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

In response to the National Transportation Safety Board’s Hearing on Tracy Morgan Crash

August 11, 2015

Over 20 years ago, my husband Steve and I founded Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) after a Wal-Mart truck driver fell asleep at the wheel of his 80,000 pound truck, killing our son Jeff, three other innocent teenagers and permanently injuring one more. I am saddened that despite years of advocating to prevent overworked and overtired truckers from jeopardizing public safety on our roads, the economic interests of the trucking industry have prevailed. I am not surprised, however, that once again a Wal-Mart truck has forced other families, like the McNairs and the Morgans, to deal with the devastating effects of preventable, fatigue-related truck crashes.

According to the NTSB, the probable cause of the Cranbury crash was the Wal-Mart truck driver’s fatigue due to his failure to obtain sleep before reporting for duty, which resulted in his delayed reaction to slowing for the stopped traffic ahead. The truck driver had been on duty 13.5 hours, with more driving planned. An examination of his work schedule indicated he had four hours of sleep opportunity in the 33 hours prior and had been awake in excess of 28 hours at the time of the crash. He had driven 12 hours in his personal vehicle from his residence in Georgia to Delaware where he began driving commercially. The truck approached the slowed traffic warning area at a speed of 65 mph, 20 miles above the posted work zone speed limit. The roadway was straight with an unobstructed line of sight and taillights were visible for more than half a mile. The forward collision avoidance technology available in Wal-Mart trucks only apply the brakes when the truck operates in cruise control; better, available versions of this technology apply brakes regardless of whether the truck is in cruise control. Additionally, the technology in the Wal-Mart truck failed to store the data in a retrievable manner.

Forward collision avoidance and mitigation systems are proven lifesaving technology for which the NTSB believes the industry is long overdue. The NTSB notes that they made the same recommendation following a fatal crash in Oklahoma several years prior. They believe large scale inaction by motor carriers underscores the need for a mandate rather than waiting for members to act of their own volition. The Truck Safety Coalition has already petitioned NHTSA to require FCAM technology on all large trucks.

There are several ways in which elected officials could end driver fatigue, but our legislators continue to ignore the problem. Electronic logging devices should be required in all commercial vehicles. Unfortunately legislative measures, like the Collins’ amendment that remove a truck driver’s weekend and another that allows greater exemptions to hours of service (HOS) requirements, take us two steps back. Permitting truck drivers to operate for up to 82 hours per week and removing the restart provision, as well as allowing groups of motor carriers to apply for permanent exemptions to HOS requirements will weaken enforcement efforts, and ultimately erode safety.

In response to a recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) study on the HOS changes that were made in 2011 and implemented in 2013, the agency stated, “during the nearly 18 months in which the new restart provisions were in effect, the GAO report found evidence of reduced driver fatigue and enhanced roadway safety. Specifically, the report found: fewer fatal crashes; fewer drivers working the maximum schedules; lower risk of driver fatigue; and no increase in crashes during the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. morning rush hour.” While the FMCSA report is scheduled for release in the fall, the GAO report alone is far more evidence than Senator Collins had when she originally proposed her amendment.