STATEMENT OF SAFETY ADVOCATES AND TRUCK CRASH VICTIMS’ FAMILIES CONDEMNING FMCSA PLAN TO WITHDRAW IMPORTANT RULE ON TRUCK DRIVER FATIGUE

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

STATEMENT OF SAFETY ADVOCATES AND TRUCK CRASH VICTIMS’ FAMILIES CONDEMNING FMCSA PLAN TO WITHDRAW IMPORTANT RULE ON TRUCK DRIVER FATIGUE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 7, 2017

Truck Drivers Suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Fatigue are a Clear Threat to Themselves and Other Road Users

Dropping Rules to Screen and Assist Drivers with OSA Puts Lives at Risk

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is threatening the safety of all motorists by abandoning plans to require screening and treatment for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). FMCSA’s plan to withdraw an important safety rulemaking which is already underway ignores the advice of medical experts, fellow federal regulators and even the agency’s own advisory committees. The move comes at a time when the number of truck crashes, fatalities and injuries continues to skyrocket.

Fatigue is a well-known and well-documented safety problem.  Large truck and motorcoach drivers frequently work long shifts with irregular schedules, often without adequate sleep. Compelling and consistent research from groups like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has shown that OSA-afflicted drivers who are not properly treated are more prone to fatigue and have a higher crash rate than the general driver population. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also considers OSA to be a disqualifying condition unless properly treated. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is so concerned about fatigue-involved crashes that the Board included fatigue on both its 2016 and 2017/2018 Most Wanted List of safety changes because fatigue has been cited as a major contributor to truck crashes.

Ignoring the threat of fatigued truck drivers is particularly dangerous at a time when annual truck crash fatalities are comparable to a major airplane crash every other week of the year. In 2015, crashes involving large trucks led to the deaths of 4,067 people and left 116,000 more injured. Moreover, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), fatalities in large truck crashes have increased by 20 percent since 2009 and large truck crash injuries have increased by 57 percent over the same time period.

It is especially disappointing that FMCSA is failing to heed the warning of its own advisory committees regarding OSA screenings. In 2012, the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) and its Medical Review Board found that drivers with a body mass index of 35 or greater are more likely to suffer from OSA and recommended that they undergo an objective evaluation for the condition.

FMCSA’s move to kill this vital rule threatens the safety of truck drivers and the public at large. Basic safety protections are critical not only to help identify CMV drivers with OSA and get them the treatment they need, but also to provide clear rules to the industry, drivers and medical professionals on how best to deal with this significant safety risk.

Henry Jasny, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and a MCSAC member, said, “In abandoning its effort to screen professional commercial drivers for the serious medical condition of obstructive sleep apnea, the FMCSA fails to protect public safety on our highways from those who drive while fatigued due to this condition. The agency also shows a callous disregard for the health and well-being of drivers who suffer from OSA. This is yet another example of the FMCSA throwing its mission, to make safety its highest priority, under the bus.”

“Today, FMCSA showed, once again, a lack of commitment to improving commercial motor carrier safety at a time when truck crashes, injuries, and fatalities continue to surge,” said John Lannen, Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition and member of the MCSAC. “The agency’s misguided move also demonstrates a refusal to listen to the advice of advisory boards with experts on this issue – the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and the Medical Review Board. The withdrawal of this lifesaving rule that would establish requirements for sleep apnea screening is baffling given the agency is charged with improving motor carrier safety and, according to one of the largest sleep apnea studies, up to 50 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers are at risk this health problem.”

Jane Mathis, a board member of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) who also serves on the MCSAC, stated, “Sleep apnea 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. Policymakers at the FMCSA should be doing more to prevent truck crashes, which have skyrocketed 45 percent since 2009, including preventing truckers with OSA from getting behind the wheel and driving tired because of their sleep disorder. My son David and his wife of five days Mary Kathryn were driving home from their honeymoon when they were rear-ended and killed by a truck driver who had fallen asleep behind the wheel. Withdrawing this rulemaking is a step in the wrong direction for the safety of all motorists.”

Steve Owings, Co-Founder of Road Safe America and a MCSAC member, stated, “As the father of a young man who was killed in a truck crash, I know how dangerous large trucks can be and how critically important safety protections are. Drivers suffering from OSA are at risk from the effects of fatigue which pose a real danger to all those who share the road with large trucks. I am disheartened and dismayed that the FMCSA is ignoring the advice of its own advisory panels and other experts by withdrawing plans to require OSA screenings for commercial truck drivers. In fact, a survey prepared for the FMCSA found that almost two-thirds of drivers often or sometimes felt drowsy while driving and almost half had said they had fallen asleep while driving the previous year. Instead of taking action to remedy this problem, today’s action fails the motoring public.”

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STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION, ON RELEASE OF NAS REPORT ON U.S. DOT’S CSA CARRIER RATING SYSTEM

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:

  1. The CSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) is “conceptually sound,” and
  2. 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.

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Safety Groups Respond to U.S. DOT IG Rubber Stamping Study on Truck Driver Hours of Service Safety Protections

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.

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Statement on Release of Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Final Rule

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN,

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF TRUCK SAFETY COALITION

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.

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Senator Schumer Speaks Out in Support of Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters

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:

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
New York State: # of Fatalities 107 120 114 100 118 98 126
Long Island: # of Fatalities 16 15 19 17 14 14 18
Long Island: % of Total Fatalities 14.95% 12.50% 16.67% 17.00% 11.86% 14.29% 14.29%
NYC: # of Fatalities 27 24 38 28 27 28 27
NYC: % of Total Fatalities 25.23% 20.00% 33.33% 28.00% 22.88% 28.57% 21.43%

*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.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

 

 

Op-Ed: Truckers’ hours are long enough

Monroe County residents have witnessed some spectacularly devastating truck accidents over the years. They should beware measures under consideration in Congress this week that would raise truckers’ allowable working and driving hours, risking even more crashes that would imperil drivers themselves and the motoring public.

Congress is doing this virtually without public scrutiny — without hearings and under pressure from the trucking industry — by including these unsafe proposals in fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills. Elected officials in both the Senate and the House don’t want to get in the way of their precious federal funds.

