TSC Comments on Regulatory Review

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

TSC Comments on Regulatory Review

These comments are filed jointly by the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) and our volunteers, who are the family and friends of truck crash victims and survivors seeking truck safety advances, in response to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT, Department) request for comments on the Department’s review of “its existing regulations and other agency actions to evaluate their continued necessity, determine whether they are crafted effectively to solve current problems, and evaluate whether they potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources.”

Our comments will focus on the following regulations and agency actions:

Finalize Rulemakings:

o   Automatic Emergency Braking

o   Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters

o   Rear and Side Underride Guards

Fully Implement Final Rules:

o   Electronic Logging Device

o   Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

Reintroduce Rulemakings:

o   Increasing the Minimum Insurance Levels

o   Sleep Apnea Screening and Testing

Modify Rulemakings:

o   Entry Level Driver Training

 

Finalize Rulemakings:

Automatic Emergency Braking

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is a technology that has been proven, both by companies and other countries, to make roads safer as it can reduce the number of crashes truck drivers are involved in and mitigate the severity of a crash. NHTSA should finalize this rulemaking immediately.

This technology is no longer “new.”  The European Union mandated AEB on large trucks back in 2012, requiring all new trucks to be equipped with it by 2015. In the United States, motor carriers have been using AEB long enough to establish beyond question its effectiveness and reliability.  For example, one trucking company saw their number of rear-end collisions decrease by nearly 80 percent from 2003 to 2015 after equipping their fleet with an active system of collision avoidance and mitigation.

Additionally, Con-way (now a part of XPO Logistics) performed an internal study to determine the extent to which a suite of safety technologies (AEB, electronic stability control (ESC), and lane departure warning) installed on the trucks in its fleet reduced the frequency of various types of collisions.  This study collected data over a 30-month period on approximately 12,600 trucks.  The results were clear and compelling: trucks equipped with the suite of safety systems had a lower crash rate and frequency of engagement in risky driving behavior compared to vehicles without such systems; these trucks exhibited a 71 percent reduction in rear-end collisions and a 63 percent decrease in unsafe following behaviors.

Thousands of American trucks nationwide have been equipped with AEB for nearly a decade, and AEB has been required on large trucks by the European Union since 2012 and it took effect in 2015. In other words, most of the major truck manufacturers have begun including this technology in the trucks that they sell in the European market or in the cars that their company produces.

The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) has stated that they “strongly recommend that all vehicles (light and heavy) be equipped with forward collision warning and mitigation braking technology.”  As you know, rear-end crashes constitute some of the most horrific and catastrophic crashes imaginable, and they occur much too often.  We believe that equipping all new trucks with AEB is the responsible and reasonable thing to do.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) own estimate include that forward collision avoidance and mitigation systems can prevent thousands of crashes each year. This rulemaking needs to be finalized now and should apply to all trucks. With every year that implementation of this technology is delayed, hundreds, if not thousands, will unnecessarily die and even more will suffer serious injuries.

Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters

The FMCSA and NHTSA must finalize this life-saving, cost-effective rule without further delay.

Data from the Department of Transportation shows that speeding-related fatalities account for nearly one out of three traffic fatalities in the United States each year. That coupled with the facts that truck crashes, injuries, and fatalities have steadily increased unabated since 2009, does not bode well for safety on our roads. Finalizing a final rule requiring all trucks to have a speed limiter set at 65mph or less will help reverse the aforementioned trends.

The agencies have delayed progress on this commonsense rulemaking more than 20 times since they granted a petition to initiate rulemaking back in 2011. To make matters worse, the Administration’s recently released Unified Agenda identified the rulemaking as a long-term action item, meaning that the agencies require a minimum of 12 months to produce their next action. In other words, this is yet another delay.

