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first year in office shows at least a dozen safety rules that were under development or already adopted have been repealed, withdrawn, delayed or put on the back burner.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.
These comments are filed jointly by the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) and our volunteers, who are the family and friends of truck crash victims and survivors seeking truck safety advances, in response to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT, Department) request for comments on the Department’s review of “its existing regulations and other agency actions to evaluate their continued necessity, determine whether they are crafted effectively to solve current problems, and evaluate whether they potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources.”
Our comments will focus on the following regulations and agency actions:
o Automatic Emergency Braking
o Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters
o Rear and Side Underride Guards
Fully Implement Final Rules:
o Electronic Logging Device
o Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse
o Increasing the Minimum Insurance Levels
o Sleep Apnea Screening and Testing
o Entry Level Driver Training
Automatic Emergency Braking
Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is a technology that has been proven, both by companies and other countries, to make roads safer as it can reduce the number of crashes truck drivers are involved in and mitigate the severity of a crash. NHTSA should finalize this rulemaking immediately.
This technology is no longer “new.” The European Union mandated AEB on large trucks back in 2012, requiring all new trucks to be equipped with it by 2015. In the United States, motor carriers have been using AEB long enough to establish beyond question its effectiveness and reliability. For example, one trucking company saw their number of rear-end collisions decrease by nearly 80 percent from 2003 to 2015 after equipping their fleet with an active system of collision avoidance and mitigation.
Additionally, Con-way (now a part of XPO Logistics) performed an internal study to determine the extent to which a suite of safety technologies (AEB, electronic stability control (ESC), and lane departure warning) installed on the trucks in its fleet reduced the frequency of various types of collisions. This study collected data over a 30-month period on approximately 12,600 trucks. The results were clear and compelling: trucks equipped with the suite of safety systems had a lower crash rate and frequency of engagement in risky driving behavior compared to vehicles without such systems; these trucks exhibited a 71 percent reduction in rear-end collisions and a 63 percent decrease in unsafe following behaviors.
Thousands of American trucks nationwide have been equipped with AEB for nearly a decade, and AEB has been required on large trucks by the European Union since 2012 and it took effect in 2015. In other words, most of the major truck manufacturers have begun including this technology in the trucks that they sell in the European market or in the cars that their company produces.
The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) has stated that they “strongly recommend that all vehicles (light and heavy) be equipped with forward collision warning and mitigation braking technology.” As you know, rear-end crashes constitute some of the most horrific and catastrophic crashes imaginable, and they occur much too often. We believe that equipping all new trucks with AEB is the responsible and reasonable thing to do.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) own estimate include that forward collision avoidance and mitigation systems can prevent thousands of crashes each year. This rulemaking needs to be finalized now and should apply to all trucks. With every year that implementation of this technology is delayed, hundreds, if not thousands, will unnecessarily die and even more will suffer serious injuries.
Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters
The FMCSA and NHTSA must finalize this life-saving, cost-effective rule without further delay.
Data from the Department of Transportation shows that speeding-related fatalities account for nearly one out of three traffic fatalities in the United States each year. That coupled with the facts that truck crashes, injuries, and fatalities have steadily increased unabated since 2009, does not bode well for safety on our roads. Finalizing a final rule requiring all trucks to have a speed limiter set at 65mph or less will help reverse the aforementioned trends.
The agencies have delayed progress on this commonsense rulemaking more than 20 times since they granted a petition to initiate rulemaking back in 2011. To make matters worse, the Administration’s recently released Unified Agenda identified the rulemaking as a long-term action item, meaning that the agencies require a minimum of 12 months to produce their next action. In other words, this is yet another delay.
The delays, however, are ludicrous for several reasons. For one, speed-limiting devices have been built into most large trucks dating back to the 1990s, according the agencies’ joint Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Thus, there is no capital expense required to simply turn on and use them on trucks with this technology. The NPRM also notes that the heavy vehicle speed limiter rule will produce a net benefit of more than $1.1 billion and can save up to an estimated 500 lives each year. Given these compelling numbers, combined with the fact that Ontario saw at-fault speeding-related truck crashes fall by 73 percent and fatalities in all crashes involving big rigs dropped 24 percent after mandatory speed limiter technology took effect there, we cannot comprehend the agencies inaction and lack of urgency.
As the NTSB notes in a recent report, Reducing Speeding-Related Crashes Involving Passenger Vehicles, mandating heavy vehicle speed limiters is commonsense and cost-effective solution that will prevent injuries and save lives in crashes involving large trucks.
Rear and Side Underride Guards
The federal government should require all trucks and trailers to be equipped with energy-absorbing rear and side underride guards to protect car occupants from underride crashes. Truck underride crashes can be catastrophic because the car goes under the trailer, bypassing the crumple zone and airbag deployment safety features; in severe collisions, passenger compartment intrusion occurs.
The safety benefits of rear underride guards are proven and well known. In fact, seven of the eight leading trailer manufacturers have developed rear underride guards that qualify for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) ToughGuard rating, which greatly exceeds the proposed federal standard by preventing underride crashes at 100, 50, and 30 percent overlaps at 35 mph. It is expected that all eight leading trailer manufacturers will be ToughGuard certified by December 31, 2017.
The NTSB has continually issued multiple recommendations for improved rear underride guards and for side underride protection systems. In addition, the NTSB identified the need for improved data collection, including vehicle identification numbers to better evaluate trailer design and the impact on safety.
NHTSA reported that large truck rear impacts comprised 22 percent of fatal two-vehicle collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles during 2015. IIHS crash tests demonstrated that the rear underride guards mandated for trailers by NHTSA in 1998 performed poorly, and that there are available underride guards that far exceed the proposed force requirement by up to 70 percent.
NHTSA has also reported that large truck side impacts comprised 17 percent of fatal two-vehicle collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles during 2015. One reason why collisions with the sides of tractor-trailers are hazardous is that there is a large area of the trailer where underride may occur during these collisions. In addition, bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to side underride interactions because of their size and the lack of protection.
Unfortunately, since granting petitions for rulemaking back in 2014, NHTSA has taken no action, aside from delaying, the NPRM for rear underride guards on trailers and the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for rear guards for single unit trucks. Additionally, the agency has taken no action to evaluate side underride guards.
Fully Implement Final Rules
Electronic Logging Device (ELD)
TSC opposes any attempt to delay this life-saving regulation or to allow exemptions for specific industries or special interests.
Updating the methodology by which drivers record their hours of service is long overdue. ELD technology will reduce the ability of bad actors to skirt federal regulations by modernizing the practice of logging hours. This mandate will also protect truck drivers from being coerced to exceed the hours they are allowed to operate because ELDs automatically record driving time, and therefore truck drivers cannot circumvent compliance by simply writing down false hours. It is important to note that this regulation makes no changes to the existing Hours of Services rules.
Additionally, the ELD mandate will enhance law enforcement officers’ capacity to enforce HOS restrictions and expedite the process of reviewing a truck driver’s logbook. This potential benefit of the ELD rulemaking would be blunted, however, if the agency allows exemptions as it would create confusion for law enforcement officers. The shift from paperwork to electronic logging will save not only time, but also it will produce a benefit or more than $1 billion, according to the FMCSA.
