By Joan Lowy and Tom Krisher | APFebruary 26 at 8:39 AM
WASHINGTON — On a clear, dry June evening in 2015, cars and trucks rolled slowly in a herky-jerky backup ahead of an Interstate 75 construction zone in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Barreling toward them: an 18-ton tractor-trailer going about 80 mph.
Despite multiple signs warning of slow traffic, the driver, with little or no braking, bashed into eight vehicles before coming to a stop about 1½ football fields away. Six people died in the mangled wreck and four more were hurt. The driver was convicted of vehicular homicide and other charges last month.
In response to this and similar crashes, the government in 2016 proposed requiring that new heavy trucks have potentially life-saving software that would electronically limit speeds. But now, like many other safety rules in the works before President Donald Trump took office, it has been delayed indefinitely by the Transportation Department as part of a sweeping retreat from regulations that the president says slow the economy.
An Associated Press review of the department’s rulemaking activities in Trump’s first year in office shows at least a dozen safety rules that were under development or already adopted have been repealed, withdrawn, delayed or put on the back burner. In most cases, those rules are opposed by powerful industries. And the political appointees running the agencies that write the rules often come from the industries they regulate.
Meanwhile, there have been no significant new safety rules adopted over the same period.
The sidelined rules would have, among other things, required states to conduct annual inspections of commercial bus operators, railroads to operate trains with at least two crew members and automakers to equip future cars and light trucks with vehicle-to-vehicle communications to prevent collisions. Many of the rules were prompted by tragic events.
“These rules have been written in blood,” said John Risch, national legislative director for the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers. “But we’re in a new era now of little-to-no new regulations no matter how beneficial they might be. The focus is what can we repeal and rescind.”
Trump has made reducing regulations a priority, seeing many rules as an unnecessary burden on industry. Last month he tweeted that his administration “has terminated more UNNECESSARY Regulations, in just 12 months, than any other Administration has terminated during their full term in office…”
“The good news is,” he wrote, “THERE IS MUCH MORE TO COME!”
The Transportation Department declined repeated AP requests since November for an on-the-record interview with Secretary Elaine Chao, Deputy Secretary Jeffrey Rosen or another official to discuss safety regulations. Instead, the department provided a brief statement from James Owens, DOT’s deputy general counsel, saying that new administrations typically take a “fresh look” at regulations, including those that are the most costly.
The department’s position has been that it can reduce regulation without undermining safety. And DOT officials have questioned whether some safety regulations actually improve safety.
“We will not finalize a rule simply because it has advanced through preliminary steps,” the statement said. “Even if a rule is ‘one step away,’ if that rule is not justifiable because it harms safety and imposes unnecessarily high economic costs, for example, that rule will not advance.”
But the rule requiring new trucks to have speed-limiting software would actually have economic benefits, according to a DOT estimate prepared two years ago. It would save as many as 498 lives per year and produce a net cost savings to society of $475 million to nearly $5 billion annually depending on the top speed the government picked. That’s nearly half the 1,100 deaths annually in crashes involving heavy trucks on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher. The government didn’t propose a top speed but said it had studied 60, 65 and 68 mph.
The proposal was also expected to solve another problem: Most heavy truck tires aren’t designed to travel over 75 mph, but some states have 80 mph speed limits.
Rick Watts of Morristown, Tennessee, who lost his wife, two young step-daughters and mother-in-law in the I-75 crash, said he can’t understand why the proposal has been sidetracked.
“If you’re going 80 and you’re knocked down to 60, that’s going to lower the impact,” he said. “It just stuns me that you can give these people proof and they say, ‘We’ll look into that.’ It just baffles me that they’re killing so many people every year.”
The American Trucking Associations, an industry trade group, has claimed credit for stalling the rule. After initially supporting it, the group now says it would create dangerous speed differentials between cars and trucks. A news release from the associations said its success in stalling the rule is a significant triumph for the industry.
The trucking industry has developed a strong relationship with Trump. Trucking officials met with Chao within hours after she took office, according to Chris Spear, the trade group’s president. Trump welcomed trucking executives to the White House by climbing behind the wheel of a Mack truck parked on the South Lawn in March.
“Your story is now being told to the highest levels of government,” Spear told his organization’s members in October.
DOT’s position on the speed-limiting software is that it isn’t dead but that the department has limited resources and higher priorities. No action is expected before the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30 at the earliest.
Some rules that were in the works have been abandoned entirely. After four people died when a New York commuter train derailed while speeding around a curve in 2013, investigators determined that the engineer had fallen asleep. He had undiagnosed sleep apnea, a disorder that causes pauses in breathing and prevents restful sleep, and had made no effort to stop the train.
The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the crash in part on federal regulators for not requiring medical screening of engineers for sleep disorders. Yet last summer, DOT withdrew a rule the government was in the early stages of writing to require screening for engineers and truck and bus drivers.
The government said current safety programs either address the problem or it will be addressed in a rulemaking to reduce fatigue risks in the railroad industry. But the fatigue rule is years overdue with no timetable for completion.
The NTSB has cited sleep apnea as a cause of 13 rail and highway accidents it has investigated, including two more commuter train crashes in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 2016, and Brooklyn, New York, in 2017.
“Looking at the multiple piles of broken sheet metal and broken engines and broken people, (DOT’s strategy) doesn’t seem to have been effective,” Dr. Nicholas Webster, an NTSB medical officer, told a recent public meeting on the crashes.
But Dan Bosch, regulatory policy director at the conservative American Action Forum, said the Trump administration is “actually taking a very reasoned and measured approach to how they’re de-regulating.”
Most regulations Trump has taken credit for blocking throughout the government were Obama administration proposals that were on track to be adopted but had yet to be finalized, or that weren’t being actively pursued — “low-hanging fruit,” Bosch said.
There is a longstanding requirement that major federal regulations undergo detailed cost-benefit analyses before they can become final. Even rules expected to save lives are weighed against their economic cost. DOT assigns a value of $9.6 million per life saved in its analyses.
Trump has ordered that two regulations be identified for elimination for every significant new regulation issued. The White House has acknowledged its calculations of savings from rolled-back regulations cited in public statements include only the cost to industry and others without taking into account benefits the rules produce, including lives saved.
Rosen, the deputy secretary, heads DOT’s task force that evaluates regulations for repeal or modification. In extensive written and public comments before joining the administration, he criticized regulations as an indirect tax on industry, but made little mention of their benefits. He has called for curbing federal agencies’ regulatory power by imposing greater analytical requirements and requiring congressional approval before more costly regulations become law. Rosen has also advocated making it easier for industry to challenge regulations in court.
Rosen is an attorney who formerly represented General Motors and an airline industry trade group. Other DOT political appointees with strong ties to the industries they regulate include:
—Daniel Elwell, the acting administrator at the Federal Aviation Administration, who is a former airline lobbyist.
—Cathy Gautreaux, deputy administrator at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the trucking industry, spent 29 years as executive director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association, a trucking advocacy group.
—Ron Batory, the head the Federal Railroad Administration, was president of Conrail, a service provider for the CSX and Norfolk Southern freight railroads.
—Howard Elliott, head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, is a former CSX executive. Among other things, his agency sets safety rules for rail transport of hazardous goods, including crude oil, ethanol and toxic chemicals.
Industry’s influence on regulations generally “is probably more powerful than it has ever been,” said Neil Eisner, who was the DOT assistant general counsel in charge of overseeing the issuing of regulations for more than three decades.
DOT says having industry insiders in leadership positions provides deep practical experience in how the transportation industry works.
In October, DOT published a notice inviting the public to recommend which regulations should be repealed, replaced, suspended, or modified. Accompanying the notice was a list of 20 potential candidates, including 13 of the most significant transportation safety rules of the past decade.
Airlines, automakers, railroads, pipeline operators, trucking companies, chemical manufacturers and others responded to the notice with their wish lists. After the comment period closed, DOT said it would repeal a 2015 rule opposed by freight railroads requiring trains that haul highly flammable crude oil be fitted with advanced braking systems that stop all rail cars simultaneously instead of conventional brakes that stop cars one after the other.
The advanced brakes can reduce the distance and time needed for a train to stop and keep more tank cars on the track in the event of a derailment, DOT said two years ago when it issued the rule.
Freight railroads, which say the rule’s safety benefits are marginal and don’t justify the cost, persuaded Congress to require DOT to revisit the rule. The department now says its revised analysis shows costs would outstrip benefits.
The advanced brakes perform significantly better than conventional brakes alone, but only slightly better in emergency braking situations when trains have locomotives in both the front and the back, said Risch, the union official. But trains are not required to have two locomotives and often don’t, he said.
The advanced brakes also have significant safety benefits DOT didn’t consider, Risch said, including the ability to prevent runaway trains like the improperly secured oil train that derailed in Lac Megantic, Canada, in 2013, igniting a fire that killed 47 people. The advanced brakes are already required for trains that haul radioactive waste.
The rule’s repeal, said Risch, a former engineer who has operated trains with advanced brakes, means the government is abandoning “the greatest safety advancement I’ve witnessed in my 41 years in the industry.”
My own experience informs my serious concerns with making trucks even longer.
The public should urge their lawmakers to oppose efforts by FedEx and UPS to increase the national twin-trailer standard to 33 feet from 28 feet per trailer (Letters, Feb. 6). Granting this corporate giveaway will permit longer trucks on our roads, which will erode safety and adversely affect our nation’s infrastructure.
My own experience informs my serious concerns with making trucks even longer. In August 2010, my wife, Susan, was killed and my sons, Peter and Matthew (who is now permanently disabled), were injured in a crash after a truck driver operating a triple tractor-trailer fell asleep and crashed into the back of their vehicle.
Unfortunately, crashes in which a truck rear ends a passenger vehicle have skyrocketed, increasing 82% from 2009 to 2015, as calculated by the Truck Safety Coalition. Introducing trucks that require an additional 22 feet to brake will exacerbate this trend.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study, any reduction in truck-vehicle miles traveled would be wiped out within one year by increases and shifts in freight transportation. The study also found that permitting double 33s would incur a one-time cost of $1.1 billion to strengthen and replace more than 2,000 bridges. This finding dispels the claim that the “trucking industry foots the bill.”
Instead of demanding longer trucks that require a greater distance to stop, companies should look to technologies, such as automatic emergency braking, speed limiters and underride protections to enhance safety, protect our infrastructure and improve their bottom lines.
We commend Senator Gillibrand, Senator Rubio, and Representative Cohen and Representative DeSaulnier for sponsoring the Stop Underrides Act. This lifesaving legislation will strengthen rear underride guards, mandate side underride guards, and require proper maintenance of these guards. The Truck Safety Coalition and our volunteers call on all Members of Congress to join this bipartisan effort to reduce the unnecessary deaths and injuries that occur because of truck underride collisions.
In 2016, there were 4,317 truck crash fatalities in the United States, an increase of 28 percent since 2009. Unfortunately, this deeply troubling safety trend is in line with trends for truck crashes and truck crash injuries, which rose 45 percent and 57 percent, respectively, between 2009 and 2015. This does not need to be the case.
There are existing, data-driven solutions that can be implemented today to prevent truck crashes and save lives, like mandating comprehensive underride protections on all trucks. Today is certainly a step in the right direction, but there is still a long road to zero truck crash fatalities and injuries. Until we achieve that ultimate goal, we will continue to work with families of victims and survivors of large truck crashes as well as policy-makers to improve truck safety on our roads.
The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Graves and Ranking Member Norton:
The Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) and Road Safe America (RSA) thanks Members of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit for holding the important roundtable, “Emerging Technologies in the Trucking Industry.” We look forward to collaborating with Members of the Subcommittee, safety advocates, technology companies, and leaders in the trucking industry to determine the benefits of requiring currently available driver assisted technologies in commercial motor vehicles. We will also remain committed to working with all parties to create an oversight framework that ensures safety is the top priority in the development of future autonomous vehicle (AV) policies.
TSC and RSA recognize the potential safety benefits of AV technologies in trucking, especially at a time when truck crashes continue to climb. Since 2009, truck crashes have gone up by 45 percent, resulting in a 57 percent increase in truck crash injuries. From 2009 to 2016, the number of truck crash fatalities increased 28 percent, totaling 4,317 fatalities. There are technologies, like automatic emergency braking and speed limiters, which have been proven effective by numerous motor carriers. Unfortunately, these regulations have not yet been finalized. This must change. These technologies can prevent crashes, reduce injuries, and save lives, all while enhancing the efficiency of motor carriers in a cost-beneficial manner.
We are excited by the potential of AV technology to prevent and mitigate thousands of crashes in which human error is a factor, but want to remind lawmakers of their responsibility to ensure that the process for testing and developing these technologies in commercial motor vehicles does not jeopardize public safety. As we continue to discuss future autonomous vehicle technologies, we urge Members and policymakers to finalize rulemakings requiring automatic emergency braking (AEB) and heavy vehicle speed limiters on all class 7 and 8 trucks.
Mandating speed limiters be set on all such trucks is a commonsense step to improving truck safety that will produce more benefits than costs. Since the 1990s, speed limiter technology has been built into all such truck engine control modules, which eliminates the cost of installing this life saving technology. Additionally, motor carriers will see a return on investment by reducing their speed-related, at-fault crashes – some of the deadliest and costliest types of truck crashes. In fact, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation found that speed-related, at-fault truck crashes dropped by 73 percent after Ontario’s truck speed limiter mandate took effect. Moreover, the Ontario study debunked a common claim that requiring speed limiter settings on trucks would lead to an increase in crashes due to speed differentials.
Automatic emergency braking is not a new technology either. The European Union mandated AEB on large trucks back in 2012, requiring all new trucks to be equipped with it by 2015. Here in the U.S., motor carriers have been using AEB long enough to establish its effectiveness and reliability. In fact, 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.
Another large trucking company, performed an internal study over a 30-month period on approximately 12,600 of its trucks 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. 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.
Members of the Subcommittee should acknowledge the drastic reductions in truck crash fatalities in the European Union, which requires both speed limiters and automatic emergency braking. They should listen to safety officials of successful companies, like Mr. Woodruff of J.B. Hunt, who discussed at the roundtable the safety and cost benefits of equipping their trucks with a suite of safety technologies. The fact the 96 percent of J.B. Hunt’s fleet is equipped with a combination of technologies that has resulted in a 60 percent reduction in crashes is a clear, real-world example that the rest of the industry should follow.
We are hopeful that Members will join us in calling on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to finalize rulemakings for heavy vehicle speed limiters and automatic emergency braking. If we are truly serious about realizing a future with fully autonomous commercial vehicles, we must recognize that these technologies serve as building blocks to achieving that. More importantly, we must recognize that these technologies can improve safety today, rather than several years from now.
Autonomous Vehicle Technology
Fully autonomous trucks are both inevitable and fast approaching. The speed of the technological advancements in trucking, however, does not absolve the Department of Transportation (DOT) of its responsibility to promote safety across an industry that engages in Interstate commerce on publicly funded roads. The DOT cannot abide by a weak voluntary agreement. Instead, the Department must develop an oversight framework that protects public safety without inhibiting innovation.
It may only be several years before driver-assisted and autonomous commercial motor vehicles will be operating alongside driver-operated vehicles. Consequently, it will become increasingly important for the federal government to standardize the tests, methods, and metrics to determine the effectiveness of AV technology. Failure to do so could result in trucks operating with unreliable and unsafe technologies and testing that does not accurately assess whether a technology will perform as intended. This creates two potential problems: 1) a technology intended to make our roads safer will weaken safety on our roads, and 2) public confidence in this technology will erode, making it more difficult for manufacturers to roll out on a large scale.
No Exemptions for Trucks
Our organization supports several recommendations that we believe will make sure that the rollout of AV technology in trucks is both safe and smooth. There is an important role for federal oversight regarding the development and deployment of autonomous vehicle technology. Factors that should be considered in AV technology in trucks includes:
Manufacturers of AV Technology Requirements
AV systems must comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards without any exemptions
AV systems must meet or exceed a “functional safety standard” as to be determined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA)
AV systems must meet or exceed a minimum cybersecurity standard as to be issued by the Secretary within 3 years of enactment of this legislation
Submit a detailed report that analyzes the safety performance of automated driving systems and automated vehicles
Remove from operation any autonomous commercial motor vehicle with a defect
Determine whether a defect affects one vehicle or if the defect is fleet-wide
Report all fatal, injury and property damage only crashes involving driver-assisted and autonomous trucks to NHTSA
Establish a privacy plan
Motor Carrier Requirements for Testing
Apply for additional operation authority
An operator with a valid commercial driver’s license must be in the autonomous commercial motor vehicle at all times during testing
o The operator shall have an additional endorsement on his CDL denoting that he has been adequately trained to manage the AV technologies in the truck
Secretary of Transportation Requirements
Establish a database for autonomous commercial vehicles. Information should include:
o Vehicle’s identification number
o Manufacturer, make, model and trim information
o Level of automation and operational design domain of each of the vehicle’s automated driving systems
o Any exemptions from federal motor vehicle safety standards granted to the vehicle
Promulgate a regulation on driver engagement
Determine any additional enforcement measures pertaining to AV technology that state and local law enforcement should consider during road side inspections
Request and direct additional resources to NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to develop regulations and execute enforcement efforts relating to AV technology.
AV technology can potentially eliminate many preventable injuries and needless deaths, but we strongly advise policy-makers to proceed prudently and ensure that safety is paramount in all discussions of it. We look forward to more opportunities to collaborate, like last week’s roundtable, to determine the benchmarks of adequate testing, the extent of federal oversight, and the details of safety standards as we work towards realizing driver assisted and autonomous trucks that reduce crashes, and the resulting death and injury tolls.
John Lannen, Executive Director
Truck Safety Coalition
Steve Owings, Co-Founder
Road Safe America
cc: Members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
WASHINGTON, DC (October 31, 2017) Today, truck safety victims and survivors attended the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation nomination hearing of Raymond Martinez for the position of Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). They are here to call attention to the seven-year increase in truck crash fatalities and the need for the agency to finalize key rulemakings that it has delayed or withdrawn since January 2017.
With 4,317 truck fatalities on from truck crashes on our nation’s highways last year, the Truck Safety Coalition and their volunteers are here to remind lawmakers and get a commitment from the nominee for FMCSA Administrator to prioritize truck safety mandates that will reduce crashes and make truck crashes less deadly.
“I swam more than the length of a football field after a truck slammed into the back of my car and sent it plunging nearly three stories into the Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, too many people are not as fortunate as I was to survive a crash resulting from a truck driver failing to stop in time before rear-ending another vehicle,” noted Morgan Lake, of Bowie, Maryland. “In order to reduce these types of crashes, the FMCSA should enhance the entry-level driver training rule to require a minimum number of hours behind the wheel so that truck drivers have actual driving experience in different conditions, including work zones, where trucks were involved in 27 percent of fatal crashes in 2016.”
Dawn King, President of the Truck Safety Coalition, flew in from Davisburg, Michigan to bring attention to the FMCSA’s lack of action: “After my father was killed by a truck driver who fell asleep behind the wheel, I began advocating for commonsense legislation and regulations that would prevent truck driver fatigue. Considering that one study estimates that up to half of commercial motor vehicles have sleep apnea, and that undiagnosed sleep apnea can result in truck drivers falling asleep while operating big rigs, it is unreasonable for the agency to have withdrawn this rulemaking. If confirmed, I want to know what the Administrator plans to do to address truck driver fatigue.”
“The crash that killed my wife Susan and injured my boys did not need to happen,” said Ed Slattery, a board member of Parents Against Tired Truckers. “A driver operating a triple tractor-trailer fell asleep, but sadly the involvement of a tired trucker is not unique to my family’s crash. In order to eradicate drowsy driving as a factor, the FMCSA must fully enforce the Electronic Logging Device mandate, which is set to take effect in December 2017, while also finalizing the heavy vehicle speed limiter rule, which has languished since 2011. Using these technologies in concert will prevent bad actors from engaging in dangerous driving behaviors, like speeding or driving in excess of their hours of service, to make a delivery. We cannot allow crashes to become accepted as a cost of doing business, but the sad reality remains that truck crashes have increased by 45 percent since 2009.”
The Truck Safety Coalition is a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT). The Truck Safety Coalition is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public policy-makers and media about truck safety issues.”
As the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation holds a hearing on the nomination of Raymond Martinez to Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck crash survivors and families call on the nominee to finalize outstanding safety rules and improve commercial motor vehicle enforcement in the face of a seven-year increase in truck crash fatalities.
In 2016, there were 4,317 truck crash fatalities, an increase of 28 percent since 2009. Truck crash injuries also increased by 57 percent from 2009 to 2015.Â Overall, truck crashes increased by 45 percent from 2009 to 2015, totaling 415,000 in 2015.
WHAT: Truck crash victims and families demand FMCSA take urgent action on key safety rulemakings that it has delayed or withdrawn that mandate measures to prevent crashes, reduce injuries, and save lives:
Release a Final Rule Requiring Speed Limiters on All Trucks: FMCSA and NHTSA granted petition for rulemaking in 2011, but the agencies have since delayed it more than 20 times. The current administration identified the Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiter Rule as a long-term action item in its Unified Agenda, meaning the agencies need a minimum of 12-months to proceed.
Require Sleep Apnea Screening for All Truck Drivers: The FMCSA abandoned its pursuit of a rulemaking to require screening and treatment for commercial motor vehicle drivers suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. FMCSA’s withdrawal of this important safety rulemaking ignores the advice of medical experts, fellow federal regulators and the agency’s own advisory committees.
Enforce Electronic Logging Device Mandate: The ELD final rule is set to take effect in December of this year, and the FMCSA must ensure that motor carriers are compliant with this life saving mandate.
Mandate Minimum Number of Hours of Behind-the-Wheel Entry Level Driver Training: The FMCSA blunted the safety potential of the entry-level driver-training rule by removing the requirement for a minimum number of hours for behind-the-wheel training from the final rule.
Increase Minimum Levels of Insurances Required by Trucks: In June 2017, the FMCSA withdrew an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to increase the minimum level of financial responsibility for trucks per incident. The $750,000 amount was set in 1980 and has not been increased, not even to account for inflation.
WHEN: Tuesday, October 31, 2017, 10 a.m. (Family Members Available For Interviews Before and After Hearing)
WHERE: Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253
WHO: Morgan Lake(Bowie, MD) On July 19, 2013, Morgan’s car was hit from behind by a distracted truck driver while slowed to a near stop for traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, traveling at approximately 50 mph.
