers, while UPS, FedEx and Amazon are pushing to allow them.

Jerry Moyes, the founder of Swift Transportation, said that he found that even twin 28-foot trailers had a significant negative impact on safety — but that if twin 33s are allowed nationwide, competitive pressures would force about half of truckload carriers to switch — an expensive transition for the industry.

Safety Groups Respond to U.S. DOT IG Rubber Stamping Study on Truck Driver Hours of Service Safety Protections

Study Created with Pre-Determined Outcome of Failure

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Late last week, the Office of the Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) sent a letter to Congress regarding a study of safety reforms to the truck driver hours of service (HOS) rules. By sending this letter, the IG essentially gives the imprimatur of this well-respected office to a study that was set up for failure at the onset and will ultimately result in the continuation of the widespread industry problem of truck driver fatigue.  Parameters of the study and what it was charged with finding were widely attributed to being crafted by corporate trucking interests in an effort to undue safety reforms which took effect in 2013.  While the IG may have signed off that the study was carried out as mandated by Congress, the IG did not assess the underlying data used.  Rather, the IG simply “rubber stamped” that the “junk science” study checked off all the boxes required by Congress when it created the study.

As part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill, corporate trucking interests and their friends in Congress inserted legislative language that suspended enforcement of the 2013 HOS reforms until the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) completed further study on the effectiveness of the provisions.  Concerned that the study would not produce results favorable to their agenda, these same interests inserted additional language into the FY 2016 THUD bill which raised the bar on what the study had to find. This backroom industry rewrite all but guaranteed the preordained outcome that was realized today.  These policy provisions were inserted to a funding bill behind closed doors without any public input. Further, they belie decades of irrefutable data that shows that driver fatigue is a serious safety problem within the trucking industry.  “When I began advocating for truck safety after a truck driver fell asleep while driving and killed my son Jeff, I never thought I would still be fighting on the issue of fatigue more than two decades later,” said Daphne Izer, Co-Founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), “Truck drivers should not be forced to drive and work such grueling schedules, and the public should not be subjected to the risk that tired truckers pose to all road users.”

The study, while yet to be made available for public review, could have only examined 15 months of data as the Obama reforms went into effect in July of 2013 and were suspended at the behest of the certain segments of the trucking industry in December of 2014.  The fact that the study was fatally flawed from the start and reached such a dubious conclusion is totally unsurprising. “This study does nothing to shed light on the serious problem of truck driver fatigue,” said Jackie Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.  “But, it does shed light on the power of special trucking interests to run to their friends in Congress and repeal important health and safety rules.  Sadly, the U.S. DOT IG has become yet another political pawn in this tortured process.”

Common sense and real world experience clearly show that truck driver fatigue is a serious and pervasive safety problem, no matter how much special trucking interests wish to believe otherwise. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has repeatedly cited fatigue as a major contributor to truck crashes and included reducing fatigue related crashes on the 2017-18 Most Wanted List of safety changes.  In addition, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has warned that drowsy driving can have the same consequences as driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.  “Since 2009, truck crashes have shot up by 45 percent, resulting in a 20 percent increase in truck crash fatalities and a 57 percent increase in truck crash injuries,” stated John Lannen, Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition. “Instead of focusing on requiring crash avoidance technologies in large trucks that would have actually reduced crashes, FMCSA was forced to spend time and money conducting an ill-conceived study based on flawed data.”

While high profile crashes like the one that killed comedian James McNair and seriously injured Tracy Morgan grab national headlines, fatigue-related crashes happen to families all over the country every day.  Until leaders in Congress are willing to face the real facts about truck driver fatigue, far too many Americans will continue to be needlessly killed by tired truckers.

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STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION ON TOUGHGUARD ANNOUNCEMENT BY IIHS

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN,

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION

ON TOUGHGUARD ANNOUNCEMENT BY IIHS

ARLINGTON, VA (March 1, 2017) – The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced today that five out of eight major North American semitrailer manufacturers met their TOUGHGUARD standard. Great Dane, Manac Inc., Stoughton Trailers LLC, Vanguard National Trailer Corp., and Wabash National Corp, received this recognition of their rear trailer guards that prevent underride crashes involving a mid-size car traveling at 35mph into the rear of the trailer in three different scenarios – 100, 50, and 30 percent overlap.

Underride crashes have long been identified as a safety issue, but little has been done to prevent or mitigate the severity of these of truck crashes, which can nullify a car’s protections and result in passenger compartment intrusion. The Truck Safety Coalition has been a leading voice in advocating for stronger rear underride guards. Unfortunately, both Congress and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have missed opportunities to make a real improvement in this area.

The United States government is so far behind on regulating the issue of underride guards, that NHTSA, has proposed a rule to replace the antiquated U.S. standard with an outdated Canadian standard. The semitrailers manufactured by the recipients of the TOUGHGUARD qualification greatly exceed the Canadian force requirements.

The Truck Safety Coalition salutes IIHS and the abovementioned companies for this major step forward in underride protection. These rear guards will reduce the number of fatalities and injuries resulting from rear underride crashes. We call on Hyundai Translead, Strick Trailers LLC, and Utility Manufacturing Co. – the major North American semitrailer manufacturers whose trailers failed the 30 percent overlap test – to upgrade their rear underride guards to meet the IIHS TOUGHGUARD standard.  

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