Arlington, VA – This National Work Zone Awareness Week, our volunteers remember their loved ones who were killed in fatal work zone crashes involving large trucks and impress upon Congress and the Administration to utilize research based policies to address these preventable deaths. Big rigs are grossly overrepresented in these types of crashes, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determining that 30 percent of fatal work zone crashes involved at least one large truck in 2017. This is unacceptable, especially as equipping automatic emergency braking (AEB) remains optional for large trucks even though there is resounding evidence that supports their use.
Amy Fletcher, a TSC volunteer from Ohio whose husband, was killed in a construction zone, noted, “Work zone safety and truck safety go hand-in-hand. After losing my husband, John, on January 24, 2012, I resolved to address the overrepresentation of large trucks in fatal work zone crashes. By requiring trucks to have AEB, our lawmakers can address fatal truck crashes like the one that killed John and injured two other highway workers. It would also show the men and women who do essential jobs outside of office settings, like construction workers and police officers, that their safety and well-being on the job is more important than a next-day delivery.”
Ed Slattery, a Board Member of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), whose wife, Susan, was killed and his two sons seriously injured in a work zone crash involving a triple tractor trailer on the Ohio Turnpike stated, “The truck driver in my family’s crash happened to be fatigued, but we need to be able to address any and all instances where a truck driver does not apply the brakes, whether it is distraction, drug-use, or some other reason. AEB can help with that by first warning the truck driver with an audio or visual alert before partially applying brakes and then eventually fully applying the brakes if the driver does not respond. In my family’s crash, AEB could have made the difference.”
“Unfortunately, there has not been a single bill introduced in this session of Congress that would require all large trucks to have this technology even though NHTSA reported that approximately half of new passenger vehicles manufactured since 2017 were voluntarily equipped with AEB” Slattery continued. “Instead, some members of Congress have introduced legislation that would require the use of AEB only in trucks operated across state lines by 19 and 20 year olds. This is illogical. For one, the bill’s authors tacitly acknowledge that technologies, like AEB, are effective at improving the operational safety of trucks; so, instead of limiting it to the most dangerous demographic, they should support AEB in all trucks – regardless of the driver’s age. Moreover, the motivation for lowering the entry-age for interstate trucking is based on the erroneous claim that there is a truck driver shortage. Yet, in March of this year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that ‘the occupation of truck driving is often portrayed by the industry and in the popular press as beset by high levels of turnover and persistent “labor shortages”… [But] a deeper look does not find evidence of a secular shortage.’
Pam Biddle, whose son, Aaron, was killed in Indiana after a truck driver approached highway traffic that was stopped due to another semi-truck incident, failed to slow in time, and fatally crashed into the vehicle her son was riding in – killing all three occupants and himself– reiterated the effectiveness of AEB in large trucks and the dangers of teen truckers: “Enough is enough. I am angry that lawmakers from the state where my son was needlessly killed are pushing policies that will make trucking and our roads less safe, while ignoring the data that tells them this as well as ignoring the solutions that would actually improve safety.”
“Senator Todd Young and Representative Trey Hollingsworth are leading an effort in Congress to allow teenage truckers to operate across state lines despite the fact that their own state of Indiana noted in its FY 2018 Highway Safety Plan (submitted to NHTSA) that “In 2015, young drivers (ages 15 to 20 years old) had the highest involvement in fatal collisions and highest rate of drivers killed per 100,000 licensed drivers of any age group (3.4, compared to 3.2 for drivers’ ages 21 to 24 years and 2.8 for drivers’ ages 25 to 44 years)… [and that] this age group also has the highest percentage of engaging in distracted driving during a collision (4.7, compared to 4.0 ages 21 to 24, 3.1 ages 25-44, and less than 2.5 for those who are 45 and older),” Mrs. Biddle noted. “Their own State’s data shows younger drivers pose a higher safety risk behind the wheel of passenger vehicles, which we all know are much less difficult to operate than an 80,000 lbs. truck, so on its face this seems like a bad idea. Including provisions that would restrict younger truckers to vehicles with AEB seems like a Beltway trick to make a giveaway to few big motor carriers sound more appealing to folks concerned with safety. It is not. Rather than treating the technology that could have saved my son’s life as some cynical bargaining chip to offset the anticipated risk of cheaper labor for big companies, I hope they reconsider their support for this misguided measure and instead work with families like mine to help proliferate AEB throughout the trucking fleet in the United States, regardless of the age of the driver.”
Contact: Beth Weaver, firstname.lastname@example.org | 301.814.4088