Dear Chairman McGovern and Ranking Member Cole,
We are writing to you on behalf of the Truck Safety Coalition, a partnership of Citizens for Reliable & Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) as well as our family members from across the country who have survived truck crashes or have had family members killed or seriously injured.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2019 more than 5,000 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks and 159,000 were injured representing a 48% increase over the past decade. In fatal crashes involving a truck and a passenger vehicle, 97% of those killed are the occupants of the car.
On Monday, July 26, the Rules Committee will take up H.R. 4502, the FY 2022 Appropriations bill for the DepartmentofTransportation,HousingandUrbanDevelopmentandRelatedAgencies(THUD). Ata time when the carnage on our roads and highways due to truck crashes is alarming and has reached crisis levels, several amendments will be offered to H.R. 4502 that jeopardize the safety of all road users. TSC strongly opposes the following amendments that have been proposed:
OPPOSE Amendment #42: Prohibits funds to be made available to make changes to commercial motor vehicle insurance premiums.
The minimum insurance requirement for motor carriers was set at $750,000 in 1980 and remains unchanged for more than 40 years. Artificially capping insurance at $750,000 passes the financial costs on to victims and taxpayers to pay a bill that rightfully is the responsibility of the commercial motor carrier company at fault. It is estimated that the annual cost to society from crashes involving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) is $143 billion. Oftentimes, families of truck crash victims not only suffer unbearable emotional losses, but enormous economic losses as well. The financial impacts of a truck crash involving a motor carrier with inadequate insurance forces victims and survivors to use personal savings, borrow money, file for bankruptcy, or rely on government assistance. TSC strongly opposes amendment #42 for these reasons.
OPPOSE Amendment #45: Prohibits funds from making changes to the rules, regulations, and guidance pertaining to the personal conveyance of a commercial motor vehicle.
Multiple improvements to help reduce truck crash deaths and injuries may soon to be implemented by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) if key safety provisions included in H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act, are enacted into law. One example is a requirement by DOT to update the rear underride protection standard to meet the stronger crash protocols recommended by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and to be subject to an annual inspection. HR 3684 also requires research on side underride guards and establishes an advisory Committee on Underride Protection. Underride crashes have horrific and grisly consequences. TSC has been involved in efforts to strengthen the weak, out-of-date standard for many years and applauds agency action to issue an updated rule. There are other overdue and critical truck safety requirements that need immediate agency attention and action. For this reason, TSC strongly opposes Amendment #45.
OPPOSE Amendment #55: Prohibits funds from this act from being used to enforce hours-of-service regulations on the transportation and delivery of gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel into and within States in which a state of emergency exists due to fuel shortages.
OPPOSE Amendment #57: Strikes language from the included limitation amendment on electronic logging devices so that it would not only apply to transportation of livestock and insects, but to all operators of motor vehicles.
Fatigue is a major problem in the trucking industry and a significant factor in truck crashes. The NTSB routinely cites fatigue as a major contributor to CMV crashes. Hours of Service (HOS) rules are research- based regulations that make roadways safer for all users. One safety rule that helps reduce truck driver fatigue and truck crashes is Electronic Logging Device (ELD) requirements. ELDs are effective in preventing cheating and violations which were common when truck drivers used paper logbooks to record hours of driving and work. They were frequently called “comic books” because of the ease of falsifying information. Since 2017, when the ELD rule was implemented, it has been proven to be effective in reducing Hours of Service (HOS) violations and making roadways safer for both truck drivers and passenger vehicles. TSC strongly opposes Amendments #55 & #57 for these reasons.
We urge the Committee to reject special interest provisions that suspend, delay, or roll back needed improvements in federal truck safety programs and policies. Before Monday’s mark-up is over, about 13 people will die and 435 more will be injured in preventable truck crashes. These amendments, if adopted, will only contribute to the unnecessary and unacceptable truck crash death and injury toll.
Zach Cahalan, Executive Director, Truck Safety Coalition
Dawn King, President, Truck Safety Coalition & Board Member, CRASH.
Dawn’s father, Bill Badger, was killed in 2004 while slowed in traffic when he was hit from behind by a semi driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel.
Joan Claybrook, Co-Founder & Board Chair, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) & Former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Daphne and Steve Izer, Founder and Co-Chair, Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) and Board Member, Truck Safety Coalition.
Daphne and Steve Izer’s son, Jeff, and three of his friends were killed in 1993 when a semi driver fell asleep at the wheel and ran over the car as it was parked on the shoulder.
Russell Swift, Co-Chair, P.A.T.T. and Board Member, Truck Safety Coalition.
Russ’ son, Jasen, was killed instantly, as was a fellow Marine, while they drove in the dark to work in 1993, by a 17-year-old truck driver without a permit whose truck was stuck across two lanes after trying a U-turn, causing the car to drive into and under the side of the trailer.