Ed Slattery (Lutherville, MD) Board Member, PATT. Ed’s wife Susan Slattery was killed and his sons Matthew and Peter Slattery were critically injured in a truck crash 8/16/10 after a truck driver, operating a triple tractor-trailer, fell asleep behind the wheel.
Dawn King (Davisburg, MI) President, Truck Safety Coalition. Dawn’s father, Bill Badger, was killed on December 23, 2004, just over the Georgia state border, by a tired trucker who fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into his car.
Available for Phone Interviews:
Kate Brown, Gurnee, IL | Minimum Insurance: Â On May 2, 2005, in Round Lake, Illinois, Kate’s 27-year-old son Graham was hit by a drunk, drugged and fatigued truck driver who had fallen asleep, swerved into the oncoming lane, and hit Graham’s car sending it airborne into a field where it rolled over. The driver stepped out of his rig and was witnessed saying he had been “partying all night.” The driver’s blood and urine were taken, but the blood work was never tested although a crack pipe was found in his truck and cocaine and alcohol in his urine. The bloodwork mishandling enabled the driver to receive a lesser sentence. Due to life-threatening injuries, Graham underwent 22 different surgeries and endured three years of physical and occupational therapy. He is now permanently, partially disabled.
Steve Owings, Atlanta, GA (Co-Founder of Road Safe America) | Speed Limiters: Steve’s son Cullum was killed by a tractor-trailer on December 1, 2002, in Rockbridge County, Virginia. Cullum and his younger brother Pierce were on their way back to Washington and Lee University after spending Thanksgiving at home. They were stopped in traffic when a speeding tractor-trailer came up behind them. Cullum tried to swerve his car into the median, but the truck barreled into the driver’s side of his car, pinning Cullum and Pierce’s car against an embankment in the median. Pierce, survived with minor injuries while Cullum died before he could be retrieved from the car.
Wanda Lindsay, New Braunfels, TX (Founder of the John Lindsay Foundation) | Sleep Apnea Screening: Wanda and her husband John were on their way to Kentucky to visit family on May 7, 2010, when they stopped for traffic on I-30 as they were coming into Texarkana, Texas. They were the last car stopped in a two mile-long, very visible line of traffic, in a well-marked construction zone when a Celadon tractor-trailer slammed into the rear of their car. The truck was traveling 65 mph with the cruise control engaged when it hit John and Wanda. John died two days later on Mother’s Day, as a result of his extensive injuries. The Lindsay family later learned that two months prior to the collision the truck driver had been diagnosed with severe, uncontrolled sleep apnea, which results in chronic fatigue. Yet, he was still allowed to drive a truck even though he was not being treated and monitored for his condition.
Ron Wood, Washington, DC | Entry-Level Driver Training: On September 20, 2004, Ron’s mother Betsy Wood, sister Lisa Wood Martin and his sister’s three children, Chance, Brock and Reid Martin, were killed outside Sherman, Texas when a tractor trailer driver fell asleep behind the wheel and crossed a median into oncoming traffic on a busy North Texas highway. The driver collided with two vehicles, killing a total of ten people and injuring two more. The truck driver eventually pleaded guilty to 10 counts of manslaughter in the 2004 crash. This crash prompted a Dallas Morning News investigative team to begin a fourteen month-long exploration that revealed unqualified drivers, dangerous working conditions, lack of safety inspections, and very little oversight.
The Truck Safety Coalition is a partnership between The Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation, and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public, policy-makers and media about truck safety issues.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) release of the 2016 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview revealed that in 2016, there were 4,317 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks – a 5.5 percent increase from 2015 and a 28 percent increase since 2009. Unfortunately, this increase in deaths is not surprising given the troubling safety trends that the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) has been highlighting since 2009.
Since 2009, TSC has been informing Congress of the worsening trends in truck safety as well as of the various commonsense solutions that they could implement to prevent truck crashes and reduce the resulting injuries and fatalities. Unfortunately, legislators lack a sense of urgency and regulators continue to delay data-driven technologies, like automatic emergency braking and heavy vehicle speed limiters. Those technologies have been implemented, with great results, throughout the world, but continue to stall here in the United States.
Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation has delayed or completely withdrawn other critical safety rules that would protect the public as well as the occupants of trucks. A rule requiring truck drivers to be screened for sleep apnea was scrapped. A rule requiring the minimum insurance for large trucks per incident be increased was withdrawn, even though it has not been raised once since the 1980s. And two rules requiring improvements to underride protections on trucks and trailers were delayed by at least a year.
Instead of passing bills stuffed with exemptions, delays, and regulatory rollbacks to appease special interests, like a weight exemption for North Dakota and a non-divisible exemption for milk, Congress must act now to stop preventable truck crash deaths and injuries on our nation’s highways. They can start by asking Secretary Chao why truck safety is trending in the wrong direction and how the actions the DOT has taken since January will reverse those trends.
Rolling back regulations that would ensure truck drivers are awake and alert, motor carriers are adequately insured, and trucks are crash compatible with cars to prevent underride, will do nothing to reduce the number truck crashes, prevent injuries, or save lives. The only thing DOT’s actions accomplish is protecting the bottom lines of some special interests and placating a small, loud group of unsafe truck drivers that see all regulation as bad.
If lawmakers and policymakers are serious about reducing the number deaths and injuries resulting from large truck crashes, they seriously need to readjust their strategy. This increase would not be tolerated if the mode of transportation were different. People would not fly if 83 people died on flights each week or if the number of fatalities went up by 28 percent since 2009.
ARLINGTON, VA (September 13, 2017) – The Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) thanks Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for holding this important hearing, “Transportation Innovation: Automated Trucks and our Nation’s Highways.” We look forward to working with members of the committee as well as safety advocates, technology companies, and leaders in the trucking industry to continue discussing the role of autonomous technologies in commercial motor vehicles and to develop an oversight framework that prioritizes safety first.
TSC recognizes the potential safety benefits of autonomous technologies in trucking, especially at a time when truck crashes continue to climb. Since 2009, truck crashes have gone up by 45 percent, resulting in a 20 percent increase in truck crash fatalities and a 57 percent increase in truck crash injuries. To make matters worse, truck vehicle miles decreased by 3 percent in that same time, meaning that the truck crash involvement, truck crash injury, and truck crash fatality rates have all increased over the past six years.
While TSC is excited that autonomous technologies have the potential to prevent and mitigate thousands of crashes resulting from human error, we also want to ensure that the process for testing and developing AV technology in trucks does not jeopardize public safety. As we continue to figure out the details of the regulatory framework associated with AV technology, we urge lawmakers to work towards mandating automatic emergency braking and heavy vehicle speed limiters on all trucks. Both of these technologies serve as building blocks to achieving a fully autonomous truck, and, more importantly, can reduce crashes, prevent injuries, and save lives today, rather than several years from now.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Graham 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
The Honorable David Price, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related AgenciesCommittee 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.
The National Academy of Sciences released a report, Improving Motor Carrier Safety Measurement, which confirmed much of what the Truck Safety Coalition has been saying about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) carrier rating system and truck safety in general:
The CSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) is “conceptually sound,” and
That well-compensated drivers and drivers who are not paid per miles travelled, have fewer crashes.
Our goal is to reduce truck crashes, prevent injuries, and save lives, which is why we have always supported continuous improvement to make the rating system even more effective in determining which motor carriers are safe and which motor carriers pose a risk to public safety. By embracing a more data-driven method of scoring the safety of motor carriers, the agency can build on the success of CSA and continue to enhance it. Additionally, transitioning to a more statistically principled approach will make the program more transparent and easier to understand, further justifying why both the data as well as the rankings should be public.
The report also underscores a need for improved data collection by and collaboration between motor carriers, states, and the FMCSA. The agency should enhance data collection regarding vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by trucks, and can do so by working with relevant tax agencies given that all motor carriers report their VMT for tax purposes. The FMCSA can also improve data collection regarding crashes by continuing their efforts to standardize post-accident reports that vary state-by-state, an effort that I have worked on as a member of the FMCSA’s Post-Accident Report Advisory Committee.
While the report highlights opportunities for the FMCSA to improve CSA’s SMS, members of the industry must recognize their own responsibilities and role in improving this safety rating system. Collecting data on “carrier characteristics,” including driver turnover rates, types of cargo hauled, and the method and level of driver compensation, will allow the agency to establish a fuller and fairer determination of safety. This requires motor carriers to share even more data, not attempt to hide it.
STATEMENT OF TRUCK SAFETY COALITION ON WITHDRAWAL OF ADVANCE NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING TO INCREASE MINIMUM FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR MOTOR CARRIERS
ARLINGTON, VA (June 2, 2017) – On behalf of families of truck crash victims and survivors, the Truck Safety Coalition is extremely disappointed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA, agency) withdrawal of a long overdue Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to increase the minimum financial responsibility requirements for motor carriers, which has not been raised since it was set 37 years ago. 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.
The fact of the 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 are forced to 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 is not unique to 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 U.S. Department of Transportation (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 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and President Trump should be embarrassed that they withdrew a commonsense rule that will improve safety on our roads and ensure families are adequately compensated for the pain and suffering they endure. This issue now falls to Secretary Elaine Chao, who is vested with the authority to raise this figure. These families do not need well wishes and condolences from policy-makers—they need change. The Secretary should take immediate action to increase the minimum insurance requirement and to index it to inflation. This way, the amount will be increased periodically and apolitically.
ARLINGTON, VA (May 10, 2017) – The Truck Safety Coalition’s Underride Initiative, consisting of families of truck underride crash victims and survivors, is extremely pleased with the results of a recent crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that assessed a side underride guard for the first time ever.
In the other scenario, the trailer was equipped with an AngelWing Side Underride protection device –manufactured by Airflow Deflector Inc. Instead of riding under the trailer and allowing for passenger compartment intrusion, this innovative side underride guard allowed the car’s airbags to deploy and its crumple zone to help diffuse the kinetic energy transferred upon impact. These safety features have been rendered ineffective in the past due to the lack of crash compatibility between cars and the sides of trailers.
With more than 2,000 passenger vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes in which the passenger vehicle strikes side of the tractor-trailer between 2009 and 2015, there is a clear need to address this fatal problem. It should also be noted that the aforementioned fatality figure greatly underestimates the true extent of people killed in side underride crashes as it does not include crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians, multi-vehicle crashes, and any crash that happened in a jurisdiction that does not record whether underride occurred.
At a time when truck crash injuries and deaths continue to climb, up 57 percent and 20 percent respectively between 2009 and 2015, the industry and regulators should share our sense of urgency to reverse these trends. We need more innovation, action, and collaboration.
When we do work together, like at the first ever Truck Underride Roundtable, we can make real advances in truck safety. In fact, that meeting of industry leaders, government officials, and safety advocates helped lead to the creation of this side underride guard that successfully prevented a side underride crash at 35 mph.
This side underride guard would have made a big difference in many of our lives, and we are proud that our advocacy will help prevent others from sustaining a major injury or losing a loved one in a side underride crash. We call on our Members of Congress and federal regulators to ensure that this technology is fully adopted by the trucking industry by requiring all trailers to be equipped with side underride guards.
By LISA SEISER Editor | Posted: Tuesday, May 9, 2017 8:56 pm
HARLINGEN — Nine years ago, her life changed. An accident with an 18-wheeler while on her way home left Debra Cruz permanently disabled.
At that time, nobody thought she would now be telling her story to politicians and their staffs on Capitol Hill as part of the “Sorrow to Strength” event held by the Trucking Safety Coalition.
Cruz recently returned after several days in Washington D.C. where she had a one-on-one discussion with Congressman Filemon Vela and was able to meet with the staff of Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz.
“Their jaws just dropped when I told them my story,” Cruz said.
She talked about issues regarding truckers, including sleep deprivation, drug and alcohol use and proper testing and licensing.
Debra said the people she met with were very interested in her story.
Harry Adler, public affairs manager at the Truck Safety Coalition, said Vela was engaged during the 20-minute discussion with Debra.
“You could see it in his eyes,” Debra said about Vela as she explained what happened to her.
Adler said the discussions can result in new laws and efforts to improve safety.
“He was very interested in submitting something,” Debra said about a possible bill.
Adler said Vela appeared to be interested in backing and supporting any bills coming forward that would improve truck safety.
“To hear from one of his constituents about their story is what will motivate him to do something,” Adler said. “He was moved by Debra’s experience.”
Debra was among about 60 to 70 families from about 20 different states who attended the event aimed at making lawmakers aware of changes that could be made to the industry to make it safer.
Many of those who attended were family members of those killed in truck accidents.
Debra also was able to see and briefly talk with Ted Cruz for a few minutes, even grab a picture with him.
Adler said she was disappointed Cruz was not in their meeting, but as they were leaving, he happened to be coming around the corner.
Debra and Cruz were able to speak for a few minutes about her story and then take a picture together.
Overall, while she wasn’t able to speak to all the lawmakers in person, Debra said the visit went well.
It was her second time in Washington. The Truck Safety Coalition paid for her trip and organized the meetings.
HARLINGEN — Debra Cruz spends most of her life in her small Harlingen home off Roosevelt Avenue.
She wears sunglasses in her living room to protect her deteriorating eyes and has short-term memory loss.
She takes several prescription medications every day.
She can’t go through metal detectors and keeps her hair cut very short, sometimes short enough to show the scars on the back of her head.
It didn’t used to be that way.
Nine years ago, her life changed.
An accident with an 18-wheeler on her way home left her permanently disabled. But it hasn’t taken away her will. It’s just changed her hopes.
Now, a good portion of her life revolves around doing all she can to make people aware of the devastation accidents can do and to reduce the numbers of these accidents.
“I am grateful and thankful,” Debra said about being alive. “I believe I was put here and survived for a reason.”
One of those reasons may be coming up later this week.
She will be heading to Washington, D.C., Friday to make her plea, again. It’s the second time in three years she has attended what is called “Sorrow to Strength,” a several day event held by the Truck Safety Coalition.
The purpose is to bring awareness to truck safety.
Debra believes she has and can continue to make a difference.
“I look up to Debra,” said Harry Adler, public affairs manager at the Truck Safety Coalition. “I think she is a wonderful representative.”
Adler said Debra, whose trip will be paid for by the Truck Safety Coalition, will be meeting with Congressman Filemon Vela and plans are in the works for her to meet with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn during her visit for Sorrow for Strength. There will be a couple days of workshops and then Debra will go to The Hill to talk with the leaders.
Among the items Debra will speak about include her accident and the situations revolving around it.
“It is always best to get people to tell their story and share it with the lawmakers and the public about what happened to them,” Adler said.
She also will talk about issues regarding truckers, including sleep deprivation, drug and alcohol use as well as proper testing and licensing.
Debra said she was told by her attorneys the driver of the truck that hit her had been in and out of rehabilitation for drug and alcohol abuse, including crystal meth.
“I tell them all this so they know these trucking companies must do better background checks,” Debra said.
Adler said if this was happening in another transportation industry, people would be paying more attention.
“These are not just statistics,” he said about the numbers of deaths and injuries annually in truck accidents. “These are mothers, daughters, fathers and sons.”
An emotional Debra said if she can help make sure this doesn’t happen to one family, her efforts will be worth it and her reason for survival will be clear.
“Debra is passionate about this and really exemplifies the motto for Sorrow for Strength,” Adler said. “She didn’t have to do this, she could have just said, it happened to me and that is it. But, instead, she wants to do what she can so this doesn’t happen to other people. She wants to help others.”
“I look at the way I was before and after — what life was like before,” Debra said. “It gets me a little depressed, but I am still here.”
There are many people in semi-tractor trailer accidents that are no longer here. She said the people she talks to are often amazed she is alive to tell about her ordeal.
She believes there’s a reason for that.
“I still am here and have to talk about it — that’s very important to me,” she said. “If this can help someone else, all that, all the things I have gone through will be worth it. This will all have been worth it if I can make a difference.”
Deadly truck crashes happen every day on our roads and highways across the nation.
Unfortunately, this major public health and safety problem is worsening.
Since 2009, the number of truck crashes has shot up by 45 percent — resulting in a 57 percent increase in truck crash injuries and a 20 percent increase in truck crash fatalities. In 2015 alone, 4,067 people were killed in large truck crashes and 116,000 more were injured.
Congress would not tolerate this death and injury toll if it were occurring in any other mode of transportation. Our nation’s leaders certainly should not be considering any weakening of current truck safety protections to accommodate a few select industry members calling for even longer, heavier trucks.
One particularly divisive issue is a major national policy change that would increase truck lengths by at least ten feet. A handful of large trucking companies and shippers are advocating for a configuration commonly called “Double 33s” – which are two 33-foot trailers towed in tandem. Though being billed by proponents as a “small tweak,” this would amount to trucks on the highways potentially topping 90 feet long, which is equivalent to the length of an eight-story office building on wheels. These trucks At a hearing this week before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, the President and CEO of FedEx Freight Corporation testified in support of Double 33s. The written testimony argued that this increase in truck size would result in fewer trucks on the road.
However, nothing could be further from the truth.
In the history of our country, every past size and weight increase has resulted in more trucks on our roads. Additionally, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study (DOT Study), any reduction in truck vehicle miles traveled would be wiped out within one year by increases and shifts in freight transportation. This change to national surface transportation policy would result in a major disruption in multi-modalism and diversion of freight from railroads that are often safer and more environmentally friendly.
The DOT Study’s technical reports also showed that a Double 33 is less safe to operate than the current configuration of Double 28s. These longer trucks require an additional 22 feet to stop, which will make collisions resulting from the truck striking another vehicle in the rear more likely and potentially more devastating.
Research also shows that double trailer trucks have an 11 percent higher fatal crash rate than single trailer trucks. Longer trucks take more time to pass, cross into adjacent lanes, interfere with traffic as well as swing into opposing lanes on curves and when making right-angle turns. These serious safety problems mean big trouble for those travelling alongside these huge trucks.
Supporters of Double 33s consistently cite dubious science, for which they footed the bill, which misstates and misrepresents the benefits of these longer configurations. False claims of Double 33s increasing safety and productivity are nothing more than a play for competitive advantage over the rest of the industry. Simply put, supporters of Double 33s are placing profits over people.
Consequently, there is a growing coalition of diverse voices opposed to increasing truck length. Families of truck crash victims and survivors, public health and safety organizations, truck drivers, law enforcement officials, first responders, short line and regional railroads, railway suppliers and contractors, and rail labor are united in staunch opposition to Double 33s.
Truck drivers and their representatives can speak firsthand to the difficulties of operating these massive rigs. Considering that the Department of Labor consistently ranks driving a truck as one of the ten most dangerous jobs in America, further imperiling their safety should be a non-starter. And, the public has spoken loud and clear in poll after poll that they oppose bigger trucks.
The aggressive push to mandate all states to allow longer, less safe trucks will impose significant hardship on the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
Additionally, states have expressed serious concerns about being forced to accept Double 33s. Just last month, the American Society of Civil Engineers released its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, which found that 20 percent of the nation’s highways had poor pavement conditions. Moreover, one in 11 of the nation’s bridges were structurally deficient.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates that $142 billion in capital investment would be needed on an annual basis over the next 20 years to significantly improve conditions and performance. The aforementioned DOT Study recognized the adverse effects that Double 33s would have on our bridges, including a one-time cost of $1.1 billion to strengthen and replace more than 2,000 bridges.
This misguided policy proposal is nothing more than a corporate handout for a small segment of the trucking industry. It will endanger motorists and truck drivers, inflict more damage on our suffering infrastructure, preempt state laws throughout the nation, and it does nothing to improve freight efficiency. Lawmakers should be considering commonsense proposals to advance safety, not prioritizing the interests of a select few pushing Double 33s at the expense of public safety.
Statement of Joan Claybrook, Lisa Shrum and Larry Liberatore in Response to Today’s Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security Hearing on “Keeping Goods Moving: Continuing to Enhance Multimodal Freight Policy and Infrastructure”
April 4, 2017
Joan Claybrook, Chair, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH):
“Truck crash deaths are at their highest level since 2008. In 2015, 4,067 people were needlessly killed in truck crashes – the equivalent of a major airplane crash every other week of the year. Congress would never tolerate over 4,000 deaths in airplane crashes or consider weakening safety rules. So, too, should they not accept this outrageous death toll and consider advancing an industry wish list. We urge Congress to get serious about addressing this major public health crisis and stop indulging special trucking interests pushing for bigger, heavier trucks.
In the history of America, every time there has been an increase in truck size and weight, the result is more, not fewer, registered trucks and trailers. Any claimed reduction in the number of registered trucks and truck vehicle miles traveled (TVMT) would only be temporary. The recent U.S. DOT Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study found that any reductions in TVMT would be wiped out within one year.After just one year, even more trucks will be pounding our deteriorating roads and inflicting further damage to our bridges.
Certain industry members have also claimed a theoretical benefit in shipping capacity which would lead to greater efficiency. But, for this theoretical benefit to be realized, every standard twin 28 trailer would need to be replaced with a double 33 – an implausible scenario. System inefficiencies such as empty (deadhead) trips or below-capacity trailers further decrease any claimed productivity gain. Additionally, many of the nation’s leading trucking companies including Swift, Knight Transportation, PITT OHIO and Heartland Express as well as the Truckload Carriers Association oppose double 33s. Similarly, truck drivers, law enforcement, public health, consumer and safety organizations oppose this major national policy change.
Longer trucks also have serious safety implications and pose grave risks to families traveling around them. Double trailer trucks have an 11 percent higher fatal crash rate than single trailer trucks. A double 33 will add a minimum of 10 feet to the length of current 28-foot doubles and could top 90 feet long – essentially amounting to the height of an eight-story building. Passing these super-sized trucks will take longer and be more perilous for passenger vehicles. Further, longer trailers will cross into adjacent lanes, interfere with traffic and swing into opposing lanes on curves and while making right-angle turns.
Truck crash deaths and injuries are up significantly, increasing 20 and 57 percents, respectively, from 2009 to 2015. The safety of the American public will only be further jeopardized by allowing this assault on safety to continue.”
Lisa Shrum, Truck Safety Coalition Victim Volunteer, Fayette, MO:
“My mother, Virginia, died on October 10, 2006, in a devastating crash that also killed her husband, Randy. They were driving home to Pleasant Hill, Missouri after dropping off a car in Fayette for my younger brother. They were traveling on Interstate 70 shortly after 11 p.m. Driving conditions were not ideal. But then, they rarely are when you’re on a heavily traveled highway with cars and big trucks moving at high speeds. They had just crested a hill. There was a crash ahead on the road and visibility was poor. In addition, a FedEx double trailer truck had swerved into the left hand shoulder to avoid the upcoming crash.