After working for more than two decades to produce a final rule that requires large trucks to be equipped with Electronic Logging Devices, the Truck Safety Coalition opposes any further delay or exemptions to the mandate. Instead of focusing on the costs of this regulation, which cost less than replacing a few truck tires, we should all be more concerned about truck driver fatigue – a preventable problem that kills and injures far too many each people year. There has been ample time for members of the industry to transition from paper logbooks to electronic logging devices, especially considering that there are a plenty of companies from which they can purchase an ELD device.
The ELD Final Rule will save an estimated 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries resulting from large truck crashes each year. We cannot fathom why anyone would direct an agency, whose mission is to promote safety, to consider a delay that would result in an estimated 130 fatalities and 2,810 injuries over five years, which was recently requested.
Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse
The Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse rule will greatly enhance safety on our roads as employers will be able to access information regarding the testing history of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers applying for jobs and identify drivers who have previously violated alcohol and drug tests.
CMV drivers who have violated drug and alcohol testing are currently a major risk to everyone with whom they share the road. Under the soon-to-be-replaced system of self-reporting, many employers were unable to access the necessary information to avoid hiring problem drivers. The establishment of this new drug and alcohol clearinghouse that requires employers to check current and prospective employees will be a significant step forward for safety.
All too often, a history of repeated drug and alcohol violations is not discovered until a catastrophic crash occurs and a comprehensive investigation ensues. So long as this rule is fully implemented without delay, this will no longer be the case.
Increasing the Minimum Level of Insurance
The withdrawal of a long overdue ANPRM to increase the minimum financial responsibility requirements for motor carriers was extremely disappointing, and the agency should reintroduce this rulemaking at once.
The fact of that matter is that the minimum level of insurance required by trucks per incident has not been increased since 1980. It has not been adjusted for inflation or, more appropriately, for medical cost inflation. The results of these decades of inaction are devastating. Families must face the financial impact of under-insured truckers along with the emotional and physical destruction. The failure to raise the required amount of minimum insurance allows chameleon carriers to enter the market, with no underwriting, and simply close down and reincorporate under a new name following a catastrophic crash.
Yet, this issue not only impacts survivors and families of truck crash victims; it affects all taxpayers. Insurance is supposed to address the actual damages caused. When there is an insufficient payout, families are forced to declare bankruptcy or rely on government programs after being financially drained. The costs of healthcare, property, and lost income for all parties involved in a truck crash can greatly exceed $750,000 per event, and all of these costs are much higher today than they were in 1980. The unpaid costs are then passed on to taxpayers. In other words, maintaining the grossly inadequate minimum privatizes profits but socializes the costs of underinsured trucking.
Moreover, if the mandate for minimum insurance is to remain a significant incentive for carriers to operate safely as Congress intended, it must be updated to reflect the current realities of the industry. Because the minimum insurance requirements have not kept pace with inflation, the $750,000 per event has become a disincentive for unsafe motor carriers to improve and maintain the safety of their operations. Additionally, raising the minimum amount of insurance will motivate insurers to apply a higher level of scrutiny in determining which motor carriers they insure.
What is even more frustrating and confusing about this decision to walk away from this rulemaking is that the DOT fully acknowledges that $750,000 is an insufficient amount to cover one person’s life. The Department uses a value of statistical life of $9.6 million. This is a figure the DOT defines “as the additional cost that individuals would be willing to bear for improvements in safety (that is, reductions in risks) that, in the aggregate, reduce the expected number of fatalities by one,” and updates to account for changes in prices and real income. Clearly, the DOT has determined that not only is a single life worth more than $750,000 but that it benefits the American public to ensure that these values are indexed to inflation.
The FMCSA’s decision to forego pursuing a commonsense approach to enhancing safety on our roads and leveling the playing field in our nation’s trucking industry is deeply troubling, but unfortunately, it is yet another data point to demonstrate the agency’s dereliction of duty and lack of direction. If the agency fails to reintroduce this rulemaking, we call on the Secretary of Transportation to take immediate action to increase the minimum insurance requirement and to index it to inflation, which she is empowered to do under the law. This way, the amount will be increased periodically and apolitically.
Sleep Apnea Screening and Testing
The FMCSA’s withdrawal of a rulemaking that would establish requirements for sleep apnea screening is another demonstration of the agency’s denial of data, and it is a serious error that should be remedied as quickly as possible.
Sleep apnea is not a made-up affliction; it is a scientifically proven sleep disorder that causes a brief interruption of breathing during sleep. People with sleep apnea are at risk of becoming fatigued as their body and brain are deprived of oxygen and the restorative effects of sleep. Undiagnosed, this chronic disorder can be debilitating to a driver’s health and make him or her a danger to others on the road. It affects approximately five percent of the general population, and up to 50 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers.
Policymakers at the FMCSA need to do more to eradicate fatigue as a factor that causes truck crashes, including preventing truckers with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) from getting behind the wheel and driving tired because of their sleep disorder. In fact, truck drivers who fail adhere to treatment for obstructive sleep apnea are five times more likely to get involved in a crash than a truck driver who is on treatment.
Entry Level Driver Training
The FMCSA’s latest attempt to produce an entry-level driver training rule for commercial motor vehicle drivers was a major waste of time as the this final rule does not include a minimum number of hours required behind the wheel.
After languishing for 25 years following a mandate from Congress, TSC was hopeful that the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee (ELDTAC), comprised of law enforcement, safety advocates, and industry, would be able to produce a negotiated rulemaking that included a minimum number of behind-the-wheel (BTW) training hours. After a number of meetings, a proposed rule was negotiated that included both a theoretical curriculum and a 30-hour minimum of BTW training. Unfortunately, the years of waiting and the participation of the ELDTAC committee was for naught. The final rule does not mandate a minimum number of BTW training hours, severely blunting the potential safety benefits of it. It should.
Without a minimum BTW training hours requirement, the agency will not be able to ensure that commercial driver’s license (CDL) applicants have had actual time behind-the-wheel to learn safe operations of a truck. Requiring a set number of hours to ensure that a licensee is sufficiently educated in his or her profession is common for far less deadly and injurious jobs, such as barbers and real estate salespersons. Even other transportation-related professions, like pilots, are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to complete more than 250 hours of flight time – their version of BTW training. Unfortunately, the FMCSA opted for a Pyrrhic victory that allowed them to check the box for finalizing one of their many unfinished, overdue, and much-needed rulemakings instead of producing a final rule that would do as their mission states: “reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.”
Given the overlap between trucking companies and training programs, and an industry turnover rate above 90 percent, the FMCSA is naïve to think that a BTW training standard based solely on a driver-trainee’s ‘proficiency’ will result in needed training and practice behind the wheel. The driver-trainees will be forced to complete BTW training at the pace of the training school they attend or the trucking company that runs it, which can lead to CDL mills.
Over the past year, it has become clear that the U.S. Department of Transportation and the current administration have no intention of producing meaningful mandates that will “solve current problems,” and every intention of removing regulations for the sake of removing regulations. The Administration has made no mention of the 4,317 people killed in 2016, or the fact that the number of truck crash fatalities has increased by 28 percent since 2009. The President has not even nominated someone to run NHTSA and his nominee for FMCSA administrator has yet to be confirmed. The DOT has not offered a single solution to address the rising number of truck crashes or the fact that driving a truck is constantly one of the deadliest jobs in America. Yet, this administration has already withdrawn two rulemakings and delayed four rulemakings – all of which could have improved truck safety. We hope the DOT will do more to promote safety in the public interest rather than catering to special interests.