But human life is precious, too. Senate and House committees are considering raising truckers’ allowable hours from the 60 currently permitted to 73 driving hours per week, plus 10 non-driving hours — loading, unloading, for example. Truckers could take as little as a mere day plus 10 hours, just 34 hours total, time off before they could begin their “work week” all over again. This is more than risky, it’s dangerous. Public safety should never be compromised for the sake of trucking companies’ bottom line.

Drivers themselves oppose these changes. The Teamsters, citizens’ groups, law enforcement agencies, federal and state safety officials and even some trucking companies argue, sensibly, against expanding work hours beyond the cap the Obama administration instituted in 2013.

The National Transportation Safety Board lists reducing fatigue-related crashes as among its top priorities this year, noting that truck crashes result in 4,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries every year. Driver fatigue is a frequent factor. The NHTSA’s National Automotive Sambling System Crashworthiness Data System crunched data and estimated that 16;5 percent of fatal crashes involved drowsy driving.

Anyone who uses Interstate 80, I-380 or four-lane Route 33/209 is aware of the truck-related carnage that should be everyone’s mission to reduce. Pennsylvania Congressman Shuster, R-9, chairs the House transportation and infrastructure committee. He should vigorously oppose these changes, which industry lobbyists succeeded in getting legislators to slip into the appropriations bills specifically to avoid the public hearings that would be necessary at the committee level. Call Shuster in Washington at 202-225-2431. Ask him which is more important: trucking company profits, or people’s lives?

Link to Article: http://www.poconorecord.com/opinion/20160518/truckers-hours-are-long-enough

Congress Is Using Zika To Weaken Truck Safety

WASHINGTON — Truck driver Dana Logan tried on Wednesday to recount a crash that decapitated two fathers and two children, hoping to convince Congress to stop weakening rules that require truckers to get rest.

She couldn’t do it. A dozen years after the fatigued driver of another truck fell asleep and drove into an SUV stuck in traffic behind her rig on a Texas highway, Logan was still too devastated to finish talking about it.

She drives trucks with her husband, Tim, as a team. That June day in 2004 near Sulphur Springs, the other driver fell asleep and rammed the SUV, pushing it under the carriage of Logan’s trailer, shearing off the top half of the vehicle with its four helpless passengers inside.

Logan got as far as recalling how her husband rushed to help the other trucker.

“When Tim tried the get the injured driver out of the truck, he [the other driver] asked him, ‘Did I hit something?’ Those were his last words before he died,” Logan told reporters in a conference call aimed at legislation moving in Congress this week.

Sobbing, Logan had to stop. She asked her husband to finish.

What the Logans and other safety advocates are worried about are measures that would allow truck drivers to work more than 80 hours a week, tacked onto to separate appropriations bills in the House and the Senate.

In the Senate, a measure that allows 73 hours of driving and an additional 8.5 hours on related work each week was added to a massive spending measure that will fund transportation, housing and military construction projects, as well as the Veterans Administration. Funding for Zika prevention has also been added to that bill, making it very likely to pass.

In the House, measures were added to the transportation and housing appropriations bill under consideration in the committee that set similar rest rules, reverting to regulations originally set in the Bush administration that were repeatedly challenged and thrown out in lawsuits.

Both bills would prevent the Obama administration from enforcing a regulation that briefly went into effect in 2013 that effectively capped truck drivers’ working hours at 70 a week, and ensured they could have two nights off in a row. That rule was blocked by a rider in a 2014 spending bill, which had to pass to avert a government shutdown.

The new inserted policy provisions represent a trend over the last three years of trucking industry interests using must-pass spending bills to win regulatory concessions that are opposed by most safety advocates and likely could not pass as normal stand-alone bills. In this case, not only do the bills fund major parts of the government, they provide cash to fight Zika.

“There’s not been any congressional hearings on any of these proposals,” said Jackie Gillian, the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “The trucking industry doesn’t want to have hearings, they don’t want to hear from truck drivers like Dana Logan. They don’t want to hear from victims.

“They know that if they do have testimony and they have the experts up there, the people affected, that they would see how illogical and insane these proposals are,” Gillian said.

Those trucking interests see the complaints of safety advocates as illogical.

On the rest requirements, known as hours-of-service rules, the industry believes advocates are inventing problems.

“There’s this claim by these anti-truck groups that drivers are abusing it. There’s no data showing that,” said Dave Osieki, who is in charge of public advocacy at the American Trucking Associations.

Osieki argued that it’s nearly impossible for drivers to string together their hours to hit the 80-plus hour maximums that are theoretically allowed under the rules that the trucking provisions in both spending bills would preserve. “We just don’t see a need for it,” he said of the tougher Obama administration standard with two nights off.

Osieki added that he’s seen no evidence that hours of service rules improve safety.

“Show me a link between compliance or noncompliance of the hours of service rules, and there is none,” he said.

Nevertheless, police who enforce the highway safety laws do see a connection.

One is Illinois Trooper Douglas Balder. Balder was nearly burned alive when a truck driver completely ignored the rules, and drove into the back of Balder’s patrol car. Balder, also a military veteran, spent months in rehab to get back on the beat. He doesn’t want Congress rolling back safety rules, and joined Wednesday’s conference call to say so.

“I continue to take to the road every day to do my part to protect the people and ensure the law is upheld,” Balder said. “I cannot do my job alone. I urge Congress to take necessary action to ensure our safety, not to put us further at risk.”

The White House has threatened to veto the Senate spending bill, in part because of the rest rule rollback. But the prospect of a veto is less likely with the Zika measure attached.

Three senators, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) hoped to offer an amendment in debate Thursday to restore the Obama rest regulations. It was unclear if they would get the chance amid all the back-and-forth around Zika and other pressing matters surrounding the larger legislation. Democrats tried to remove Zika funding from the bill on Wednesday, but were blocked.

Link to Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/congress-zika-truck-safety_us_573cfc0ae4b0646cbeec1b89

Change is Hard: Dawn King’s Comments on the Underride Roundtable

by Dawn King, President of the Truck Safety Coalition

Crash dummy survives!

Crash dummies waiting to go to work.
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.

In the lobby of IIHS.  No airbags in the old days.

