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.

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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.

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