Statement of Joan Claybrook, Chair and

Former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves is trying to bamboozle the American public into thinking that big rigs driven by overtired and overworked truck drivers is really safer for everyone.  Fortunately, the American public isn’t buying it.  A recent public opinion poll conducted by the well-respected Lake Research Partners shows that 80% of the public strongly opposes allowing truck drivers to work and drive up to 82 hours a week.  It’s not surprising that large margins of the American public also believe it will make our roads less safe.

Mr. Graves also makes the phony claim that the provision being pushed by Senator Collins (R-ME) benefiting corporate trucking interests is not being added to the funding bill at the11th hour.    Here are the facts.  There has not been a single congressional oversight hearing in either the House or Senate on making this dangerous and deadly change to current law.  There has not been any comprehensive safety review and analysis by experts.  And, there has not been an open rulemaking process for the public and others to express their views and voice their concerns.  Transparency is what is expected in a democracy when the public’s interests are put ahead of the interests of well-heeled and well-connected industry lobbyists.

This is not a new tactic for Senator Collins and the ATA.  Five years ago Senator Collins was responsible for a one-year exemption for Maine from federal truck limits allowing 100,000 pound trucks throughout the state.  The year after the exemption ended, Senator Collins came back and pushed through a twenty-year exemption.  Once again, Senator Collins and the ATA are using the same “playbook”.  We urge Congress to stop this unconscionable and dangerous deal-making at the expense and peril of the American public.

Finally, the rebuttal offered up by Mr. Graves is an analysis by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).  ATRI is the research arm of the ATA located at the exact same address as the trucking industry trade association and whose board is comprised of industry executives.  This is hardly an objective, conflict-free, or credible scientific analysis on the impacts of gutting an important existing safety rule.

We will continue to fight the enactment of this anti-safety proposal.  This proposal will make our highways more dangerous and that’s why every major public health, consumer, safety and law enforcement group and the families who have lost loved ones in truck crashes oppose the Collins Amendment.  The end result of this David versus Goliath battle against the “who’s who list” of corporate America will have a profound and lasting impact on the safety of our roads.  We urge Congress to put public safety before industry profit.