Maine Voices: Sen. Collins needs to change her position on trucking safety rules

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

Maine Voices: Sen. Collins needs to change her position on trucking safety rules

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.

Link: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/07/maine-voices-sen-collins-needs-to-change-her-position-on-trucking-safety-rules/

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Daphne Izer of Lisbon and Christina Mahaney of Jackman are mothers whose sons were killed in fatigue-related truck crashes.

Maine Truck Crash Families Appalled by Maine Senator’s Support for Anti-Truck Safety Legislation

MAINE TRUCK CRASH FAMILIES APPALLED BY SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS’ SUPPORT FOR ANTI-TRUCK SAFETY LEGISLATION

SENATOR COLLINS ACTIONS WILL INCREASE TRUCK DRIVER FATIGUE AND ROADWAY DANGERS

Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) Founder and 2014 White House Transportation Champion of Change Recipient Speaks Out

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 2, 2014)—Less than one month after being recognized by the White House as a 2014 Transportation Champion of Change for her work to reduce truck driver fatigue and require electronic logging devices (ELDs) in trucks, Daphne Izer was outraged to learn that Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) supports legislation to roll back truck safety improvements in the truck driver hours of service (HOS) rule. The HOS rule contains measures to help reduce truck driver fatigue, including the 34-hour restart provisions and a mandatory half hour rest break. These improvements are based on more than 25 years of scientific and medical research and should not be arbitrarily removed, reduced or altered.

Daphne Izer, Founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) said, “I have whiplash—one month ago I was in the White House celebrating vital improvements to reduce truck driver fatigue, and now my own Senator is using her power as Ranking Member on the THUD Appropriations Subcommittee to undo a rule which will result in more overly tired truckers on our roads. Twenty-five years of research and deliberations over the HOS rule—gone with the swish of her pen.”

Izer continued, “I’m not a well-paid Capitol Hill lobbyist, just a mom from Lisbon, Maine. I’m shocked that Senator Collins would do the bidding of the trucking companies. What are her priorities—special truck interests or our families?”

Christina Mahaney, whose five-year old son Liam was killed when a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his 104,000 pound log truck into her family’s home in Jackman, Maine, added, “Next month will be the third anniversary of losing Liam, and I can’t image a worse way to mark our anniversary. Senator Collins should be supporting truck safety improvements to keep our families safe and whole, not special interest giveaways.”

Izer added, “As we’re taking a step forward to reduce truck driver fatigue by inching closer to the ELD rule, Senator Collins would roll back safety benefits of the HOS rule. We should not allow any step backwards in safety, and I urge the White House and DOT Secretary Foxx to vigorously defend its HOS rule.”

With her husband Steve Izer, Daphne founded the nonprofit safety organization, PATT, after her son, Jeff Izer (age 17), and three of his friends were killed and one seriously injured in a preventable truck crash by a fatigued truck driver.  Since then, Daphne has worked to advance truck safety to help prevent other families from suffering a similar, devastating loss.

The Truck Safety Coalition (www.trucksafety.org), a partnership between the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), 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.

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2014 Liam’s Walk and Butterfly Release

Truck Safety Coalition volunteer, Christina Mahaney, will hold the fourth annual Liam’s Walk and Butterfly Release on July 19, 2014 in Jackman, Maine. There will be no entry fee but donations will be accepted and all proceeds will go toward the Liam Mahaney scholarship fund.

Please visit Christina’s Facebook event page to learn more about this event.