Truck Safety Coalition Opposes Any Attempt to Delay Implementation of Final Rule Requiring Electronic Logging Devices in Large Trucks

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

Truck Safety Coalition Opposes Any Attempt to Delay Implementation of Final Rule Requiring Electronic Logging Devices in Large Trucks

On behalf of truck crash survivors and families who lost loved ones in truck crashes, the Truck Safety Coalition supports the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) December 18, 2017 Electronic Logging Device (ELD) implementation deadline.

Updating the methodology by which truck drivers log hours, which dates back to the 1930s, has been long overdue. ELD technology will reduce the ability of bad actors to skirt federal regulations by modernizing the practice of logging hours. This mandate will also protect truck drivers from being coerced to exceed the hours they are allowed to operate because ELDs automatically record driving time, and therefore truck drivers cannot circumvent compliance by simply writing down false hours.

Additionally, the ELD mandate will enhance law enforcement officers’ capacity to enforce HOS restrictions and expedite the process of reviewing a truck driver’s logbook. The shift from paperwork to electronic logging will save not only time, but it will also produce a benefit or more than $1 billion, according to the FMCSA.

After working for more than two decades to produce a final rule that requires large trucks to be equipped with Electronic Logging Devices, the Truck Safety Coalition opposes any further delay. The ELD Final Rule will save an estimated 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries resulting from large truck crashes each year. We cannot fathom why anyone would direct an agency, whose mission is to promote safety, to consider a delay that would result in an estimated 52 fatalities and 1,124 injuries over two years.

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Statement of the Truck Safety Coalition for the Record – Hearing on: FAST Act Implementation: Improving the Safety of the Nation’s Roads

Hearing on: FAST Act Implementation: Improving the Safety of the Nation’s Roads

Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

United States House of Representatives

July 18, 2017

Thank you Members of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit for holding this important hearing on the safety of the nation’s roads. The Truck Safety Coalition is dedicated to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries sustained in large truck crashes.

Since 2009, the number of truck crashes has increased by 45 percent, and the number of truck crash injuries and fatalities have gone up by 57 percent and 20 percent, respectively. The number of truck vehicle miles traveled, however, has decreased by 3 percent in that same time. Moreover, in 2009, the European Union had a greater number of truck crash fatalities than the United States, but in 2014, the last available year for comparable data, they recorded less truck crash fatalities than the United States. While the European Union continues to utilize lifesaving technologies, the United States continues to remain behind adoption of many of these technologies.

The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that its mission is to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce economic cost due to road traffic crashes. The agency notes that 94 percent of serious crashes are due to human error. In their budget proposal, NHTSA also notes, the development of a new standard for stability control is estimated to prevent a significant number of rollover crashes involving tractor-trailers and motor coaches. In addition, stability control systems provide a technology foundation for forward collision avoidance and mitigation (FCAM) systems that hold the promise for substantial reductions in rear-end crashes involving heavy vehicles. Given the agency’s positive view about the potential safety benefits of electronic stability control, both as a stand-alone safety system as well as a basic building block of highly automated vehicles, we are concerned that it is considering electronic stability control for heavy vehicles as an area for deregulatory actions.

Additionally, speed limiter technology already exists in almost all trucks manufactured since the 1990s, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) determined that mandating that speed limiters be set on large trucks would result in a net benefit. In fact, a recently released study by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation that found that speed-related, at-fault truck crashes fell by 73 percent after mandatory speed limiter technology took effect in Ontario.

Unfortunately, the agency continues to delay and neglects to commit to finalizing a rule this year. The Administration’s recently released Unified Agenda revealed that FMCSA and NHTSA designated the Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiter rule as a long-term action item, meaning that the agencies need a minimum of 12 months to make progress on the rule. This delay directly defies an amendment offered by Senator Johnny Isakson that was included in the FY 17 Senate THUD Appropriations bill, which directed the Secretary to promulgate a final rule within six-months of the bill’s enactment.