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.

The dummy survived this crash because the rear guard was strong.

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.

Explaining one of their designs they didn't end up choosing to build.

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.

Virginia Tech student and a Truck Safety Volunteer who has been fighting for side guards since her dad was killed 33 years ago.

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.

Link: https://dawnkinster.wordpress.com/ 

Truck Safety Coalition Responds to Release of Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Requiring Entry Level Driver Training

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.

###

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION ON RELEASE OF OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN,

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION

ON RELEASE OF OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL

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

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.”

$305B highway bill limits teen truckers

The $305 billion highway bill announced by lawmakers on Tuesday limits an effort to lower the minimum age of truck drivers on interstate trips from 21 years of age to 18 to veterans and current military members and reservists.

The 1,300 page measure, which was unveiled days before a Friday deadline for renewing federal transportation funding, eschews a broader proposal to lower the minimum age of all interstate truck drivers in a pilot program that was approved earlier by the House and Senate.

Safety groups praised lawmakers for placing limits on the number of teenage truck drivers that will be allowed on U.S. roads.

“By restricting the three-year teen trucker pilot program to veterans and servicemen above the age of 18, Congress greatly restricted the amount of higher-risk drivers that would be allowed to drive trucks across state lines,” Truck Safety Coalition Executive Director John Lannen said in a statement.

The proposal to lower the minimum age of truck drivers was included in earlier appropriations bills that were approved by the House and Senate, igniting a fight between truck companies and safety groups that revved up as lawmakers were pressing to beat the rapidly approaching Dec. 4 highway funding deadline.

Supporters argued the idea of lower the minimum age for truckers was a modest effort to address a driver shortage that trucking companies have complained has hampered cargo movement in the U.S.

“This amendment would strike a limited pilot program that is authorizing drivers over 19 1/2 to enter into a graduated program to obtain a commercial driver’s license,” Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said when the proposal was being debated on the House floor in October.

“What’s interesting about the way present law is [written] is that a driver that’s over the age that’s being discussed here can drive all the way across the state of Missouri, for instance, but they can’t drive 10 miles in the city of Kansas City because it’s across state lines,” Graves continued then. “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and it actually hampers a whole lot of business.”

Truck companies cited a shortage of truck drivers they said has reached 48,000 as they pushed for the minimum age of interstate drivers to be lowered, arguing that older truckers are retiring at a faster clip than younger replacements are coming on line.

“The ability to find enough qualified drivers is one of our industry’s biggest challenges,” American Trucking Association President and former Kansas Gov. Bill Graves (R) said in a statement about the driver shortage released in the middle of the highway bill debate.

Democrats argued that it is too risky to turn the wheels of big rigs over to teenage drivers, however.

“Ask any parent, they know young drivers do not always listen, even when an experience is in the front seat,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said during the House highway bill debate.

Lawmakers ultimately split the difference, limiting the lower truck driver age limit to veterans and active military members.

The Truck Safety Coalition’s Lannen praised lawmakers for reaching an agreement that “removed several dangerous policies, improved upon other anti-safety measures,” though he added that the compromise bill “unfortunately, included some troubling provisions.

“We are extremely thankful to the members of Congress on the Conference Committee that listened to the facts and to the people,” he said. “Their hard work is evidenced by the positive changes made to the final bill.”

Link to Article: http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/261765-305-highway-bill-limits-teen-truckers-to-veterans-military-members

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION, ON RELEASE OF FAST ACT CONFERENCE REPORT

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN,

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION

ON RELEASE OF FAST ACT CONFERENCE REPORT

ARLINGTON, VA (December 1, 2015) –The Senate and House Conferees today released a conference report for the surface transportation reauthorization bill, H.R. 22. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, as it is now known, removed several dangerous policies, improved upon other anti-safety measures, but unfortunately, included some troubling provisions. We are extremely thankful to the Members of Congress on the Conference Committee that listened to the facts and to the people; their hard work is evidenced by the positive changes made to the final bill.

Sections limiting shipper and broker liability in hiring decisions, allowing greater exemptions to hours of service requirements for classes of truck drivers, and prohibiting states from providing further break protections for drivers were ultimately removed from the final bill. These provisions only benefitted private interests at the expense of public safety. We are glad that reason prevailed, and that the Conferees advanced the interests of their constituents rather than the interests of corporations.

Language regarding the minimum level of insurance required by large trucks, crash weighting, and teen truckers was also improved. Conferees removed some of the overly burdensome hurdles that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) would have to go through in reviewing the required level of minimum insurance for large trucks. They also decided that any crash weighting determination should be reviewed first by the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC), before requiring the FMCSA to engage in a costly ineffective review process. Additionally, by restricting the three-year teen trucker pilot program to veterans and servicemen above the age of 18, Congress greatly restricted the amount of higher-risk drivers that would be allowed to drive trucks across state lines.

Regrettably, measures allowing state and industry specific exemptions are still embedded in the bill. Weight exemptions for logging, milk products, and natural gas vehicles will endanger our roads and will set dangerous precedents for future weight exemptions. It is time for Congress to close the backdoor to nationwide weight increase and stop enacting these corporate earmarks.

Other troublesome provisions that remain include hiding Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores from public view and implementing a “beyond compliance” point system into CSA scores. Concealing scores that are collected by taxpayer-funded law enforcement officers on tax-payer-funded roads essentially robs the motoring public of two things: the ability to access data that they paid for and public safety.

Overall, the enhancements to the final bill shows that the Truck Safety Coalition’s concerns were heard, and we are thankful to the Members of Congress and their staffs that listened.

###

Statement of John Lannen on Passage of Wicker-Feinstein Amendment to Conduct Safety Study of Double 33s

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION

Senate Votes in Favor of Wicker-Feinstein Motion

To Conduct Safety Study of Double 33-Foot Trailers by Voice Vote

ARLINGTON, VA (November 19, 2015) – Yesterday, sound judgement prevailed and the U.S. Senate passed, by voice vote, an amendment proposed by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to require a safety study on Double 33 tractor trailers before they are federally permitted.