Because of the sheer length of the FedEx truck’s two trailers, the back end of the second trailer extended into the passing lane of traffic. Mom’s vehicle hit the double trailer sticking out into the lane ahead of her, spun out, and was then struck by another tractor trailer which sliced her vehicle in half.
Both my mom and Randy were killed. There was a third fatality that day, a young father and husband, and ten people injured in this multi-vehicle crash. When I think about the crash and hear about lobbying efforts by FedEx and others to make trucks even longer and heavier, I cringe. I cringe to think about how much worse it would have been, how many more cars would have been hit, and how many more people would have been killed if longer, heavier trucks were involved.
Is it really so important that FedEx be allowed to carry more packages when it means more oversized trucks on our streets and highways? Is it really so important for FedEx and other trucking companies to increase their profits? I urge Congress not to put profits of a few behemoth companies ahead of public safety of all motorists.”
Larry Liberatore, Board Member, Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), Odenton, MD
“I took the day off of work to attend today’s hearing in honor of my son, Nick. Nick was killed on June 9, 1997, just south of the Delaware/Maryland state line on his way to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey with five or six carloads of friends. When the cars were separated while traveling north on Interstate 95, a few of them pulled over on the shoulder of the highway to wait for the others to catch up. Nick was sitting in the back seat of a car when a tired trucker carrying a load of steel veered across three lanes, and ran over the car. The truck driver had not slowed as he approached the toll booth which was about 1,000 feet past the crash site.
Hearing FedEx representatives talk about the need for even longer, heavier trucks is terrifying to me. Whenever I drive down to Washington, D.C., I drive alongside trucks and I know that when it comes down to my car vs. a truck, should a crash occur, 97 percent of fatalities are the car occupants. And I am not alone in this sentiment. In poll after poll, the American public has firmly opposed increases to truck size. Congress should be considering ways to make our roads safer, not more deadly.
The double 33s proposal is nothing more than a special interest giveaway for a few select special trucking and shipping interests. Families will wind up paying with their lives and their wallets.”
Bipartisan concern emerged today at a Senate hearing about a proposal to allow trucks carrying twin 33-foot trailers on highways.
“A federal mandate would preempt laws of states that do not want them on road, overriding state legislative decisions to protect public safety,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), whose amendment blocked a proposal in 2015 to allow the double trailers nationwide.
At today’s Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation hearing, Wicker cited statistics showing that twin-trailer trucks have an 11 percent higher fatal crash rate than single trailer trucks and that 22 percent more people died in large-truck-related crashes in 2015 than in 2009.
Currently, states can choose whether or not to allow the double trailers.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), highlighted the damage the double trailers cause not just to safety but to infrastructure — a $1.1 billion toll, he said, citing DOT statistics.
The truckload industry — the 78 percent of trucks on roads which deliver a truckload of goods to a single customer — strongly opposes allowing twin trailers, while UPS, FedEx and Amazon are pushing to allow them.
Jerry Moyes, the founder of Swift Transportation, said that he found that even twin 28-foot trailers had a significant negative impact on safety — but that if twin 33s are allowed nationwide, competitive pressures would force about half of truckload carriers to switch — an expensive transition for the industry.
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.
ARLINGTON, VA (March 1, 2017) – The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced today that five out of eight major North American semitrailer manufacturers met their TOUGHGUARD standard. Great Dane, Manac Inc., Stoughton Trailers LLC, Vanguard National Trailer Corp., and Wabash National Corp, received this recognition of their rear trailer guards that prevent underride crashes involving a mid-size car traveling at 35mph into the rear of the trailer in three different scenarios – 100, 50, and 30 percent overlap.
Underride crashes have long been identified as a safety issue, but little has been done to prevent or mitigate the severity of these of truck crashes, which can nullify a car’s protections and result in passenger compartment intrusion. The Truck Safety Coalition has been a leading voice in advocating for stronger rear underride guards. Unfortunately, both Congress and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have missed opportunities to make a real improvement in this area.
The United States government is so far behind on regulating the issue of underride guards, that NHTSA, has proposed a rule to replace the antiquated U.S. standard with an outdated Canadian standard. The semitrailers manufactured by the recipients of the TOUGHGUARD qualification greatly exceed the Canadian force requirements.
The Truck Safety Coalition salutes IIHS and the abovementioned companies for this major step forward in underride protection. These rear guards will reduce the number of fatalities and injuries resulting from rear underride crashes. We call on Hyundai Translead, Strick Trailers LLC, and Utility Manufacturing Co. – the major North American semitrailer manufacturers whose trailers failed the 30 percent overlap test – to upgrade their rear underride guards to meet the IIHS TOUGHGUARD standard.
For more than 30 years, I have been advocating to make trucking safer, since my father, James Mooney, was killed in a large truck crash in 1983. He was driving on a dark rural road at a time when truck conspicuity was hardly a consideration, and his car rode under the truck trailer that was blocking the roadway. While my advocacy helped lead to a requirement for reflective tape on truck trailers, there are still too many preventable truck crashes.
When I read that a tanker truck hauling non-dairy creamer overturned on I-40 in Forsyth County earlier this month, I was thankful that no one was hurt. Then I found out that the truck driver admitted to falling asleep at the wheel before overturning. I was outraged.
The number of truck crashes is continuing to rise, increasing 45 percent since 2009. Yet for the past three years, Congress has passed legislation permitting truck drivers to work more than 80 hours per week, amongst other corporate handouts that will not reduce the amount of truck crashes.
Requiring automatic emergency braking on trucks and mandating side underride guards on trailers are commonsense solutions that will reduce the number of truck crashes, injuries and fatalities. None of these changes, however, were included in the FAST Act or in the accompanying appropriations bill.
Congress should pass legislation requiring all trucks to be equipped with automatic emergency braking (AEB). This technology will be standard on all new cars in the United States by 2022, and a requirement for it was passed in the European Union in 2012. AEB works by applying the brakes in the event that the truck driver fails to apply the brakes, like if a driver falls asleep behind the wheel.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that forward collision avoidance and mitigation and lane departure warning systems can address 1 out of 4 heavy vehicle involved crashes. Moreover, crash records from motor carriers were examined after some of their fleet was equipped with forward collision avoidance and mitigation systems, and the results were consistent. Trucks without this technology were more than twice as likely to be the striking vehicle in a rear-end crash than trucks with the system.
Unfortunately, Congress has done little to require this technology, while prioritizing efforts to increase the length of double tractor-trailers, which will take even longer to stop than existing double configurations. When Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia offered a bill mandating automatic emergency braking, it died in subcommittee; he subsequently offered it as an amendment to a larger bill to no avail. Some opponents of this technology claimed it might not be effective in reducing crashes, despite ample evidence that it does, while others claimed that AEB would hurt small business because of the costs of technology.
Yet when certain large trucking companies wanted “Double 33” trailers, the language was inserted into a must-pass bill. The opponents who decried the cost of AEB said nothing of the fact that increasing the size of double tractor-trailers would force many smaller companies to upgrade their fleets to remain competitive with larger trucking companies. As with past size and weight increases, there are two things we can anticipate: 1) it will not result in fewer trucks, and 2) shippers will hire companies with the maximum shipping capabilities. This means that small companies will be forced to buy new 33-foot trailers to replace their existing single 53-foot trailers or double 28-foot trailers. New trailers cost thousands of dollars.
It is also frustrating that there are lawmakers who are ready to increase the length of double trailers by five feet per trailer, even though existing trailers have a long recognized safety issue — a lack of side underride guards. While the European Union has required these life-saving protections on trailers for decades, the United States does not and shows no signs of doing so anytime soon. So, increasing double tractor-trailers from 28-feet per trailer to 33-feet per trailer not only results in an additional 22 feet of braking distance and a 6-foot wider turning radius but also 10 more feet of exposed area underneath the trailer.
Improving underride protections would save lives and prevent injuries resulting from truck crashes. Without these protections, bicyclists and pedestrians are at risk of traveling under trailers. Motorists, like my father who was killed in an underride crash, are also at risk of death or injury as underride collisions bypass crumple zones, prevent airbag deployment, and cause passenger compartment intrusion.
I am hopeful that members of Congress will recognize that despite all of their differences, they all represent a state or a district that has constituents who have been adversely affected by truck crashes. They need to be more interested in public safety rather than private interests. Passing a bill requiring automatic emergency braking on trucks and side underride guards on trailers will do just that. Requiring longer trucks that will only benefit a handful of large motor carriers, and will be more difficult for truck drivers to operate, will not.
After I survived a truck crash on Aug. 8, 2008, one of my goals became to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck crashes. Eventually, I began volunteering for the Truck Safety Coalition, a non-profit organization consisting of families of truck crash victims and survivors who also shared in my goal. Since then, I have been able to speak to the public and policy makers about ways to make trucking safer for everyone.
When I heard that state lawmakers were considering increasing truck weights, and that federal lawmakers might consider increasing truck-trailer lengths, I was compelled to speak out against both of these policies, which are premised on a false promise of fewer trucks. The fact remains: The number of trucks on our roads has increased following every past size and weight increase.
Allowing even heavier trucks will further damage our crumbling infrastructure, in particular — bridges, which our state has more of than any other state. Permitting Double 33s will also not enhance safety. In addition to elongating existing double configurations by 10 feet, Double 33s also take longer to break, have a wider turning radius, and are more likely to off-track at low speeds. In short, both policies will not make trucking safer, especially at time when trends indicate truck safety is in decline.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released figures for 2015 that shows there were 4,067 truck fatalities — a 20 percent increase since 2009. In Texas, the trends in truck safety are even more troubling. Between 1994 and 2015, the past four years have been the deadliest with regards to truck crashes.
Clearly, we need to be doing more to prevent truck crashes.
I have been meeting with elected officials in Texas to discuss my crash, in which my vehicle was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer, about how we can work together to make trucking safer. Had the truck in my crash been equipped with automatic emergency braking, I might not have written this letter, or sustained life-long brain injuries.
I was devastated to hear about the recent truck crash in which a 5-year-old boy and his volunteer driver were killed on the Maine Turnpike.
As a mother who lost her son in a truck crash, I know the pain and grief the families are going through; my thoughts are with them and will be as they learn to cope with such devastating losses.
As an advocate for truck safety, however, I am angry because this crash, and the fatalities it caused, could have been avoided by requiring two common-sense improvements on large trucks: stronger rear underride guards and automatic emergency braking.
Underride crashes have been identified as a problem dating back to the 1950s. Since that time, the government has required a woefully inadequate and antiquated standard that many times renders useless a car’s protections, like airbag deployment and a crumple zone. Consequently, there is passenger compartment intrusion, which results in truly horrific crashes, like this one.
Automatic emergency braking is a much newer solution than underride guards for reducing truck crashes, but the technology is being developed and employed rapidly. In fact, all major car companies will require automatic emergency braking by 2022. There is no reason why trucks, which take much longer to stop than cars, should not be equipped with it, too.
founder and co-chair, Parents Against Tired Truckers
The Truck Safety Coalition,a partnership of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), congratulates Elaine Chao on becoming the 18th Secretary of Transportation of the United States. Our volunteers, families of victims and survivors of large truck crashes, look forward to collaborating with Secretary Chao to improve truck safety in the United States.
As the Secretary noted in her nomination hearing, safety must be a top priority for the Department of Transportation. Since 2009, truck crashes have increased by 45 percent; truck crash injuries have risen by 57 percent; and truck crash fatalities have gone up by 20 percent, resulting in the number of truck crash deaths exceeding 4,000 in the United States for the first time since 2008. Meanwhile, the European Union, which has mandated a number of significant safety solutions, including automatic emergency braking and entry-level driver training with a minimum number of hours of behind-the-wheel training, saw their truck crash fatalities drop by 23 percent. Clearly, the laws passed in the EU have enhanced truck safety. We welcome the opportunity to work with Secretary Chao to implement similar policies and technologies.
We wish Secretary Chao success as she leads the Department of Transportation and we are eager to work together to reduce truck crashes, injuries, and fatalities in America.
ON RELEASE OF FINAL RULE FOR ENTRY-LEVEL DRIVER TRAINING
ARLINGTON, VA (December 7, 2016) – The Truck Safety Coalition and our volunteers, many of whom are families of truck crash victims and survivors, are extremely disappointed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for releasing such a weak final rule requiring entry-level driver training for commercial motor vehicle drivers.
After languishing for 25 years following a mandate from Congress, we were 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 several meetings throughout the past year, 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 has been a waste. The final rule does not mandate a minimum number of BTW training hours, severely blunting the potential safety benefits of it.
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.
The FMCSA’s latest attempt to produce an entry-level driver training rule for CMV drivers has been a colossal waste of time. This final rule is both insufficient in terms of advancing safety and an insult to the memories of those killed in crashes caused by inexperienced and untrained truck drivers.
ON RELEASE OF DRUG AND ALCOHOL CLEARINGHOUSE FINAL RULE
ARLINGTON, VA (December 2, 2016) – After years of unnecessary delays, we are pleased that Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration today published a final rule to establish the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. This 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 currently pose a major threat to everyone on the road, but under the longtime system of self-reporting many employers were unable to access this 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.
Truck Safety Coalition volunteers have first-hand experience with the deadly outcomes that result from truck drivers operating under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Too often, a history of repeated drug and alcohol violations is not unearthed until a catastrophic crash occurs and a comprehensive investigation ensues. This will no longer be the case as employers in the industry can now preemptively promote safety by identifying and not hiring dangerous drivers.
The Truck Safety Coalition,a partnership of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), looks forwards to working with Secretary-Designate of Transportation, Elaine Chao, and President-Elect Donald Trump on behalf of our volunteers who have lost loved ones in truck crashes to improve overall truck safety in the United States. Our volunteers know first-hand the devastating consequences of preventable truck crashes and have transcended their own losses and injuries to advocate for truck safety improvements to benefit all who drive on our roads.
A focus on safety is crucial given the troubling trends in truck safety. Truck crashes have skyrocketed by 45 percent between 2009 and 2015 and the injuries they cause rose at an even faster rate in that same period, climbing by a staggering 57 percent. Unfortunately, there are also more and more families like the ones who volunteer with our organization, who have an empty seat at their tables, as the number of people killed in truck crashes continues to grow. In fact, this past year marked the first time since 2008 that the number of truck crash deaths exceeded 4,000.
We wish Ms. Chao success on becoming our nation’s next top transportation official and offer our insight, experience, and assistance to her as she navigates the challenging issues in trucking that pertain to drivers, the vehicles, the industry as a whole, and the people with whom truck drivers share the road.
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
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.
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.
Board Member, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH)
Long Island Expressway (LIE) Speed Limit Is 55MPH But Any Long Islander Can Tell You That Big Rigs, Even Large Buses, Often Give It The Gas & Exceed The Limit, Putting Thousands Upon Thousands Of Everyday Drivers At Risk For Accidents—Or Worse
Ready-To-Go Technology That Caps Big Rig Speed Has Far and Wide Support But Requires Feds To Approve Across-The-Board Installation
Schumer: Capping Big Rig Speed – On The LIE and Elsewhere – Should Get Green Light
Standing nearby the Long Island Expressway, amidst passing trucks, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to swiftly finalize a proposed rule that would require electronic speeding devices in large trucks, buses and school buses over 26,000 pounds.
“For every Long Island driver who has been next to or in the crosshairs of a speeding big rig, a technology like this can’t come fast enough,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Trucks, and large buses that barrel down our roads unsafely put everyone in danger, but now that we have a sensible technology that can make extreme truck and bus speeds a thing of the past, we must push the feds to accelerate its swift adoption. The LIE is just one of New York’s big rig attractions, and so, capping speed in a safe and reasonable way will make this expressway and everyday drivers safer.”
“There is ample proof that speed limiting technology reduces crashes, prevents injuries, and saves lives.” said Steve Owings, who co-founded Road Safe America (RSA) with his wife, Susan, after their son Cullum was killed by a speeding big rig on Virginia Interstate highway. “When Ontario required speed limiters, they experienced a 24 percent reduction in truck crash fatalities. When truck companies that have voluntarily adopted speed limiters set them on their trucks, their trucks were less likely to be involved in highway speed crashes than trucks that do not set their speed limiters. With nearly thirty delays over the ten years since RSA filed the petition for rulemaking to require all trucks to be equipped with a heavy vehicle speed limiters set at a reasonable top speed, I am frustrated that NHTSA and FMCSA produced a proposed rule that only applies to new trucks. Susan and I hope that the agencies modify the proposal to apply to all trucks and issue a final rule immediately. We are grateful that Senator Schumer is pushing for this much-need technology that will make our roads safer.”
John Lannen, Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition, stated, “The heavy vehicle speed limiter rule is a life saving measure that is long overdue. At a time when truck crashes have shot up 44 percent between 2009 and 2014, and truck crash fatalities have exceeded 4,000 for the first time since 2008, our regulators should be working diligently to produce a final rule that applies to all large trucks as quickly as possible. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) note in their joint Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that this technology has been standard in most trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds since the 1990s. There is no reason this commonsense rule should not apply to all trucks. Our volunteers – families of truck crash victims and truck crash survivors – thank Senator Schumer for taking on this issue that causes too many preventable deaths and injuries.”
In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed installing large commercial trucks with electronic devices that limit their speeds on roadways, and requiring the devices to be set to a maximum speed. Schumer highlighted that while the federal rule making process can sometimes take years, this rule should be finalized as quickly as possible so that installation of the systems can begin quickly and drivers can be properly trained.
According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), approximately 70 percent of trucking companies already use electronic limiters. Schumer today said that adopting this proposal could help reduce the more than 1,000 fatalities involving heavy vehicles and speed every year. Schumer highlighted that while many trucks and large vehicles are operated safely, technology like speed-limiters, when used correctly can help crack down on the few bad actors who are putting lives in danger.
According to NHTSA, in 2014 there were 3,903 people killed and 111,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks nationwide. Of the people killed in large truck crashes, 83% were occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians.
According to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, since 2009, there has been a 15 percent increase in fatalities and a 50 percent rise in the number of injuries in large-truck crashes.
According to the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, in 2014, there were 10,742 police-reported large truck crashes in the state of New York. Of these crashes, 990 were related to unsafe speed.
According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), speed is a contributor to roughly 29 percent of all fatal crashes. And, driving too fast for conditions or over the posted speed limit was the primary reason for 18 percent of all fatal crashes where a large truck was deemed at fault.
According to NHTSA and FMCSA, even a small increase in speed among large trucks will have large effects on the force impact in a crash, and that’s why, Schumer said, this proposal is so important. According to estimates in the proposed rulemaking, limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 60 miles per hour would save an estimated 162 to 498 lives annually; limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 65 miles per hour would save 63 to 214 lives annually; and limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 68 miles per hour would save 27 to 96 lives annually. The FMCSA proposal would also prevent an estimated 179 to 551 serious injuries and 3,356 to 10,306 minor injuries with a maximum set speed of 60 miles per hour; 70 to 236 serious injuries and 1,299 to 4,535 minor injuries with a maximum set speed of 65 miles per hour; and 30 to 106 serious injuries and 560 to 1,987 minor injuries with a maximum set speed of 68 miles per hour.
Schumer today urged the USDOT to quickly approve this rule so that electronic speed limiters would be installed in trucks as soon as possible. Schumer said the rule should be finalized in a way that also ensures the continued safety of truck drivers by allowing them to safely accelerate and merge. Schumer said that the benefits of this proposal are two-fold: requiring electronic speeding devices in trucks would not only help save lives and prevent injuries, but also positively impact the environment. According to NHTSA and FMCSA, requiring speed limiting devices could result in fuel savings and greenhouse gas emissions reductions totaling $850 million annually.
Schumer pointed to the number of fatalities involving large trucks in New York between 2009-2015, according to NHTSA:
New York State: # of Fatalities
Long Island: # of Fatalities
Long Island: % of Total Fatalities
NYC: # of Fatalities
NYC: % of Total Fatalities
*NYC includes Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island; and Long Island includes Nassau and Suffolk
Schumer’s letter to FMCSA Administrator Darling and NHTSA Administrator Rosekind appears below:
Dear Administrator Darling and Administrator Rosekind:
I write to you today to both applaud your efforts to commence a rulemaking on truck speed limiters and urge you to finalize this rule as quickly as possible. As you know, truck speed limiters, if implemented safely, have the potential to save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of crashes. While most truck drivers and other heavy vehicle operators operate safely, truck speed limiters can help prevent the handful of dangerous actors from inflicting high-speed damage on our roadways.
I appreciate the need to have a careful and thorough rulemaking process, but feel strongly that your agencies should do everything they can to move through this process and finalize this common sense rule as quickly as possible. I’d also urge your agencies to work closely with truck drivers to ensure that the rule is implemented in a way that still allows them to safely merge and operate their vehicles.
Throughout New York State we have had a long-history with high-speed truck related crashes. In 2014 alone, there were 10,742 policed-reported large truck crashes, 74 of which were fatal and 990 of which were related to unsafe speed. While truck speed limiters will not prevent all crashes, they will certainly significantly reduce both the number and severity of these accidents. It’s for these reasons that I urge your agencies to move swiftly to finalize this rule.
Thank you for your consideration, should you need further information please do not hesitate to contact my office.
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.
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.
As summer winds down, it is time to reflect on the safety of our roads and the hundreds of loved ones across the country who were needlessly killed or injured in truck crashes over the past few months. Our sons were killed in crashes caused by tired truckers. They were two of the nearly 4,000 people who die each year in truck crashes, many of which are preventable. Another 100,000 people are seriously injured.
Since the tragic deaths of our sons, our mission has been devoted to preventing this tragedy from happening to others by promoting common-sense safety solutions. Yet, one of our own U.S. senators, Susan Collins, continues to thwart our efforts to improve truck safety for families in Maine and across the country.
For the past few years, Sen. Collins has been the flag-bearer for trucking interests seeking to undermine and undo safety rules. From her powerful seat as chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that is responsible for determining spending levels for federal transportation programs, she has continually provided special access and favors to trucking interests.
For example, she single-mindedly sought to stop federal rules issued in 2013 on the number of driving and resting hours for truck drivers. Although truck driver fatigue is a well-documented and major cause of truck crashes, she just won’t stop.