This is not the only area that the new Administration has decided to kick the can on regulations that will prevent injuries and save lives. The Unified Agenda also revealed that rulemakings that would strengthen requirements for rear underride guards on trailers and require single unit trucks to be equipped with them were also moved to the long-term action list. At a time when we are seeing major trailer manufacturers go above and beyond the government’s proposed standard for rear underride guards, the government should not be backing away from this lifesaving technology. If anything, the agency tasked with promulgating this rulemaking should be looking for ways to maximize the potential safety benefits by accounting for the new developments in underride protections.

Link: https://transportation.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=401738 

 

Truckers Win Fight to Keep Insurance Payouts Low

 

 

 

 

 

This article was written by Paul Feldman, is a staff writer at FairWarning, a nonprofit news organization based in Pasadena, California, that focuses on public health, consumer and environmental issues.

Feds Reject Insurance Hike for Big-Rigs, Pleasing Independent Truckers, Rankling Safety Advocates

By Paul Feldman on July 13, 2017

https://www.fairwarning.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/TruckingIllustration-800x469.jpgGraham Brown was headed to his job as a computer technician when a drowsy big-rig driver swerved into his path and struck his car, sending it flying off a rural Illinois road and into a field.

Brown was airlifted to a hospital for a six-hour surgery that saved his life. He suffered collapsed lungs, broken arms and legs, neurological damage and kidney failure, his mother, Kate Brown recalls. Hospitalized for 75 days after the May, 2005, accident, Graham Brown, now 40, has endured more than 20 surgeries and still cannot use his left hand or arm.

Yet because the small trucking company had little more than the federal minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance, Kate Brown says she and Graham’s father were forced to dip into their retirement funds and take big chunks of time off from work to help care for their son.

Graham Brown eventually received a settlement of about $300,000, she says, after payment of attorney’s fees and other expenses. With continuing medical costs and permanent injuries that could reduce his earnings, he faces an uncertain financial future.

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Graham Brown, shown here with his mother, Kate Brown, was severely injured in a crash with a big-rig, and has had more than 20 surgeries. Because the trucking company had little more than the federal minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance, Brown faces an uncertain financial future.

The $750,000 minimum has been in place since 1983, but safety advocates who have campaigned to raise it have been stymied up to now. In their latest setback, the Trump administration in June dropped consideration of a higher minimum on grounds that it couldn’t get enough data from insurance and trucking firms to prove that the benefits would outweigh the costs. Efforts to raise the minimum previously stalled under the Obama administration, which also cited problems in collecting enough data.

Tens of thousands hurt

Kate Brown, of Gurnee, Illinois, said she was grateful her son survived, noting that “most people don’t live through crashes like that.” As for the financial stress on the family, Brown said it’s ”the price you have to pay because of the minimum insurance.”

Each year, close to 4,000 people are killed in the U.S. in crashes involving large trucks and tens of thousands more are hurt, some suffering catastrophic injuries that leave them disabled and in need of expensive lifetime care.

Yet for more than three decades, the federal minimum for truck liability insurance has remained stuck at $750,000. That amount, which must cover all victims of a crash, may be a fraction of the expenses for a single badly injured survivor. Simply adjusted for inflation, the minimum would be more than $2.2 million today.

“A million dollars wouldn’t have gotten my kids out of Akron Children’s Hospital,” said Baltimore resident Ed Slattery 61, a former economic analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who quit his job to care full-time for his two sons after they were critically injured in a 2010 big-rig crash on the Ohio Turnpike that killed his wife Susan.

The $750,000 minimum is a sliver of the $9.6 million value placed on a human life by the Department of Transportation when it is considering the costs and benefits of safety regulations.

Except for independent truckers, who say that even a small hike in their insurance premiums could force some of them off the road, few argue that the current minimum makes sense.

Action by private sector

The Trucking Alliance, an industry group that includes such major firms as J.B. Hunt and Knight, urges truckers to maintain coverage “significantly higher than the federal minimum requirement.” Doing so is necessary “to maintain the public’s trust and cover the medical costs associated with truck crash victims,” the organization says.

Even without a change in the government mandate, the private sector has moved the bar slightly on its own. A survey by the American Trucking Associations showed that eight of 10 truckers maintain $1-million of liability insurance to meet requirements imposed by private brokers and shipping companies.

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Consumer advocate Joan Claybrook faulted both the Trump and Obama administrations for failing to raise minimum liability coverage for trucking firms.