This is a huge victory for survivors and victims of large truck crashes, law enforcement, truck drivers, trucking companies, truckload carriers, and the American motoring public. We appreciate that the Senate voted responsibly by seeking to fully understand the safety impact of these longer trucks before considering whether they should be allowed on our roads.

This was a great win, but there is still a long road ahead. The amendment has to make it out of the Conference Committee, which will consolidate the House and Senate versions of the THUD Appropriations bills. The final bill must then be passed again by both chambers and signed into law by the President. We hope that the Senate’s second vote in two weeks to oppose a federal mandate requiring Double 33s sends a clear and consistent message to the House that safety must remain a top priority in crafting transportation policy.

A recent poll showed that 77% of Americans reject the ideas of these larger Double 33 tractor trailers being driven on our roads. We are pleased that the Senate listened to three out of four Americans, instead of the handful of industry lobbyists who are pushing this dangerous agenda with no regard for its effect on public safety.

The Truck Safety Coalition is grateful for all the Members of Congress that listened to the stories of those who lost family members to truck crushes, and those who survived them. A special thank you goes out to Senators Wicker and Feinstein for their leadership on truck safety issues and for working tirelessly to underscore the dangers of allowing these longer trucks.

Statement of John Lannen – Passage of Wicker-Feinstein Amendment

Statement of John Lannen on Passage of Wicker Motion to Instruct Conferees on Safety Study of Double 33s

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION

Senate Votes in Favor of Wicker Motion to Instruct Conferees

To Study Safety Effects of Double 33 Foot Trailers by Margin of 56-31

ARLINGTON, VA (November 10, 2015) – Today, reason prevailed and the U.S. Senate voted in favor of Senator Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) Motion to Instruct Conferees to require a safety study of Double 33s before mandating these longer trucks on our roads. This nearly 2-1 vote was a major win for survivors and victims of large truck crashes, law enforcement, truck drivers, trucking companies, truckload carriers, public health and safety groups, and the American public. We are pleased that the Senate employed a data-driven approach that allows for further study on the safety effects of Double 33s as well as an opportunity for public input.

In voting for this measure, Senators listened to the Department of Transportation recommendation that there should be no increase to truck size or weight because of insufficient data to support such a change. This was the right move, especially given the steadily worsening trends of truck crash fatalities and injuries. Congress should understand the impact of the length increase on pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists, as well as the additional wear on our nation’s roads and bridges before mandating them. It is only logical to study this truck configuration further, which we already know takes 22-feet longer to stop and have a six-foot wider turning radius than Double 28s.

As the House and Senate head to conference to resolve the differences between their competing versions of the multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, the DRIVE Act (H.R. 22), there is still work to be done to improve the safety title of the final legislation. We ask negotiators to remove provisions that allow teenagers to drive trucks across state lines as well as those that hinder rulemaking to increase the minimum insurance required by large trucks. Rejecting measures to increase truck size and weight are a step in the right direction; however, allowing the aforementioned safety rollbacks to remain in the final bill would be a step backwards for safety.

The Truck Safety Coalition is especially thankful for all of the congressional support for truck crash survivors, the families of truck crash victims, and for our mission to promote safety. We want to specifically thank Senators Wicker and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) for their outstanding leadership on this issue.

Statement of John Lannen on Passage of Wicker MTI (Double 33s)

Victory for Truck Safety: Statement of John Lannen on Failure of Ribble Amendment

Contact: Beth Weaver | 301.814.4088, beth_weaver@verizon.net

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN,

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION

House of Representatives Votes to Reject Truck Weight Increase on our Nation’s Highways by a Margin of 236 to 187

During Consideration of 6-Year Surface Transportation Bill (H.R. 22)

ARLINGTON, VA (November 4, 2015) – Last night, the House of Representatives voted and rejected an anti-safety amendment sponsored by Representatives Reid Ribble (WI), Kurt Schrader (CO), David Rouzer (NC), and Collin Peterson (MN). The amendment sought to increase the federal truck weight limit from 80,000-lbs. to 91,000-lbs. This vote was a victory for safety and for all those who travel on our highways. The American people have been clear and consistent in their opposition to heavier trucks and Members of the House listened.

In voting against this measure, Representatives dismissed recycled myths and instead made decisions driven by data. The Department of Transportation (DOT) conducted a study on Truck Size and Weight, required by Congress in MAP-21, and concluded that there should be no increase to truck size and/or weight. We are pleased that Members who voted in opposition to the Ribble Amendment appealed to logic and listened to the initial findings of the DOT study.

The Truck Safety Coalition is especially thankful for all of the Congressional support for our victims and for our mission to promote safety. During our biennial Sorrow to Strength conference, which took place two weeks prior to this vote, truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims came to Washington, D.C. to let their representatives know that there is a dire need to stem the increasing rates of truck crash deaths and injuries. Members were moved by the accounts of loss and tragedy.

We were proud to have joined a diverse coalition of safety advocates, law enforcement, labor, truck drivers, and trucking companies in this efforts. We are particularly thankful for the leadership of Representatives Jim McGovern (MA), Michael Capuano (MA), Lou Barletta (PA), Grace Napolitano (CA), and Jerrold Nadler (NY) in keeping safety at the forefront of the debate on the transportation bill.

Statement on Ribble Amendment

Letter to Senator Reid in Response Carl Pope Letter

August 6, 2015

The Honorable Harry Reid

Minority Leader

United State Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

 

Dear Senator Reid:

Thank you for your longstanding and ongoing leadership on highway and auto safety. We have been made aware of a letter recently sent to you regarding purported environmental and safety impacts of the proposal being advanced by FedEx and a few other trucking and delivery service companies to force states to allow double 33-foot tractor trailer trucks (double 33s) on their roads and highways (Letter from Carl Pope dated July 25, 2015). Unfortunately this letter contains numerous untruths, parrots industry propaganda, and underscores Mr. Pope’s lack of knowledge regarding the safety problems of large trucks, the increased damage to roads and bridges they will inflict, and general freight transportation issues.

