After I survived a truck crash on Aug. 8, 2008, one of my goals became to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck crashes. Eventually, I began volunteering for the Truck Safety Coalition, a non-profit organization consisting of families of truck crash victims and survivors who also shared in my goal. Since then, I have been able to speak to the public and policy makers about ways to make trucking safer for everyone.
When I heard that state lawmakers were considering increasing truck weights, and that federal lawmakers might consider increasing truck-trailer lengths, I was compelled to speak out against both of these policies, which are premised on a false promise of fewer trucks. The fact remains: The number of trucks on our roads has increased following every past size and weight increase.
Allowing even heavier trucks will further damage our crumbling infrastructure, in particular — bridges, which our state has more of than any other state. Permitting Double 33s will also not enhance safety. In addition to elongating existing double configurations by 10 feet, Double 33s also take longer to break, have a wider turning radius, and are more likely to off-track at low speeds. In short, both policies will not make trucking safer, especially at time when trends indicate truck safety is in decline.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released figures for 2015 that shows there were 4,067 truck fatalities — a 20 percent increase since 2009. In Texas, the trends in truck safety are even more troubling. Between 1994 and 2015, the past four years have been the deadliest with regards to truck crashes.
Clearly, we need to be doing more to prevent truck crashes.
I have been meeting with elected officials in Texas to discuss my crash, in which my vehicle was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer, about how we can work together to make trucking safer. Had the truck in my crash been equipped with automatic emergency braking, I might not have written this letter, or sustained life-long brain injuries.
Debra Cruz, Truck Safety Coalition, Harlingen