WLMT TV (Memphis)
WVIR TV (Charlottesville, VA)
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Rocky Mount Telegram (NC)
WLMT TV (Memphis)
WVIR TV (Charlottesville, VA)
The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA)
Rocky Mount Telegram (NC)
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.
Change is hard. But it’s not impossible.
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 Thursday evening, a FedEx truck crashed head on into a bus carrying prospective college students. Ten are dead and dozens more are injured from this tragic crash.
Dawn King, CRASH board member, had this to say,
The news media is slow to mention that it all started with a semi crossing the center median. That’s not the most news worthy aspect of this crash so it’s getting little press. Rightfully we need to concentrate on the families of those killed and injured, on the students who were headed toward bright futures as college students who will never see another day, on the survivors who are traumatized, and on the drivers, both of the truck and the bus who were also killed. But when things calm down we need to take a serious look at why that semi crossed the median in the first place.
Please read the rest of Dawn’s thoughtful post on her page.
THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION AND OUR VOLUNTEERS RESPOND
TO THE PASSING OF U.S. SENATOR FRANK R. LAUTENBERG
Senator Lautenberg Was a Truck Safety Champion
Arlington, VA (June 3, 2013): On behalf of the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and our volunteers, we were deeply saddened by the passing of Senator Lautenberg, and would like to express our sympathies to his family, friends, staff members and to the citizens of New Jersey. Senator Lautenberg fought relentlessly for truck safety improvements in order to protect all of our families, as well as truck drivers. Our volunteers have had the honor of meeting and working with Senator Lautenberg on numerous truck safety issues over the course of his long Senate career. The truck safety advances he championed will ensure lifesaving protections for years to follow.
Daphne Izer, founder of PATT after her son Jeff and three of his friends were killed in a truck crash, stated, “To the families who suffered injuries or lost loved ones in a truck crash, today marks the loss of a true hero. Senator Lautenberg understood the dangers of bigger, heavier trucks and sponsored lifesaving legislation including the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act. The price paid by our families in injuries, loss and heartache must end. We hope Senator Lautenberg’s tremendous example will inspire Members of Congress to continue his extraordinary work.”
“Senator Lautenberg’s truck safety legacy is beyond measure. We will never know exactly how many lives he saved and how many injuries he prevented through his focus, advocacy and legislative leadership to improve truck safety. The truck safety requirements he helped shepherd in MAP – 21 are but one example of his commitment to protecting our families. I always found him focused on me when I spoke, sincerely concerned about my family, and wanting so urgently to fix the truck safety problems which brought me to his office. I know that I am not alone in saying I will miss him.” Dawn King, Board Member, CRASH, after losing her father Bill Badger in a Georgia truck crash caused when the truck driver fell asleep behind the wheel.
Jane Mathis, Board Member for PATT, after her son David and his wife of five days, Mary Kathryn, were killed by a fatigued truck driver who fell asleep behind the wheel, added, “Senator Lautenberg recognized the dangers to our families and to truck drivers caused by truck driver fatigue, and was an early proponent of electronic logging devices (ELDs) to enforce hours of service rules and to keep people safe. Last year’s requirement for ELDs in MAP-21 was a tremendous victory for safety. My fellow truck safety advocates and I eagerly await FMCSA’s final rule for ELDs, and express our gratitude for Senator Lautenberg’s tremendous contribution to reducing truck driver fatigue.”
The Truck Safety Coalition (www.trucksafety.org), a partnership between the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), 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.