Mr. Pope supports consideration of double 33s in place of the current national standard 28-foot trailers, but Mr. Pope’s facts are incomplete or incorrect. Mr. Pope’s letter asserts, “I have found no evidence in the testimony and submissions of those who opposed this change that it will impair safety…” showing that he is unaware of the studies that have found that the use of multiple trailers is associated with an 11% higher crash rate compared to single trailer combinations.[1] This statement also completely ignores the recent U.S. Department of Transportation Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study (DOT Study) that concludes there is a “profound” lack of data from which to quantify the safety impact of double 33s and consequently recommends that no changes in the relevant truck size and weight laws and regulations be considered until data limitations are overcome.[2]

Furthermore, Mr. Pope writes, “I have found no evidence in the testimony and submission of those who oppose this change that it will…increase wear and tear on our roads…” This statement overlooks the fact that the DOT Study stated that an empty double 33-foot trailer weighs 2,362 pounds more than an empty double 28-foot trailer,[3] increasing the overall and axle weights which inflict more damage to bridges and pavement, even when the truck is empty. Allowing longer trucks will also enable them to carry more weight for the same type of freight, further increasing the axle weights and bridge and pavement damage compared to current national standard 28-foot double trailers. Despite the letter’s admonishment that the Senate should allow longer “BUT NO HEAVIER” trucks, Mr. Pope appears astonishingly ignorant of the fact that longer trailers weigh more, and because they can carry more freight, will weigh even more when loaded than 28-foot trailers even if they do not reach the maximum federal weight limit. This obvious contradiction has eluded Mr. Pope.

Moreover, Mr. Pope is apparently not aware that the DOT Study predicted one time bridge costs for strengthening or repair of $1.1 billion for introducing the use of double 33s. This figure does not even include increases in annual costs for maintaining the bridge deck and road surface.[4] The DOT Study estimated that double 33s will inflict a 1.8% to 2.7% increase in the life cycle costs (maintenance) for roads and pavements.[5]

In addition, any theoretical reduction in trucks and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is only temporary.[6] After just one year even more trucks will be on the roads and bridges and many of them will be heavier double 33s which will pound the roads and damage bridges to an even greater extent than double 28s.

The letter continues by stating that, “I have found…unequivocal evidence that it will save substantial amounts of otherwise wasted fuel…” Yet, estimates of the impact of the shift to double 33s on fuel savings are almost entirely derived from estimated reductions in VMT. The total fuel consumption reduction calculated by the recent DOT Study is only 1.1%.[7]  The DOT Study also states clearly that any estimated benefits are so minimal that they would be offset in one year by the forecasted growth in shipments due to the expected annual increase in freight demand.[8] Moreover, the reduction in fuel consumption is only for the trucking sector and ignores the impact of shifting freight from more fuel efficient transportation modes, which in the end could increase overall fuel consumption. Regardless, the reduction in trucking fuel usage represents a pittance in terms of fuel conservation, and would be of little consolation to those highway users who may be killed or maimed as a result of the use of double 33s and who will be subsidizing the higher cost of road and bridge damage inflicted by these oversized trucks.

It should be noted that Mr. Pope’s letter does not address the fact that the industry estimates of VMT savings are wholly unrealistic and are based on a flawed study paid for by FedEx and other trucking industry supporters which assumes that both 28-foot and 33-foot double trailer trucks weigh the same – 80,000 lb.[9] This cannot possibly be true, and contradicts industry arguments that 28-foot doubles do not weigh 80,000 pounds when filled to capacity. In reality, 33-foot double trailer trucks would be heavier both when empty and when full, which undermines the industry’s estimate of theoretical fuel use reduction.

Mr. Pope also asserts, “I have found…unequivocal evidence that it will… reduce the number of trucks on our highways…” Once again, Mr. Pope appears to be blithely ignorant of the fact that increases in truck size and weight have never resulted in fewer trucks. Rather, every time there has been an increase in truck size and weight in the history of America, the result is more, not fewer, registered trucks and trailers.[10] Furthermore, as the DOT study points out, any theoretical reduction in the number of trucks on the road is ephemeral and will be wiped out in one year.[11]

Finally, he states that, “I have found…unequivocal evidence that it will… make the trucking sector more efficient – perhaps as much as 16-18% more efficient.” This 16% to 18% increase in efficiency is primarily based on the increased volume capacity of 33-foot trailers compared to 28-foot trailers.[12] Yet, for this theoretical efficiency to be achieved, every shipment must move with perfect efficiency from a 28-foot trailer to a 33-foot trailer. Current inefficiencies in the system, like empty (deadhead) trips, would further cut into this predicted efficiency when heavier and larger double 33-foot trailers travel empty or below capacity, and at the same time waste more fuel during these trips. Moving goods by rail has consistently been shown to be more fuel efficient, with rail fuel efficiency ranging anywhere from two to more than five times the fuel efficiency of trucks.[13] Increasing truck size and likely shifting freight from more fuel efficient modes to trucks could end up increasing overall fuel consumption.

We urge the Senate to require that more information and data are collected on the safety and infrastructure impacts a change in national transportation policy on truck lengths would cause. The “Feinstein-Wicker” amendment would accomplish this critically important step before moving forward with a rulemaking. Considering that truck crash fatalities have been on the rise the last four years (2009-2013), moving commercial motor vehicle safety laws and regulations in an unsafe direction is not sound and could result in even more needless deaths and injuries.

Thank you for your time and consideration of these surface transportation safety issues. We look forward to continuing to work together with you to advance safer roads and highways for our nation’s motorists.

Sincerely,

John Lannen, Executive Director

Truck Safety Coalition

 

Joan Claybrook, Chair

Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), and

Former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

 

Jacqueline Gillan, President

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

 

Daphne Izer

Lisbon, ME

Founder, Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT)

Mother of Jeff Izer, Killed in a truck crash 10/10/93

 

Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director

Center for Auto Safety

 

Andrew McGuire, Executive Director

Trauma Foundation

 

Jennifer Tierney

Kernersville, NC

Board Member, CRASH

Member, Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC)

Daughter of James Mooney

Killed in a truck crash 9/20/83

 

Officer Robert Mills

Fort Worth Texas Police Department

Commercial Vehicle Enforcement

 

Investigator Wes Bement

Grand Prairie, TX Police Dept.

Commercial Vehicle Enforcement

 

Officer Kevin Cordell

Burleson, TX Police Dept.

