THUD Bill with Tired Trucker Provision Passes House Committee

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

THUD Bill with Tired Trucker Provision Passes House Committee

For Immediate Release: May 24, 2016

Contact:  Beth Weaver 301-814-4088, beth_weaver@verizon.net

THUD Bill with Tired Trucker Provision Passes House Committee

The House Committee on Appropriations today passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill, which included Section 132 – the tired trucker provision. We are disappointed that a majority of the committee opposed an amendment offered Congressman David Price (D-NC) to remove this and other anti-safety riders from the bill.

Daphne Izer, founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) said, “I am frustrated that year after year, our lawmakers are more focused on inserting corporate earmarks into must-pass bills than passing data-driven safety solutions that will save lives and prevent injuries. Not only does this special interest handout, which will change a federal safety rule, have no place in an appropriations bill, it has no place in any bill. The tired trucker provision has not been subject to any public scrutiny, committee hearings, or adequate safety review. Trucking industry lobbyists should not be able to use the appropriations process to drive their agendas, while everyday people like me are forced to wait years for meaningful safety reforms in the gridlocked legislative avenues available to the non-lobbying public.”

Jennifer Tierney, the Truck Safety Coalition’s North Carolina Volunteer Coordinator stated, “I was very pleased when I heard that Representative Price offered an amendment to remove several anti-safety riders from the THUD bill, and I thank him on his efforts on behalf of families, survivors, and the motoring public. After more than three decades of advocacy, however, I was not surprised that this commonsense, pro-safety amendment was rejected in favor of a corporate handout. With nearly 4,000 people killed and 100,000 injured year as a result of truck crashes, it is time for our lawmakers to finally acknowledge that increasing a truck driver’s driving and working hours is not the solution to the major safety issue of fatigue.”

“Ultimately, the rejection of the Price amendment has created a tradition that adversely affects policy as well as process. Nevertheless, the Truck Safety Coalition will continue to educate the public and lawmakers about policies and regulations that will reduce the number of large truck crashes and the resulting injuries and fatalities.” Tierney concluded.

The Truck Safety Coalition 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 the public policy-makers and media about truck safety issues.

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Letter to the editor: Sen. Collins puts trucking industry profits before public safety

The May 11 column “Maine Voices: Common-sense restrictions on truck drivers’ hours must be preserved” makes inaccurate statements about anti-truck safety provisions championed by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

There are about 500 truck crashes annually in Maine. Many crashes result in deaths and injuries, and the victims are usually Maine families.

Despite the carnage, Sen. Collins continues to be the star quarterback for special trucking interests seeking to repeal safety regulations that protect the lives of truck drivers and Maine families. National news stories have documented her legacy working on behalf of corporate trucking interests and, in turn, their generous largesse for her support.

Unfortunately, the annual government spending bill has become her private domain for pushing anti-truck safety measures. When trucking interests sought to significantly increase truck weights in Maine, Sen. Collins was ready to help. Last year, FedEx and others recognized a willing partner in Sen. Collins when they sought to overturn laws in 39 states, including Maine, and allow monster-sized trucks across the country.

And, for the third consecutive year, as a senior Appropriations Committee member, she slipped a provision into the bill to repeal the reasonable federal limits on the driving and working hours of truckers, although fatigue is a major cause of truck crashes.

However, this time she went even further and wrote into law an increase in the driving hours of truckers from 60 to 73 in a week. This is insane, but she has the temerity to actually claim it will be safer. This proposal had no congressional hearing, no scientific review and no public input. But it’s no problem if you are a well-connected trucking lobbyist.

Truck crashes kill 4,000 people and injure 100,000 more annually. Sen. Collins’ solution is to help corporate trucking interests protect their profits, but not public safety.

Joan Claybrook

Former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Washington, D.C.

Link: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/20/letter-to-the-editor-sen-collins-puts-trucking-industry-profits-before-public-safety/

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

Underride Roundtable Articles

WLMT TV (Memphis)

http://www.localmemphis.com/news/local-news/parents-turn-tragedy-of-losing-son-into-life-saving-mission

WVIR TV (Charlottesville, VA)

http://www.nbc29.com/story/31903456/iihs-unveils-new-safety-improvements-for-tractor-trailers

The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA)

http://pilotonline.com/news/media/videos/safety-group-tests-rear-crash-bar-on-trucks/youtube_4f226daa-f4c2-59bc-8f7e-c720d4fe360e.html

Truckinginfo.com

htp://www.truckinginfo.com/news/story/2016/05/truck-safety-coalition-honors-industry-leaders-for-safety-commitment.aspx

Trucks.com

https://www.trucks.com/2016/05/06/traffic-experts-debate-how-to-prevent-deadly-truck-crashes/

Business Wire

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160505006752/en/Greer-Woodruff-J.B.-Hunt-Transport-Services-Recognized

Gobytrucknews.com

http://www.gobytrucknews.com/tsc-recognizes-safety-leaders/123

Automotive World

http://www.automotiveworld.com/news-releases/truck-underride-roundtable-addresses-problem-deadly-crashes/

Rocky Mount Telegram (NC)

http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/News/2016/05/13/Underride-roundtable-generates-awareness.html

Truck Safety Coalition Honors Industry Leaders for Safety Commitment

The Truck Safety Coalition has honored three trucking industry leaders for commitment and dedication to fleet safety.

TSC, often seen as an “anti-truck” group, presented the Distinguished Safety Leadership Award to Greer Woodruff, senior vice president of safety, security and driver personnel of J.B. Hunt Transport Services.

The group gave special recognition for J.B. Hunt’s purchase of 4,000 Wabash trailers with enhanced rear underride protections. The underride guards are engineered to prevent underride crashes at higher impact speeds and overlap percentages. Woodruff was also recognized for using telematics to supervise driving behaviors and enhanced drug testing procedures to promote safe driving at J.B. Hunt.