Comments Submitted 12/01/2017
Regulatory Review | 82 Federal Register 45750, October 2, 2017
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
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairman Chabot and Ranking Member Velazquez:
As you prepare for tomorrow’s hearing, “Highway to Headache: Federal Regulations on the Small Trucking Industry,” our public health, safety and law enforcement organizations, trucking companies, truck drivers, families of loved ones killed in truck crashes and truck crash survivors write to express our staunch opposition to any attempts to delay, create special interest exemptions from, or impede full implementation of the long overdue electronic logging device (ELD) rule.
The rule requires most commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), namely large trucks and buses in interstate commerce, to install an ELD to track driver on-duty time by December 18, 2017. The regulation was required in bipartisan legislation, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21, P.L. 112-141), enacted in 2012. Subsequently, the regulation was issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2015.
Truck driver fatigue has been a well-documented safety problem in the industry for decades. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has repeatedly cited fatigue as a major contributor to truck crashes and included reducing fatigue-related crashes in its 2017/2018 “Most Wanted List” of safety changes. ELDs are a proven and cost-effective technology that will save lives and reduce injuries, and according to the U.S. Department of Transportation will result in over $1 billion in annualized net benefits. Additionally, ELDs provide an objective record of a CMV driver’s on-duty time, will increase compliance with hours of service (HOS) rules, and will simplify and streamline the efforts of law enforcement.
There already is widespread use of ELD technology in the United States and other countries. Nearly a third of trucks currently in service are equipped with electronic logging technology. Similar technology has been used in Europe for decades and is required in the European Union, Japan, and many other countries. Members of the trucking industry have known about this rule for years and have had ample time to prepare for it.
Moreover, the legal challenge to the final rule was unanimously rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2016. The three judge panel denied each and every claim brought by the parties that sought to vacate the rule. In addition, the request to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Seventh Circuit’s ruling was denied.
Truck crash deaths and injuries are on the rise. In 2016, 4,317 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks, representing an increase of more than five percent from the previous year and the highest number of fatalities since 2007. Additionally, in 2015, the most recent year for
which complete data is available, an estimated 116,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks.
We urge the Committee to oppose any weakening of this overdue, commonsense truck safety regulation. Delaying, deferring or carving out exemptions to the ELD requirement will only contribute to more fatigued commercial drivers sharing the road with families and jeopardizing everyone’s safety.
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.
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.
Requiring Comprehensive Training for All Entry-Level Commercial Driver License Applicants Is Long Overdue
One of the first curricula on entry level driver training (ELDT) for commercial motor vehicle drivers was developed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in the mid-1980s. Yet it was not until 1993, that the agency published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). Following this initiation of the rulemaking process, regulatory action stalled again until 2002, when the agency that is now responsible for this regulation – the FMCSA – was sued by safety advocates.
In response to the lawsuit, the agency produced an inadequate final rule in 2004. The training requirement was 10-hours of classroom instruction on four topics; there was no BTW training required. And once again, safety advocates sued the agency – this time for producing a capricious rule. The court agreed with plaintiffs and remanded the FMCSA to produce an ELDT final rule that included behind-the-wheel training. The agency finally published a Notice of Propose Rulemaking (NPRM) in 2007, however, the FMCSA once again failed to promulgate a final rule.
ELDTAC Brought Together Parties with Different Interests and Arrived at a Consensus
The ELDTAC was formed to negotiate a proposed rule to establish entry level driver training requirements. The committee consisted of 26 members, all of whom have varying interests in and ideas about entry level driver training, to work together and with the agency to craft the rulemaking. Members included family members of truck crash victims, safety advocacy groups, motor carriers, driver organizations, state licensing agencies, training schools, labor unions, state enforcement agencies, and several other parties. In the end, 24 members of the ELDTAC agreed that there should be a required amount of time for BTW training; the two dissenting members represented industry interests.
The Curricula Requires Knowledge of Skills and Minimum Hours that Will Ensure Truck Drivers Are Adequately Trained
The negotiated rulemaking will outline the requisite skills that candidates applying for a Class A or B CDL should have in order to be certified as a professional driver that is capable of operating his or her vehicle. The Truck Safety Coalition is pleased that both curricula require that candidates learn more than 19 different topics while on the range and/or road. We also agree with the agency’s assessment that “…a hybrid approach combining minimum BTW hours requirement with detailed curriculum requirements is the best way to ensure that drivers will be adequately trained in the safe operation of Class A and Class B CMVs.”9
The minimum hours requirement for BTW will help the agency make sure that CDL applicants have sufficient time to learn the wide array of topics in the proposed curriculum. This commonsense move will modernize the trucking industry to be more in-line with other licensed professions that use hours-based entry-level training or continuing education to promote best practices and reduce bad actors. In addition, requiring that candidates receive a minimum amount of BTW training is not something new to the industry. Leading CDL training schools, certain states and the largest trade association, The Commercial Vehicle Training Association, all mandate a minimum number of BTW hours.
Standardized Training Will Improve Safety Outcomes
Given that some training schools only cover some topics, while not requiring BTW, and other schools require BTW training, while not covering as many safety issues as other training schools, setting a standard curriculum will reduce truck crashes because the drivers will be better trained to operate a truck. TSC is pleased that all A and B Class CDL applicants will need to study fatigue awareness, hours of service, trip planning, operating a vehicle under various conditions to name a few of the topics, and then demonstrate how knowledge of that topic translates to safe operations.
Moreover, harmonizing various driver training facilities and establishing a database of training providers will also help the FMCSA enforce this rule. The NPRM requires the agency to set up a registry of the facilities that meet the proposed qualifications. This will help the FMCSA identify training schools that are more concerned with money than with graduating safe driver by allowing them to remove CDL mills responsible for churning out inadequately trained truck drivers who cause injurious and fatal crashes.
Continued Delays and Removal of Minimum Hours of BTW Training
The Truck Safety Coalition and our volunteers, many of whom are families of truck crash victims and survivors seeking truck safety advances, are extremely disappointed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA, agency) final rule requiring entry-level driver training for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.
After languishing for 25 years after it was mandated by an Act of Congress, we were hopeful that the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee (ELDTAC), which brought together law enforcement, safety advocates, and members of the industry, would be able to produce a negotiated rulemaking that included a minimum number of behind-the-wheel (BTW) training hours. After meeting several times throughout the past year, the ELDTAC negotiated a proposed rule that included both a theoretical curriculum as well as a minimum number (30 hours) of BTW training hours. Unfortunately, the years of waiting and the participation of the ELDTAC members has been for naught. The final rule will 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 CDL applicants have adequate time to learn the wide range of topics in the proposed curriculum. 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 in performing required range and public road maneuvers is a more flexible, and thus less burdensome option than required minimum hours because it recognizes that driver-trainees will complete BTW training at a pace that reflects their varying levels of individual ability.” The driver-trainees will not complete the BTW training at their own pace, they will complete it at the pace of the training school they attend or the trucking company that runs it, which is how the current, safety-deficient system operates.