 

Jane Mathis

St. Augustine, FL

Board Member, PATT

Mother of David Mathis

Mother-in-Law of Mary Kathryn Mathis

Killed in a truck crash 3/25/04

 

Tami Friedrich Trakh

Corona, CA

Board Member, CRASH

Sister of Kris Mercurio, Sister-in-Law of Alan Mercurio, Aunt of Brandie Rooker & Anthony Mercurio

Killed in a truck crash 12/27/89

 

Larry Liberatore

Severn, MD

Board Member, PATT

Father of Nick Liberatore

Killed in a truck crash 6/9/97

 

Linda Wilburn

Weatherford, OK

Board Member, PATT

Mother of Orbie Wilburn

Killed in a truck crash 9/2/02

 

Laurie and Randall Higginbotham

Memphis, TN

Volunteers, Truck Safety Coalition

Parents of Michael Higginbotham

Killed in a truck crash, 11/18/14

 

Dawn King

Davisburg, MI

Board Member, CRASH

Daughter of Bill Badger

Killed in truck crash 12/23/04

 

Ed Slattery

Lutherville, MD

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Husband of Susan Slattery

Killed in a truck crash 8/16/10

Sons Matthew & Peter Slattery critically injured

 

Kate Brown

Gurnee, IL

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Mother of Graham Brown

Injured in a truck crash 5/2/05

 

Marianne and Jerry Karth

Rocky Mount, NC

Volunteers, Truck Safety Coalition

Parents of AnnaLeah and Mary Karth

Killed in a truck crash 5/4/13

 

Frank and Marchelle Wood

Falls Church, VA

Volunteers, Truck Safety Coalition

Parents of Dana Wood

Killed in a truck crash 10/15/02

 

Jackie Novak

Edneyville, NC

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Mother of Charles “Chuck” Novak

Killed in a truck crash 10/24/10

 

Bruce King

Davisburg, MI

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Son-in-law of Bill Badger

Killed in truck crash 12/23/04

 

Ron Wood

Washington, D.C.

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Son of Betsy Wood, Brother of Lisa Wood Martin, Uncle of Chance, Brock, and Reid Martin

Killed in a truck crash 9/20/04

 

Gary Wilburn

Weatherford, OK

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Father of Orbie Wilburn

Killed in a truck crash 9/2/02

 

Melissa Gouge

Washington, D.C.

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Cousin of Amy Corbin

Killed in a truck crash 8/18/97

 

Julie Branon Magnan

South Burlington, VT

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Injured in a truck crash 01/31/02

Wife of David Magnan

Killed in a truck crash 01/31/02

 

Nancy Meuleners

Bloomington, MN

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Injured in a truck crash 12/19/89

 

Cindy Southern

Cleveland, TN

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Wife of James Whitaker, sister-in-law Anthony Hixon and aunt of Amber Hixon

Killed in a truck crash 9/18/09

 

Kim Telep

Harrisburg, PA

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Wife of Bradley Telep

Killed in a truck crash 8/29/12

 

Christina Mahaney

Jackman, ME

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Injured in a truck crash 7/19/2011

Mother of Liam Mahaney

Killed in a truck crash 7/19/2011

 

Sandra Lance

Chesterfield, VA

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Mother of Kristen Belair

Killed in a truck crash 8/26/09

 

Alan Dana

Plattsburgh, NY

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Son of Janet Dana, Uncle of Caitlyn & Lauryn Dana, Brother-in-law of Laurie Dana

Killed in a truck crash 7/19/12

 

Lisa Shrum

Fayette, MO

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Daughter of Virginia Baker, Step-daughter of Randy Baker

Killed in a truck crash 10/10/06

 

Henry Steck

Homer, NY

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

 

References:

[1] An Analysis of Truck Size and Weight: Phase I – Safety, Multimodal Transportation & Infrastructure Consortium, November 2013; Memorandum from J. Matthews, Rahall Appalachian Transportation Institute, Sep. 29, 2014; The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study: Volume III Scenario Analysis, Chapter VIII: Safety, FHWA-PL-00-029 (Volume III) (August 2000).

[2] DOT Transmittal letters to Congress, June 5, 2015.

[3] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Modal Shift Comparative Analysis Technical Report, Table 22, p. 52 (June 2015).

[4] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Bridge Structure Comparative Analysis Technical Report, Table ES-2, p. ES-7 (June 2015).

[5] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Pavement Comparative Analysis Technical Report, Table ES-2, p. ES-8 (June 2015).

[6] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Volume 1: Technical Reports Summary, p. ES-5 (June 2015).

[7] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Modal Shift Comparative Analysis Technical Report, Table 24, p. 54 (June 2015).

[8] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Volume 1: Technical Reports Summary, p. ES-5 (June 2015).

[9] Woodrooffe, J., De Pont, J., (2011, April 11) Comparative Performance Evaluation of Proposed 33 ft Double Trailers Combinations with Existing 28 ft Double Trailers, p. 19.

[10] Traffic Safety Facts 2013: A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System, DOT HS 812 139, Table 9, p. 34, NHTSA (2015).

[11] Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study: Volume 1: Technical Reports Summary, p. ES-5 (June 2015).

[12] Woodrooffe, J., De Pont, J., Comparative Performance Evaluation of Proposed 33 ft Double Trailers Combinations with Existing 28 ft Double Trailers, p. 20. (April 11, 2011)

[13] Comparative Evaluation of Rail and Truck Fuel Efficiency on Competitive Corridors, Federal Railroad Administration, Nov. 19, 2009.

Announcement: John Lannen appointed to MCSAC Vice-Chair

This week, it was announced during the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) that John Lannen, Executive Director, Truck Safety Coalition, has been appointed to serve as Vice-Chair of MCSAC after serving as a committee member for the past four years.  Congratulations to John, and best wishes in his new role at MCSAC.

Safety Advocates, Teamsters Sue U.S. DOT for Failing to Issue Long-Overdue Truck Driver Training Requirements

For Immediate Release:

Sept. 18, 2014

Contact:

Karilyn Gower (202) 588-7779

Beth Weaver (301) 814-4088

Safety Advocates, Teamsters Sue U.S. DOT for Failing to Issue Long-Overdue Truck Driver Training Requirements

20 Years, Two Lawsuits and Two Congressional Mandates Later, Inexperienced Truck Drivers Still Hit the Road With No Behind-the-Wheel Training

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A federal appellate court should order the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue a long-overdue rule outlining training standards for entry-level truck drivers, safety advocates and a union told the court in a lawsuit filed today.