The delays, however, are ludicrous for several reasons. For one, speed-limiting devices have been built into most large trucks dating back to the 1990s, according the agencies’ joint Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Thus, there is no capital expense required to simply turn on and use them on trucks with this technology. The NPRM also notes that the heavy vehicle speed limiter rule will produce a net benefit of more than $1.1 billion and can save up to an estimated 500 lives each year. Given these compelling numbers, combined with the fact that Ontario saw at-fault speeding-related truck crashes fall by 73 percent and fatalities in all crashes involving big rigs dropped 24 percent after mandatory speed limiter technology took effect there, we cannot comprehend the agencies inaction and lack of urgency.

As the NTSB notes in a recent report, Reducing Speeding-Related Crashes Involving Passenger Vehicles, mandating heavy vehicle speed limiters is commonsense and cost-effective solution that will prevent injuries and save lives in crashes involving large trucks.

Rear and Side Underride Guards

The federal government should require all trucks and trailers to be equipped with energy-absorbing rear and side underride guards to protect car occupants from underride crashes. Truck underride crashes can be catastrophic because the car goes under the trailer, bypassing the crumple zone and airbag deployment safety features; in severe collisions, passenger compartment intrusion occurs.

The safety benefits of rear underride guards are proven and well known. In fact, seven of the eight leading trailer manufacturers have developed rear underride guards that qualify for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) ToughGuard rating, which greatly exceeds the proposed federal standard by preventing underride crashes at 100, 50, and 30 percent overlaps at 35 mph. It is expected that all eight leading trailer manufacturers will be ToughGuard certified by December 31, 2017.

The NTSB has continually issued multiple recommendations for improved rear underride guards and for side underride protection systems. In addition, the NTSB identified the need for improved data collection, including vehicle identification numbers to better evaluate trailer design and the impact on safety.

NHTSA reported that large truck rear impacts comprised 22 percent of fatal two-vehicle collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles during 2015.  IIHS crash tests demonstrated that the rear underride guards mandated for trailers by NHTSA in 1998 performed poorly, and that there are available underride guards that far exceed the proposed force requirement by up to 70 percent.

NHTSA has also reported that large truck side impacts comprised 17 percent of fatal two-vehicle collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles during 2015.  One reason why collisions with the sides of tractor-trailers are hazardous is that there is a large area of the trailer where underride may occur during these collisions. In addition, bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to side underride interactions because of their size and the lack of protection.

Unfortunately, since granting petitions for rulemaking back in 2014, NHTSA has taken no action, aside from delaying, the NPRM for rear underride guards on trailers and the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for rear guards for single unit trucks. Additionally, the agency has taken no action to evaluate side underride guards.

Fully Implement Final Rules

Electronic Logging Device (ELD)

TSC opposes any attempt to delay this life-saving regulation or to allow exemptions for specific industries or special interests.

Updating the methodology by which drivers record their hours of service is 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. It is important to note that this regulation makes no changes to the existing Hours of Services rules.

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. This potential benefit of the ELD rulemaking would be blunted, however, if the agency allows exemptions as it would create confusion for law enforcement officers. The shift from paperwork to electronic logging will save not only time, but also it will 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 or exemptions to the mandate. Instead of focusing on the costs of this regulation, which cost less than replacing a few truck tires, we should all be more concerned about truck driver fatigue – a preventable problem that kills and injures far too many each people year. There has been ample time for members of the industry to transition from paper logbooks to electronic logging devices, especially considering that there are a plenty of companies from which they can purchase an ELD device.

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 130 fatalities and 2,810 injuries over five years, which was recently requested.

Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

The Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse rule will greatly enhance safety on our roads as employers will be able to access information regarding the testing history of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers applying for jobs and identify drivers who have previously violated alcohol and drug tests.

CMV drivers who have violated drug and alcohol testing are currently a major risk to everyone with whom they share the road. Under the soon-to-be-replaced system of self-reporting, many employers were unable to access the necessary information to avoid hiring problem drivers. The establishment of this new drug and alcohol clearinghouse that requires employers to check current and prospective employees will be a significant step forward for safety.