The FMCSA’s latest attempt to produce an entry-level driver training 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 inexperience and untrained truck drivers. In particular, our thoughts are with Ron Wood, who served on the ELDTAC and at each meeting revisited his grief associated with losing his mother, sister, and three nephews in a terribly tragic truck crash in Texas in 2004.
In 1980, as Congress deregulated the trucking industry, there was great concern regarding the imminent increase in the number of trucking companies that was sure to follow the removal of the barriers to entry into the industry. Congress believed it would be difficult for the federal regulators, alone, to provide effective oversight for safe operations for such a large number of companies. Congress intended the Secretary of Transportation to set insurance minimums at a level significant enough to provide an appropriate means of compensation to truck crash victims if crashes occurred and also to cause the insurance companies to provide effective, on site underwriting so that the insurance market would provide incentives for safe operations of motor carriers.
Congress set the absolute minimum level of insurance to be applied to motor carriers of property and of hazardous materials at $750,000 and $5,000,000, respectively, and gave the Secretary of Transportation authority to increase such amounts to appropriate levels that would achieve the intended purpose. Unfortunately, the minimum amounts set by Congress as the absolute floor were too low to provide the intended underwriting supervision and too low to provide protection for the public. Nonetheless, in spite of an exponential growth of the number of authorized motor carriers (approximately 27,000 prior to deregulation compared to more than 500,000 in existence today), the Secretary has never increased the bare minimums set by Congress, and the low original minimum amounts, over the past 35 years, have provided less and less of an incentive to operate safely and have become almost insignificant when compared to the damages caused by the huge trucks now allowed on public highways. Indeed, many “minimum” policies are already written at the $1,000,000 level because the $750,000 amount is so absurdly low.
When the above numbers were set as part of the deregulation process, the amounts were considered to be the absolute minimums necessary for protection of the public. Since then, not only have all of the expenses associated with truck crashes increased dramatically, the sheer disparity in size between cars and trucks has increased resulting in more severe crashes. In that same time, trailers were allowed to expand first to 48’ in length, and then to 53’. Truck weight increases, both across the board and through exemptions, have also occurred. Combined with the increase in crash expenses and damages, such as lost income and medical expenses, the lack of any adjustment since 1980 has caused a greater disparity between the original amount and current costs.
The common approach by an insurance company for a trucking company with only the required minimums in liability coverage, when the trucking company causes a catastrophe with damages that far exceed the insurance, is to “interplead” the insurance limits. This is done by the insurance company suing all of the people injured and the families of those killed in one suit, with the insurance company offering to pay the ridiculously low limits of the policy into court and to require those injured and those who have lost loved ones to fight (or “interplead”) among themselves as to who should get what. The number of interpleader actions has risen dramatically as the required minimum insurance levels have fallen significantly short of the damages actually caused by truck crashes.
The effect of the lack of adequate insurance is that the damages caused by certain segments of the industry are not borne by those causing them. The damage caused by the underinsured are spread out among the innocent motorists who are killed and injured, who frequently have no effective recourse against the companies that caused their losses.
A common type of truck crash involves a fatigued truck driver who crashes into traffic that has stopped on the highway due to congestion, a prior crash or a construction zone. These crashes typically involve multiple vehicles, multiple deaths, and multiple injuries. The total damages caused in such cases can easily exceed $20,000,000, but an insurance company with minimum limits will simply sue everyone involved in an interpleader action and the unprotected crash victims are left to do the best with what they have to try to put their lives back together. Frequently, the injured and disabled end up relying on Medicaid, Social Security or other government programs because smaller trucking companies do not have to pay for the cost of the damages they cause. This amounts to a taxpayer subsidy for the companies that don’t carry enough insurance to cover the damages they cause, while adequately insured companies bear such expenses as part of their business.
The low limits allowed by law are frequently carried by trucking companies that have minimal owned assets; companies that lease their terminals and equipment or otherwise leverage their operations. Even if an injured person obtains a legal judgment in excess of the low insurance limits, the companies have simply gone out of business and the owners have started up a new business under another name. This dangerous practice, referred to as reincarnating or chameleon carriers, was described in a July 2009 report by the GAO.
Larger, nationwide companies, which are adequately capitalized on the other hand, have much higher limits. It is common for the larger carriers to carry multiple layers of coverage, sometimes with a significant self-insured retention, with totals exceeding $30,000,000. These companies carry adequate amounts because they have “something to lose” and they know too well the significant damages that can be caused when a commercial truck hits a passenger vehicle or vehicles.
The larger companies have significant incentive to make their operations as safe as possible rather than simply gamble against the risk of a catastrophic crash. As a result, they have higher insurance overhead costs to protect against potential losses, yet they have to compete with companies that have nothing to lose (and others willing to put the public at risk) that carry the minimum basic coverage. The companies with “nothing to lose” are effectively subsidized by the victimized motoring public and government programs that absorb the uninsured losses. The low limits, then, create exactly the opposite effect that minimum insurance levels were intended to provide. Rather than increasing overall safety within the industry by creating an economic incentive to operate safely, the low levels create a more dangerous situation through unfair competition by allowing the losses of the most irresponsible companies to be subsidized by the public while responsible companies pay the full amount of the damages they cause.
Minimums That Should be Required
The industry should have to absorb the losses it causes. Crashes involving multiple deaths and injuries, along with any property/infrastructure damage, with total combined damages far exceeding the current minimums happen every week. In order for the minimums to serve the purpose for which they were intended, the limits need to be set sufficiently high to give the insurance companies a reason to set realistic underwriting standards that would reward safe companies and identify unsafe operations. The limits should also reflect the real devastation and damages that are caused when an 80,000 pound truck slams into traffic stopped or slowed in a construction zone. In order to have these effects, property-carrying motor carriers should be required to carry at least $10,000,000 per occurrence. If inflation alone were to be addressed the amount would need to be $2.2 million.
FMCSA Report on Minimum Financial Responsibility
In April 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a report on its review of minimum financial responsibility that found current levels to be inadequate. It found that costs for severe and critical injury crashes can easily exceed $1 million. The study only identified a small number of crashes that exceeded minimum insurance levels due to the lack of available settlement data. Insurance settlements for amounts that exceed the minimum levels often contain a nondisclosure agreement, and this information is not publicly available. In summary, the report noted that current limits do not adequately cover catastrophic crashes and acknowledged that medical care inflation would increase levels to at least $3.2 million.
Findings from Other Reports on Minimum Financial Responsibility
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) – This report found that the upper range for liability awards involving death or catastrophic injury is $9–10 million, and recommended that DOT set limits per crash of at least $10 million.
Trucking Alliance Review of Crash Settlements – Member companies of the Trucking Alliance voluntarily tracked 8,692 accident settlements between 2005 and 2011. According to the Trucking Alliance, 42 percent of the injury claims could have had no avenue for offsetting all medical costs.