Congress initially told the agency to finish a rulemaking process on driver training by 1993, but the agency still has not done so.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters filed the suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia against the DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency charged with issuing the rule. Public Citizen is representing the groups.

“People are dying needlessly while the agency drags its feet,” said Henry Jasny, senior vice president and general counsel with Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “New truck drivers need to be properly trained before they get behind the wheel. This is a dereliction of the agency’s duty.”

“Enough is enough,” said Adina Rosenbaum, attorney for Public Citizen. “Twenty years, two lawsuits and two congressional mandates have not been successful at prodding the DOT into issuing the entry-level driver training rule. The court should step in and order the agency to act.”

There are 3.9 million commercial motor vehicle drivers in the U.S. with commercial driver’s licenses, and new drivers get on the roads daily. Drivers need only receive 10 hours of classroom lectures and pass a test to get their commercial driver’s license to drive a truck.

Large trucks that can weigh up to 40 tons when fully loaded are more complicated to operate than automobiles. Inexperienced truck drivers have higher crash rates and should have hours of supervised, behind-the-wheel training before they are allowed on the highways.

Approximately 4,000 people die and nearly 100,000 more are injured annually in truck crashes, according to government data. Large truck crash fatalities increased by 4 percent in 2012. This follows a 2 percent increase in 2011 and a 9 percent increase in 2010, despite a decline in overall motor vehicle deaths. Further, there was an 18 percent increase in 2012 of those injured in large truck crashes. The annual cost to society from large truck crashes is estimated to be more than $99 billion.

Dorothy Wert’s husband, David Wert, Sr., was killed in 2011 in a truck crash caused by an inexperienced truck driver who left his broken-down truck parked in the middle of a dark Pennsylvania highway at 3 a.m. with no lights on and no warning signals or flares. After the crash, David, a truck driver with 35 years of experience, managed to drive his truck safely onto the side of the road in spite of suffering fatal injuries.

“We have waited far too long for a requirement to ensure that truck drivers know what they are doing and have been tested before we allow them behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound truck,” said Wert, a CRASH volunteer advocate who lives in Montrose, Pa. “Truck drivers should not be allowed to drive without a required understanding of the regulations and a minimum number of training hours behind the wheel. I know that my husband would be alive today if the driver that caused Dave’s crash had been better trained, had more experience and had taken the proper precautions.”

“Proper training is absolutely necessary for new drivers to operate their rigs safely,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters general president. “The agency is shirking its responsibility by not issuing this long-overdue rule.”

The path to the rule has been long. In 1991, concerned about truck crashes, Congress passed a law requiring the DOT to complete a rulemaking by 1993 on the need to require training of entry-level commercial motor vehicle operators.

In 2002, when no rule had been issued, safety advocates went to court to force the agency to act. The DOT agreed to issue the rule by 2004. While it did issue a rule that year, the rule was grossly inadequate, requiring only 10 hours of classroom lectures, none of it on-the-road training. That is the rule that is still on the books.

Safety advocates returned to court, and in 2005, the court ruled that FMCSA had disregarded volumes of evidence that on-street training enhances safety. In 2007, the DOT issued another proposed rule, but the agency never finished it.

In 2012, Congress passed a second law (the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” also known as MAP-21) requiring the DOT to issue the entry-level training rule, this time by Oct. 1, 2013. Congress specified that the rule had to include behind-the-wheel training.

During the next year, FMCSA held listening sessions. Then, on Sept. 19, 2013, it withdrew the 2007 proposed rule that had been in limbo and said it was going back to the drawing board. On Aug. 19, 2014, FMCSA published a notice indicating it had not begun work on the new rule and did not intend to anytime soon. Instead, it said that it was exploring conducting a negotiated rulemaking, and that it had hired a “neutral convener” who would interview all concerned parties, balance all the interests and issue a report before the agency decided what type of rulemaking to undertake. No timetable was given for completion of the rule.

“The FMCSA’s inaction to release a new notice of proposed rulemaking for entry-level driver training is perpetuating a hazard for everyone on our roadways by permitting inexperienced drivers to interact with the unknowing public,” said John Lannen, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, a partnership between CRASH and Parents Against Tired Truckers. “This hazard will only grow in scope as the turnover rate for truck drivers continues to remain extremely high – over 90 percent – and the current truck driver work force ages out.”

Read the lawsuit here.

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Truck Safety Groups Respond to Freight Panel Recommendations

To view the press release, please click here.

Truck Safety Groups’ Letter to Panel on 21st Century Freight

To read the letter from truck safety groups in response to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Panel on 21st Century Freight’s hearing “Perspectives from Users of the Nation’s Freight System” please click here.

Taking to the road for safety – Tami Friedrich Trakh

Taking to the road for safety

Click here to read this article featuring Tami Friedrich Trakh a TSC volunteer, CRASH board member and MCSAC member.


Truck Safety Advocates Respond to the ATA’s Push to Remove Crash Data From the CSA Crash BASIC

Click here to read the press release.

Kraft Pushes for 97,000-Pound Trucks Called Bridge Wreckers

Kraft Pushes for 97,000-Pound Trucks Called Bridge Wreckers

By Jeff Plungis – Dec 12, 2011

Emboldened by U.S. legislation allowing Maine and Vermont to keep 97,000-pound trucks rumbling on their interstate highways, Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) and Home Depot Inc. are pressing more states to follow.

Companies including Kraft, which says its trucks would drive 33 million fewer miles a year with higher weight limits nationwide, say they need to carry loads more efficiently to combat high diesel-fuel prices. Safety advocates say more heavy trucks would accelerate an increase in truck-related accident deaths, and question whether bridges can withstand the added weight.

“You’re starting to roll the dice,” said Andrew Herrmann, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “Do you really want to keep these heavy loads, have a lower factor of safety and start wearing these bridges out faster?”