All too often, a history of repeated drug and alcohol violations is not discovered until a catastrophic crash occurs and a comprehensive investigation ensues.  So long as this rule is fully implemented without delay, this will no longer be the case.

Reintroduce Rulemakings:

Increasing the Minimum Level of Insurance

 The withdrawal of a long overdue ANPRM to increase the minimum financial responsibility requirements for motor carriers was extremely disappointing, and the agency should reintroduce this rulemaking at once.

The fact of that matter is that the minimum level of insurance required by trucks per incident has not been increased since 1980. It has not been adjusted for inflation or, more appropriately, for medical cost inflation. The results of these decades of inaction are devastating. Families must face the financial impact of under-insured truckers along with the emotional and physical destruction. The failure to raise the required amount of minimum insurance allows chameleon carriers to enter the market, with no underwriting, and simply close down and reincorporate under a new name following a catastrophic crash.

Yet, this issue not only impacts survivors and families of truck crash victims; it affects all taxpayers. Insurance is supposed to address the actual damages caused. When there is an insufficient payout, families are forced to declare bankruptcy or rely on government programs after being financially drained. The costs of healthcare, property, and lost income for all parties involved in a truck crash can greatly exceed $750,000 per event, and all of these costs are much higher today than they were in 1980. The unpaid costs are then passed on to taxpayers. In other words, maintaining the grossly inadequate minimum privatizes profits but socializes the costs of underinsured trucking.

Moreover, if the mandate for minimum insurance is to remain a significant incentive for carriers to operate safely as Congress intended, it must be updated to reflect the current realities of the industry. Because the minimum insurance requirements have not kept pace with inflation, the $750,000 per event has become a disincentive for unsafe motor carriers to improve and maintain the safety of their operations. Additionally, raising the minimum amount of insurance will motivate insurers to apply a higher level of scrutiny in determining which motor carriers they insure.

What is even more frustrating and confusing about this decision to walk away from this rulemaking is that the DOT fully acknowledges that $750,000 is an insufficient amount to cover one person’s life. The Department uses a value of statistical life of $9.6 million. This is a figure the DOT defines “as the additional cost that individuals would be willing to bear for improvements in safety (that is, reductions in risks) that, in the aggregate, reduce the expected number of fatalities by one,” and updates to account for changes in prices and real income. Clearly, the DOT has determined that not only is a single life worth more than $750,000 but that it benefits the American public to ensure that these values are indexed to inflation.

The FMCSA’s decision to forego pursuing a commonsense approach to enhancing safety on our roads and leveling the playing field in our nation’s trucking industry is deeply troubling, but unfortunately, it is yet another data point to demonstrate the agency’s dereliction of duty and lack of direction. If the agency fails to reintroduce this rulemaking, we call on the Secretary of Transportation to take immediate action to increase the minimum insurance requirement and to index it to inflation, which she is empowered to do under the law. This way, the amount will be increased periodically and apolitically.

Sleep Apnea Screening and Testing

 The FMCSA’s withdrawal of a rulemaking that would establish requirements for sleep apnea screening is another demonstration of the agency’s denial of data, and it is a serious error that should be remedied as quickly as possible.

Sleep apnea is not a made-up affliction; it is a scientifically proven sleep disorder that causes a brief interruption of breathing during sleep. People with sleep apnea are at risk of becoming fatigued as their body and brain are deprived of oxygen and the restorative effects of sleep. Undiagnosed, this chronic disorder can be debilitating to a driver’s health and make him or her a danger to others on the road. It affects approximately five percent of the general population, and up to 50 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers.

Policymakers at the FMCSA need to do more to eradicate fatigue as a factor that causes truck crashes, including preventing truckers with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) from getting behind the wheel and driving tired because of their sleep disorder. In fact, truck drivers who fail adhere to treatment for obstructive sleep apnea are five times more likely to get involved in a crash than a truck driver who is on treatment.

