TSC Comments on Regulatory Review

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

TSC Comments on Regulatory Review

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

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

Finalize Rulemakings:

o   Automatic Emergency Braking

o   Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters

o   Rear and Side Underride Guards

Fully Implement Final Rules:

o   Electronic Logging Device

o   Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

Reintroduce Rulemakings:

o   Increasing the Minimum Insurance Levels

o   Sleep Apnea Screening and Testing

Modify Rulemakings:

o   Entry Level Driver Training

 

Finalize Rulemakings:

Automatic Emergency Braking

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters

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

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

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

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

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

Rear and Side Underride Guards

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fully Implement Final Rules

Electronic Logging Device (ELD)

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

Updating the methodology by which drivers record their hours of service is long overdue. ELD technology will reduce the ability of bad actors to skirt federal regulations by modernizing the practice of logging hours. This mandate will also protect truck drivers from being coerced to exceed the hours they are allowed to operate because ELDs automatically record driving time, and therefore truck drivers cannot circumvent compliance by simply writing down false hours. It is important to note that this regulation makes no changes to the existing Hours of Services rules.

Additionally, the ELD mandate will enhance law enforcement officers’ capacity to enforce HOS restrictions and expedite the process of reviewing a truck driver’s logbook. This potential benefit of the ELD rulemaking would be blunted, however, if the agency allows exemptions as it would create confusion for law enforcement officers. The shift from paperwork to electronic logging will save not only time, but also it will produce a benefit or more than $1 billion, according to the FMCSA.

After working for more than two decades to produce a final rule that requires large trucks to be equipped with Electronic Logging Devices, the Truck Safety Coalition opposes any further delay or exemptions to the mandate. Instead of focusing on the costs of this regulation, which cost less than replacing a few truck tires, we should all be more concerned about truck driver fatigue – a preventable problem that kills and injures far too many each people year. There has been ample time for members of the industry to transition from paper logbooks to electronic logging devices, especially considering that there are a plenty of companies from which they can purchase an ELD device.

The ELD Final Rule will save an estimated 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries resulting from large truck crashes each year. We cannot fathom why anyone would direct an agency, whose mission is to promote safety, to consider a delay that would result in an estimated 130 fatalities and 2,810 injuries over five years, which was recently requested.

Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

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

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

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

Reintroduce Rulemakings:

Increasing the Minimum Level of Insurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sleep Apnea Screening and Testing

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

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

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

Modify Rulemakings:

Entry Level Driver Training

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Docket DOT-OST-2017-0069

Comments Submitted 12/01/2017

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

Truckers Win Fight to Keep Insurance Payouts Low

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

By Paul Feldman on July 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

https://www.fairwarning.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/BrownSonphoto.png

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

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

Tens of thousands hurt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action by private sector

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

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

https://www.fairwarning.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/JoanClaybrookPhoto-e1499198871759.jpg

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

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

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

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

Lack of data to justify an increase

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Has your car insurance gone up?’

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

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

https://www.fairwarning.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/NovakPhoto-e1499197454445.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Salt on a wound’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This story
also published by:

NBCNews.com
IowaWatch
Industrial Safety & Hygiene News

 

 

STATEMENT OF TRUCK SAFETY COALITION ON WITHDRAWAL OF ADVANCE NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING TO INCREASE MINIMUM FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR MOTOR CARRIERS

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. 

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Letter to Secretary Foxx from Rick Watts

The Honorable Anthony Foxx

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E.

Washington, D.C. 20590

 

Dear Secretary Foxx:

Today, I sat through the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) meeting as they determined the probable cause of and adopted a report on the truck crash that killed my wife, Tiffany, my mother-in-law, Sandra Anderson, and my step-daughters, Kelsie and Savannah.  As I listened to the NTSB staff present the report findings, my sorrow, anger and frustration grew at the painful reminder of how avoidable this crash was and how little your Department is doing to promote policies and adopt regulations that could have prevented it. The lack of urgency, the delays in issuing regulations and the inadequate oversight of the motor carrier industry are just a few of the major problems plaguing the Department.