Congress’ concern of an explosion in the number of motor carriers and the consequential inability of regulation and enforcement to keep our highways safe has become a reality. The intended protective mechanism of federally-required minimum levels of insurance, however, has never adequately performed its intended function. The amount was never set at a sufficiently high level to require insurance companies to seriously underwrite motor carriers and require safe operations before agreeing to insure them and, over time, the minimum amount has become totally inadequate. Death and catastrophic injuries have become accepted as part of the cost of doing business, with most of that cost being shifted to non-industry members of the motoring public and to the American taxpayers. The Secretary of Transportation has the authority and the responsibility to ensure the Congressional intent of the required financial responsibility is achieved.The Secretary should exercise her authority in this regard and set the minimums at responsible levels that will encourage safe underwriting and safe operations as was intended by Congress.
Minimum levels of insurance for trucks have not been increased in over 35 years and are woefully insufficient.
Consequently, a large portion of the damages and losses caused by motor carriers at or near the minimum is imposed upon the American motoring public.
The underinsured segments of the industry are effectively subsidized by American taxpayers through unreimbursed social welfare programs including Medicaid and Social Security.
If all of the industry were required to absorb more of the losses they cause, significant changes in the industry would occur, resulting in safer highways for all.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On April 21, 2016, at approximately 3:22 a.m., when Angela Valenzuela, 25 had to stop on I-80 freeway due to an earlier accident. As he is waiting for the flow of traffic to resume, Mr. Valenzuela was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer.
The truck and Mr. Valenzuela’s vehicle collided in an area of the highway where lanes blocked off for overnight Caltrans work.
According to CHP Officer Brandon Correia, the vehicles were pushed toward the center divider and careened back into traffic. Three more vehicles were then crashed while trying to avoid the first crash.
Mr. Valenzuela died at the scene. The crash is under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.
Truck driver fatigue has been recognized as a major safety concern and a contributing factor to fatal truck crashes for over 70 years. Studies sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reveal that 65% of truck drivers report that they often or sometimes feel drowsy while driving and nearly half of truck drivers admit that they had actually fallen asleep while driving in the previous year
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.
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.
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.
On Wednesday, February 3rd, The Office of Management and Budget cleared the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations (FMCSA) and Federal Rail Administration’s (FRA) joint advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding sleep apnea. The FMCSA and FRA are collecting data and information concerning the prevalence of moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea among individuals occupying safety sensitive positions in highway transportation. The agencies also request information about the potential economic impact and safety benefits associated with regulatory actions that would result in transportation workers in these positions, who exhibit multiple risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea, undergoing evaluation by a healthcare professional with expertise in sleep disorders and subsequent treatment.
The TSC supports rulemaking for sleep apnea screening to ensure medical examiners are testing for and monitoring this fatigue related condition. We will continue working with Wanda Lindsay and the John Lindsay Foundation to promote public awareness of the sleep apnea problem in the commercial motor vehicle industry. We invite you to see the good work they are doing to improve truck safety by clicking here.
A list of the best and worst places in the U.S. to own a trucking company or drive a truck was recently published in the American Journal of Transportation. The list is based on the responses of nearly 4,000 individuals involved in the trucking industry. Respondents were asked about the cost of overnight parking, trucking-related fees, and how friendly states were to drivers. Unfortunately, this list of “best” states (Tennessee, Washington, Oklahoma, Texas, and Indiana) to be a truck driver did not factor in safety.
According to the most recent FARS data, each of these five states saw fatal crashes increase between 2009 and 2014 that exceeded the national increase of 15 percent. Additionally, in 2009 these five states accounted for 19 percent of the total fatal crashes in the United States, and in 2014 they accounted for 25 percent of the total fatal crashes in the United States. Safety should be a key factor in determining the best states to be a truck driver, especially given the fact that between 2009 and 2014, truck driver fatalities skyrocketed 38 percent. TSC is committed to educating the public and advocating for commonsense safety reforms in order to making trucking safer for everyone, including truck drivers.
The people of Will County, Illinois are fighting to make truck safety a priority in their community. Heavy truck traffic resulting from unplanned, overdeveloped intermodal facilities in the area has overrun their community, creating an unsafe roads. Since 2014, Will County has experienced 20 truck crash fatalities, 156 truck crash injuries, and 909 truck crashes. As we all know, just one crash is too many, but nearly 1,000 crashes in the span of a year in one county is not just a tragedy, it is an epidemic.
The Will County Coalition for the People and Safe Roads Illinois were formed because the people in that area have realized that development is occurring so quickly that is leaving safety behind. In other words, the situations has become untenable. As a result, the coalition has created this list of advocacy items:
Encouraging smart, sensible, diverse and planned development
Making our roads and communities safe
Protecting our air and water
Holding developers accountable for their actions and impacts
Growing travel and tourism
Protecting our property value
The Truck Safety Coalition supports the endeavors of these local organizations, and we will continue to monitor their progress and update you on their accomplishments. We have long recognized the social, environmental, and financial costs of an unregulated trucking sector, which benefits the few at the expense of the many. We will continue our efforts to make trucking safer so that other towns, villages, and counties are not faced with a situation like this one where they are forced to allocate time and money to address truck safety deficiencies.
A double tractor-trailer carrying handgun ammunition crashed and overturned in a work zone near Benson, AR. The truck driver was the only person injured, and there were no fatalities. An investigation is ongoing to determine what caused the truck driver to crash.
Unfortunately, this crash is just one of many that highlights the dangers of truck crashes in work zones. Although big trucks account for only 4 percent of U.S. registered vehicles, they are dramatically overrepresented in fatal work zone crashes. Large trucks were responsible for 30 percent of all fatal work zone crashes in 2014.
This past year TSC successfully opposed legislative efforts to increase the length of double tractor-trailers by five feet per trailer as the longer trailers would have increased the average stopping distance of the vehicle by 22 feet. As you can see in the pictures, another 22 feet of destruction would have resulted in even more cleanup costs, more traffic, and possibly more injuries and fatalities.
Indiana is using innovative technology to save lives and money by addressing the issue of overweight trucks on Interstates highways. Their pilot program would use a combination of weight sensors in the road that would then trigger a camera to take a picture of the truck’s license plate as a method of catching drivers who violate the weight limit.
As we noted in our successful effort to defeat the Ribble Amendment to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which would have increased the federal truck weight limit from 80,000-lbs. to 91,000-lbs., heavier trucks will be more dangerous and more costly to taxpayers. Overweight trucks (greater than 80,000-lbs) disproportionately damage our already deteriorating roads and bridges, and, worse, only pay between 40 and 50 percent of the costs for which they are responsible.
TSC supports Indiana’s drive to enhance their enforcement efforts.
The Washington State Senate is considering a bill, SB 6265, that would increase the weight limit for agriculture trucks traveling on state roads in Washington. Thankfully, there are several state groups that oppose this measure, including the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) and the State Patrol, citing data that show heavier trucks would decrease safety while increasing the wear and tear on roads and bridges.
According to Washington’s DOT, raising the weight limit from 20,000 to 22,000 pounds per axle would result in a 50 percent increase in wear and tear. In dollars, this translates to an additional $15 million to $25 million per year in road maintenance costs and an additional $32 million a year in maintaining bridges.
The TSC agrees with the Washington DOT and State Patrol, and we have continually stated that heavier trucks will not result in fewer trucks, but more dangerous trucks. We will be mobilizing our Washington volunteers to contact their State Senators to oppose this truck weight increase proposal.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Buried in the fine print of an aviation bill introduced in the House this week is a provision that would prevent states from requiring trucking companies to schedule more generous rest breaks for their drivers than the federal government’s minimum standard.