Modify Rulemakings:

Entry Level Driver Training

 The FMCSA’s latest attempt to produce an entry-level driver training rule for commercial motor vehicle drivers was a major waste of time as the this final rule does not include a minimum number of hours required behind the wheel.

After languishing for 25 years following a mandate from Congress, TSC was hopeful that the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee (ELDTAC), comprised of law enforcement, safety advocates, and industry, would be able to produce a negotiated rulemaking that included a minimum number of behind-the-wheel (BTW) training hours. After a number of meetings, a proposed rule was negotiated that included both a theoretical curriculum and a 30-hour minimum of BTW training. Unfortunately, the years of waiting and the participation of the ELDTAC committee was for naught. The final rule does not mandate a minimum number of BTW training hours, severely blunting the potential safety benefits of it. It should.

Without a minimum BTW training hours requirement, the agency will not be able to ensure that commercial driver’s license (CDL) applicants have had actual time behind-the-wheel to learn safe operations of a truck. Requiring a set number of hours to ensure that a licensee is sufficiently educated in his or her profession is common for far less deadly and injurious jobs, such as barbers and real estate salespersons. Even other transportation-related professions, like pilots, are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to complete more than 250 hours of flight time – their version of BTW training. Unfortunately, the FMCSA opted for a Pyrrhic victory that allowed them to check the box for finalizing one of their many unfinished, overdue, and much-needed rulemakings instead of producing a final rule that would do as their mission states: “reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.”

Given the overlap between trucking companies and training programs, and an industry turnover rate above 90 percent, the FMCSA is naïve to think that a BTW training standard based solely on a driver-trainee’s ‘proficiency’ will result in needed training and practice behind the wheel. The driver-trainees will be forced to complete BTW training at the pace of the training school they attend or the trucking company that runs it, which can lead to CDL mills.

Conclusion

Over the past year, it has become clear that the U.S. Department of Transportation and the current administration have no intention of producing meaningful mandates that will “solve current problems,” and every intention of removing regulations for the sake of removing regulations. The Administration has made no mention of the 4,317 people killed in 2016, or the fact that the number of truck crash fatalities has increased by 28 percent since 2009. The President has not even nominated someone to run NHTSA and his nominee for FMCSA administrator has yet to be confirmed. The DOT has not offered a single solution to address the rising number of truck crashes or the fact that driving a truck is constantly one of the deadliest jobs in America. Yet, this administration has already withdrawn two rulemakings and delayed four rulemakings – all of which could have improved truck safety. We hope the DOT will do more to promote safety in the public interest rather than catering to special interests.

Docket DOT-OST-2017-0069

Comments Submitted 12/01/2017

Regulatory Review | 82 Federal Register 45750, October 2, 2017

STATEMENT OF SAFETY ADVOCATES AND TRUCK CRASH VICTIMS’ FAMILIES CONDEMNING FMCSA PLAN TO WITHDRAW IMPORTANT RULE ON TRUCK DRIVER FATIGUE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 7, 2017

Truck Drivers Suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Fatigue are a Clear Threat to Themselves and Other Road Users

Dropping Rules to Screen and Assist Drivers with OSA Puts Lives at Risk

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is threatening the safety of all motorists by abandoning plans to require screening and treatment for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). FMCSA’s plan to withdraw an important safety rulemaking which is already underway ignores the advice of medical experts, fellow federal regulators and even the agency’s own advisory committees. The move comes at a time when the number of truck crashes, fatalities and injuries continues to skyrocket.

Fatigue is a well-known and well-documented safety problem.  Large truck and motorcoach drivers frequently work long shifts with irregular schedules, often without adequate sleep. Compelling and consistent research from groups like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has shown that OSA-afflicted drivers who are not properly treated are more prone to fatigue and have a higher crash rate than the general driver population. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also considers OSA to be a disqualifying condition unless properly treated. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is so concerned about fatigue-involved crashes that the Board included fatigue on both its 2016 and 2017/2018 Most Wanted List of safety changes because fatigue has been cited as a major contributor to truck crashes.