In 2013, a bill to raise the minimum to more than $4 million was introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., but got no traction.

A year later, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, the branch of the Department of Transportation that regulates interstate trucking, announced it would consider raising the minimum and requested public comment.

But in one of a flurry of deregulatory moves by the Trump administration, the motor carrier safety agency last month said it was withdrawing the proposal. Citing difficulty in getting industry data for a cost-benefit study, the agency said it lacked enough “information to support moving forward … at this time.”

Lack of data to justify an increase

Consumer advocate Joan Claybrook, the former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, called such reasoning ”ridiculous” and also condemned the Obama Administration’s failure to take action when it had the chance. She said that during Obama’s second term, officials of the motor carrier safety agency dragged their feet, also citing lack of enough data to justify an increase.

In an interview with FairWarning, Randi Hutchinson, chief counsel for the agency, said it cannot issue a regulation without ample cost-benefit evidence. If it did so, a court “would most likely find the regulation was arbitrary and capricious.”

Safety advocates said they hope the issue isn’t dead, and that they may again seek help from Congress.

“This remains a top priority for the congressman,” said Cartwright’s legislative director Jeremy Marcus. “Whether a legislative solution or working with the FMCSA, he’s still hoping to get these insurance rates raised to an appropriate level.”

Jackie Novak, of Hendersonville, North Carolina, who lost her only son, Charles, 22, in a crash with a tractor trailer in 2010, says she has little hope of action by the Trump administration.

The crash that took her son’s life also killed four others and injured more than a dozen. A $1 million liability policy was ultimately divided between survivors and next of kin. The family of Charles Novak, who had a two-year old son, got just over $100,000, Jackie Novak said.

‘Has your car insurance gone up?’

“Not only is he never going to know his father, but … someone has to pay to raise him.,” she said. “So guess what? Social Security is now taking up the task to raise my grandson.”

“I ask this question of every lawmaker that I’ve spoken to in Washington,” Novak told FairWarning. ” ‘Has your car insurance gone up in the last 34 years?’ Did anyone call to ask:  ‘Are we going to put you out of business if we raise the insurance?’ No, they just do it.

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Charles Novak, a 22-year-old father, was killed along with four others in a crash with a tractor-trailer in 2010.

“So this argument that raising the minimum insurance would be putting small operators out of business doesn’t wash with me. … They permanently put my son out of business, so if you can’t afford to be in that business, then be in a different business.”

The most vociferous opposition to an increase has come from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which claims 158,000 members and has spent more than $2.3 million lobbying in Washington since the start of 2015, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

After federal officials abandoned the effort, the group declared success in “getting a potentially devastating proposed regulation withdrawn.”

In considering an upgrade, the motor carrier agency reviewed several analyses showing that claims in severe accidents far exceed the liability minimum. The Trucking Alliance, for example, reported that more than 40 percent of injury claims against its members exceeded $750,000.

The American Trucking Associations, on the other hand, submitted a study of 85,000 crashes that found the average loss per crash was $11,229.

But safety advocates say insurance minimums aren’t meant to cover average accidents, but truly serious ones.

‘Salt on a wound’

“It’s bad enough when a family experiences a tragedy in losing someone or having loved ones severely injured,” said John Lannen, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, an advocacy group. “It’s like salt on a wound when then you find out the company that caused this damage cannot compensate the family whether it be for medical bills, lost income or whatever.

“What happens, sadly, is these people suffer again because now they’re put in a situation where they have to rely on taxpayers, whether it be through Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, whatever it is,” Lannen added in an interview.

In the Ohio crash that killed Ed Slattery’s wife, the fact that the truck was owned by Estes Express Lines, a big firm with deep pockets, has made all the difference in his ability to provide lifetime care for his wheelchair-bound, brain-injured son Mathew, now 19, and a second son, Peter, who suffered less debilitating injuries.

Estes agreed to a settlement of more than $40-million, aimed at providing round-the-clock aid to Matthew in a new and specially equipped house.

“I’m the poster child of how it should go, I’m not the poster child for the norm,” said Ed Slattery, who has started a foundation to assist the families of other brain-injured people. “The luck of the draw is I got hit by a big company  …. that was well insured.”