Laws in 22 states require longer or more frequent rest or meal breaks for workers than the Federal Motor Carrier Administration’s standard for truckers of a minimum half-hour break eight hours after reporting for duty.
The trucking industry challenged the state laws in court and lost. The industry lost again in December when a provision it backed to pre-empt the state laws in favor of the federal standard was taken out of a massive transportation bill at the insistence of Senate negotiators.
The provision has been quietly revived in a bill introduced this week by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to overhaul the Federal Aviation Administration.
Safety groups oppose the provision, which they say will be used by companies to pressure drivers to continue behind the wheel when they are tired or hungry.
Rich Pianka, acting general counsel for the American Trucking Associations, said federal law permits truckers to take breaks whenever they feel too tired to drive. The industry objects to the state laws because building in rest breaks on cross-country trips according to state-by-state requirements even if drivers don’t want to use the breaks disrupts planning, he said.
“It’s really not about safety,” Pianka said.
It’s really about money, according to James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The trucking industry wants drivers to be behind the wheel as much as possible for the time they’re being paid, Hoffa said in a statement. In addition to rest breaks, the provision would also limit how truck drivers are paid, and not compensate them for safety procedures like performing pre-trip inspections, he said.
“It overrules the fundamental principle that all workers should be paid for the time they work,” he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its annual Top 10 Most Wanted List (attached), which represents the agency’s advocacy priorities. TSC agrees with the NTSB on these much-need safety changes, six of which relate to trucking. We have seen progress on some of these issues, but there is still more work to be done.
Reduce Fatigue-Related Crashes
Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Final Rule was released in December 2015, which requires ELDs on trucks.
TSC has been and continues to work towards enhancing Hours-of-Service requirements and reducing truckers’ allowable hours.
TSC supports rulemaking that would require truck drivers to undergo sleep apnea screening.
Promote Availability of Collision Avoidance Technologies in Highway Vehicles
TSC wants mandatory installation of forward collision avoidance and mitigation (F-CAM) technology on all new large trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more.
NHTSA estimates show that:
Current generation F-CAM systems can prevent more than 2,500 crashes each year.
Future generation F-CAM systems could prevent more than 6,300 crashes annually.
Research indicates that every year a full implementation of F-CAM is delayed:
166 people will unnecessarily die.
8,000 individuals will suffer injuries.
End Substance Impairment in Transportation
TSC is awaiting a final rule for a drug clearinghouse, which would create a federal database to track and store information about CDL holders who have drug and alcohol-related incidents on their records.
The use of any substance, including Schedule II drugs, that impairs cognitive or motor ability should be monitored or eliminated for operators of commercial motor vehicles.
Require Medical Fitness for Duty (See Reduce Fatigue and End Substance Impairment sections)
69% of long-haul truck drivers (LHTDs) are obese compared to 31% in the adult working population.
17% of LHTDs are morbidly obese.
Expand Use of Recorders to Enhance Safety
Event Data Recorders (EDR) are devices that record information related to highway vehicle crash.
EDRs record technical vehicle and occupant information for a brief period of time before, during and after a crash. For example, EDRs may record speed, steering, braking, acceleration, seatbelt use, and, in the event of a crash, force of impact and whether airbags deployed.
TSC supports standardizing and mandating EDRs in all large trucks.
Disconnect from Deadly Distractions
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) publish a final rule in 2010 that prohibits texting by commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers while operating in interstate commerce and imposes sanctions, including civil penalties and disqualification from operating CMVs in interstate commerce.
Recent research commissioned by FMCSA shows that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) is 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who engage in texting while driving than for those who do not.
By Dailymail.com | Published: 01:55 EST, 29 December 2015 | Updated: 19:03 EST, 29 December 2015
Mary Lambright, 23, made the 1880 historic bridge collapse on Christmas Day in Paoli, Indiana
Iron bridge had a weight limit of six tons – her vehicle and trailer weighed about 60,000 pounds – or 30 tons – at crash
Lambright told police she didn’t know how many pounds were in six tons
No injuries, but the bridge collapsed under the weight and was destroyed
A historic iron bridge was destroyed when a 23-year woman drove her 30-ton trailer across it – because she got her math wrong and did not realize she was five times over the 6-ton weight limit.
Mary Lambright was attempting to haul a 53-foot box trailer containing 43,000 pounds of bottled water to a Walmart parking lot with her Volvo truck on Christmas Day in Paoli, Indiana.
She drove onto the iron 1880 structure and immediately hit the top of the bridge as her truck was too high. The structure then buckled the under the pressure and collapsed at around 12 noon.
Lambright, of Fredericksburg, told police she knew the iron bridge had a weight limit of six tons and wasn’t equipped for semis due to a sign that was posted, but said she didn’t know how many pounds were in six tons.
Lambright and her 17-year-old cousin who was in the passenger seat managed to escape unharmed.
‘She’s a very inexperienced driver,’ Paoli Police Chief Randy Sanders said of Lambright explaining that she had left the Amish order a year or so ago, reports Herald Times Online.
The Amish use nonmotorized modes of transportation so her experience could be limited to horse-and-buggy transportation.
Most Amish are not permitted to drive motor vehicles but are allowed to hire outsiders — known as ‘English’ — to drive them.
Sanders says Lambright, was an independent driver, hauling the bottled water in a leased truck from Penske for Louisville Logistics.
According to police, Lambright was attempting to make a delivery at a Walmart when she missed a turning, reports WBIW.
She said she tried to turn around in a parking lot, but it was not possible because there was equipment in the way.
She told police she did not feel confident in backing up the truck so she then attempted to cross the iron bridge.
Lambright was traveling more than 30 miles per hour in order to get the vehicle stuck that far on the bridge, according to police.
Police cited her for reckless operation of a tractor-trailer, a class B misdemeanor; disregarding a traffic control device, a class B infraction; and overweight on posted bridge.
She could be fined for the infractions and Louisville Logistics could also face legal action.
Lambright received her Commercial Drivers License (CDL) endorsement in May.
The French Lick Fire Department wrote on Facebook: ‘Bridge collapse in Paoli with no injuries reported.
‘What a sad day for the Old Iron Bridge located on South Gospel St.’
Although some Facebook commenters blamed the driver, many others blamed the school that certified her and the company that allowed her to get behind the wheel.
One person wrote: ‘I would look into the trucking school or trucking company that sponsored her training.
‘How do you go thru CDL school and get certified and not know the very basics of weight and/or the weight of even your empty truck and trailer which is still too heavy?’
This NPRM proposes to upgrade Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 223, “Rear impact guards,” and FMVSS No. 224, “Rear impact protection,” which together address rear underride protection in crashes into trailers and semitrailers. NHTSA is proposing to adopt requirements of the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) for underride guards (CMVSS No. 223, “Rear impact guards,”) that became effective in 2007. The CMVSS No. 223 requirements are intended to provide rear impact guards with sufficient strength and energy absorption capability to protect occupants of compact and subcompact passenger cars impacting the rear of trailers at 56 km/h (35 mph). As the current requirements in FMVSS Nos. 223 and 224 were developed with the intent of providing underride crash protection to occupants of compact and subcompact passenger cars in impacts up to 48 km/h (30 mph) into the rear of trailers, increasing the robustness of the trailer/guard design such that it will be able to withstand crash velocities up to 56 km/h (35 mph) represents a substantial increase in the stringency of FMVSS Nos. 223 and 224.