My family was killed in a work zone truck crash near Chattanooga in June 2015. At the meeting today, the NTSB determined that there were no mechanical issues with any of the nine vehicles involved, weather was not a contributing factor, and there were ample visual cues to alert the truck driver of the impending work zone and traffic. Unfortunately, the truck driver far exceeded the legal limit on hours of service (HOS) leading up to the crash, was under the influence of narcotics, and was speeding – traveling approximately 80 mph which was well above the posted limit of 55 mph. These factors greatly diminished his ability to operate safely and, ultimately, resulted in his truck hitting seven vehicles and traveling 453 feet from the initial impact area to its final rest position.  Six people were killed and four more were injured.  Worse yet, all of these factors were completely preventable with known and proven solutions, many of which have been previously recommended by the NTSB.

The rapidly rising number of truck crashes, fatalities and injuries is a clear indicator that the Department of Transportation has a double standard for safety.  In 2009, there were 286,000 truck crashes; by 2014 that number shot up to 411,000 – a 44 percent increase. From 2009 to 2014, there was a 50 percent increase in truck crash injuries. From 2009 to 2015, there was a 20 percent increase in truck crash fatalities, which resulted in deaths exceeding 4,000 for the first time since 2008. Yet, your Department has adopted a standard of zero tolerance for commercial airplane crashes and achieved that goal for seven years now.

Considering these facts, I urge the Department to take immediate action and make truck safety your priority.  One of the most important steps is to commence a rulemaking requiring crash avoidance technologies as standard equipment on all large trucks. Using this proven, life-saving technology will reduce the number of truck crashes and increase the number of lives saved and injuries prevented. According to one estimate by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), current generation automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems can prevent more than 2,500 crashes each year and future generation systems could prevent more than 6,300 crashes annually. Yet, NHTSA has still not initiated any rulemakings requiring AEB.

Additionally, the agency is working to complete a rulemaking to update a 20-year-old underride guard standard with one that will have little impact in advancing safety.  Right now 93 percent of trailers sold in the United States already meet or exceed the proposed, ten-year-old, Canadian standard. Likewise, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has done little to increase the minimum levels of financial responsibility for motor carriers, which has not been raised in 35 years.  This is particularly infuriating to victims like me because the Secretary is empowered to raise the woefully inadequate minimum insurance requirement. Instead, this agency is more concerned with appeasing members of the trucking industry by creating a crash weighting determination process, which will be burdensome, costly, and unnecessary while it does little, if anything at all, to improve prediction of crash risk.

The DOT has also failed to meet deadlines required by Congress that could have ensured that my wife, her mother, and two daughters were not killed. Even though your Department was mandated to promulgate a final rule for a Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for commercial drivers by October of 2014, one has still not been produced. In those two years, the truck driver who caused the crash was twice charged with possession of methamphetamine, once for a previous incident and once after causing the crash.

I, along with thousands of other families who have suffered the loss of a loved one in a speeding truck crash, am also waiting for the long overdue heavy vehicle speed limiter rule, which has been delayed nearly thirty times over the span of ten years. While NHTSA has released a notice of proposed rulemaking, it is exceedingly weak and it would be preposterous for the rule to only apply to new trucks considering this technology has been a standard capability in most trucks since the 1990s.

We urge you to use your remaining time of 4 months as Secretary to direct NHTSA and FMCSA to issue regulations that will make trucking safer for all of us sharing the road — truck drivers, motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. We also urge you to oppose any efforts in Congress to attack the HOS rule in the government spending bill.

Requiring AEB on all new large trucks, issuing a strong rear and side underride guard rule, and raising the minimum levels of insurance to levels appropriate in 2016 are urgently needed now. This could be the difference between directing a Department that stood by and allowed truck crash deaths to exceed 4,000 for the first time in eight years, or implementing real solutions to real problems that affect real people like me.

Thank you for your time and consideration.  I look forward to receiving your prompt response.

 

Sincerely,

 

Rick Watts

Morristown, TN

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Husband of Tiffany Watts,

Son-in-Law of Sandra Anderson,

Step-father of Kelsie and Savannah Garrigues

Killed in a truck crash 6/25/15

Letter to Secretary Foxx – Rick Watts

From the Truck Safety Coalition… FMCSA Shuts Down Wyoming Truck Company for Numerous Safety Violations

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.

Link: http://www.ttnews.com/articles/basetemplate.aspx?storyid=41367

The Truck Safety Coalition Team

From the Truck Safety Coalition… The Dangers of Chameleon Carriers

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.

Link: http://www.wral.com/-chameleon-carriers-create-danger-on-roads/15376321/

The Truck Safety Coalition Team