Trucks can weigh a maximum of 80,000 pounds on interstate highways under U.S. law. Maine and Vermont are exceptions under a pilot program that Congress last month extended for 20 years.

The proposed Safe and Efficient Transportation Act, sponsored by Representative Michael Michaud, a Maine Democrat, would allow every state to decide how extensively 97,000-pound trucks can travel based on economic need and the condition of its roads and bridges.

The bill may be rolled into a multiyear highway policy bill Congress will work on next year, said John Runyan, executive director of the Washington-based Coalition for Transportation Productivity. The group had 120 company members, including Kraft, MillerCoors LLC, International Paper Co., Hershey Co., Owens Corning Inc. (GLW) and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., as of Dec. 2. Seventy trade associations also backed the effort.

Home Depot

States are already allowed to set higher weight limits for secondary roads and 44 do, according to Runyan’s group. Twenty- eight states also allow a limited number of heavier trucks on interstates by permit, for certain vital commodities or for shipping containers loaded from ports, Runyan said.

Lindsay Chason, senior manager for environmental innovation for Atlanta-based Home Depot Inc. (HD), told Georgia’s transportation board Oct. 19 that 97,000-pound trucks were needed to keep up with a tripling of congestion since 1982 and diesel-price increases.

The average U.S. retail price for diesel fuel was $3.93 per gallon as of Dec. 5, according to the U.S. Energy Department, up 18 percent from the beginning of the year.

Wisconsin Loosening

Wisconsin last month passed a package of nine bills intended to loosen various truck size and weight limits. Governor Scott Walker,a Republican, said the new laws would create jobs.

Companies are trying to win higher weight limits rather than the ability to operate longer trucks, like triple trailers, Runyan said. Adding a sixth axle to 97,000-pound trucks on the interstates, as required by Michaud’s bill, would reduce road wear and improve braking, he said.

“When you’re filling a truck with a product and it’s 80 percent filled, you’re running around with a lot of trucks with extra space,” he said.

Bridge Stress

Companies can partially offset the heftier trucks’ added road wear by keeping the size of the trailer the same and spreading the weight over an additional axle, said Herrmann, head of the engineering group. The extra axle doesn’t offset the stress on interstate bridges, which were designed for 80,000- pound trucks, he said.

Herrmann’s group estimates that 25 percent of U.S. bridges need weight limits or restrict traffic because they’re not strong enough. The U.S. is spending about $10.5 billion a year to maintain bridges, and $17 billion is needed to keep up with the ongoing damage, he said.

“Those bridges already need work,” Herrmann said. “Now we’re saying let’s go back and reinforce all the bridges that need it, when we don’t have enough money to maintain the structures that we have.”

Kraft, the maker of Cheez Whiz and Oreo cookies, would make 66,000 fewer truck trips if the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act were passed, said Harry Haney, associate director of transportation planning with the Northfield, Illinois-based company. Heavier trucks in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio would help the company most, he said.

Kraft trucks would drive 33 million fewer miles a year and put 2.1 billion fewer pounds on roads with higher U.S. weight limits, Haney said. The biggest savings would be in shipments of products like Miracle Whip salad dressing, Oscar Meyer meat and Capri Sun juices, he said.

“We need to find ways to use our existing infrastructure more efficiently,” Haney said. “Members of Congress increasingly agree.”

Logging Trucks

Congress last month extended a one-year pilot program to allow 100,000-pound trucks on interstates in Maine and Vermont for 20 years, with support from Weyerhaeuser Co. and other forest-products companies.

Trucks are the only transportation mode that logging companies and paper producers can use to carry felled trees, wood chips and biomass from leaves and branches from forests, said Neil Ward, communications director of the Forest Resources Association in Rockville, Maryland.

Minnesota, Ohio

Minnesota, like Maine, is a border state where industry wants heavier trucks from Canada allowed on the interstates, Ward said. Ohio’s legislature is debating higher weight limits to accommodate agricultural products, depending on what Congress does, he said.

“In the cases where a state already has a state limit similar to what we’re proposing for the interstate highway, then it’s a quick and turnkey operation to get an opt-in” to the proposed House bill, Ward said.

In Minnesota, where a bridge on Interstate 35 collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people, the state transportation department supports allowing either 97,000- or 99,000-pound trucks with six axles on interstate highways, according to a March statement. Interstate bridges are equal to or better than those on state highways where heavy trucks already travel by permit, the agency said.

Safety Concerns

Maine and Vermont officials downplayed concerns raised by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration about the ability of interstate bridges to stand up under 100,000-pound trucks, according to officials at The Truck Safety Coalition, Parents Against Tired Truckers and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. The three safety-advocacy groups obtained documents about the two states’ pilot program under the Freedom of Information Act.

“If one assumes that greater than a 10 percent ‘overstress’ is unacceptable, then these results show that every 100,000 lbs. truck is a problem,” a FHWA analysis concluded.

Justin Nisly, a spokesman for the highway administration, declined to comment, saying the agency’s analysis wasn’t final.

Extra fees proposed for overweight trucks won’t cover the costs of reinforcing or rebuilding bridges that weren’t designed for the higher weight, with car owners and taxpayers picking up the tab, said John Lannen, executive director of The Truck Safety Coalition, based in Arlington, Virginia.

‘Ripple Effect’

“The ripple effect will be catastrophic,” Lannen said of the pressure on other states to increase weight limits. “The entire country’s motoring public will be put in grave danger.”

Commercial truck-related fatalities, including people in cars struck by big rigs, rose 8.7 percent in 2010 to 3,675, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Dec. 8. The American Trucking Associations said the same day that 2010 was still among the safest years on record and the trucking fatality rate, adjusted for miles driven, has fallen over the past two decades.

In Pennsylvania, John Rafferty, the Republican chairman of the state’s Senate Transportation Committee, and John Wozniak, the panel’s senior Democrat, warned the state’s congressional delegation that Pennsylvania already needs $3.5 billion a year to upgrade and maintain roads and bridges. More than 5,000 bridges remain structurally deficient, they said in a Nov. 14 letter.

“We cannot afford larger trucks on our roads and bridges,” the senators said.

The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act is H.R. 763.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at jplungis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net