After her previous attempts to kill off the federal safety rule on rest time for truck drivers fell short of her goal, she decided to take another approach. Instead of allowing the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct an open and public rulemaking for a regulation based on research and science, she opted to write the rule herself.
Of course, she did it behind closed doors with the help of her trucking friends. When families of truck crash victims and safety groups objected and opposed her safety assaults, she resorts to questioning our motives. Does this behavior sound familiar from a politician in the news these days?
Several weeks ago, Sen. Collins announced in a Washington Post op-ed reprinted in this newspaper that she will not be voting for Donald Trump for president. One of the reasons she cites is his criticism of the grieving parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, which she found unacceptable. Yet she is quick to criticize grieving parents who have lost children in truck crashes because we won’t be silenced and have the audacity to challenge her efforts to set back safety on behalf of special trucking interests.
The senator complained earlier this year in media interviews that safety groups were ignoring other provisions recently passed in Congress mandating federal rules forspeed-limiting devices on large trucks and electronic logging devices for recording work and driving hours of truckers.
For many years, we have strongly supported and urged adoption of these truck safety measures and will continue to push agency actions because of unacceptable and excessive government delays. During these years, Sen. Collins has stood on the sidelines on these issues.
Now, she stands near the finish line of our long and difficult efforts to enhance safety, eager and ready to take credit for these safety improvements that were proposed, promoted and brought to near conclusion by others.
Increasing the number of hours that a trucker can work and drive and reducing rest time, as Sen. Collins has done, are not sensible solutions unless you are championing industry profits. Truck crashes have surged from 286,000 in 2009 to 411,000 in 2014– a 44 percent increase. Furthermore, truck crash injuries have skyrocketed by 50 percent during that same period. Truck crash fatalities also continue to rise, increasing nearly 16 percent between 2009 and 2014.
The bad news is the DOT just released figures showing that truck crash fatalities increased by another 4 percent from 2014 to 2015, exceeding 4,000 annual deaths for the first time since 2008.
A staggering 80 percent of the public oppose longer hours for truck drivers. Truck drivers deserve a real “weekend” off and the public deserves to be sharing the road with truck drivers who are rested and alert. It is time for Sen. Collins to stop picking on victims of truck crashes and safety groups and start listening to her constituents and the American people she was elected to represent.
Arlington, VA (August 26, 2016) – After ten years since a petition for rulemaking was filed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) just released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiter rule. TSC supports a rule that extends the set speed requirement to all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds that are already equipped with a speed limiting device, and that requires the speed limiters to be set at 65 miles per hour. Unfortunately, this proposed rule fails to outline either of these requirements.
As TSC has stated before, this technology has been built into most truck’s engine control module (ECM) since the 1990s. The agencies reaffirmed this in the NPRM. Nevertheless, they have chosen, so far, to only apply this rule to new trucks, while asking for comment “on whether to require that the speed limiting devices in these older CMVs be set to a speed not greater than a maximum specified set speed.” It is unreasonable that in the ten years since the petition was filed and after acknowledging in their NPRM that ECMs “have been installed in most heavy trucks since 1999,” that NHTSA and FMCSA were unable to propose a rule that extended to older CMVs with this technology already installed.
Furthermore, it is discouraging that after all of these years the agencies were unable to decide upon a speed limit, 60 mph, 65 mph, or 68 mph. That is a range of eight miles per hour. This may seem like a minimal difference in speed, but as the agencies note in their NPRM – this can have a huge effect on the impact force during a crash: “As speed increases, so does the amount of kinetic energy a vehicle has.” So how can the agencies note that a difference of five miles per hour can greatly enhance the kinetic energy of a vehicle, while considering setting speed limiters at 60 mph or 68 mph? The fact of the matter is that the agencies should have selected a speed to set the limiters before publishing the NPRM so that the public could have commented on their choice; asking for comments on all three options should have been asked when the petition was granted back in 2011.
We hope between now and the publication of this rule, NHTSA and FMCSA remember that their primary goals are to promote safety, and will implement a commonsense, life-saving rule.
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Requiring Setting of Speed Limiters in Large Trucks to be Released;
TSC Encourages Agency to Apply Regulation to All Large Trucks
Arlington, VA (August 18, 2016): The Truck Safety Coalition, a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), is pleased that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) promulgated a Proposed Rule requiring speed limiters to be set on large trucks. This standard equipment, which is built into the truck’s engine control module, has actually been manufactured in large trucks since the early 1990s. While requiring speed limiters will advance truck safety and prevent needless truck crash injuries and fatalities, if the agency decides to only apply the rule to new trucks, it will greatly blunt the potential safety benefits.
John Lannen, Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition, explained the importance of this rule applying to all large trucks rather than just newer units: “According to findings from the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, more than one out of five large truck crashes were coded as ‘traveling too fast for conditions.’ By capping the speed at which large trucks can travel, this will not only reduce the occurrences of truck crashes, but will also greatly reduce the risk of death or injury by decreasing the impact of the collision.”
“Additionally, the safety benefits of speed limiters have not just been studied, but have also been realized by companies that equipped their trucks with this life-saving technology,” Lannen continued. “One company found that their non-speed limited vehicles were involved in over 40 percent of potentially severe crashes, despite only constituting 17 percent of their fleet. In Ontario, Canada, there was a 24 percent reduction in truck crashes within one year of mandating speed limiters to be set at 65mph. And when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) studied speed limiters, the agency determined that trucks equipped with speed limiters were nearly 50 percent less likely to be involved in a crash. Clearly this regulation will produce safety benefits, but the extent of those benefits can only be maximized by applying this rule to as many large trucks as possible.”
Lannen, concluded, “While we welcome this safety advancement, we find it necessary to point out that this rule took far too long to be published. The petition to initiate the rulemaking was filed in September of 2006. After a decade and almost 30 delays, it is clear that there is a problem with the rulemaking process. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of this broken system are the thousands of unnecessary speeding-related truck crashes that have occurred between then and now. We look forward to the United States catching up to other leading countries on the implementation of speed limiters, and will continue working to ensure that rather than following, the United States will lead on other safety advancements in trucking, in particular – automatic emergency braking.”
Truck crashes are a serious public health and safety problem. Each year on average, 4,000 people are killed in large-truck crashes. That is equivalent to the death toll of a major airplane crash every other week of the year. Another 100,000 people are injured annually. The economic cost to society from commercial motor vehicle crashes exceeds $100 billion annually.
Alarmingly, we have experienced a 15 percent increase in fatalities and a staggering 50 percent rise in the number of people injured in large-truck crashes since 2009. With total tonnage of truck freight shipments predicted to increase as much as 35 percent by 2040, the urgent need to make trucks safer for all motorists has never been greater.
Fortunately, we already have solutions to significantly improve safety and prevent needless crashes. One common sense safety measure that would curb frequent and fatal truck crashes is the use of automatic emergency braking, or AEB, systems. Yet, in a column published by Trucks.com, truck driver Shelley Uvanile-Hesch argued that AEB technology needs more research before requiring it for new trucks. We respectfully disagree.
The federal agency responsible for regulating this issue, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has studied rear-end crashes, which are the primary target of automatic braking technology, and estimated that the death and injury toll is significant. Large trucks are the striking vehicle in approximately 32,000 crashes resulting in 300 deaths and more than 15,000 injuries annually. The agency further estimates that with automatic braking systems tuned to react to both moving and stopped lead vehicles, nearly 60 percent of fatalities and injuries in these types of collisions could be prevented.
Automatic braking technology has been offered on large trucks since at least 2006, making the technology nearly a decade old. Manufacturers and suppliers continue to improve the technology and expand its capabilities. In fact, NHTSA recently released a report on a field study of crash avoidance systems, or CAS, finding that in over 3 million miles of data, no rear-end crashes of the type that CAS are designed to prevent occurred from subject vehicles. It also found that while improvements to the systems can be made, they generally work as intended.
Yet Ms. Uvanile-Hesch’s experience does highlight an issue for concern. While the technology exists to put effective crash avoidance systems in trucks, we must make sure that it works properly. That’s why we need a minimum federal safety standard to ensure that the technology currently in use is reliable and meets basic requisites of functionality. In fact, some motor carriers already are paying to install this technology on new trucks even though there are no guarantees that it will perform as advertised.
That needs to change.
My organization, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety — together with other consumer, public health and safety groups as well as truck crash victims and survivors — has petitioned NHTSA to act. Our petition requests that the agency require the use of forward collision avoidance and mitigation braking, or F-CAM, systems on all new large trucks and buses with a minimum gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds.
F-CAM technology uses radar and sensors to first alert the driver and then to apply the brakes when a crash is imminent. F-CAM systems employ a Forward Collision Warning, or FCW, to inform a driver when his or her vehicle gets too close to another vehicle that is stopped or traveling more slowly ahead. This gives the driver a chance to brake in time. When the system determines that a crash is about to occur, a Collision Mitigation Braking, or CMB, system automatically applies the brakes to prevent the crash or reduce its severity.
NHTSA estimates that current generation F-CAM systems can prevent over 2,500 crashes each year and that future systems could prevent more than 6,300 crashes annually.
Our petition urges the establishment of performance requirements. Other critical safety systems in cars and trucks must meet minimum federal standards, including brakes, seat belts, air bags, tires, headlamps and electronic stability control. In the absence of a federal standard, each manufacturer and supplier can design its system to function differently and, in some cases, ineffectively. All drivers should be afforded the assurance that the automatic braking technology will perform at the most critical moments in the driving task. These standards would also include requirements for durability and other aspects of performance. Without a regulation, design and performance choices made by manufacturers and suppliers may not result in sufficient braking capability to guarantee safety and reliability.
Furthermore, our petition focused on automatic braking systems that would only operate in emergencies, and would not interfere with advanced cruise control or other types of systems. That addresses some of the problems Ms. Uvanile-Hesch said she encountered driving her big rig. Automatic braking systems are intended to intervene only when a collision is imminent and to take control of braking only when a driver has failed to apply the brakes or perform any evasive maneuver.
Purchasing a new car or truck involves numerous decisions by the prospective buyer, including cost and safety features. AEB is a crash avoidance technology that will prevent crashes and will result in saving lives and saving money. This important lifesaving technology should be standard equipment on all new trucks and buses and should be required to meet minimum federal performance requirements. It is the responsibility of the federal government to ensure that safety systems on planes, trains, trucks and cars work well and work every time. Less-than-ideal performance of current automatic braking systems actually sounds the alarm on the urgent need for NHTSA to establish uniform safety standards for AEB.
Editor’s note:Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, has devoted her career to advancing highway, auto,and motor carrier safety. She has held senior positions in government and public-interest organizations.
We wanted to bring to your attention several disturbing crashes that have occurred recently. There are several contributing factors that caused these crashes, such as double tractor-trailers, fatigue, and failure to stop in time. But all of these crashes share one thing in common – a FedEx truck was involved.
Pennsylvania: FedEx truck hits Wayne Valley H.S. school bus on class trip to Dorney Park
The final public listening session in Los Angeles, Calif, on the proposed guidelines for obstructive sleep apnea focused on the benefits for the commercial transportation industry as well as the impact on employee healthcare costs.
By Cassandra Perez
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) held the final of three public listening sessions in Los Angeles, Calif, on May 25, 2016 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites. According to the FMCSA, the listening sessions were intended to solicit information from the public on the prevalence of moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) among individuals occupying safety sensitive positions in highway and rail transportation, its potential consequences for safety, and the potential costs and benefits of possible regulatory actions. The listening session in Los Angeles provided interested parties the opportunity to share their views on this topic along with any relevant studies and data.
A Voice for the Public
The Los Angeles session included a panel of members from both the FMCSA and FRA to represent each organization and interact with attendees. The panel included: Mark A. Patterson, executive officer for safety operations for the FRA; Shannon L. Watson, senior advisor, policy and program development, FMCSA; Matthew L. Navarrete, trial attorney for the FRA; Larry W. Minor, associate administrator, office of policy, for the FMCSA; BJ Arseneau, DO, chief medical officer for the FRA; and Gina Pervall, MD, chairman of the medical review board for the FMCSA.
Only a few members of the public attended the Los Angeles session in person. Three attendees total made public comments (two commented in the morning session, and one commented during the afternoon session). The event was live broadcast online, and the public could also comment online during the event. Both the morning and afternoon sessions ended early because all attendees who wished to publicly comment were finished speaking.
The first of the three attendees who addressed the panel was Kevin Walgenbach, vice president of compliance & regulatory affairs for the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA). Walgenbach, who says the NRMCA represents more than 2,000 companies and 125,000 employees, said he believes the current regulatory framework is sufficient and he is opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach to OSA testing and screening because of the drivers’ unique needs. Walgenbach also said the proposed rules may impact the ability to recruit new drivers. Also, in his estimation, the 2012 enforced recommendations caused a number of issues in the commercial trucking industry, such as unnecessary costs and false diagnoses, and he supports a comprehensive pilot study before the rules are finalized.
“The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association at this time is opposed to any new regulation mandating sleep apnea screenings. The current regulatory framework already exists to address sleep disorders among commercial motor vehicle drivers. A more pointed examination of certified medical examiners and their practices related sleep disorder determinations for drivers may yield better results aimed at increased safety on our nation’s roads,” said Walgenbach. “With this fishing expedition on sleep apnea it is clear that the agencies have not taken seriously concerns relating to limited medical coverage for sleep apnea or currently unemployed drivers looking to enter the workforce.” Walgenbach said until these issues are examined, any new rulemaking, in addition to the current regulatory framework, would be improper.
Tami Friedrich Trakh, a board member for Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and a member of the FMCSA Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, was the second speaker in the morning session and is a proponent of the suggested guidelines. In a statement to the panel, Trakh said she is surprised that there is strong resistance to OSA screening and treatment in the commercial transportation industry, adding that fatigue has been recognized as a major safety issue for more than 70 years. Trakh said OSA does have an effect on traffic accidents and ardently said that more must be done to prevent fatigued driving.
According to Trakh, a 2006 FMCSA study revealed that 65% of truck drives reported they often or sometimes felt drowsy while driving and nearly half admitted to falling asleep behind the while driving in the previous year. “Nearly 20 million Americans are affected by sleep apnea, but truck drivers are at a much greater risk for this health problem (some studies estimate that up to 50% of truck drivers are at risk compared to 5% of the general population.) There are solutions that are available, like a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, but they are of no use if the drivers are not using them,” Trakh said. “According to results from one study of sleep apnea, 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. These staggering statistics should give pause to those denying that this sleep disorder has an effect on crashes.”
Trakh said she looks forward to seeing a final rule that would require commercial motor vehicle drivers to be screened, tested, and treated for OSA.
In the afternoon session of the Los Angeles meeting, Dana Voien, president and CEO of SleepSafe Drivers, a provider of programs for sleep apnea and fatigue management to fleets and high-risk occupations, addressed the panel as a proponent of the proposed guidelines. Voien said the screening and treatment of OSA has benefits for the commercial transportation industry and having a uniform rule will help fleets as well as individuals drivers. Voien highlighted the importance of showing drivers in this industry that the proposed rules for screening and treatment will be a benefit and not an imposition, and studies have shown that the guidelines can protect drivers’ health and keep them on the job.
“We believe that a rule for sleep apnea will lead to dramatic reductions in both rail and truck related accidents, fatalities, and total expenses nationwide, helping those workers to lead longer and healthier lives and careers,” said Voien. “There have been numerous large and statistically significant studies done with truckers and rail workers specifically, all of which show a direct link between untreated sleep apnea and increased risk of crash (2.5 to 5x), plus a doubling of hospital costs, a doubled risk for heart attacks, a five-fold increase in strokes, a 70% increase in sick days and Workers Comp claims, and a 90% increased risk of forced early retirement due to health issues.”
Safety and Support for Drivers
According to Voien, testing and treatment done through Fatigue Management Programs (FMP) tailored for trucking and rail workers are documented to help drivers get tested and treated in 1 to 3 days, reduce accident rates, and deliver 96% to 98% treatment success. Voien said testing and treating through a comprehensive FMP should include a variety of components, including education, both in-lab polysomnography and home sleep tests as available options, and ongoing PAP compliance monitoring and support. “Drivers and rail workers must be assured they will be supported throughout the process, and over time through the FMP program. Bottom line, ‘We care about your health and safety,’” said Voien.
“Based on 20 years of leadership in transportation, I feel that publishing a regulation (using the same language from the last FMCSA rule publication) on sleep apnea is a positive and critically needed action,” Steven Garrish, MBA, CDS, senior vice president of business development/new ventures for SleepSafe Drivers, later said in response to a Sleep Review follow-up e-mail. “Much like the value that has been brought to the industry from required physicals, drug and alcohol screening and other vital measures; having a clear and thoughtful regulation on sleep apnea testing and treatment (as part of a comprehensive FMP) is the next logical step for improving safety and a higher quality of life for those who work so hard to support and protect our nation’s supply chain.”
Also via e-mail, D. Alan Lankford, PhD, FAASM, chief science officer at SleepSafe Drivers, said, “FMCSA/FRA are seeking input on how to craft the most effective and efficient regulation to address the potential safety risks associated with OSA. For this regulation to be successful, the potential impact to the industry must be acknowledged. In all cases, the goal should be protecting public safety and enhancing the industry professionals’ safety and well-being while keeping the freight/cargo moving.” (emphasis Lankford’s)
Though the in-person listening sessions are now over, the public still has until June 8 to comment on the proposed regulation online.
Truck drivers are battling with the Obama administration over a long-delayed proposal related to drug and alcohol testing.
The Transportation Department is moving to establish a national database — also known as a clearinghouse — that would list truck drivers who have failed drug and alcohol tests. It would also list drivers who have refused to take them.
The administration and supporters of the proposal say the database would make it easier for employers to conduct background checks before they hire new drivers.
“Drivers who have previously violated drug and alcohol testing, and especially those who are repeat violators, pose a significant risk to the driving public,” the Truck Safety Coalition said in comments filed with the Transportation Department.
The department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sent the rule to the White House last month for final approval after a two-year delay.
Safety advocates, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, argue the database will help keep dangerous drivers off the road by closing a loophole that allows truck drivers who have been fired for substance abuse to continue operating commercial motor vehicles.
Trucking companies also support the rule, which could save them money by cutting back on crashes. Having a central database could also shield them from liability when accidents occur.
“Motor carriers support it, because they want to hire safe, qualified drivers, and they need full and complete histories of prospective drivers to do that,” said Rob Abbott, vice president of safety policy at the American Trucking Associations.
But truck drivers fear former employers could use the database to unfairly punish drivers.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which represents some 150,000 truck drivers, is concerned that trucking companies will use the threat of falsely reported alcohol and drug tests to “punish or retaliate against drivers.”
“The report of a bad drug test can be the end of a driver’s employability,” the OOIDA told the Treasury Department.
The Transportation Department already requires truck drivers to report failed tests to their current and future employers, but safety advocates doubt that the “self-reporting” requirements are effective.
Without a national database to track the results, drivers who have been fired can find jobs with new employers. That could have “deadly consequences,” according to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
“Unless a history of drug and alcohol violations are voluntarily supplied, the employers lack adequate information to avoid hiring these dangerous drivers,” according to the Truck Safety Coalition.
In addition, not every company that employs a driver is notified when a driver fails a drug or alcohol test. Working for multiple trucking companies is common in the industry.
“In the interest of safety, the clearinghouse should immediately notify all of a driver’s employers when the driver is to be removed from a safety sensitive position,” the American Trucking Associations wrote.
“If such a process is not provided, employers will be forced to rely on the honesty of their employees to inform them of their non-compliance,” it added. “Yet, there is little to compel an employee in such circumstances to do so.”
Trucking companies and safety advocates are pushing the administration to strengthen the rule so that the database includes drivers who avoided being tested by admitting to substance abuse problems.
The American Trucking Associations argues that truck drivers who either admitted to or were observed by their employers using drugs or alcohol should also be included in the database.
But the truck drivers group says trucking companies often use the tests unfairly.
“One scheme motor carriers use is to require a driver to take a drug test at a date and time that is impossible for the driver to meet — whether due to the distance the driver must travel to the drug testing facility or the simultaneous work demands of the carrier,” the OOIDA wrote.
“Another scheme is to tag a driver with a refusal after the driver is terminated or resigns from the motor carrier,” it added.
On May 5th, a semi driver fell asleep behind the wheel before causing a three-truck crash. According to the Minnesota State Police, “Timothy Tillman, a 31-year-old Minneapolis man, fell asleep while driving his 2001 International 4000 series truck and rear-ended a 1995 International being driven by Brandon Belland, a 25-year-old Milaca man. Belland’s truck then rear-ended a 1998 International truck being driven by Steven Workman, a 21-year-old Princeton man.”
After falling asleep while driving, a truck driver crashed his box truck into a rest stop in Ohio on May 20th. According to the Ohio Highway Patrol, there was little evidence of braking and nothing wrong with the truck’s brakes. The truck driver was cited for driving a commercial vehicle with impaired awareness and failure to maintain control.
On May 25th, a truck driver was stopped at a red light when another truck failed to stop in time, struck it, then rolled on top of it, eventually causing the vehicles to combust . According to the Whitley County Sherriff’s Department, the driver of the second truck told them that he fell asleep behind the wheel, which is why he was inattentive and unable to stop in time. The driver of the first struck sustained burns to his body as we has trapped in the cab of his burning truck before being extricated.
TSC supports efforts to reduce truck driver fatigue. We will continue to oppose exemptions and rollbacks of the Hours of Service regulations, and support efforts to ensure truck driver fitness as well as efforts to change truck driver compensation.
THUD Bill with Tired Trucker Provision Passes House Committee
The House Committee on Appropriations today passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill, which included Section 132 – the tired trucker provision. We are disappointed that a majority of the committee opposed an amendment offered Congressman David Price (D-NC) to remove this and other anti-safety riders from the bill.
Daphne Izer, founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) said, “I am frustrated that year after year, our lawmakers are more focused on inserting corporate earmarks into must-pass bills than passing data-driven safety solutions that will save lives and prevent injuries. Not only does this special interest handout, which will change a federal safety rule, have no place in an appropriations bill, it has no place in any bill. The tired trucker provision has not been subject to any public scrutiny, committee hearings, or adequate safety review. Trucking industry lobbyists should not be able to use the appropriations process to drive their agendas, while everyday people like me are forced to wait years for meaningful safety reforms in the gridlocked legislative avenues available to the non-lobbying public.”