Ignoring the threat of fatigued truck drivers is particularly dangerous at a time when annual truck crash fatalities are comparable to a major airplane crash every other week of the year. In 2015, crashes involving large trucks led to the deaths of 4,067 people and left 116,000 more injured. Moreover, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), fatalities in large truck crashes have increased by 20 percent since 2009 and large truck crash injuries have increased by 57 percent over the same time period.

It is especially disappointing that FMCSA is failing to heed the warning of its own advisory committees regarding OSA screenings. In 2012, the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) and its Medical Review Board found that drivers with a body mass index of 35 or greater are more likely to suffer from OSA and recommended that they undergo an objective evaluation for the condition.

FMCSA’s move to kill this vital rule threatens the safety of truck drivers and the public at large. Basic safety protections are critical not only to help identify CMV drivers with OSA and get them the treatment they need, but also to provide clear rules to the industry, drivers and medical professionals on how best to deal with this significant safety risk.

Henry Jasny, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and a MCSAC member, said, “In abandoning its effort to screen professional commercial drivers for the serious medical condition of obstructive sleep apnea, the FMCSA fails to protect public safety on our highways from those who drive while fatigued due to this condition. The agency also shows a callous disregard for the health and well-being of drivers who suffer from OSA. This is yet another example of the FMCSA throwing its mission, to make safety its highest priority, under the bus.”

“Today, FMCSA showed, once again, a lack of commitment to improving commercial motor carrier safety at a time when truck crashes, injuries, and fatalities continue to surge,” said John Lannen, Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition and member of the MCSAC. “The agency’s misguided move also demonstrates a refusal to listen to the advice of advisory boards with experts on this issue – the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and the Medical Review Board. The withdrawal of this lifesaving rule that would establish requirements for sleep apnea screening is baffling given the agency is charged with improving motor carrier safety and, according to one of the largest sleep apnea studies, up to 50 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers are at risk this health problem.”

Jane Mathis, a board member of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) who also serves on the MCSAC, stated, “Sleep apnea is a scientifically proven sleep disorder that causes a brief interruption of breathing during sleep. People with sleep apnea are at risk of becoming fatigued as their body and brain are deprived of oxygen and the restorative effects of sleep. Policymakers at the FMCSA should be doing more to prevent truck crashes, which have skyrocketed 45 percent since 2009, including preventing truckers with OSA from getting behind the wheel and driving tired because of their sleep disorder. My son David and his wife of five days Mary Kathryn were driving home from their honeymoon when they were rear-ended and killed by a truck driver who had fallen asleep behind the wheel. Withdrawing this rulemaking is a step in the wrong direction for the safety of all motorists.”

Steve Owings, Co-Founder of Road Safe America and a MCSAC member, stated, “As the father of a young man who was killed in a truck crash, I know how dangerous large trucks can be and how critically important safety protections are. Drivers suffering from OSA are at risk from the effects of fatigue which pose a real danger to all those who share the road with large trucks. I am disheartened and dismayed that the FMCSA is ignoring the advice of its own advisory panels and other experts by withdrawing plans to require OSA screenings for commercial truck drivers. In fact, a survey prepared for the FMCSA found that almost two-thirds of drivers often or sometimes felt drowsy while driving and almost half had said they had fallen asleep while driving the previous year. Instead of taking action to remedy this problem, today’s action fails the motoring public.”

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Fatigue / Electronic Logging Devices

Fatigue:

  • Truck driver fatigue has been recognized as a major safety concern and a contributing factor to fatal truck crashes for over 70 years.
  • A study sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that 65% of truck drivers report that they often or sometimes feel drowsy while driving and nearly half of truck drivers admit that they had actually fallen asleep while driving in the previous year.
  • In spite of the industry wide safety issue of truck driver fatigue, in 2003, the truck driver hours of service rule (HOS) was changed, increasing the number of hours a driver can be behind the wheel from 10 to 11 consecutive hours in a 14-hour work window.