Even so, he said, Matthew’s life will never be close to normal.

“He’s going to need 24/7 supervision for the rest of his life,” Slattery said. “He’s not going to college with his classmates — they’re all freshmen. They’re dating. He’s not. They’re driving. He’s not. It breaks your heart every day.”

Link: https://www.fairwarning.org/2017/07/trump-administration-move-big-rig-insurance-rankles-safety-advocates/

This story
also published by:

NBCNews.com
IowaWatch
Industrial Safety & Hygiene News

 

 

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION, ON RELEASE OF DRAFT HOUSE FY 18 THUD APPROPRIATIONS BILL

ARLINGTON, VA (July 11, 2017) – The Truck Safety Coalition is vehemently opposed to a provision included in the recently released draft House Fiscal Year 2018 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill that would pre-empt certain state laws governing truckers’ meal and rest breaks, effectively barring states from applying rules that exceed federal standards for truck driver pay and rest. The language would essentially dock the pay of truck drivers by attacking state laws that protect their pay during bathroom or lunch breaks, or when performing necessary activities like loading or unloading a truck.

As it is written, this provision has potentially far-reaching consequences that would not only strip a state of its ability to impose safety rules that go beyond federal standards, but would also prevent that state from permitting a pay structure other than mileage pay. Given that states can set their own speed limits, which relate to safety, as well as their own minimum wage laws, which relate to how employees are paid, this provision is not just out of place in a Federal appropriations bill, it is out of place as part of a Federal law that respects state rights and the 10th amendment.

To make matters even worse, the same people who claim this language will “get rid of patchwork of state laws,” are using the same bill to allow North Dakota to raise the truck weight limit to 129,000-lbs on it Interstate roads, even though the Federal weight limit for trucks is 80,000-lbs. The authors of this bill cannot reconcile the federalist nature of preventing a state from going above and beyond a federal minimum relating to meal and rest breaks, and then claim that one should be allowed to permit heavier trucks on its Interstate roads, which are paid for with federal tax dollars. It is evident that the lawmakers who wrote this legislation are more concerned with satisfying select interest groups. Opposing meal and rest breaks for truck drivers as well as supporting heavier trucks is neither pro-safety nor pro-truck driver.  

Enacting this provision would also invalidate a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned a lower court’s decision and stated that motor carriers are not exempt from California state law. The California law in question requires all workers to be compensated for all hours worked at the agreed upon minimum rate. It also mandates employers to give employees a 30-minute meal period within the first five hours of work, a second 30-minute meal period when their workday exceeds ten hours, and a 10-minute rest period every four hours. As a result of the Circuit Court’s decision to uphold this California law, many truck drivers have joined together to file class action lawsuits for back pay, with their intent being to require their employers to create an environment that ensures drivers can take their breaks without feeling discouraged or fearing retaliation.

Clearly, there is a need for these truck drivers to take action to change their work environment and upend the culture of coercion. USA TODAY recently published an in-depth investigative report about the maltreatment of port truck drivers in California, who work grueling schedules and are paid incredibly low wages. The report details how “trucking companies force drivers to work against their will – up to 20 hours a day – by threatening to take their trucks and keep the money they paid toward buying them,” and how “bosses create a culture of fear by firing drivers, suspending them without pay or reassigning them the lowest-paying routes.” Despite these revelations, this provision to take away meal and rest breaks indicates that its authors, as well as those who support its inclusion in this appropriations bill, care more about special interests than they do about truck drivers or truck safety.

Link to USA TODAY Article: https://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/news/rigged-retail-giants-enable-trucker-exploitation/  

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Group Letter to House THUD Appropriations Committee to Oppose Truck Size and Weight Increases

June 12, 2017

The Honorable Mario Diaz-Balart, Chairman  

The Honorable David Price, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies  Committee on Appropriations    

U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 20515      

Dear Chairman Diaz-Balart and Ranking Member Price:

As the Subcommittee prepares for Thursday’s hearing to review the FY 2018 budget request for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), our broad and diverse coalition urges you to reject any provisions that would increase federal truck size and weight limits including the creation of any “pilot programs” or special interest exemptions to evade current limits. 