Jennifer Tierney, the Truck Safety Coalition’s North Carolina Volunteer Coordinator stated, “I was very pleased when I heard that Representative Price offered an amendment to remove several anti-safety riders from the THUD bill, and I thank him on his efforts on behalf of families, survivors, and the motoring public. After more than three decades of advocacy, however, I was not surprised that this commonsense, pro-safety amendment was rejected in favor of a corporate handout. With nearly 4,000 people killed and 100,000 injured year as a result of truck crashes, it is time for our lawmakers to finally acknowledge that increasing a truck driver’s driving and working hours is not the solution to the major safety issue of fatigue.”
“Ultimately, the rejection of the Price amendment has created a tradition that adversely affects policy as well as process. Nevertheless, the Truck Safety Coalition will continue to educate the public and lawmakers about policies and regulations that will reduce the number of large truck crashes and the resulting injuries and fatalities.” Tierney concluded.
The Truck Safety Coalition is a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT). The Truck Safety Coalition is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public policy-makers and media about truck safety issues.
There are about 500 truck crashes annually in Maine. Many crashes result in deaths and injuries, and the victims are usually Maine families.
Despite the carnage, Sen. Collins continues to be the star quarterback for special trucking interests seeking to repeal safety regulations that protect the lives of truck drivers and Maine families. National news stories have documented her legacy working on behalf of corporate trucking interests and, in turn, their generous largesse for her support.
Unfortunately, the annual government spending bill has become her private domain for pushing anti-truck safety measures. When trucking interests sought to significantly increase truck weights in Maine, Sen. Collins was ready to help. Last year, FedEx and others recognized a willing partner in Sen. Collins when they sought to overturn laws in 39 states, including Maine, and allow monster-sized trucks across the country.
And, for the third consecutive year, as a senior Appropriations Committee member, she slipped a provision into the bill to repeal the reasonable federal limits on the driving and working hours of truckers, although fatigue is a major cause of truck crashes.
However, this time she went even further and wrote into law an increase in the driving hours of truckers from 60 to 73 in a week. This is insane, but she has the temerity to actually claim it will be safer. This proposal had no congressional hearing, no scientific review and no public input. But it’s no problem if you are a well-connected trucking lobbyist.
Truck crashes kill 4,000 people and injure 100,000 more annually. Sen. Collins’ solution is to help corporate trucking interests protect their profits, but not public safety.
Former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Monroe County residents have witnessed some spectacularly devastating truck accidents over the years. They should beware measures under consideration in Congress this week that would raise truckers’ allowable working and driving hours, risking even more crashes that would imperil drivers themselves and the motoring public.
Congress is doing this virtually without public scrutiny — without hearings and under pressure from the trucking industry — by including these unsafe proposals in fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills. Elected officials in both the Senate and the House don’t want to get in the way of their precious federal funds.
But human life is precious, too. Senate and House committees are considering raising truckers’ allowable hours from the 60 currently permitted to 73 driving hours per week, plus 10 non-driving hours — loading, unloading, for example. Truckers could take as little as a mere day plus 10 hours, just 34 hours total, time off before they could begin their “work week” all over again. This is more than risky, it’s dangerous. Public safety should never be compromised for the sake of trucking companies’ bottom line.
Drivers themselves oppose these changes. The Teamsters, citizens’ groups, law enforcement agencies, federal and state safety officials and even some trucking companies argue, sensibly, against expanding work hours beyond the cap the Obama administration instituted in 2013.
The National Transportation Safety Board lists reducing fatigue-related crashes as among its top priorities this year, noting that truck crashes result in 4,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries every year. Driver fatigue is a frequent factor. The NHTSA’s National Automotive Sambling System Crashworthiness Data System crunched data and estimated that 16;5 percent of fatal crashes involved drowsy driving.
Anyone who uses Interstate 80, I-380 or four-lane Route 33/209 is aware of the truck-related carnage that should be everyone’s mission to reduce. Pennsylvania Congressman Shuster, R-9, chairs the House transportation and infrastructure committee. He should vigorously oppose these changes, which industry lobbyists succeeded in getting legislators to slip into the appropriations bills specifically to avoid the public hearings that would be necessary at the committee level. Call Shuster in Washington at 202-225-2431. Ask him which is more important: trucking company profits, or people’s lives?
WASHINGTON — Truck driver Dana Logan tried on Wednesday to recount a crash that decapitated two fathers and two children, hoping to convince Congress to stop weakening rules that require truckers to get rest.
She couldn’t do it. A dozen years after the fatigued driver of another truck fell asleep and drove into an SUV stuck in traffic behind her rig on a Texas highway, Logan was still too devastated to finish talking about it.
She drives trucks with her husband, Tim, as a team. That June day in 2004 near Sulphur Springs, the other driver fell asleep and rammed the SUV, pushing it under the carriage of Logan’s trailer, shearing off the top half of the vehicle with its four helpless passengers inside.
Logan got as far as recalling how her husband rushed to help the other trucker.
“When Tim tried the get the injured driver out of the truck, he [the other driver] asked him, ‘Did I hit something?’ Those were his last words before he died,” Logan told reporters in a conference call aimed at legislation moving in Congress this week.
Sobbing, Logan had to stop. She asked her husband to finish.
What the Logans and other safety advocates are worried about are measures that would allow truck drivers to work more than 80 hours a week, tacked onto to separate appropriations bills in the House and the Senate.
In the Senate, a measure that allows 73 hours of driving and an additional 8.5 hours on related work each week was added to a massive spending measure that will fund transportation, housing and military construction projects, as well as the Veterans Administration. Funding for Zika prevention has also been added to that bill, making it very likely to pass.
In the House, measures were added to the transportation and housing appropriations bill under consideration in the committee that set similar rest rules, reverting to regulations originally set in the Bush administration that were repeatedly challenged and thrown out in lawsuits.
Both bills would prevent the Obama administration from enforcing a regulation that briefly went into effect in 2013 that effectively capped truck drivers’ working hours at 70 a week, and ensured they could have two nights off in a row. That rule was blocked by a rider in a 2014 spending bill, which had to pass to avert a government shutdown.
The new inserted policy provisions represent a trend over the last three years of trucking industry interests using must-pass spending bills to win regulatory concessions that are opposed by most safety advocates and likely could not pass as normal stand-alone bills. In this case, not only do the bills fund major parts of the government, they provide cash to fight Zika.
“There’s not been any congressional hearings on any of these proposals,” said Jackie Gillian, the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “The trucking industry doesn’t want to have hearings, they don’t want to hear from truck drivers like Dana Logan. They don’t want to hear from victims.
“They know that if they do have testimony and they have the experts up there, the people affected, that they would see how illogical and insane these proposals are,” Gillian said.
Those trucking interests see the complaints of safety advocates as illogical.
On the rest requirements, known as hours-of-service rules, the industry believes advocates are inventing problems.
“There’s this claim by these anti-truck groups that drivers are abusing it. There’s no data showing that,” said Dave Osieki, who is in charge of public advocacy at the American Trucking Associations.
Osieki argued that it’s nearly impossible for drivers to string together their hours to hit the 80-plus hour maximums that are theoretically allowed under the rules that the trucking provisions in both spending bills would preserve. “We just don’t see a need for it,” he said of the tougher Obama administration standard with two nights off.
Osieki added that he’s seen no evidence that hours of service rules improve safety.
“Show me a link between compliance or noncompliance of the hours of service rules, and there is none,” he said.
Nevertheless, police who enforce the highway safety laws do see a connection.
One is Illinois Trooper Douglas Balder. Balder was nearly burned alive when a truck driver completely ignored the rules, and drove into the back of Balder’s patrol car. Balder, also a military veteran, spent months in rehab to get back on the beat. He doesn’t want Congress rolling back safety rules, and joined Wednesday’s conference call to say so.
“I continue to take to the road every day to do my part to protect the people and ensure the law is upheld,” Balder said. “I cannot do my job alone. I urge Congress to take necessary action to ensure our safety, not to put us further at risk.”
The White House has threatened to veto the Senate spending bill, in part because of the rest rule rollback. But the prospect of a veto is less likely with the Zika measure attached.
Three senators, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) hoped to offer an amendment in debate Thursday to restore the Obama rest regulations. It was unclear if they would get the chance amid all the back-and-forth around Zika and other pressing matters surrounding the larger legislation. Democrats tried to remove Zika funding from the bill on Wednesday, but were blocked.
The Truck Safety Coalition has honored three trucking industry leaders for commitment and dedication to fleet safety.
TSC, often seen as an “anti-truck” group, presented the Distinguished Safety Leadership Award to Greer Woodruff, senior vice president of safety, security and driver personnel of J.B. Hunt Transport Services.
The group gave special recognition for J.B. Hunt’s purchase of 4,000 Wabash trailers with enhanced rear underride protections. The underride guards are engineered to prevent underride crashes at higher impact speeds and overlap percentages. Woodruff was also recognized for using telematics to supervise driving behaviors and enhanced drug testing procedures to promote safe driving at J.B. Hunt.
“The Truck Safety Coalition commends Greer Woodruff for his strong commitment to advancing truck safety during his 28 years at J.B. Hunt,” said John Lannen, executive director of the TSC. “I applaud Woodruff and his team for their tireless efforts to eliminate all crashes involving J.B. Hunt drivers and equipment.”
In addition to Woodruff, TSC announced that Reggie Dupre, CEO of Dupre Logistics, and Steve Williams, chairman and CEO of Maverick USA, will receive the Truck Safety Leadership Award at a later date.
Dupre was noted for implementing a training program for drivers, a fatigue management plan that includes hourly pay for many of Dupre Logistics’ drivers, and the use of “common-sense safety technologies.”
“We also commend Mr. Dupre for his involvement in the Trucking Alliance, which supports an increase for the minimum insurance required by motor carriers, and recently announced its opposition to efforts going on right now in the United States Senate to roll back federal hours of service rules for truck drivers,” said Jane Mathis, vice president of the Truck Safety Coalition.
Williams is a founder of the Trucking Alliance and has advocated for electronic logging devices and opposed increases to truck size and weight. He has also implemented collision avoidance technology on fleet vehicles, including electronic stability control, collision mitigation systems, and lane departure warning systems with forward-looking cameras.
“Steve Williams, Reggie Dupre and Greer Woodruff and their companies are leaders in the Trucking Alliance,” said Lane Kidd, who serves as managing director of the Trucking Alliance. “And these awards are further recognition of their commitment to reduce accidents and a belief that we must work with all transportation stakeholders to promote greater highway safety for truck drivers and motorists alike.”
The Truck Safety Coalition is made up of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Tired Truckers. The group is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes and provides support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims.
I’d never been a witness to a test crash before. I suppose not many people have. It’s kind of a surreal experience, especially for a person that’s had a loved one die in a violent crash.My husband and I, along with several other of our truck safety volunteers attended an all day conference at the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety in Charlottesville Virginia on Thursday.
And it wasn’t just us in attendance.
In an unprecedented move truck companies, trailer manufacturers, safety advocates, bicycle and pedestrian representatives, policy makers, and researchers were all together in one room to talk about the problem of truck underride.
Most of you don’t know what truck underride is, and I wish I didn’t have to explain it to you. But because our country is a generation behind Europe you probably haven’t seen a truck sporting a side guard to keep a car from traveling under the trailer in a crash.
Perhaps, if you’ve been in New York City or Boston recently, you’ve seen city trucks with side guards; those two cities have now mandated this safety precaution after several bicyclists and pedestrians were killed by falling beneath the trailers and being crushed by the wheels.
Side and rear underride is a huge problem outside cities too. As you pass a semi out on the freeway, and if it’s safe, glance over and see where the underside of that trailer would hit you if you slid under. Just about the height of your head. And if you slide under your airbags won’t deploy as there would be no impact of the engine and front of your car. The first impact would be the windshield, and that won’t save you.
And don’t think you’re safe if you hit a semi from behind. Many of the rear guards were built to 1953 standards and will collapse if you hit them with any speed. Once again, the only thing between your head and the back of that trailer will be the windshield.
So for years safety advocates, including the Truck Safety Coalition, has been asking the Department of Transportation to require better rear guards, and to start the process to mandate side guards. It’s another one of those no-brainer things that we just can’t seem to get done through normal channels.
Thursday’s conference wasn’t a normal channel. Never before has the industry met with the safety people to discuss making changes that would move ahead of any regulations that might some day come out of the D.O.T. Never before has such candid conversations been held, without animosity, without rancor, with only safety in mind.
It was amazing.
At noon we went into the lab and watched a test crash of a Malibu slamming at 35 mpr into the back of a semi trailer that had been equipped with a new, stronger rear guard. Some of us weren’t sure we wanted to witness such a thing, but we’re all glad we did.
Because in this case the new rear guard held up and the passenger compartment, crash dummy inside, was not penetrated. (You can watch the crash test here.) Everyone inside this particular car would have survived. For many people the test crash was the highlight of the day. But I thought the highlight was later in the program.
During the day we had speakers from New York City and Boston tell us about the processes they went through requiring side guards on trucks within their city limits. We had speakers from government talking about where in the regulatory process we are, speakers from trailer manufacturers talking about stronger rear guards that are ready for market now, from a truck company that has ordered 4,000 of the new, safer rear guards, and from Virginia Tech students who showed us their own new design for a stronger, safer rear guard.
Those students almost made me cry. They were undergraduates, the project assigned to them was to build a better rear guard for a semi truck. They, like most people, had never heard of underride crashes before. They learned about the problem, dreamed up a number of potential solutions, weeded their options down to four, and then figured out which one was the most plausible, most acceptable to both the trucking industry and safety advocates.
And then they built a it.
Incredibly 18 and 19 year old young people spent a year on this project, realized the importance of their work, and were brave enough to come and speak about it to a group of adults working in the industry. They were excited about their design and proud to show it off. And a room full of jaded adults sat respectfully listening, leaning forward, following along, congratulation the students at the end for a good design, inviting them to join the industry after they graduate. To think that this whole room of people, including the kids, was there to make the roads safer for everyone. Well. That just about made me tear up.
It should make you tear up too.
Because change is happening. It’s happening because we’ve moved past regulations and asked the industry to listen and to do what’s right. And they are responding. Not everyone. And not every request. But some. And some change will lead to more change. And every step we make toward safety saves another life.
Big trucks need improved underride guards, trucking industry executives, government officials and safety activists agree, but opinions diverge sharply on the design and cost of the safety measures.
That’s what emerged from an all-day conference on deadly underride crashes at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, Va. Thursday.
Big trucks “are not in any way crash-friendly,” said Robert Molloy, director of highway safety at the National Transportation Safety Board.
Underride is when a passenger vehicle crashes into a semi-tractor trailer or a straight truck from behind or from the side and jams underneath, flattening the passenger compartment and injuring or killing the vehicle’s occupants. The term also describes what happens when bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists slide under the body of a truck, usually from the side, and are in danger of being run over.
The industry should “move heaven and earth to make the best-possible protection,” said Marianne Karth.
Karth’s teenage daughters AnnaLeah and Mary, riding in the back seat, died from injuries in a 2013 underride accident. Karth’s Ford Crown Victoria was hit by a truck, spun, hit again and shoved backwards under another semi-trailer, flattening the rear of the passenger compartment.
Federal regulations require trailers and some straight trucks to be equipped with rear underride guards – the bars than hang down on the back of trucks and trailers. In fact, regulation requiring modest underride guards have been in place in the U.S. since 1953.
“It’s incredible that we have vehicles today that we can underride,” Molloy said.
The traffic safety community has resolved similar problems previously, he said.
As sport-utility vehicles became popular in the 1990s their high-riding stance increased damage to cars in crashes.
Regulators and the auto industry, he said, “were quick to act, and now we have vehicles that are more compatible.”
While acknowledging the truck problem, speakers at the roundtable differed on whether the guards should wrap around the truck or trailer, how much the extra weight might cut into payload, and how much the upgrades would increase cost.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering a new standard for the guards – partly because of a petition from Karth – but some participants at the roundtable argued that the any likely regulation won’t go far enough to prevent more deadly underride crashes.
To demonstrate the problem, IIHS, an insurance industry trade group, crash-tested the latest-design Stoughton trailer, slamming a 2010 Chevrolet Malibu mid-size sedan into the back of the stationary trailer hooked to a semi-tractor and laden with 34,100 lbs. The test, which IIHS called successful, showed that the trailer’s new-design rear underride guard didn’t intrude into the passenger compartment, making the crash survivable.
The test was what’s called a 30 percent, where a portion of the driver’s side of the car smashes the underride bar.
The collision occurs at 35 mph, the speed at which federal regulations require that a vehicle is strong enough so that its occupants survive a crash.
Stoughton says the new-design rear bars will be standard starting late this year, but refused to provide a cost figure. The company did say the beefier bars would add very little weight, thus not cutting into payload capacity of the trailers.
The biggest change: Four supports across the horizontal bar, not just two. The new ones are on the outer ends of the bar, and all are fastened to a more robust undercarriage, Stoughton says.
As recently as 2013, only Manac had trailers with underride bars that passed the institute’s 30% offset crash test. Now, Vanguard, Wabash and Stoughton trailers also make the cut.
Trailers from Great Dane, Hyundai, Strick and Utility don’t past the test, the institute said.
One manufacturer said the fix is easy and not expensive. Moving the supports farther apart and strengthening the trailer floor to protect cars can be done for $20, and adds just 20 lbs., said Charles Dutil, president of Trailer-maker Manac.
NHTSA has said the fix is much costlier, averaging $2,000. IIHS disputes that figure as too high.
Regardless, the cost and extra weight – 60 lbs. was mentioned several times here — are unlikely to be undue burdens for independent owners-operators, said John Housego of Cary, N.C., who attended the roundtable. He owns a 2010 Freightliner semi-tractor, a 2015 Great Dane trailer and leases an older temperature-controlled trailer when needed for a job.
Housego said he’s willing to spend $1,000 or more on a rear underride-guard retrofit unit that would meet any new federal standard for the rig he owns, but not for a leased trailer.
He also agreed with industry representatives on a panel who said semi-trailer side skirts now used for fuel-saving streamlining could be made more rugged so they’d also serve as underride prevention devices in side crashes.
Panelist Robert Martineau, chief executive of Airflow Deflector, says his panels easily could be made sturdier to serve as crash bumpers as well as aerodynamic aids. He said he couldn’t say what the cost would be until he knows how much force such a panel would be required to withstand.
Officials from New York and Boston at the conference said they put side guards on city-owned trucks, such as waste haulers, and require companies that contract with the cities to install side guards to protect pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycle riders.
Kris Carter, of the Boston’s mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, said when that city began putting side guards onto city vehicles, “it averaged about $1,300 at rollout, the range for us in about $1,000 and $1,800, depending on the vehicle.”
There’s uncertainty over the seemingly straightforward notion of how many people are killed each year in all types of underride accidents.
Federal data from the widely used Fatality Analysis Reporting System logged 5,081 deaths from 1994 to 2014.
Yearly counts range from a low of 198 in 2001 to a high of 299 in 2002. The 2014 count is 228; 2015 data aren’t available yet.
But a September 2013 report from the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine calculated that fatalities from one type of underride collision, the side-crash, are about three times as frequent as the federal data indicates. That’s why some critics are saying the federal data does not represent an accurate fatality count from all types of underride crashes.
The underride crash problem has been debated for decades. Back in 1991 NHTSA rejected extending requirements to prevent underride crashes, stating, “Combination truck side underride countermeasures have been determined not to be cost effective.”
Parents Turn Tragedy Of Losing Son Into Life Saving Mission
MEMPHIS, TN – A Memphis couple traveled to Virginia as part of their mission to turn their tragedy into action.
In November 2014, 33 year old Michael Higginbotham died when his car crashed into a tractor trailer on Walnut Grove near I-240.
The truck driver was making an illegal U-turn.
His parents, Laurie and Randy, began working with advocacy groups to improve truck safety features so another family will not have to go through the same pain.
“He was just a wonderful young man making it in the world doing what you’re supposed to do: having a job, paying taxes, being a productive citizen and all that was taken away on November 18 of 2014,” said Michael’s mother Laurie Higginbotham.
It has been roughly a year and a half since Michael was killed in a car crash with a semi truck on Walnut Grove.
It happened after midnight. The 33 year old was going east on Walnut Grove Road and had just crossed Yates Road when he hit the truck’s trailer.
“Because none of the airbags or anything like that came into play he was killed instantly,” recalled Laurie.
This week the Higginbothams drove to Virginia for a national conference on truck underride crashes.
Government and industry leaders will talk about solutions to reduce truck underride deaths and injuries. The gathering is part of the couple’s new normal to try and help others.
“You shouldn’t have to bury your children. Losing a child is the toughest thing that’s ever happened to me,” said Randy Higginbotham.
“We need the trucks. They need to get the goods to where they need to be and but there should be some safety features that the trucking industry itself can adopt that keeps all of us in passenger vehicles a little safer cause we’re no match against them.”
A crash test of a truck with an improved underride guard will take place at the conference tomorrow.
Arlington, VA (May 5, 2016) – At a time when truck crashes are increasing nationwide and truck safety rules are under attack by special interests in Congress, the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) recognizes three individuals who stand out for their safety leadership in the motor carrier industry. This happens against the backdrop of the U.S. Senate scheduled next week to take up a transportation spending bill, which includes a provision to roll back the federal rule governing the maximum hours a truck driver can drive and work. Their efforts within their own companies underscore why each of these trucking executives continue to be examples of how good corporate policies can also have good public health and safety results.
The Truck Safety Coalition presented the Distinguished Safety Leadership Award to Greer Woodruff, Senior Vice President of Safety, Security, and Driver Personnel of J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. for his outstanding and longtime dedication to improving truck safety. The award was presented during the Underride Roundtable at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s testing facility in Ruckersville, VA. The conference brought together researchers, safety advocates, government officials, and industry leaders to discuss truck underride crashes, examine the scope of the problem, and determine how to reduce the risks for passenger vehicle occupants through regulation and voluntary action.
“The Truck Safety Coalition commends Greer Woodruff for his strong commitment to advancing truck safety during his 28 years at J.B. Hunt. In particular, we want to recognize his support for his company’s forward-thinking purchase of 4,000 Wabash trailers with enhanced rear underride protections,” said John Lannen, Executive Director of the TSC. “The improved underride guards are engineered to prevent underride crashes at higher impact speeds and various overlap percentages. J.B. Hunt is one of the first companies to adopt this new protection for its trucks. Implementing stronger rear guards to reduce truck crash injuries and deaths will serve as a leading example for the industry.”
