As summer winds down, it is time to reflect on the safety of our roads and the hundreds of loved ones across the country who were needlessly killed or injured in truck crashes over the past few months. Our sons were killed in crashes caused by tired truckers. They were two of the nearly 4,000 people who die each year in truck crashes, many of which are preventable. Another 100,000 people are seriously injured.
Since the tragic deaths of our sons, our mission has been devoted to preventing this tragedy from happening to others by promoting common-sense safety solutions. Yet, one of our own U.S. senators, Susan Collins, continues to thwart our efforts to improve truck safety for families in Maine and across the country.
For the past few years, Sen. Collins has been the flag-bearer for trucking interests seeking to undermine and undo safety rules. From her powerful seat as chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that is responsible for determining spending levels for federal transportation programs, she has continually provided special access and favors to trucking interests.
For example, she single-mindedly sought to stop federal rules issued in 2013 on the number of driving and resting hours for truck drivers. Although truck driver fatigue is a well-documented and major cause of truck crashes, she just won’t stop.
After her previous attempts to kill off the federal safety rule on rest time for truck drivers fell short of her goal, she decided to take another approach. Instead of allowing the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct an open and public rulemaking for a regulation based on research and science, she opted to write the rule herself.
Of course, she did it behind closed doors with the help of her trucking friends. When families of truck crash victims and safety groups objected and opposed her safety assaults, she resorts to questioning our motives. Does this behavior sound familiar from a politician in the news these days?
Several weeks ago, Sen. Collins announced in a Washington Post op-ed reprinted in this newspaper that she will not be voting for Donald Trump for president. One of the reasons she cites is his criticism of the grieving parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, which she found unacceptable. Yet she is quick to criticize grieving parents who have lost children in truck crashes because we won’t be silenced and have the audacity to challenge her efforts to set back safety on behalf of special trucking interests.
The senator complained earlier this year in media interviews that safety groups were ignoring other provisions recently passed in Congress mandating federal rules forspeed-limiting devices on large trucks and electronic logging devices for recording work and driving hours of truckers.
For many years, we have strongly supported and urged adoption of these truck safety measures and will continue to push agency actions because of unacceptable and excessive government delays. During these years, Sen. Collins has stood on the sidelines on these issues.
Now, she stands near the finish line of our long and difficult efforts to enhance safety, eager and ready to take credit for these safety improvements that were proposed, promoted and brought to near conclusion by others.
Increasing the number of hours that a trucker can work and drive and reducing rest time, as Sen. Collins has done, are not sensible solutions unless you are championing industry profits. Truck crashes have surged from 286,000 in 2009 to 411,000 in 2014– a 44 percent increase. Furthermore, truck crash injuries have skyrocketed by 50 percent during that same period. Truck crash fatalities also continue to rise, increasing nearly 16 percent between 2009 and 2014.
The bad news is the DOT just released figures showing that truck crash fatalities increased by another 4 percent from 2014 to 2015, exceeding 4,000 annual deaths for the first time since 2008.
A staggering 80 percent of the public oppose longer hours for truck drivers. Truck drivers deserve a real “weekend” off and the public deserves to be sharing the road with truck drivers who are rested and alert. It is time for Sen. Collins to stop picking on victims of truck crashes and safety groups and start listening to her constituents and the American people she was elected to represent.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Daphne Izer of Lisbon and Christina Mahaney of Jackman are mothers whose sons were killed in fatigue-related truck crashes.