Current trends show that truck crashes are too frequent and too often are fatal.  In 2015, 4,067 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks.  According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), this is an increase of more than 4 percent from the previous year and a 20 percent increase from 2009.  Furthermore, this is the highest fatality number, and the first time truck crash deaths have exceeded 4,000, since 2008.  Truck crash injuries are also rising significantly.  In 2015, 116,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks.  This is the highest number of injuries since 2004, and there has been a 57 percent increase in the number of people injured in large truck crashes since 2009. The annual number of deaths and injuries is completely unacceptable and would not be tolerated in any other mode of transportation.

In addition to this massive death and injury toll, our nation’s roads continue to receive a grade of “D” from the American Society of Civil Engineers.  The report revealed that one of every five miles of highway pavement is in poor condition and that there is a significant and increasing backlog of rehabilitation needs. Additionally, one in eleven of the nation’s 615,000 bridges in the National Bridge Inventory were structurally deficient.  

Any proposals that would allow heavier and longer trucks on our nation’s roads and bridges will further endanger the safety of motorists, and inflict even more damage and destruction to our infrastructure and should be rejected. 

In fact, attempts to increase truck size and weight limits were defeated during the last Congressional session by both the Senate and the House in strong bipartisan votes.  In addition to documented safety and infrastructure problems, the American public consistently and overwhelmingly rejects bigger and heavier trucks in countless opinion polls.   

Furthermore, Congress directed the U.S. DOT to conduct a Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study in the 2012 MAP-21 law (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), Pub. L. 112-141).  In April of last year, U.S. DOT transmitted the completed study to Congress and recommended that no changes be made to federal truck size and weight laws. 

Trucks heavier than 80,000 pounds have a greater number of brake violations, which are a major reason for out-of-service violations. Alarmingly, trucks with out-of-service violations are 362 percent more likely to be involved in a crash, according to a North Carolina study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Tractor-trailers moving at 60 mph are required to stop in 310 feet – the length of a football field – once the brakes are applied.  Actual stopping distances are often much longer due to driver response time before braking and the common problem that truck brakes are often not in top working condition.  In 2016, violations related to tires and/or brakes accounted for five of the top ten most common vehicle out-of-service violations.  Moreover, increasing the weight of a heavy truck by only 10 percent increases bridge damage by 33 percent.  The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that the investment backlog for bridges, to address all cost-beneficial bridge needs, is $123.1 billion.  The U.S. would need to increase annual funding for bridges by 20 percent over current spending levels to eliminate the bridge backlog by 2032.

The study also found that introducing double 33 foot trailer trucks, known as “Double 33s,” would be projected to result in 2,478 bridges requiring strengthening or replacement at an estimated one-time cost of $1.1 billion. It is important to note that this figure does not account for the additional, subsequent maintenance costs which will result from longer, heavier trucks.  Moreover, double trailer trucks have an 11 percent higher fatal crash rate than single trailer trucks. They also require more stopping distance, take more time to pass, have bigger blind spots, cross into adjacent lanes and swing into opposing lanes on curves and when making right angle turns. Simply put, bigger trucks mean bigger safety problems. 

We strongly oppose any so-called “pilot program” to allow heavier trucks in a select number of states because it opens the flood gates to widespread disregard for well-researched and wellsupported national policies.  The piecemeal approach also makes enforcement and compliance more difficult, burdens states with reasonable truck weights to succumb to pressure for higher weights, and creates deadly and costly consequences for highway safety and infrastructure. 

Despite misleading claims to the contrary, research and experience shows that allowing bigger, heavier trucks will not result in fewer trucks. Since 1982, when Congress last increased the gross vehicle weight limit, truck registrations have increased 95 percent. The U.S. DOT study also addressed this assertion and found that any potential mileage efficiencies from use of heavier trucks would be offset in just one year. 

Annual truck crash fatalities are equivalent to a major airplane crash every other week of the year.  Any change overturning current truck size and weight laws will further strain and erode our crumbling infrastructure, present dire safety risks and disrupt efficient intermodal freight transportation.  It is critical that any proposals which would increase the size or weight of trucks be rejected, including pilot programs and measures to preempt state limits.  Thank you for your consideration of our position.

Letter to House THUD Appropriations Committee