The Truck Safety Coalition, and our volunteers, who are truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, oppose the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposal to allow teenagers to operate trucks across state lines. It’s not just unnecessary, it’s downright dangerous.
Lowering the age required to operate a big-rig will do nothing to reverse the worsening death toll from truck-related crashes, which are up 41 percent since 2009. In all likelihood, it will make the situation worse.
Based on 2017 federal crash data analyzed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers ages 18 to 19 are 2.3 times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older (up to age 84) to be in a fatal crash and nearly 3.5 times more likely to be involved in any police reported crash. Moreover, a recent report analyzing 10 years of fatal crash data involving teen drivers from the Governors Highway Safety Association revealed two other disconcerting data points about 18 to 20 year old drivers: 1) 19-year-olds accounted for the greatest number of teen drivers killed during this 10-year period, followed by 20- and 18-year olds; and, 2) older teens (18- 20-years-old) were twice as likely as their younger counterparts to be involved in a fatal crash between midnight and 6 a.m. These facts should give lawmakers in Congress and regulators at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) pause before moving forward with proposals that promote the pecuniary interests of a few companies while exposing the rest of us to the dangers of driving alongside teen truckers.
Sadly, this seemingly innocuous call for public comment will likely result in a pilot program which will inevitably become a permanent policy because it has become clear that facts take a back seat at the U.S. Department of Transportation to the priorities of the American Trucking Associations (ATA). This was evidenced by the Department’s acquiescence on the California meal and rest break issue, and will continue to be evidenced as they ignore their own data in advancing industry-backed changes to roll back hours of service regulations. Unfortunately, this seems to be an issue that starts at the top as even U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Chao has eschewed facts from the U.S. Department of Labor, which she once managed, for misinformation and myth created by and for the ATA. On an October 2018 appearance on Fox Business, Secretary Chao made no mention of a September 2018 study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that dispelled the notion of a truck driver shortage, but, instead parroted the ATA-line that there is a truck driver shortage, which derives from a 2005 study by the American Trucking Association.
It is time for the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Chao and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Martinez to stop just saying that safety is a top priority of the Department, and start acting like it. No matter how often they may say it, the actions that the DOT and the FMCSA have taken, including this most recent one, have done nothing to improve truck safety.