Letter to Secretary Foxx from Rick Watts

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

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

TDOT Employee Killed in Truck Crash, Hickman County, TN

On April 28, 2016, at approximately 9:40 a.m., a worker with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), David Younger, 65, was standing in front of his TDOT vehicle with his co-workers on I-40. Three TDOT vehicles pulled over on the side of the road with their emergency lights activated as they unloaded equipment from one of the vehicles. Mr. Younger was waiting for help to change a flat tire when a tractor-trailer veered off the interstate and struck his vehicle, which then struck him. Mr. Younger was pronounced dead at the scene.

Three TDOT employees were injured and taken to the hospital for treatment. The truck driver was also injured. He was also transported for treatment of injuries and has criminal charges pending against him as a result of the crash.

The current federal weight limit for a large interstate truck is 80,000 pounds, but for some states, there are exemptions and permits allowing even heavier trucks to travel on our roadways. Bigger, heavier trucks are more likely to be in a crash, more likely to cause damage to our roads and bridges, and more likely to result in an injury or death.

To find more information please visit the website: http://www.trucksafety.org or send an email to info@trucksafety.org  

                                                          WE ARE HERE TO HELP

One Dead, Two Seriously Injured in a Truck Crash in Kyle, Texas

On April 8, 2016 at approximately 12:00 a.m., three men were driving a pickup truck on the southbound lane of Interstate 35 at Yarrington Road near a construction zone. A tractor-trailer struck the pickup truck from behind causing it to hit another tractor trailer that was in front of it. The pickup caught on fire.

 

Kyle police officers were working security for the construction zone and saw the crash. The officers immediately began to help the three gentlemen trapped in the pickup truck. One person, identified as Nathaniel A. Boado, 33 died at the scene. The two other men, identified as Michael Garcia, 42, and Ivan Trujillo, 24, were transported to a hospital for treatment of serious injuries.

 

The two truck drivers were not injured. The crash is under investigation by the Kyle Police Department.

 

The current federal weight limit for a large interstate truck is 80,000 pounds, but for some states, there are exemptions and permits allowing even heavier trucks to travel on our roadways. Bigger, heavier trucks are more likely to be in a crash, more likely to cause damage to our roads and bridges, and more likely to result in an injury or death.

To find more information please visit the website: http://www.trucksafety.org or send an email to info@trucksafety.org

 

 

                                                               WE ARE HERE TO HELP

From the Truck Safety Coalition… Semi Crashes in Kansas Work Zone

A highway worker was providing traffic control with an arrow board in the back of a pick-up truck when he was struck by the truck. The semi sideswiped the truck and then rolled onto its side. Fortunately, no one was injured in this crash.

We wanted to bring your attention to this crash because it is National Work Zone Awareness Week. Even though large trucks constitute 5 percent of the registered vehicles in the U.S., 30 percent of fatal work zone crashes involve a large truck. Too many work zone crashes occur because the truck driver cannot stop his/her vehicle in time, which is why TSC promotes collision avoidance and automatic braking on large trucks.

Link to Article: http://www.wibw.com/content/news/KDOT-worker-in-truck-struck-by-semi-373929401.html

 

From the Truck Safety Coalition … 1 Killed, 1 Injured in Michigan Work Zone Truck Crash

In Michigan, two road workers were installing a highway sign at 5 p.m when a they were struck by a truck. The big rig crossed the white fog line into the work zone, killing one of the workers and injuring the other. The semi-truck driver was charged with reckless driving causing a death.

It is National Work Zone Awareness Week, and this fatal and injurious crash serves as a grave reminder that more must be done to ensure safety on our roads for the men and women that help fix and build them. Large trucks are involved in 30 percent of all fatal work zone crashes. TSC will continue supporting a federal mandate for forward collision avoidance mitigation braking on large trucks, and continue opposing efforts to allow Double 33s, which have a 22 foot longer stopping distance that existing double (28-foot) tractor trailers.

Link to Article: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2016/02/road_worker_killed_by_reckless.html

 

 

NTSB’s 2016 Most Wanted List Released

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its annual Top 10 Most Wanted List (attached), which represents the agency’s advocacy priorities. TSC agrees with the NTSB on these much-need safety changes, six of which relate to trucking. We have seen progress on some of these issues, but there is still more work to be done.

Reduce Fatigue-Related Crashes

  • Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Final Rule was released in December 2015, which requires ELDs on trucks.
  • TSC has been and continues to work towards enhancing Hours-of-Service requirements and reducing truckers’ allowable hours.
  • TSC supports rulemaking that would require truck drivers to undergo sleep apnea screening.