“Additionally, Woodruff’s early development of the use of real-time telematics supervision of driving behaviors and enhanced drug testing procedures has promoted safe driving and established him as an industry safety leader. During his tenure, the company has seen reductions in all types of collisions, and their post-accident positive drug tests between 2008 and 2014 were effectively zero percent.” Lannen continued, “I applaud Woodruff and his team for their tireless efforts to eliminate all crashes involving J.B. Hunt drivers and equipment.”
The Truck Safety Coalition also announced that Reggie Dupre, CEO of Dupre Logistics, LLC, and Steve Williams, Chairman and CEO of Maverick USA Inc. will receive the Truck Safety Leadership Awardat a later date.
“Steve Williams has initiated and supported numerous efforts to make the industry safer for truck drivers and the public sharing the road with large trucks. As founder and president of the Trucking Alliance, he has advocated for electronic logging devices and opposed increases to truck size and weight,” Dawn King, President of TSC, stated. “In addition, he has implemented crash-reducing technologies on his company’s trucks such as: electronic stability control since 2004, collision mitigation systems since 2008, and lane departure warning systems with forward-looking cameras since 2013. Under his leadership, and with a focus on safety, Maverick experiences significantly lower driver and vehicle out-of-service rates compared to the national averages.”
Jane Mathis, Vice President of TSC, remarked, “Mr. Dupre has promoted and oversees a safety culture that strives for best practices rather than simply following basic regulations, which he views as minimum standards. This is demonstrated by his implementation of training programs for drivers, a fatigue management plan that includes pay-by-the-hour for many of his drivers, and equipping their fleet with common sense safety technologies, which has helped the company experience much lower driver and vehicle out-of-service rates compared to industry averages. We also commend Mr. Dupre for his involvement in the Trucking Alliance, which supports an increase for the minimum insurance required by motor carriers, and recently announced its opposition to efforts going on right now in the United States Senate to rollback federal hours of service rules for truck drivers. As a leader in the trucking industry, his opposition is critical. Truck driver fatigue is a major problem in the trucking industry and proposed changes included in the current transportation spending bill coming up next week in the Senate will make our roads and highways more dangerous for the public and truck drivers.”
The Truck Safety Coalition is made up of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT). The Truck Safety Coalition is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public policy-makers and media about truck safety issues.
It is an old congressional ritual: loading up vital spending bills that are meant to keep the government running with dangerous amendments aimed at satisfying ideological causes and benefiting special interests.
The Republicans have become adept at this practice in recent years, and this year is no different. Legislative riders attached to appropriations bills would undermine the Iran nuclear deal, weaken highway safety and reduce the Food and Drug Administration’s authority over tobacco products.
These measures would be unlikely to succeed as stand-alone bills, either because they could not get enough votes on their own or because President Obama would veto them. So better to sneak them in without even holding hearings to make a case on their behalf.
Thankfully, Democratic lawmakers and public interest groups are calling attention to these stealth attacks. In the Senate, Democrats managed on Wednesday to block a vote on a water and energy spending bill after Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, tried to attach a provision that would have dealt a severe blow to the Iran nuclear deal. Mr. Cotton’s measure would have blocked the administration from purchasing heavy water used in Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran has to get rid of the water to comply with the deal. By denying Iran an American market, Mr. Cotton and other Republicans hoped to undermine the deal, which they hate.
The Senate will soon consider a transportation bill containing a rider that could prevent the Department of Transportation from reinstating a rule aimed at making roads safer by requiring that truckers get adequate rest — two nights of rest after working 60 hours over seven consecutive days or 70 hours over eight consecutive days.
The rule took effect in July 2013, but it was suspended by Congress in December 2014. The rider bars the administration from reinstating the rule unless it can show that it produced a “statistically significant” improvement in safety and driver health during the brief time it was in place.
That is a ridiculously high burden to meet. If the provision becomes law, it will be impossible for the government to issue basic regulations to make sure companies are not putting dangerously tired drivers on the road.
And the House Appropriations Committee recently passed an agriculture and food spending bill that would make it very hard for the F.D.A. to regulate tobacco products. A rider attached in committee would forbid the agency from regulating “large and premium cigars”; another would rewrite a 2009 law that gave the agency the authority to approve or reject tobacco products that have entered the market after Feb. 15, 2007. This would include electronic cigarettes, for which the agency has proposed regulations.
To prevent the agency from taking e-cigarettes off the market and effectively grandfather them in, Republican lawmakers want to require pre-approval only for products that come out after the F.D.A. issues its final e-cigarette rules, which could be later this year. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the devices are now more popular than conventional cigarettes with middle- and high-school students.
Riders like these are not harmless passengers on legislative vehicles. They can and will do real damage if they are allowed to succeed.
Statement of Daphne Izer, Founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT)
In Response to Senate Appropriations Committee Passing Industry-Written Provision to Rewrite Laws Affecting Truck Drivers’ Hours of Service
April 21, 2016
For a third year now, the Senate Appropriations Committee has passed a spending bill that was co-authored by a select few trucking industry lobbyists. The industry-penned provision will increase the amount of hours truck drivers can work in a week and deprive truckers of a real weekend off. This is wrong on so many levels. Unfortunately, under the leadership of Senator Susan Collins, who chairs the subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD), this practice is business as usual.
It is outrageous that segments of the trucking industry have been able to use must-pass spending bills as legislative vehicles to drive their agendas that make public safety take a back seat. What is even worse is that the process by which industry lobbyists write and insert their provisions is often highly secretive. This has allowed moneyed interests to make changes to laws governing trucking without so much as a congressional hearing, any federal agency review, or any public input.
Lawmakers should treat safety interests with the same importance as corporate interests, but this has not been the case with this appropriations subcommittee. For instance, I have been advocating for more than 20 years for laws requiring large trucks to have electronic logging devices (ELDs) and heavy vehicle speed limiters. Yet, it took nearly two decades for a Final Rule on ELDs, and the Final Rule for speed limiters was just delayed for the 28th time since being initiated in 2006. When trucking industry lobbyists realized they miswrote language, however, it only took them several weeks to secure an immediate change to the law from their friend in the Senate.
This egregious exploitation of the appropriations process is an affront to truck safety and to the memory of the thousands of Americans, including my son Jeff, who were needlessly killed in large truck crashes. With the one year anniversary of the truck crash that killed the five Georgia Southern University nursing students falling one day after this vote, I want to convey my sincerest sympathy to the families of Emily Clark, Catherine “McKay” Pittman, Caitlyn N. Baggett, Abbie L. Deloach, and Morgan J. Bass. Their deaths should serve as grave reminder that lawmakers need to do much more to combat the role that issues like fatigue play in causing truck crashes, including reversing the provision that was just passed.
It is time for Senator Collins to stop holding this “back door” open for industry insiders to have uninhibited access to write rules and laws that are in their best interest. Instead, she should look at the facts, listen to general public, and use a transparent process.
WASHINGTON — Safety advocates are crying foul over yet another change to trucking safety rules that the industry is trying to slide though Congress with no hearings, no public evaluation and no scientific study.
The move comes just days after The Huffington Post revealed that large trucking industry groups have spent the last several years quietly circumventing normal legislative procedures to win safety rule concessions — even as truck crashes have been on the rise.
Normally, transportation policy is decided by the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. But failing to make progress there, the trucking industry seems to have persuaded the Appropriations Committee to add its policy provisions to spending bills.
In this case, according to advocates who have been briefed about the bill, the industry wrote a provision that will place some sort of cap on truckers’ work, keeping either driving or working hours to 73 per week.
Exactly what the cap — which is about 30 hours more than most Americans work each week — would mean is not completely clear. Representatives for Democratic and Republican leaders on the committee declined to make the language available to HuffPost, saying it will be public after the full committee considers the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development spending bill for 2017 this Thursday.
“They are writing law in a spending bill. They are completely bypassing the Commerce Committee,” said Jackie Gillian, the president Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
Gillian says the measure appears to have been written by the American Trucking Associations, a industry lobbying group. If the move succeeds, if could permanently change rest rules for increasingly beleaguered truck drivers — with no public input, no scientific evaluation and no discussion with regulators.
“It is like the worse of all possible worlds,” Gillian said. “The idea that the ATA has come in and written into law what they want done — I mean, can you imagine if this were the Federal Aviation Administration?”
The ATA did not say whether it wrote the new measure, though it offered comment on it and seemed to know what language it contained.
Ironically, the new provision is being dropped into a spending bill in an effort to correct confusion over another measure that was added through the appropriations committee, also without hearings or vetting.
The ATA first managed to get Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to write legislation in 2014 to temporarily suspend rest rules that took effect in July 2013, which required drivers to get two nights of sleep and capped their working hours at 70 per week.
Collins’ one-year suspension also required a study of making drivers get two nights of sleep in a row as part of their weekly mandated 34-hour break, known as a restart. But the industry was unsatisfied. It won further modifications in 2015 for this year’s spending bill that made the study more complicated, and said that if the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration did not write new rules based on the study, the rules would revert to the old ones.
The problem was the language didn’t clarify which older rules it was referring to, meaning regulators could be turning back to mandates from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration that capped drivers’ hours at 60 a week — much more rest than under the modern system.
An ATA spokesman said the new 73-hour cap is meant to address this confusion.
“What the Senate language appears to do is retain the ability of drivers to reset their work weeks by taking an extended 34-hour off-duty period, with the recognition they are still limited to 73 hours of work (both driving and other work time) in seven calendar days,” Sean McNally said in an emailed comment.
“We appreciate the recognition by the Senate THUD subcommittee that the legislative drafting error from 2016 needs to be fixed,” he added.
McNally downplayed advocates’ concerns about over-tried truckers.
“ATA also knows that while professional truck drivers do not work wildly inflated weekly work hours that anti-truck groups claim, we understand the Subcommittee’s sensitivity to claims a handful of drivers might abuse the restart rule to work long hours in a week,” McNally said. “We look forward to working with members in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to ensure that professional truck drivers continue to have the opportunity to get extended off-duty rest periods that reset their work week.”
The issue seems to have left Democratic Senators in a difficult position. While they would prefer the 2013 rules that gave truckers two nights of sleep, they also fear they don’t have the votes to block the 73-hour week.
Safety advocates told HuffPost that the ATA had tried to attach a 75-hour week to the Commerce Committee’s FAA bill that passed the Senate Thursday, but the measure was blocked.
Senate staff also declined to give the safety advocates copies of the new measure’s language, which would reveal specifically what the impact would be.
Gillian believed the reason is because the implications will not be good.
“They won’t release the sub-committee draft because they know what’s in there, and they know safety groups will go nuts,” Gillian said.
“This is their [the trucking industry’s] most bold and anti-safety measure yet,” she added.
LISBON — As many of my fellow Mainers know, after my son Jeff was killed by a tired trucker in 1993, I founded Parents Against Tired Truckers and began advocating to make trucking safer.
In over two decades of educating the public and lawmakers about truck safety, I have also worked to ensure that regulations like maximum driving hours and mandated meal and rest breaks are implemented to improve work conditions for truckers and to prevent fatigue-related truck crashes.
The fact that a fatigued truck driver killed my son is not unique. One survey found that 65 percent of truck drivers reported being drowsy while driving and 48 percent admitted to having fallen asleep while driving. And according to the National Transportation Safety Board, fatigue is a probable cause, a contributing factor or finding in nearly 20 percent of their investigations between 2001 and 2012. Clearly, we should not be hindering the government’s efforts to set maximum hours and require rest breaks.
Instead, we should be looking at ways to change the industry culture, which promotes driving faster and farther, even if a driver is tired. Given that so many truck drivers are paid per mile, it is no wonder that the industry has created this culture, which ultimately rewards unsafe behavior.
However, there are clear signs that the industry must change its ways. Driver pay has effectively dropped by nearly a third since deregulation in the 1980s, and employment turnover rates constantly hover over 90 percent.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury, nearly 75 percent of long-haul truck drivers received an unrealistically tight delivery schedule, and nearly 40 percent of long-haul truck drivers reported violating hours-of-service rules. This is a consequence of shippers, brokers and motor carrier management forgetting that drivers are not merely assets, and that crashes are not merely the cost of doing business.
The hours-of-service rules were put in place to cap the maximum amount of hours truck drivers can work to ensure that they are adequately rested and can safely operate their vehicles. Yet there are many people, including our members of Congress, who misunderstand this.
The sad truth is that there are truck drivers who routinely work over 80 hours per week, and do so without actual weekends off. This is wrong, unsafe and a result of the industry’s relentlessly rallying against hours-of-service rules and successfully convincing lawmakers to ratchet up the amount of time truck drivers are allowed to work.
It is unfortunate that U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is once again behind an industry-backed measure to weaken hours-of-service rules and embolden unsafe driving behavior that contributes to countless preventable truck crashes. And it is equally unfortunate that the senator has made a tradition out of pushing the trucking industry’s agenda to weaken hours-of-service rules through the appropriations process, which bypasses any public input.
If she really believes that this is something that will make trucking safer and be supported by most Americans, then she should have a hearing and listen to the 80 percent of the public who oppose legislative efforts to increase the number of hours that semi-truck drivers are allowed to work in a week – not just to industry lobbyists.
As chairwoman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, Collins knows that such policy changes have no place in a spending bill. As a bipartisan senator, she knows that there are proven methods that she could work with Democrats to enact, like crash avoidance technologies and adequate underride protections.
And as a fellow Mainer, she knows of the tragic loss experienced by people like me; like Christina Mahaney, whose 5-year-old son Liam was killed in 2011 when a truck driver spilled a load of logs into the family’s Jackman home, and like the countless other parents, children, siblings, spouses and friends – loss that could have been prevented by stronger truck safety laws.
Ultimately, our lawmakers have a duty to address the issue of truck driver fatigue and take action to prevent needless truck crash deaths and injuries. Increasing a truck driver’s workweek from 70 to 82 hours will definitely not solve this problem, but allowing truck drivers to have a real weekend off by requiring a 48-hour restart will.
Daphne Izer of Lisbon is the mother of Jeff Izer, who was killed in 1993 when a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel of his big rig. She is founder and co-chair of Parents Against Tired Truckers, now in Washington under the Truck Safety Coalition.
WASHINGTON — Illinois State Trooper Douglas Balder sat in his squad car, its red and blue lights strobing into the frozen night of Jan. 27, 2014. He was about to be set on fire.
Balder had stopped to assist a Chicago-bound big rig that had stalled out in the rightmost lane of the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway. A heavy-duty tow truck and a bright yellow Tollway assistance vehicle were also pulled over, attending to the stranded semi.
Balder, a Navy reservist and father of two, had his heater cranked against minus-30-degree wind chill. He had positioned his 2011 Crown Victoria behind the Tollway vehicle and switched on his flashers. There were also flares sputtering on the pavement, and the Tollway truck was flashing a large blinking arrow and its amber hazard lights. Visibility on that clear, cold night was excellent — around 10 miles.
Renato Velasquez, who was barreling toward the stopped vehicles in a flatbed big rig loaded with three massive rolls of steel, didn’t see Balder’s flashers. He didn’t see the pulsing arrow or the flares. He didn’t change lanes or take any evasive action until far too late. Velasquez was falling asleep, a court would find later. His truck rammed into Balder’s squad car at 63 miles per hour, according to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the accident.
The impact crushed the Crown Vic’s trunk, exploding the gas tank and catapulting the patrol car into a roadside ditch. The three 14,580-pound steel coils chained to Velazquez’s trailer bed burst their restraints. One of the massive rolls struck the cab of the Tollway vehicle, instantly killing its 39-year-old driver Vincent Petrella and injuring Agron Xhelaj, the driver of the stalled truck who was seated beside him.
Balder had lost consciousness when his face hit the steering wheel.
“I woke up a short time later on fire,” he said. “Literally on fire. Burning alive.”
In that moment, Balder didn’t know exactly what had happened. His squad car was half collapsed. The detonated gas tank was spraying fuel and flames through his cab. His only clear thoughts were of survival and of his wife of 14 years, Kimberlie. He yelled out her name.
“A certain degree of that was emotion at the moment, knowing that I might die, screaming to the last person you might love,” he said.
Balder needed to find a way to escape if he was ever going to see his wife and kids again.
He tried to start his engine, then tried to radio for help. Fire was spreading from around the partition behind him, burning his back, head and legs. He couldn’t open his door or window. He tried the switches on his armrest, and the passenger window miraculously cranked down.
“As that cold air came in and swirled that air around, adrenaline set in, and I flew out,” he said. “The only other choice was to sit there and die.”
He tumbled out on the roadside, rolling in the snow to extinguish the flames that had already scorched more than a third of his body. By the time he stumbled around the back of the wreck and back up to the road, local police were arriving to help.
“You got this guy walking up with his skin hanging off his arm,” Balder said. “My pants were all burned off to the skin.”
He spent six weeks in a medically induced coma, three months in the hospital, and needed 10 surgeries and extensive, ongoing rehab to recover.
Increasing Carnage On Our Highways
In the two years since the accident, Balder has had plenty of time to think about what happened to him — and why. On the simplest level, it happened because a criminally negligent driver pushed too hard and crashed. But it is also part of a broader trend of declining safety on the roads after decades of progress — a trend that the United States Congress has aided and abetted by loosening safety rules even as both truck drivers and trucks are being pushed to their limits, just like Renato Velasquez.
Truck-related deaths hit an all-time low during the economic doldrums of 2009, when 2,983 truck accidents killed 3,380 people. But as the economy has recovered, the carnage has been on the rise. In 2013, the most recent year for which finalized statistics are available, 3,541 wrecks killed 3,964 people — an increase of 17.3 percent in just four years. In 2014, the number of deaths resulting from truck accidents was down slightly, but the total number of crashes and injuries increased.
At the same time, Congress has been caving, very quietly, to lobbying from trucking interests that want to roll back, block or modify at least a half-dozen important safety regulations. Significant parts of the hauling industry have long opposed many of the federal rules governing working hours, rest periods, size and weight limits, and safety standards. When the Great Recession began in 2008, profit margins for shippers shrank and bankruptcies rose, prompting a desperate industry to step up its lobbying effort.
Perhaps, the trucking companies’ lobbyists suggested to Congress, trucks could haul loads heavier than the federal 80,000-pound limit, which would allow them to deliver more goods with each truck. Maybe they could have longer double trailers, increasing the limit from 28 feet for each unit to 33 feet — turning each rig into an 80-foot-long behemoth, as long as an eight-story building is tall. Or they could let truck drivers be more flexible with their rest breaks, which would allow them to work up to 82 hours a week instead of the already-exhausting limit of 70. Maybe trucking firms could reduce labor costs by hiring lower-paid drivers, younger than 21 — as young as 18. Maybe they could stop federal regulators from raising insurance requirements that were set during the Reagan administration. Maybe the federal motor carrier safety ratings for unsafe trucking companies could be kept secret.
Indeed, the trucking industry is trying to do all of those things. If they are successful, these changes would amount to the most significant overhaul of highway safety rules in decades. But most people don’t know such sweeping revisions are even being considered.
Asleep At The Wheel
The latest round of congressional wrangling started with a fight over snoring, or, more specifically, the obstructive sleep apnea that causes it.
For decades, mounting evidence has shown that sleep apnea, a common disorder, can cause perilous levels of fatigue in drivers, pilots, train engineers and others who need to remain alert at work. The airways of people who suffer from apnea close repeatedly while they sleep, interrupting their breathing dozens of times an hour. They often don’t notice the interruptions, but it leaves them exhausted and prone to doze off during the day. Behind the wheel of a large, speeding vehicle, the results are predictably catastrophic.
It’s not just a problem for truckers. As investigators sorted through a Dec. 1, 2013, Metro-North commuter train derailment in New York that killed four people, they found the engineer at the controls, William Rockefeller, had fallen asleep. His shift had recently been changed, which can cause sleep problems in itself, but he also had undiagnosed sleep apnea.
Since 2008, experts with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the trucking industry, have recommended that drivers get checked for the condition and treated if necessary. The NTSB lists sleep apnea as a problem across the transportation industry, and often points to the Metro-North wreck as evidence of why the trucking industry in particular needs better regulation — its rules are the weakest of the major transportation sectors.
The risk of apnea rises dramatically with weight gain, and approximately two-thirds of all truck drivers are believed to be obese, according to a recent federal survey. Other studies have also found that truckers are much more likely to be overweight than workers in other fields. And extensive research links sleep deprivation to heightened crash risks; even moderate tiredness can impair a driver as much as being legally intoxicated. A recent Harvard study found truck drivers with obstructive sleep apnea are five times more likely to crash than their fellows.
To do a better job dealing with the issue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration floated a proposal in April 2012 that would have required overweight truckers to get checked for sleep apnea. The industry was livid. Some drivers claimed there was no evidence that sleep apnea raised the risk of crashes, while others alleged the proposal was a scheme to enrich sleep doctors.
Independent truckers are especially loath to admit a problem because treatment can take them off the road for a month or more. And sleep tests and treatment cost thousands of dollars for people with inadequate or no health insurance.
Despite acknowledging the problem and the need to deal with it, FMCSA backed off its push to update the apnea rules. Just a week after posting the proposal, the agency withdrew it, claiming it was published in error.
Going After Congress
The trucking industry did not let the matter drop, though. Instead, its lobbyists launched a pre-emptive strike.
Normally, when an agency like FMCSA targets a specific issue, it uses its existing authority to propose binding guidance. Taking this route — which the agency started to do with apnea — is easier than embarking on a full federal rulemaking process, which can take years, requires even more extensive input from the public and industry, and often triggers long legal battles.
Rather than taking the chance that FMCSA might resurrect its proposal on apnea screening, industry lobbyists approached allies in Congress to write a law that would require the agency to follow the longer, more cumbersome formal rulemaking course.
Trucking industry lobbyists sold the bill as a safety enhancement. In their telling, it sounded like truckers were asking regulators to come up with a way to screen for dangerous apnea, not blocking an effort to enhance screenings.
Members of Congress bought the spin. “I can only hope that the agency, which has a long docket, in fact gets to this rulemaking,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) in a brief discussion on the the House floor. “I’m not sure why the agency was going to do guidance instead, but this is a very important issue. There have been accidents attributed to sleep apnea.”