Implementation of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Law, MAP-21 (P.L. 112-141) required FMCSA to issue a rule mandating ELDs in all commercial vehicles within one year, by July 2013. The final rule for ELDs was issued on December 16, 2015 and requires compliance starting on December 18, 2017. TSC looks forward to the full implementation of this rule and opposes any calls for delays or exemptions.

Preventing Exemptions to HOS Regulations Exemptions to federal motor carrier safety regulations compromise safety, erode uniformity and weaken enforcement efforts. Safety is not unique to certain types of commercial motor vehicles, carriers, cargo or routes. Allowing industry-specific exemptions to safety regulations is not only dangerous, but it also sets an unsafe precedent for other industries to request similar exemptions. TSC opposes exemptions to HOS regulations through the legislative process for these reasons.

Assuring Truck Driver Fitness TSC supports rulemaking for sleep apnea screening to ensure medical examiners are testing for and monitoring this fatigue related condition. We urge the review and regulation of legal Schedule II prescription drugs and/or use of any substance that impairs cognitive or motor ability.

Supporting Changes to Truck Driver Compensation – A large portion of the trucking industry is paid by the mile rather than by the hour. Truck drivers work nearly twice the hours in a normal workweek, for less pay than similar industries. As a result of their pay structure and because they are not paid for all hours worked, there is an incentive to drive longer and faster in order to increase their earnings. Paying truck drivers for every hour worked will promote safer trucking by removing incentives to dangerous driving behaviors.

Electronic Logging Device Final Rule

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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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

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

Huffington Post: [Some in Congress] Want To Use Zika Funding Bill To Keep Truckers On The Road Longer

Add-on provision could let truckers work more than 80 hours a week.

WASHINGTON ― Want to keep the government open? Want to fund the Zika response? The trucking industry and Republican allies in Congress say the price for that could be weakening rest rules for truck drivers, sources said.

The industry is trying to latch onto the stopgap bill that Congress must pass this month to combat Zika and to fund the government until Dec. 9, hoping to slip in a provision that would permanently block a rest regulation for truck drivers that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has tried to implement since 2013.

The rule would ensure that drivers take off at least two nights a week and drive no more than 70 hours. It was enacted because research suggested the best, most restorative sleep happens at night, and because accidents jump dramatically when drivers are fatigued.

The industry and many drivers believe this rule robs them of flexibility. Forcing drivers to sleep at night means they have to drive during the daytime, when there are more vehicles on the roads and more accidents, they argue.

Sources familiar with talks over the government funding bill and Zika legislation say Republicans are pushing the unrelated trucking provision, and that Democrats are reluctant to go along.

“They want to make the blockage of the rule permanent,” one of the sources said, speaking on background because matters were still being negotiated.

Although trucking policy has nothing to do with Zika or short-term government appropriations, the industry has repeatedly used funding crises to attach riders that it favors and cannot pass through the regular legislative process.

The trucking lobby, which spends more than $20 million a year to influence Congress, has managed to block the rule before by getting it suspended for more study. It won that concession in the infamous “CRomnibus” spending bill that kept the government from shutting down shortly before Christmas in 2014.

The offices of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) did not answer questions about the provision. And since the details of the current bill are not public, it was unclear what the new trucking language would be.

It could be similar to provisions that the trucking industry got added to earlier Zika and funding bills that have not passed Congress. One such provision in the Senate would let drivers stay behind the wheel for 73 hours each week, with an additional 8.5 hours permitted for other work.

The idea has not been studied by safety experts and none of the sleep provisions pushed by the industry have been subjected to congressional hearings.

Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/zika-funding-trucker-safety_us_57e038a6e4b04a1497b5f5fb