Promote Availability of Collision Avoidance Technologies in Highway Vehicles

  • TSC wants mandatory installation of forward collision avoidance and mitigation (F-CAM) technology on all new large trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more.
  • NHTSA estimates show that:
    • Current generation F-CAM systems can prevent more than 2,500 crashes each year.
    • Future generation F-CAM systems could prevent more than 6,300 crashes annually.
  • Research indicates that every year a full implementation of F-CAM is delayed:
    • 166 people will unnecessarily die.
    • 8,000 individuals will suffer injuries.

End Substance Impairment in Transportation

  • TSC is awaiting a final rule for a drug clearinghouse, which would create a federal database to track and store information about CDL holders who have drug and alcohol-related incidents on their records.
  • The use of any substance, including Schedule II drugs, that impairs cognitive or motor ability should be monitored or eliminated for operators of commercial motor vehicles.

Require Medical Fitness for Duty (See Reduce Fatigue and End Substance Impairment sections)

  • 69% of long-haul truck drivers (LHTDs) are obese compared to 31% in the adult working population.
  • 17% of LHTDs are morbidly obese.

Expand Use of Recorders to Enhance Safety

  • Event Data Recorders (EDR) are devices that record information related to highway vehicle crash.
  • EDRs record technical vehicle and occupant information for a brief period of time before, during and after a crash. For example, EDRs may record speed, steering, braking, acceleration, seatbelt use, and, in the event of a crash, force of impact and whether airbags deployed.
  • TSC supports standardizing and mandating EDRs in all large trucks.

Disconnect from Deadly Distractions

  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) publish a final rule in 2010 that prohibits texting by commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers while operating in interstate commerce and imposes sanctions, including civil penalties and disqualification from operating CMVs in interstate commerce.
  • Recent research commissioned by FMCSA shows that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) is 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who engage in texting while driving than for those who do not.

NTSB 2016 Top 10 Most Wanted

Link to NTSB Website: http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/mwl/Pages/default.aspx

 

Two Hospitalized after a Work Zone Crash in Wisconsin

Another tragic crash occurred near Oshkosh, WI on September 8, 2014. This crash, between a semi truck and a Winnebago County Highway Department truck, sent  two people to the hospital after the semi entered into a work zone and hit a highway department truck from behind.

Trucks are over represented in fatal highway crashes and even more so in work zone fatal crashes. Although trucks account for about four percent of registered vehicles, they are involved in 11 percent of fatal highway crashes, and 27 percent of fatal work zone crashes involve at least one truck.

THE DANGERS OF TRUCK CRASHES IN WORK ZONES

My name is Amy Fletcher and on January 24, 2012, my life was forever changed.  My husband, John Fletcher, was killed and two of his coworkers were seriously injured when a truck drifted into the closed lanes of the construction area where they were working. The truck struck all three men as well as three maintenance vehicles. John’s death and the injuries of his coworkers were even harder to bear when we realized that this crash was entirely preventable. Words cannot describe the pain of losing a loved one because of someone’s negligence and carelessness.

john-fletcher-and-family

Nearly 4,000 people are killed on average in truck crashes and an additional 80,000 are injured every year. Although truck crash fatalities did decrease between 2005 and 2009, they are on the rise once again, increasing nearly 9 percent in 2010, and 2 percent more in 2011. The increases in truck crash fatalities are particularly troubling because they occurred during a time when overall traffic fatalities dropped in 2010 and then again in 2011, marking the lowest level since 1949.

Unfortunately, projections for 2012 indicate an increase in highway fatality statistics and include over 700 work zone deaths, one of which is my husband John. These statistics, though horrifying in their scope, fail to touch upon the individual grief and sorrow felt by the families, friends, and coworkers of those killed and injured. Every time I hear of another work zone crash, it breaks my heart and I am taken back to the emotions of that awful day and feel again as a victim of these tragedies. Those that are lost in work zone accidents touch me personally because my husband was known as the most safety-conscience person on the Turnpike.

I hope that you will find the information on this page helpful.  Please do not hesitate to call or email the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) if we can help in any way.  The TSC can be reached at info@trucksafety.org or 703.294.6404.

Fact Sheets

Helpful Links

To add your loved one’s name to the work zone memorial:

$5000 competitive Scholarship available to worker’s children:

Legislation to Reduce Work Zone Crashes: Ohio, Senate Bill 137, offered by Senator Tom Patton:

Recent Work Zone Truck Crash Articles