This NPRM also proposes to adopt Transport Canada’s definition of “rear extremity” to define where on a trailer aerodynamic fairings are to be located to avoid posing a safety hazard in rear underride crashes.
Rear underride crashes are those in which the front end of a vehicle impacts the rear of a generally larger vehicle, and slides under the rear-impacted vehicle. Underride may occur to some extent in collisions in which a small passenger vehicle crashes into the rear end of a large trailer or semi-trailer because the bed and chassis of the impacted vehicle is higher than the hood of the passenger vehicle. In excessive underride crashes, there is “passenger compartment intrusion” (PCI) as the passenger vehicle underrides so far that the rear end of the struck vehicle collides with and enters the passenger compartment of the striking passenger vehicle. PCI can result in severe injuries and fatalities to occupants contacting the rear end of the struck vehicle. An underride guard prevents PCI when it engages the striking end of the smaller vehicle and stops the vehicle from sliding too far under the struck vehicle’s bed and chassis.
The occupant crash protection features built into today’s passenger vehicles are able to provide high levels of occupant protection in 56 km/h (35 mph) frontal crashes. (1) If guards were made stronger to remain in place and prevent PCI in crashes of severities of up to 56 km/h (35 mph), the impacting vehicle’s occupant protection technologies could absorb enough of the crash forces resulting from the impact to significantly reduce the risk of fatality and serious injury to the occupants of the colliding vehicle.
Some of Dustin Weigl’s fondest memories of his older brother, Christopher, include their long-winded arguments about which to spread first, peanut butter or jelly, on a sandwich.
But that banter between brothers ended in 2012, when Christopher, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student, was killed by a truck as he rode his bicycle in Boston.
“My world was absolutely shattered in a way that can never really be repaired,” Weigl said. His voice cracking at times, he testified before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation Wednesday in support of two bills that would require the installation of protective side guards on certain large vehicles. He said the safety gear could have saved his brother’s life.
“My family believes that this whole collision could have been prevented,” Weigl said. “If side guards had been installed on this truck, Christopher probably would have survived.”
The bills were filed by Representative Daniel Hunt and Senator William Brownsberger, who say bicyclist fatalities often occur when large vehicles take sharp turns and riders fall beneath the vehicles’ rear wheels.
Side guards between the front and back wheels help push cyclists away from the vehicle. The guards can be installed on existing trucks or built into new vehicles.
The lawmakers said side guards and convex mirrors, which would give drivers better visibility, could help reduce bicyclist and pedestrian deaths.
“It’s the appropriate response to a very real issue that the city and the state is facing,” Hunt said.
At least five people died in crashes with trucks in Boston in the past four years, city officials testified at the hearing.
The latest was in August, when Cambridge resident Anita Kurmann was killed while bicycling near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street. The truck had neither side guards nor convex mirrors, officials said.
“If you look at communities around the Commonwealth, these tragedies are playing out in Cambridge, Brockton, Malden, Northampton, and Wellesley, just to name a few,” said Kris Carter, cochairman of Boston’s New Urban Mechanics office. Carter testified while sitting alongside Weigl.
Boston passed a side-guard ordinance in 2014, following a successful pilot program. Billed as a US first, it requires all large city-contracted vehicles to be fitted with side guards.
But Carter said trucks that are not contracted by the city aren’t required to have the guards, and the city doesn’t have authority to expand the requirement to other trucks.
“That’s where we look to your leadership,” Carter told the panel. “We look to your leadership in recognizing a simple fix that can greatly improve the streets across the Commonwealth for the people of Massachusetts, and set an example for the rest of the country.”
Members of the Boston Cyclists Union and Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition also spoke in favor of the bills.
“We can potentially prevent these incidents from happening,” said Barbara Jacobson, program director at the coalition, “rather than dealing with the after-effects of tragedy.”
The committee also heard testimony about several other bills designed to keep vulnerable road users safe.
One, also filed by Brownsberger, would make it illegal for a motorist to double-park or to idle in lanes designated specifically for cyclists. A violation of the law would lead to a fine of $100.
Another bill would require at least 3 feet of space between cars passing bicyclists or joggers, and even more distance if the car is traveling faster than 30 miles per hour.
Meghan McGrath, an emergency medical doctor who works at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, said her husband was riding in a bike lane last year when he was cut off by a car, causing him to fall off of the bicycle, split his helmet open, and break his hand.
“I feel strongly that we need better rules to protect vulnerable road users,” McGrath said. “Riding a bike or jogging should not mean taking your life in your hands.”
Brianna Arnold, a political science major at Stonehill College whose uncle was killed last week while riding his bicycle in Worcester, agreed.
Tears welling in her eyes, Arnold recalled her uncle’s love for biking.
“The family feels hopeless after such an accident happens,” she said. “Maybe the people . . . listening could hear what happened, and hopefully choose to make those changes that would save someone else’s life.”
Steve Annear can be reached
at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.
As this year comes to end, I look forward to the future wherein roads and bridges are safer than they would have been, if not for the dedication and hard work of the Truck Safety Coalition’s (which PATT is a part of) vast network of volunteers.
Equipped with facts and driven by the desire to ensure that others do not have to endure the same grief we did, our organization successfully opposed corporate handouts, like double 33-foot tractor trailers, from being included in the omnibus bill.
The notion that increasing the length of double trailers from 28-feet per trailer to 33-feet per trailer would be safer was premised on the argument that longer trucks will result in fewer trucks. Looking back at the history of truck size and weight increases, however, it becomes clear that the promise of fewer trucks has never come to fruition. Additionally, those longer trucks would have been more difficult to operate due to longer stopping distances and wider turns; and more difficult for motorists to maneuver around due to larger blind spots.
Congress listened to the public and rejected that earmark. It reinforces the fact that advocating to make trucking safer, in the wake of my son, Jeff, and his friends being killed in a large truck crash, is not for naught.
Moving forward, I hope Congressmen will not use the appropriations process as a back door to advance industry-backed agendas. Policies that affect public safety should be subject to open debate, research and analysis.
Mark Rosenker distorted the facts about the safety of double 33s in a Dec. 8 BDN letter to the editor. The former National Transportation Safety Board chairman is now an adviser to the Coalition for Efficient and Reliable Trucking, a group that consists of large corporations that stand to make massive profits if these longer, less safe trucks are allowed on our roads.
Rosenker avoids noting that data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study showed that lengthening double tractor-trailers from 28-feet to 33-feet will result in a six-foot wider turning radius and 22-foot longer stopping distance.
He also ignores the fact that double 33s would replace many of the existing single 53-foot trailers. According to the Truckload Carriers Association, there would be significant diversion within trucking as, in the past, shippers will not support equipment that does not meet the maximum size allowed.
Moreover, pushing for these longer trucks would exacerbate what the trucking industry’s claims is a major problem — insufficient parking for trucks. Adding a minimum of 10 extra feet will actually reduce the amount of useable parking spaces.