Then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) allowed the bill’s sponsors to bring it to the floor on Sept. 26, 2013, when the country was focused on the prospect of a looming government shutdown in the next four days. Safety advocates had little opportunity to raise objections. The bill passed with no opposition and was sent to the Senate. It passed the upper chamber a week later, in the middle of the shutdown, with no debate or even a roll-call vote. The legislation was slipped into a string of unanimous consent requests, lost among resolutions supporting democracy in Venezuela and recognizing Danish Holocaust survivors. President Barack Obama signed the law on Oct. 15, without comment, just before the government shutdown ended.
Less than two months later, the Metro-North engineer took a curve along the Hudson River in the Bronx at 82 miles per hour — 52 mph over the limit — while he dozed at the controls. Seven cars derailed. Three of the four people killed were ejected from the train. No one noticed that Congress had just made it more difficult to screen truckers for similar sleep disorders.
Congress Waters Down Safety Rules
Horrifying crashes have a way of focusing Congress’ attention on safety — at least while the headlines are bold and the corpses are fresh. The rest of the time, lawmakers tend to listen to industry groups, which warn of job losses and higher costs if their demands aren’t met. These conversations happen inside the cloister of legislative process, shielded from scrutiny. If what business wants doesn’t put health or safety first — and it often doesn’t — politicians try to meet the demand by adding provisions to much larger legislative vehicles, where they may be impossible to dislodge, if they are even discovered at all.
Consider this example.
In July 2013, the FMCSA enacted a regulation modifying an existing rule that says drivers must take 34 hours off after they hit certain maximum time limits working and driving. The new restriction mandated that truckers include two nights in that break, with no driving between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. The new rule effectively cut the maximum hours drivers could work from 82 per week to 70. Studies show that humans get the best, most restorative rest while slumbering at night, and truckers face especially tough schedules, so the restriction forced drivers to have two restful, overnight periods in their break, which is known as a “restart.”
But trucking lobbyists argued that making drivers sleep at night was more dangerous because it would put more trucks on the road in the morning hours, with commuters and school buses. The industry pointed to data that shows more accidents occur when there are more vehicles on the roads during the day. The lobbyists neglected to mention data showing that the rate of fatal accidents actually more than doubles during the overnight hours, even with vastly fewer automobiles on the roads.
As soon as the updated regulation went into effect, trucking groups demanded changes, but FMCSA, which had spent years working on the rule, wasn’t listening. That left the industry with the choice of pursuing an uncertain challenge in the courts, or appealing to Congress for relief.
By law, Congress can vote to disapprove a new executive agency regulation, such as the sleep rule, within 60 work days of the rule’s publication. If Congress doesn’t pass a disapproval resolution, lawmakers can propose specific legislation undoing the new rule, and hold hearings on the proposal in the relevant committee — in this case, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Going through either of those processes is the transparent, above-board approach. But that path does not often get the trucking industry what it wants. For years, the late New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), a member of the commerce committee, blocked anything that he thought eroded highway safety, as did other safety-conscious members on the committee. Lautenberg’s successor, Sen. Cory Booker (D), has sought to take up that mantle.
The trucking industry needed a detour. It looked for an alternate route through the Senate Appropriations Committee, and found Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who represents the trucking-friendly state of Maine. Collins added a provision temporarily barring FMCSA from spending any money to enforce its new rule and requiring additional study of the issue to a $54 billion transportation bill during an untelevised legislative markup in June 2014.
The under-the-radar move might have been the end of the new rule. But unlike with the apnea bill a year before, a headline-grabbing tragedy caught the nation’s attention shortly before the appropriations bill made it to the full Senate. Two days after Collins got her amendment included, an exhausted Walmart truck driver speeding along the New Jersey Turnpike slammed into comedian Tracy Morgan’s limo. The wreck killed Morgan’s friend James McNair and left Morgan and four others severely injured.
The crash generated headlines around the world, and once again focused the nation’s attention on the dangers of sleep-deprived drivers behind the wheels of 80,000-pound vehicles.
When the transportation spending bill came to the Senate floor on June 19, Booker was waiting with his own amendment to block that of Collins. He took up his microphone and delivered a blistering speech against the provision, forcing Collins to defend the measure. But before the bill went to a vote, Senate leaders pulled the measure from consideration, in part because of the sudden controversy.
Collins didn’t give up, though. When the nation was again facing a government shutdown in the winter, she managed to slip her sleep-rule provision into the so-called CRomnibus, a huge, unwieldy spending measure that needed to pass by Dec. 13 to keep the government open. No one outside of Congress knew that the trucking provision had been attached to the bill until lawmakers shoved their shambling creation into the light on Dec. 9, four days before it needed to pass. At that point, the measure could not be blocked, as it had been in the aftermath of Tracy Morgan’s crash. Like the sleep apnea rule a year before, it passed under the cover of a funding battle, much to the disappointment of safety advocates, including Morgan’s lawyer, Benedict Morelli.
“I don’t understand how in good conscience anybody could be pushing to relax the federal rules,” Morelli said. “The reason that they’ve been put in place is to make sure this doesn’t happen — and it happens a lot.”
Shocking Headlines, Shockingly Often
Morelli is right: Accidents like those that nearly killed Balder and Morgan happen with startling regularity. For instance, last spring while Congress was again quietly targeting trucking regulations, a string of crashes showed vividly the consequences of overtired truckers pushing past their limits.
On April 22, 2015 a truck driven by John Wayne Johnson barreled through a line of cars backed up by an earlier truck crash on Interstate 16 in Georgia. Johnson killed five nursing students from Georgia Southern University headed to their last training shift of the year. Lawsuits filed over the wreck say he had sleep apnea and a history of falling asleep at the wheel. He also may have been looking at pornographic pictures.
On May 19, witnesses saw a tractor-trailer drifting between lanes as it neared a construction zone on that same Georgia interstate, near I-95. The driver, David Gibbons, 61, smashed his rig into the stopped cars and also killed five people.
On June 25, Benjamin Brewer, 39, spent 50 hours at work and was allegedly high on meth when he approached construction traffic on I-75 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was going so fast, his truck careened on for 453 feet after impacting the first car, according to the NTSB. He killed six people.
On July 23, trucker Ruslan Pankiv failed to notice traffic backed up at a construction zone on I-65 near Lafayette, Indiana. He plowed through the stopped vehicles, killing five people, including a mother, her two young sons and himself. Again, police suspected fatigue.
Those are just cases for which drowsiness was explicitly stated as a possible cause. Most independent experts believe fatigue-related wrecks are significantly undercounted since there is no roadside exam or blood test for drowsiness, and drivers are often reluctant to admit they were nodding off.
In the case of Renato Velasquez, he insisted he hadn’t dozed off, but he could come up with no other explanation his wreck. By the time the scientifically careful NTSB released its final report on Velasquez’s accident, on Feb. 9, 2016, he’d already been convictedand sentenced to three years in prison for driving while fatigued, ignoring federal rest rules, driving too fast and failing to yield.
What’s beyond debate is that hauling loads across America’s highways is a draining, exhausting existence. And it’s only gotten tougher since President Jimmy Carter and Congress deregulated the complex rules governing the economic side of the industry in 1980, making it much easier for new companies to get into the business and setting off a surge in competition.
The change was good for consumers, who saw shipping prices drop as lower-cost carriers pushed out unionized firms. And safety did not immediately suffer, because technology improved and both the government and carriers grew more conscious of the practices that reduce the risk of crashes.
But as unions vanished and the need for productivity and efficiency rose, pay for truck drivers plummeted. They now make less than they did in the late 1970s when wages are adjusted for inflation. And there are now tens of thousands of small, poorly financed new trucking companies that have great incentive to push drivers as hard as they can.
Those drivers, who are often independent and own their own rigs, have to cope with managers’ demands and all the safety rules that still exist, even as the close-to-the-bone industry leaves little room for error. Unpredictable hours, uncertain traffic, long stretches spent sitting alone behind a wheel, and meals that depend on roadside greasy spoons take a toll on drivers’ health. All that adds up to a circumstance that encourages drivers — especially the growing number who have strict drop-off and pick-up times set in their contracts — to take chances. And they do, frequently ignoring rest rules to make their schedules. Drivers for smaller outfits are especially likely to break the rules.
Renato Velasquez is a case in point.
His daughter Yesenia told NTSB investigators that her father had dreamed of driving big rigs. He had been a bus driver in rural Mexico, transporting workers to farms back in the ‘80s. He immigrated to the United States, and in 2007 earned his commercial driver’s license in Illinois. His first job driving flatbeds was at a company called M&A, where his brother worked, and where he learned the federal safety rules.
Velasquez told the NTSB he took a job with another firm, DND International, in 2011, after meeting the company’s manager, Dimitar Dimitrievsky. The company, one of thousands of small-time shipping operations that have proliferated since deregulation, employed 49 drivers. Those drivers logged 5.4 million miles in 2013, the year before Velasquez’s crash.
Velasquez seldom saw the boss, or any other workers, and was dispatched remotely, according to his interview with federal investigators. He and another driver said they would drop off their logbooks and other records at a box outside Dimitrievsky’s house once a week. There appeared to be little oversight or enforcement at the company, the NTSB concluded. Although Velasquez said he never got safety training from his employer, records say that he received at least a little, and the company did possess some of the required safety training materials. But DND also possessed a terrible, albeit remarkably common, safety record.
In the two years before the crash, DND drivers had been subjected to 289 inspections, according to federal records. Its drivers had been ordered off the roads 27 times, most often for hours-of-service violations — driving more than the legal limit. The vehicles themselves were found to be in violation 26 times in 131 inspections, a failure rate of 20 percent. The company racked up seven crashes between March 2012 and January 2014, causing one fatality and four injuries. Those stats meant that DND had alerts in two Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) that the FMCSA uses to rate companies and identify dangerous carriers. BASIC serves as the foundation for the agency’s Safety Measurement System — a system that the trucking industry despises. DND had poor scores in the BASIC standards for safe driving and driver fatigue. The chances of a firm being involved in a fatal crash jump by 93 percent when it has an alert on unsafe driving and by 83 percent when it has received a warning for excessive hours-of-service violations, according to agency data. And firms with two alerts have crash rates that are double the average among companies with no alerts.
Independent drivers like Velasquez and his colleagues are paid by the load, not by the number of hours they work. A decent living requires good loads. To get good loads, a trucker needs a strong relationship with his trucking company’s dispatchers, who take orders from shipping brokers and route them to available tractors. Trips that are longer, more time-consuming or force the driver to return empty — hauling “flying canaries” or “dispatcher brains” — can even cost a driver money. A DND driver named Stanford Dean told NTSB investigators that his loads weren’t even dispatched in the United States. They came from someone based in Macedonia.
“Do you know how difficult it is to make money?” Dean asked investigators who confronted him over discrepancies in his logbooks. “I’m a safe guy, but there’s issues sometimes,” Dean added. “There’s so many obstacles. If anybody tells you they roll 100 percent by the book, they’re lying to you.”
On Velasquez’s fateful run, he had a decent assignment from the dispatchers, hauling power cables approximately 450 miles from Illinois to Nebraska, for a $1,600 fee. On the way back he would stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to pick up three steel coils that he would haul a little more than 200 miles back toward home, for a fee of $550. After gas, tolls and DND’s 20 percent cut, he would pocket about $1,000 for the out-and-back.
According to Velasquez’s logbook for the trip that killed Vincent Petrella, he followed safety rules. It says Velasquez left Hanover Park at 11:45 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26, carrying a 6,707-pound load of cable to the Omaha Public Power District in Elkhorn, Nebraska. The entries say he reached Des Moines, Iowa, at about 5:30 p.m., took a 45-minute break, then motored on to Elkhorn by 9 p.m., keeping his driving time well inside the 11-hour limit and his on-duty hours within the 14 permitted in a day.
But Velasquez’s logbook was a work of fiction.
Investigators would later learn how badly things went wrong for Velasquez, and how severely he broke the rules, leading to his deadly exhaustion.
Velasquez’s cell phone and toll records showed he didn’t set out on the trip until nearly six hours after the time he recorded in his logbook, and he kept driving well past the time that he claimed he had settled in for a night’s rest.
The problem was that this was a trip across the Midwest in the dead of winter, with a brutal deep freeze, snow, fog and whipping winds along the way. Ahead of Velasquez on I-88, two other trucks crashed at 9:43 p.m. in whiteout conditions, shutting down the highway for four hours. Velasquez wasn’t even out of Illinois at that point, and that traffic jam may have been his only rest in 37 hours. According to the truck’s engine records retrieved by the NTSB, the longest it was idle that Sunday night and early Monday morning was for less than three hours.
Velasquez couldn’t just pull in for some extra rest after the long night. A requirement of the delivery contract with the Omaha Public Power District was a punctual drop-off at 8:30 in morning. The driver logged in at the drop-off at 8:45 a.m. Records showed Velasquez departing at 9:20 for a 300-mile run to Cedar Rapids, where his pickup window for the three steel coils began at 4 p.m. He left at 5:15 with another 200-plus miles and four hours left to reach home.
But about an hour before he got that far, a truck that hauled containers from railways broke down ahead of him in Aurora, Illinois, just shy of Velasquez’s destination. It was owned by a firm called Michael’s Cartage that had alerts in four of the FMCSA’s troubling categories, including maintenance. Its drivers falsified work logs more than half of the time, according to an NTSB review. Just like with DND International, the numbers suggested the carrier was more than twice as likely to wind up in a crash. In this case, the Cartage truck became the hazard that Velasquez failed to avoid.
He never wrote down his final stop, at 9:20 p.m. — when he dozed off at the wheel and forever changed Doug Balder’s life.
Paying For Influence
The leader of the trucking industry’s campaign to tilt federal regulations in its favor is an alliance of the nation’s largest shippers called the Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking, or CERT. Its most prominent members are FedEx and UPS.
Members of CERT have donated more than $13 million to federal election campaigns since 2012, and spent $80 million on well-connected lobbyists, according to a Public Citizen study from 2015 using data from the Center for Responsive Politics, as well HuffPost’s analysis of more recent congressional lobbying reports through the rest of the year. The American Trucking Associations, which advocates on behalf of the industry, spent another $8 million on lobbying and $2.4 million on elections. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, another industry group, has chipped in $3.5 million for lobbying and $790,000 on campaigns. It amounts to more than $20 million spent each year, solely to influence Congress.
Trucking industry lobbyists have the kind of access to decision-makers that safety advocates can only imagine. Among FedEx lobbyists alone, 37 of 51 previously worked in government, according to CRP.
Those influence brokers have been exceptionally busy and effective, securing victories onapnea screening in 2013 and the roll-back of sleep rules in 2014. In 2015, they aimed for much more. In the House, industry-friendly lawmakers were persuaded to add several policy riders to the annual transportation funding bill for 2016 in May, again bypassing committees and hearings, as Sen. Collins did with sleep rules.
Bigger And More Dangerous
Perhaps the most controversial of those measures was a scheme to take away the ability of states to set their own standards for the maximum lengths of double trailers. A federal law passed in 1982 required all states to allow doubles, with each of those trailers up to 28 feet long. Many states, particularly in the West, allow longer trailers. The new measure would have raised the federal limit to 33 feet for each trailer, and forced all states to accept them.
Companies such as FedEx and UPS have long sought to extend the length of trailers, because they often fill the 28-foot model with packages before hitting the80,000-pound weight limit. Carrying more with each rig means greater efficiency, lower cost and more profit.
But larger, heavier trucks also mean more wear and tear on highways and bridges that are already poorly maintained. Weigh stations and other facilities handling trucks would also need to be renovated and expanded, often at taxpayers’ expense.
Law enforcement and safety advocates also warn that double trailers are already more dangerous than regular semis, with an 11 percent higher crash fatality rate.
“From a safety perspective, double 33-foot trailers are basically a disaster,” said Robert Mills, a Fort Worth, Texas, police officer who spent 13 years as a roadside safety inspector and is a member of the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, which recommends rules to the federal government.
Many truckers are not so pleased with the giant double trailers either, dubbing them “wiggle wagons” and “widow makers.” Some haulers, including the smaller conglomerates Swift and Knight, joined with the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks to oppose their larger brethren’s push to extend trailer lengths.
Even crashes of doubles where there are no injuries in the initial impact leave dangerous scenes for other drivers when they’re sprawled out across multiple lanes of traffic, said Balder, who is now working with the coalition.
But CERT, the coalition of shippers, is determined to get approval for larger trucks, and was behind a push in 2012 requiring the Department of Transportation to study the impacts of size and weight increases. The industry coalition believed, or at least argued, that those impacts would be negligible; research proving that would help their case. But before that study was even completed, the coalition got its provision allowing longer trucks added to the House’s version of the 2016 transportation spending bill. The DOT study, released in June 2015 two weeks after the House released the transportation bill, recommended against allowing larger trucks, saying the safety issues remained unresolved.
There were several other industry requests in that funding bill for 2016, including a measure that aimed to extend the suspension of sleep rules that Collins had won just six months earlier. Her suspension lasted a year and required regulators to look into the effectiveness of requiring two nights of sleep and whether there was any case for the trucking industry’s position. But rather than see that process through, the new provision changed the study mid-stream and called for gathering even more data — including the regulation’s impact on the longevity of drivers. Studying workers’ lifespans, of course, takes entire lifespans. That provision was signed into law with the 2016 spending bill that ultimately passed.
“They just basically want to stall this forever,” said Rep. David Price (N.C.), the top Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that deals with transportation.
Another measure the industry pushed last year aimed to short-circuit federal regulators’ efforts to evaluate raising insurance requirements for trucking companies. Currently, carriers have to maintain the same $750,000 policies they did in the ‘80s. The industry’s argument is that independent operators would not be able to afford higher premiums — and indeed, DND’s margins were so close it shut down when its insurance company raised rates after the Balder crash. The industry argues that 99 percent of truck accidents do not generate such high damages. But $750,000 doesn’t begin to cover the costs a serious semi wreck incurs. For instance, a widower whose wife was killed and children severely injured by a dozing driver in 2010 won $41 million in damages. The family of James McNair, the comedian who died in the Tracy Morgan crash, settled for $10 million in March last year. A somewhat weakened version of the measure did pass, requiring regulators to evaluate a number of different factors before they adjust the insurance requirements.
Another industry-backed provision aimed to hide the BASIC safety measurements for trucking companies from public view, and bar their use in lawsuits. The lawsuit provision was dropped from the spending bill during negotiations, but the BASIC scores were in fact hidden and removed from the agency’s website. The industry used a Government Accountability Office study that found the safety system could do better in some respects to justify its position, but the two firms involved in the Velasquez crash had exactly the sort of poor safety scores that the BASIC system predicts make them more likely to be involved in accidents.
Despite the fact that these provisions will likely have an impact on the safety of nearly 11 million large trucks registered in America, they were all buried in legislation that Congress had to pass to avoid a government shutdown, with little to no debate about whether they were a good idea.
“The advocates of relaxing the rules or eliminating the rules, they see that and think this is their train to catch. … Not just wait on the normal process, or count on something as pedestrian as actual hearings or discussion, but to make a summary judgement and latch it on to an appropriations bill,” Price said.
There’s something else all the industry-backed measures have in common: They are deeply unpopular.
The Huffington Post and YouGov surveyed Americans on four of the proposals the industry has been pursuing through the backdoor: teen drivers, longer trucks, heavier trucks, and the relaxed hours-of-service rules. In every case, respondents to the survey opposed the moves — by large margins.
Indeed, when proposals to weaken trucking safety do get a up-or-down vote on their own, they generally fail. When the Senate’s version of the transportation funding bill came up for debate in November and October, an attempt to include the House’s requirement for states to accept 33-foot trailers across the nation was voted down each time. Similarly, an attempt in the House last November to amend the highway construction bill to hike truck weight limits failed convincingly, 187 to 236.
The trucking industry is certainly still trying, though. The backdoor approach is the easiest way for the industry to get around the safety restrictions that most Americans support. One initiative that it backed down on in 2015 was a bid to block states from enforcing regulations on rest and pay that are tougher than the federal government’s. Large haulers got the preemption added to the House’s highway construction bill, but couldn’t get senators to consent.
The trucking industry is back at it this year, adding a provision that would override state rest and overtime pay rules to a House bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, which is currently operating on a stopgap measure that expires in mid-July. The Senate is working on a dramatically different version of that bill, which almost guarantees a situation where trucking lobbyists have thrived — a rush to finish a must-pass bill behind closed doors with a looming deadline and little ability to alter deeply buried provisions.
A Problem He Can’t Forget
For Douglas Balder, crashes are not just a byproduct of business and politics. His own near-fatal encounter is burned into his flesh and his memory.
While he can’t forget it, he also doesn’t want to. He’s read most of the 5,000-page NTSB investigation of his crash, and he still looks at the pictures of his destroyed squad car every couple of weeks. He said he doesn’t know why he wants to keep replaying that night.
“I’ve been asked that question before, and I can’t answer it,” he said.
But he does have an answer, really.
Balder joined the Navy reserves right after graduating high school in 1994 and has served tours overseas, including in Iraq and North Africa. He is the sort of person who walks in the St. Jude’s parade and donates blood. And he now has another reason to keep trying — a third child who was conceived and born after he was nearly killed on the side of that highway.
“We all take an oath to make things better in the long run,” he said. “And it’s got to be our focus now. I could easily have shriveled up in a ball and stayed at home and wasted away, but that’s not my mindset. That’s the military in me: You gotta move on — pick up and move on — and try to make a difference for the future. And I have to remind myself of what happened.”
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.
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.
After stepping off of the school bus and crossing the street, 10 year old, Olivia Walter, was struck by a box truck. Despite another motorist stopping and waving her to cross the street, a box truck that was approaching from the other lane hit her on the right side. The girl sustained a fractured bone above her eye and bruises and road rash on the right side of her body. TSC supports collision avoidance technologies that require automatic braking, which may have prevented this truck from hitting this girl.
A new version of the AP Stylebook will be available on June 1, 2016. One of the notable changes this year is the guidance the book offers on when to call a collision an “accident.” According to two tweets from AP Stylebook, “when negligence is claimed or proven, [journalists should] avoid accident, which can be read as exonerating the person,” and “instead, use crash, collision or other terms.” TSC welcomes this effort to change the conversation about crashes, but we are disappointed that “accident” still remains the default word. We will continue supporting efforts to Drop the ‘A’ Word and push for “crash or collision” to be the default word used by journalists.
Where: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, VA
Please join us as researchers, government officials and industry leaders gather to discuss truck underride crashes and how to reduce the risks for passenger vehicle occupants. We will explore the scope of the problem and how regulation and voluntary action can help address it. In a crash test, IIHS researchers will demonstrate how underride protection has already improved. The full agenda and additional details will follow in the coming weeks.