“The Truck Safety Coalition commends Greer Woodruff for his strong commitment to advancing truck safety during his 28 years at J.B. Hunt,” said John Lannen, executive director of the TSC. “I applaud Woodruff and his team for their tireless efforts to eliminate all crashes involving J.B. Hunt drivers and equipment.”

In addition to Woodruff, TSC announced that Reggie Dupre, CEO of Dupre Logistics, and Steve Williams, chairman and CEO of Maverick USA, will receive the Truck Safety Leadership Award at a later date.

Dupre was noted for implementing a training program for drivers, a fatigue management plan that includes hourly pay for many of Dupre Logistics’ drivers, and the use of “common-sense safety technologies.”

“We also commend Mr. Dupre for his involvement in the Trucking Alliance, which supports an increase for the minimum insurance required by motor carriers, and recently announced its opposition to efforts going on right now in the United States Senate to roll back federal hours of service rules for truck drivers,” said Jane Mathis, vice president of the Truck Safety Coalition.

Williams is a founder of the Trucking Alliance and has advocated for electronic logging devices and opposed increases to truck size and weight. He has also implemented collision avoidance technology on fleet vehicles, including electronic stability control, collision mitigation systems, and lane departure warning systems with forward-looking cameras.

“Steve Williams, Reggie Dupre and Greer Woodruff and their companies are leaders in the Trucking Alliance,” said Lane Kidd, who serves as managing director of the Trucking Alliance. “And these awards are further recognition of their commitment to reduce accidents and a belief that we must work with all transportation stakeholders to promote greater highway safety for truck drivers and motorists alike.”

The Truck Safety Coalition is made up of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Tired Truckers. The group is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes and provides support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims.

Link: http://www.truckinginfo.com/news/story/2016/05/truck-safety-coalition-honors-industry-leaders-for-safety-commitment.aspx

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/ 

Two People Critically Injured Due to Truck Crash in Licking County, Ohio

On April 12, 2016 at approximately 8:40 a.m., State Trooper Rodney A. Hart, 45, was parked in the right lane of I-70 east of Buckeye Lake helping Shanice J. Parker, 23, with a disabled car when they were both hit by a semi-truck.

According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Rodney A. Hart and Shanice J. Parker were both inside the cruiser when the semi-truck drifted into the right lane, drove through the flares, and hit the patrol car. Ms. Parker was airlifted to Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for treatment of serious injuries. Trooper Rodney A. Hart was transported to Licking Memorial Hospital in Newark for his injuries and later released.

The truck driver, Eric Miller, 36, of Montrose, South Dakota, was not injured and was charged with failure to maintain an assured clear distance ahead, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle and driving a commercial vehicle with impaired alertness.

The crash is under investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Truck driver fatigue has been recognized as a major safety concern and a contributing factor to fatal truck crashes for over 70 years. Studies sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reveal that 65% of truck drivers report that they often or sometimes feel drowsy while driving and nearly half of truck drivers admit that they had actually fallen asleep while driving in the previous year.

To find more information please visit the website: http://www.trucksafety.org or send an email to info@trucksafety.org

                                                           WE ARE HERE TO HELP

 

Statement of Daphne Izer in Response to Senate Appropriations Committee Passing Industry-Written Provision to Rewrite Laws Affecting Truck Drivers’ Hours of Service

Statement of Daphne Izer, Founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT)

In Response to Senate Appropriations Committee Passing Industry-Written Provision to Rewrite Laws Affecting Truck Drivers’ Hours of Service

April 21, 2016

For a third year now, the Senate Appropriations Committee has passed a spending bill that was co-authored by a select few trucking industry lobbyists. The industry-penned provision will increase the amount of hours truck drivers can work in a week and deprive truckers of a real weekend off. This is wrong on so many levels. Unfortunately, under the leadership of Senator Susan Collins, who chairs the subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD), this practice is business as usual.

It is outrageous that segments of the trucking industry have been able to use must-pass spending bills as legislative vehicles to drive their agendas that make public safety take a back seat. What is even worse is that the process by which industry lobbyists write and insert their provisions is often highly secretive. This has allowed moneyed interests to make changes to laws governing trucking without so much as a congressional hearing, any federal agency review, or any public input.

Lawmakers should treat safety interests with the same importance as corporate interests, but this has not been the case with this appropriations subcommittee. For instance, I have been advocating for more than 20 years for laws requiring large trucks to have electronic logging devices (ELDs) and heavy vehicle speed limiters. Yet, it took nearly two decades for a Final Rule on ELDs, and the Final Rule for speed limiters was just delayed for the 28th time since being initiated in 2006. When trucking industry lobbyists realized they miswrote language, however, it only took them several weeks to secure an immediate change to the law from their friend in the Senate.

This egregious exploitation of the appropriations process is an affront to truck safety and to the memory of the thousands of Americans, including my son Jeff, who were needlessly killed in large truck crashes. With the one year anniversary of the truck crash that killed the five Georgia Southern University nursing students falling one day after this vote, I want to convey my sincerest sympathy to the families of Emily Clark, Catherine “McKay” Pittman, Caitlyn N. Baggett, Abbie L. Deloach, and Morgan J. Bass. Their deaths should serve as grave reminder that lawmakers need to do much more to combat the role that issues like fatigue play in causing truck crashes, including reversing the provision that was just passed.

It is time for Senator Collins to stop holding this “back door” open for industry insiders to have uninhibited access to write rules and laws that are in their best interest. Instead, she should look at the facts, listen to general public, and use a transparent process.

Daphne Izer_2016 THUD Appropriations_Statement

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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