In referencing “years of testing” in Alberta, Canada, on double 33s, Rosenker, again, fails to paint a full picture. John Woodrooffe, referenced by Rosenker, attributed much of the good safety performance of longer trucks to the fact that Alberta has among the strictest driver, carrier and vehicle regulations.
Overall, it is disheartening that Rosenker, once the head of a safety agency, has become a peddler of privately-funded pseudoscience.
ARLINGTON, VA (December 16, 2015) – The United States Congress today released an omnibus spending bill that includes the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations legislation, H.R. 2577.
The Truck Safety Coalition worked closely with a coalition of survivors and families of truck crash victims, law enforcement, first responders, truck drivers, trucking companies, and safety advocacy groups to have 33-foot double tractor-trailers removed from the legislation. We hope to continue working with these groups to address missed opportunities to improve truck safety going forward.
We want to especially thank Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) for their leadership, and the hard work of their staffs, in our fight against these longer, less safe trucks.
We successfully advocated for the exclusion of a measure hindering a rulemaking to determine the adequacy of minimum insurance for motor carriers. The minimum financial requirement has not been raised in over 35 years, and is woefully inadequate. Congress should not be using overly burdensome study requirements to stop attempts to evaluate the appropriate level of financial responsibility.
While we are disappointed that the Collins rider affecting hours of service (HOS) was included in the omnibus, we will continue to educate the public and our lawmakers about the dangers of tired truckers. Requiring a truck driver to work up to 82 hours per week will only cause more fatigue related truck crashes, and, in turn, more injuries and deaths. Rather than acquiescing to industry demands, Congress should be making data-driven decisions. We hope that the release of the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Final Rule will help law enforcement isolate bad actors and help the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) obtain better data on truck driver fatigue.
Moving forward, we hope that Members of Congress will no longer try to use the appropriations process as a back door to advance industry-backed agendas. Policies that affect the safety and wellbeing of the public should be subject to open debate, research, and analysis.
Overall, the Truck Safety Coalition welcomes the improvements made to the THUD component of the omnibus spending bill, and will continue to work to improve the HOS rules.
After Decades of Advocacy Truck Safety Coalition Welcomes FMCSA Release of Final Rule
Requiring Electronic Logging Devices in Large Trucks
Arlington, VA (December 10, 2015): The Truck Safety Coalition today welcomed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) release of a Final Rule requiring electronic logging devices (ELDs) in all interstate trucks as a long overdue, but much needed advancement in truck safety.
Daphne Izer, founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) said, “After advocating for nearly a quarter of a century, after our son Jeff was killed by a tired trucker, Steve and I are elated that the FMCSA has issued this rule that will reduce the deaths and injuries resulting from fatigue-related truck crashes and will hold the trucking industry to a higher standard of safety. We are confident that the realization of one of PATT’s primary goals will ensure that our roads will be safer from the dangers of fatigued truck drivers.”
Izer continued, “This technology will reduce the ability of bad actors to skirt federal regulations by modernizing the practice of logging hours. Also, the rule will protect truck drivers from harassment and coercion to exceed the hours they are allowed to operate. ELDs automatically record driving time, thereby removing the ability of truck drivers to circumvent compliance by simply writing down false hours. It is absurd that certain segments of the industry fought so hard to hold on to this archaic business practice from 1938. While this Final Rule is a testament to more than 20 years of successful advocacy to reduce truck driver fatigue, it is bittersweet. While we find solace in knowing that this ELD Final Rule will save an estimated 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries resulting from large truck crashes, we wish that we did not have to wait so long to prevail.”
Dawn King, President of the Truck Safety Coalition, which is a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and PATT, also lauded the FMCSA for issuing the ELD Final Rule: “The inclusion of ELDs in large trucks is beneficial for everyone who travels on our nation’s road and bridges. Motorist and truckers will be safer as this technology will limit the ability of truck drivers to exceed Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, in turn, reducing the likelihood that big rig drivers will become fatigued while driving. Had this technology been in place back in 2004, I would have been able to celebrate at least one more Christmas with my Dad, who was killed by a fatigued driver just days before the holiday.”
“Additionally, this will enhance law enforcement officers’ capacity to enforce HOS restrictions and expedite the process of reviewing a truck driver’s logbook,” King said. “The shift from paperwork to electronic logging will not only save time, but money too – the FMCSA estimates that this rule will result in a benefit or more than $1 billion. While we are pleased with the many benefits that will come along with the implementation of this rule, I would be remiss not to mention our disappointment with the exemption to this rule for trucks built before model year 2000. There should be no exemptions to this life-saving, cost-reducing technology.”
John Lannen, Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition added, “We are pleased the ELD Final Rule has been issued, and we look forward to the full implementation by the year 2017. Though this was a major win in fighting truck driver fatigue, in order to fully address this fatal problem more must be done, like improving working conditions, screening for sleep apnea, requiring fewer hours behind the wheel, addressing parking needs, and restructuring compensation.”
BY DAPHNE IZER, JANE MATHIS, DAWN KING AND TAMI FRIEDRICH TRAKH
Every day families from Michigan, Florida, Maine and California, as well as millions of other Americans drive on our nation’s roads to go to work, vacation, run errands, and come home. Sadly, each year large truck crashes kill nearly 4,000 people and injure another 100,000 people before they reach their destination. Each of us of became involved with the Truck Safety Coalition in order to make trucking safer so that another daughter, mother, or sister did not have to endure the sudden and overwhelming grief that accompanies losing a loved one in a large truck crash.
Congress has a real opportunity to reverse the worsening truck crash death and injury trends and to protect public safety. Our elected officials can start by taking out provisions from the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill that mandate Double 33 foot tractor-trailers throughout our country and allow truck drivers to work upwards of 80 hours per week. These proposals are industry earmarks that do nothing to advance safety, and, if enacted, will actually degrade safety.
Increasing the length of double tractor trailers from 28 feet per trailer to 33 feet per trailer will result in longer vehicles that are up to 91 feet in length. Statistics show that Double 33s have a six-foot wider turning radius, a 33 percent increase in low-speed off-tracking, and a 22-foot longer stopping distance than existing double tractor trailers. In short, these longer trucks are harder to operate and will make merging and passing more difficult for truck drivers and other motorists. If anything, Congress should conduct a more in-depth study on the safety of Double 33s before mandating them on our roads and bridges. The American public wants our Senators and Representatives to make data-driven decisions, not hazardous experiments that endanger us in order to pander to moneyed interests.
Increasing the hours of service for truck drivers is another prime example of a policy proposal that puts the interests of businesses before the safety of individuals. Truck driver fatigue is a major safety concern and contributing factor to fatal truck crashes. Congress should be doing more to address this problem. Unfortunately, Senator Collins has included language that reduces a truck driver’s weekend and increases their work week from 70 hours to 82 hours. Permitting truck drivers to work for up to 82 hours per week, by removing the two night requirement and one restart per week limit, will push tired truck drivers to continue operating and putting lives at risk.
Congress should stop and consider the consequences of passing legislation that is riddled with corporate handouts. Failure to change the direction our country is heading with regards to truck safety will result in more than 20,000 people being killed and nearly 500,000 people being injured in truck crashes in the next five years. These numbers are staggering, but we know from our own experiences that it just takes the death of one pe