Several “concerned employees” working for the Tennessee Department of Transportation sent an anonymous letter to the state’s DOT commissioner, which prompted an investigation that unearthed troubling information. Public records indicate that the state’s snow plow and salt truck drivers were on the road for upwards of 60 hours consecutively during and after several snow storms that occurred this year. Even though Federal laws exempts these drivers from Hours of Service rules during inclement weather so that the roads are cleared for first responders, the Tennessee DOT’s exploitation of this loophole is egregious. Lawmakers must do more to ensure that unsafe, tired truckers are on not the roads, especially in Tennessee where fatigue played a role in over 1,600 crashes last year.
Since the 2011 Hours of Service rules were first announced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in December 2011, the trucking industry has launched annual attacks trying to weaken these regulations. That same year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also announced comprehensive changes to rules governing pilot scheduling. Interestingly, there was much less push back from those in the aviation industry to limit the amount of hours a pilot can work.
The FAA rule changes are based on scientific research and data regarding circadian rhythms. The FAA also limited flight time – when the plane is moving under its own power before, during, or after flight – to 8 or 9 hours depending on the start time of the pilot’s entire flight duty period. Additionally, the rule addresses potential cumulative fatigue by placing weekly and 28-day limits on the amount of time a pilot may be assigned to any type of flight duty.
As a result of the FAA’s updates, commercial pilots seldom experience a 14-hour workday, which is not the case for many truckers. Given that the odds of dying in a traffic accident is 1 in 14,000, while there is only a 1 in 4.7 million chance of dying on a commercial flight, it is surprising that more people do not share our sense of urgency in needing to address the amount of hours truckers can work daily, weekly, and monthly.
It is unfortunate that there has been so much pushback from the trucking industry to embrace much-needed regulations that will prevent fatigue-related truck crash deaths and injuries. TSC will continue to defend HOS rules to ensure that truck drivers are adequately rested so that driving a truck becomes as safe as flying a plane.
Last week, a dump truck towing a Bobcat bulldozer rear ended a minivan, causing it to collide into a tractor in front of it. Consequently, the minivan was destroyed and a 42 year-old high school English teacher was killed.
Unfortunately, this fatal crash could have prevented by commonsense proposals that TSC has been promoting for years. Adopting forward collision avoidance and mitigation (F-CAM) technology could have prevented this crash, or at least mitigated the severity of it. Establishing a drug clearinghouse database would have also possibly prevented the crash. The driver of the dump truck, who had a history of driving violations as well as two pending drug charges, should not have been behind the wheel of this truck.
J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., (NASDAQ:JBHT) one of the largest transportation logistics companies in North America, announced today that it recently ordered 4,000 Wabash National DuraPlate® dry van trailers that include the new RIG-16 Rear Underride Guard System. This new rear impact guard is engineered to prevent underride in multiple offset, or overlap, impact scenarios. The guard reduces the risk of injury or death for individuals involved in an accident with the rear of a trailer.
“At J.B. Hunt, we value safety above all else,” said John Roberts, President and Chief Executive Officer of J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. “We applaud Wabash National’s leadership and advancements in rear impact protection, and we’re proud to be the first fleet to specify the new rear impact guard design.”
The rear impact guard is made of advanced, high-strength steel. It includes two additional vertical posts and a longer, reinforced bumper tube. This design will better absorb the impact should any part of the bumper become engaged in a collision. Additionally, the guard is formulated to resist corrosion.
The Truck Safety Coalition commends companies that take a proactive approach to promoting safety through smart purchasing decisions. Truck Safety Coalition volunteer and underride advocate Nancy Mueleners said, “I am glad that J.B. Hunt is equipping their trailers with an improved rear guard. Introductions of rear guards using new engineering approaches are a much-needed safety improvement that will prevent injuries and save lives.”
Production of units specifically for J.B. Hunt began in January. Wabash National formally unveiled this new technology at the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee last month.
About J.B. Hunt J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 Company, focuses on providing safe and reliable transportation services to a diverse group of customers throughout the contiguous United States, Canada and Mexico. Utilizing an integrated, multimodal approach, the company provides capacity-oriented solutions centered on delivering customer value and industry-leading service. J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. stock trades on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol JBHT and is a component of the Dow Jones Transportation Average. J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of JBHT. For more information, visit www.jbhunt.com.
A coal truck driver crossed the center line and sideswiped a pickup truck, causing it to flip over. Then, the coal truck continued driving and struck a Nissan Maxima, killing the driver and the passenger of the car. The truck driver was eventually arrested after he was located at a nearby hospital. These crashes should have never happened given the that coal truck driver was operating with a suspended/revoked CDL. TSC promotes enhancing enforcement efforts to ensure drivers like this are prevented from operating trucks and jeopardizing public safety.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an out-of-service order to Bar D Bar Trucking. The agency ordered the motor carrier to cease operations after an investigators found violations including:
Failing to conduct pre-employment background checks on drivers
Failing to ensure drivers were qualified before dispatching them
Failing to properly monitor drivers to ensure compliance with hours-of-service requirements
Failing to conduct random drug and alcohol tests on drivers
Using a driver who tested positive for a controlled substance
Failing to ensure its vehicles were regularly inspected, maintained and repaired and that they met minimum safety standards
Additionally, the FMCSA also found that the company’s owner-operator was driving without a valid commercial driver’s license and is subject to a lifetime CDL disqualification.
TSC supports the regulation of legal Schedule II prescription drugs, in particular, those which list drowsiness and fatigue as side-effects. We also support monitoring or eliminating the use of any substance that impairs cognitive or motor ability for operators of commercial motor vehicles.
Volvo issued a recall for nearly 16,000 trucks due to a defect caused by the steering shaft missing a pin. Because these defective vehicles are likely to cause a crash or break down, the FMCSA has ordered inspectors to perform Level IV inspections and place any unrepaired truck out-of-service. Truck drivers operating these trucks may subject to civil penalties or criminal prosecution, but being placed out-of-service will not affect a carrier’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) score. TSC encourages a swift response, like this one, to reduce the dangers that could be caused by a defective truck.
An overweight dump truck failed to yield at a roundabout, crossed over the center median, and struck a tractor-trailer. While it is fortunate that neither driver was injured, it is unfortunate that the dump truck driver was allowed to operate given his blatant disregard of the law. Aside from disobeying traffic laws, the dump truck driver also failed to follow the rules governing trucking. The State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit found that the dump truck’s brakes were out of adjustment and that the truck was five tons too heavy. TSC supports stronger commercial motor vehicle enforcement to identify and remove truck drivers who disregard safety and imperil the public.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disease afflicting at least 25 million adults in the U.S., and, if left untreated, will continue to be a pervasive threat to truck safety. According to a recent study on truck drivers with OSA, treatment is key in reducing their crash risks. One particularly effective method for treating OSA is the use of positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy. Results of the study show that the rate of serious, preventable crashes was five times higher among truck drivers with OSA who failed to adhere to PAP therapy, compared with matched controls. This study reaffirms TSC’s position that requiring comprehensive sleep apnea screening for commercial vehicle drivers will reduce fatigue-related crashes.
Two people were killed in Knox County, Maine last week after a tractor-trailer crossed the center line, corrected, fishtailed, rolled, and then took out four cars. It is still unclear as to what caused the driver cross lanes and overcorrect, but this is consistent with issues such as fatigue and distracted driving. Technologies like electronic stability control, lane departure warnings, and forward collision avoidance and mitigation braking systems would reduce the chances of these truck crashes as well as the severity of a crash. TSC will continue our education efforts with Members of Congress on the need to mandate these proven technologies.
The Department of Transportation recently announced that two long overdue truck safety rules have been further delayed. The rule to require speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks is projected to be published on April 22. The Final Rule for a CDL Clearinghouse, which will develop a database of truck drivers who have failed a drug or alcohol test, is projected to be published on July 28. TSC is disappointed with the delays and will continue monitoring the progress of these regulations.
Following the passage of the FAST Act, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was prohibited from posting a carrier’s performance scores compiled under its Safety Management System (SMS) as well as the comparative scores among carriers. Upon making the required changes to become compliant with the new law, the agency restored the raw data the agency uses to compile safety scores for its Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) initiative to its website. Publishing the raw data, once again, is beneficial to public safety and the right thing to do. The scores are collected by taxpayer-funded law enforcement officers on tax-payer-funded roads.
The National Academy of Sciences released a report recommending how the FMCSA could improve its research and data collection efforts pertaining to the relationship between commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver fatigue and crashes. The study identifies obstacles to researching the link between fatigue and crashes, such as the inability to objectively measure fatigue and the difficulty of determining if drivers are actually resting during their mandated time-off. The study also acknowledged that commercial driver fatigue contributes to between 10 and 20 percent of the nearly 4,000 annual CMV crash fatalities. The NAS report, if utilized properly, will help the FMCSA improve their analysis of truck and bus driver fatigue moving forward. The report can be downloaded by clicking on the link below and following the instructions on the following page.
I became involved in the Truck Safety Coalition after my father, Bill Badger, was killed in 2004 near the Georgia state line by a tired trucker who had fallen asleep at the wheel after driving all night and crashed into his car.
The Michigan House of Representatives just passed an anti-truck safety bill, House Bill 4418, that would grant an exemption to seasonal weight restrictions, also known as the “frost law,” for trucks carrying maple sap.
As the president of the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), I have educated myself and others about different policies affecting truck safety for more than ten years. At the same time, I have advocated for laws that would enhance truck safety and defended existing truck safety laws and regulations from being rolled back. I hope that others will join me and TSC in this opportunity to stand up for safety and protect a law that protects the people by opposing HB 4418.
Granting yet another exemption to Michigan’s “frost law” contradicts the original intent of the law. Seasonal weight limits, which reduce weight limits on maximum axle loads, maximum wheel loads and gross vehicle weights for commercial motor vehicles driven on state roads from March until May were established to protect our state’s infrastructure. Because of the freezing and thawing that occurs during the aforementioned months, the roads become far more susceptible to damage caused by heavy vehicles. Therefore, allowing heavier trucks carrying maple sap during these months will result in more road damage, in turn costing the taxpayers even more.
HB 4418 also ignores Michigan’s subpar infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers found 22 percent of Michigan roads are in poor condition and 28 percent of Michigan bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Lawmakers should not be enacting this exception that will further exacerbate Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges.
Additionally, one of the arguments for HB 4418 is based on the erroneous claim that heavier trucks will result in fewer trucks. Increasing the truck weight limit will not decrease the number of trips, result in fewer miles traveled, or improve safety by reducing the number of trucks on the highways. Despite several increases in weights of large trucks over the past few decades, the number of trucks and miles traveled on U.S. highways has consistently gone up.
The number of fatalities as a result of truck crashes in Michigan has also grown. From 2011 to 2014, total fatalities from all crashes in Michigan increased by just 1.3 percent, while fatalities from truck crashes in our state increased by 61 percent during that same time. Clearly, truck safety in our state, like infrastructure, is worsening. Michigan lawmakers must address this problem, but allowing heavier trucks is not the solution.
Bills, like this one, that increase truck weight limits industry-by-industry are nothing more than a back door strategy by special interests to come back to our state legislature in several years and lobby for heavier truck weights statewide. We should not allow this special interest hand out to pass at the expense of our infrastructure and our safety.
Dawn King is the president of the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), a nonprofit that is a partnership between the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT).
On Wednesday, March 9th, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations (FMCSA) and Federal Rail Administration’s (FRA) issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding sleep apnea. The agencies will collect data and information concerning the potential consequences for safety presented by truck drivers with moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea. The agencies will be accepting public comments 89 days; the comment period ends on 06/08/2016. TSC will be commenting in support of this rulemaking.
Truck driver’s wages have effectively been cut by almost a third since deregulation in the 1980s. The low pay coupled with lax hours of service regulations are contributing reasons for the trucking industry’s high turn-over rates. TSC promotes changing truck driver pay structure as it will improve safety by reducing the pressure on truck drivers to engage in unsafe work practices to meet unrealistic schedules.
A tractor trailer became wedged underneath a bridge after the driver attempted to pass through it. The crash caused debris to be scattered on the road, which led to more than three hours of traffic. While there were no injuries or fatalities as a result of this reckless driver’s actions, property damage only crashes should not be ignored. These crashes create traffic, which results in productivity loss, and cause damage to our country’s crumbling roads and bridges, which are repaired using taxpayer dollars.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published today in the Federal Register requiring training for entry-level commercial motor vehicle drivers is a welcome development in the effort to enhance truck safety. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) release of the NPRM, which is based upon the negotiated rulemaking conducted by the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee (ELDTAC), comes 25 years after Congress passed a law requiring a rule on entry level driver training. While we are disappointed that this commonsense regulation has been stalled for so long, the Truck Safety Coalition looks forward to the safety benefits it will produce.
Ron Wood, a member of the ELDTAC and Truck Safety Coalition volunteer said, “This regulation will greatly enhance safety for truckers and the motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclist they drive alongside. Requiring commercial driver’s license applicants to train using a specific curriculum and behind-the-wheel training before they can attain a CDL will help make sure that new truck drivers are prepared to operate their vehicles. The theoretical component mandates training on fatigue awareness, hours of service, trip planning, operating a vehicle under various conditions, and several other safety issues that a professional truck driver needs to address. The requisite 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training will further ensure that CDL applicants can translate their theoretical knowledge into practice for what they may encounter on our nation’s roads and bridges.”
“Although I am eager that this rulemaking will lead to more well-trained drivers, this achievement is bittersweet as it comes too late for some of us.” Wood said. “In 2004, my mother, my sister, and her three children were killed by an inadequately trained driver who fell asleep at the wheel; he killed a total of ten people and injured two others in this crash that occurred 13 years after Congress required action on entry level driver training.”
John Lannen, Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition and also a member of the ELDTAC noted, “This negotiated rulemaking is a step in the right direction, but I would be remiss if I did not recognize the delay since the Congressional mandate was issued in the early nineties. Nevertheless, the Truck Safety Coalition is pleased to see that the FMCSA proceeded with the rulemaking that the advisory committee reached through consensus. Aside from the theoretical curricula and behind-the-wheel hourly requirements, there are other much needed safety improvements included in this rulemaking. Establishing standards for FMCSA-approved driver-training providers and a registry of those providers will help the agency ensure that this rulemaking is properly enforced. The Truck Safety Coalition will continue to monitor this NPRM moving forward, and will also continue applying pressure to make sure that this rulemaking becomes a Final Rule as quickly as possible.”
The Truck Safety Coalition (www.trucksafety.org) is a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT). The Truck Safety Coalition is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating public policy-makers and media about truck safety issues.
A nine-month long investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol Carrier Enforcement Division uncovered one motor carrier’s blatant disregard for state weight limits. Mr. Bult’s Inc (MBI), the carrier, had more than 2,000 occurrences of their vehicles exceeding Nebraska’s weight limits. If not for concerned citizens and committed trooper, this bad actor might still be breaking the law and endangering the public. TSC will continue to promote commercial vehicle enforcement efforts and oppose increases to weight limits.
After failing to stop for a mandatory commercial vehicle safety check in Vermont, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) pulled over a truck driver and found multiple safety violations. The driver had not properly kept a record of duty, and the company he works for, J&M Transport LLC did not have the requisite operating authority. The police also found marijuana, methamphetamines, and paraphernalia that was presumably used by the driver to consume these substances. The Truck Safety Coalition will continue working to remove bad actors, like this truck driver, from operating on roads and endangering the public.
A truck driver, who was driving more than 20mph over the speed limit (76 mph), crashed and died in Maryland last week. According to the police, the driver veered into the shoulder of the road and lost control of the vehicle; consequently, the vehicle overturned into the guardrail before skidding approximately 300 feet. This crash should serve as a reminder to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the dire need for the heavy vehicle speed limiter rule. TSC has been working for more than ten years for this rule to be released, and we will continue to urge NHTSA to issue this rulemaking that will slow down reckless truck drivers.
Senator Boxer forcefully opposed Section 611 of the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, a provision that would preempt the laws of more than 20 states and restrict states from enacting laws governing truck drivers’ meal and rest breaks that go beyond the federal standard. Senator Boxer noted that this “poison pill” provision will prevent the AIRR Act from moving forward in the Senate. She also stated that she will “use all the tools at [her] disposal to ensure that [Section 611] is not included in the FAA or any other legislation,” and that “this terrible anti-safety, anti-worker provision… has no place in any bill, which is why [the Senate] killed it in the highway bill.”
TSC supports the sentiments expressed by Senator Boxer, and we are thankful that we can count on her to stand up for truck safety in Congress.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) sent a letter telling the FMCSA to remove and limit the number of exemptions the agency grants. The CVSA argues that FMCSA is granting excessive exemptions, which hinder enforcement efforts by creating inconsistency and confusion. TSC has been and continues to be firmly opposed to state or industry exemptions for this very reason. We support the CVSA’s stance on this issue, and also urge the FMCSA to reconsider and reduce the many exemptions it grants to carriers, particularly those pertaining to training and hours of service.
This article shines a light on the issue of chameleon carriers, which are companies that have gone out of business and the owners have started up a new business under another name. These carriers are able to exist because the minimum insurance requirement is so low that insurance companies do not do any underwriting at that level. These companies also typically have minimal owned assets, and lease their terminals/equipment or otherwise leverage their operations. Even if an injured person obtains a legal judgment in excess of the low insurance limits, these carriers just reincarnate once again. TSC will continue to advocate for an increased enforcement in pursuing these rogue companies and for an increase in the minimum insurance for motor carriers, which will help prevent these reckless companies from being allowed back on our roads.
Wabash National Corporation, a leading manufacturer of commercial trucking equipment, announced that it will be introducing a new rear impact guard for trailers. As TSC noted in our comments on NHTSA’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to address underride protection in light vehicle crashes into the rear of trailers and semitrailers, this is just one example of available technology that highlights how woefully inadequate the agency’s safety standards are for trucking. Currently, NHTSA is proposing to enhance the U.S. standard by adopting the Canadian standard for rear underride guards and protections. While we welcome improvements to safety, we also noted that NHTSA’s NPRM would be a meaningless move and a missed opportunity to actually advance truck safety. Not only did the agency determine that 93 percent of new trailers meet or exceed the proposed Canadian standard, but as Wabash notes in this article, it has been producing rear impact guards that exceed the Canadian standard since 2007. TSC appreciates the Wabash improved guards and we will continue to educate the public about the dangers of underride crashes, like passenger compartment intrusion (PCI), as well as how improved underride guards and protections can prevent PCI at higher speed and/or overlap crashes between light vehicles and trailers.
The citizens of Elwood, Illinois, fed up with their community being overrun by heavy truck traffic and fearful of being needlessly injured or killed, formed Safe Roads Illinois to address the problems contributing to their untenable situation. As a result of their advocacy efforts, they recently scored a big win in their endeavors to enhance truck safety in their village and the surrounding county. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced plans to install a traffic light at an intersection because so many trucks have driven into a cemetery and damaged veterans’ graves.
TSC welcomes the traffic light as it enhances safety and prevents the desecration of veterans’ graves. The effort to improve truck safety is ongoing and occurs at many levels. For example, the FMCSA should also require entry-level driver training to ensure that truck drivers know how to properly operate their vehicle and are sufficiently knowledgeable about negotiating all routes.
As you may remember, one of the anti-truck-safety provisions that was included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill authorized Idaho to increase the truck weight limit on their roads from 105,500-lbs to 129,000-lbs. In order for this truck weight increase to take effect, the Idaho state legislature must pass a bill, which must then be signed by their governor. Several days ago, their State Senate passed such a bill, and it is now heading to the Idaho House of Representatives. Even though there are state groups that are opposing this measure, like the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance and Friends of Clearwater, the measure will likely pass.
TSC firmly opposes legislation to increase truck weight limits state-by-state as it is merely a back door attempt by trucking interests to come back to Congress in a few years and push for heavier truck weights nationwide.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently concluded their investigation into a 2014 fatal truck crash in Naperville, IL and found the truck driver, the carrier, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to all be at fault.
At the time of the crash the truck driver had only slept 4½ hours in the preceding 37 hours. Investigators also found that the trucker routinely falsified his paper logbook in order to circumvent the hours of service requirements. As a result of driving tired, the trucker failed to stop in time, despite ample warnings, and needlessly killed and injured several people. TSC anticipates that the Final Rule for Electronic Logging Devices will prevent drivers like this from falsifying their logbooks, in turn reducing truck driver fatigue.
The motor carrier, DND International Inc., was classified as a “high risk” carrier, but was still allowed to operate. The “high risk” motor carrier failed to comply with federal regulations, particularly hours of service requirements, and should have either fixed the problem or been put out of service.
While the motor carrier should have done more, this crash also highlights deficiency in the FMCSA’s enforcement efforts. It was not until two months after the fatal crash that the FMCSA designated DND International Inc. as an “imminent danger”. Even worse, after the FMCSA’s declaration that they were an “imminent danger,” the company successfully appealed that and once again resumed operations. It was not until the motor carrier’s insurance company cancelled its coverage that this dangerous company was forced off the road.
This tragic crash underscores many of the reasons we work to make trucking safer. TSC will continue educating the public and our lawmakers about fatigued driving, weak Federal oversight, and how increasing minimum insurance requirements can lead to more insurers, like in this case, refusing to cover such an unsafe business.
Yesterday, the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure voted to approve the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act. As you know, this federal aviation bill includes a provision that adversely impacts truck safety. Section 611 would preempt the laws of more than 20 states and would restrict states from enacting laws governing truck drivers’ meal and rest breaks that go beyond the federal standard. Unfortunately, an amendment offered by Rep. Grace Napolitano, which would have removed Section 611, failed by a vote of 27-31. We are thankful for her efforts as well as for the support of Reps Nadler (D-NY) and Norton (D-DC). We will keep you updated about the status of this provision and let you what you can do to help remove it.
Side underride guards are a simple improvement that can make large trucks safer for pedestrians and cyclists by physically covering the cavity between the front and rear wheels of the truck. Given that nearly half of bicyclists and more than one quarter of pedestrians killed by a large truck first impact the side of a truck, TSC will continue to advocate for these safety enhancements on all interstate single unit trucks and trailers. Please watch this video from the British Safety Council (below) that illustrates the dangers of trucks’ blind spots and underscores why these side protections would reduce the instances of side impact truck crashes with pedestrians and bicyclists that result in needless fatalities and injuries.