The Board of Directors of the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) including member organizations, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), as well as families from across the country who are survivors and victims of truck crashes, commend the passage on Wednesday, July 1, of H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. This legislation is one of the strongest and most comprehensive motor vehicle and motor carrier safety bills to ever pass the U.S. House of Representatives and includes numerous provisions that will make our roads safer for families and for commercial drivers.
Several Members of Congress played key and critical leadership roles in advancing lifesaving measures, including House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair, Rep Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Highway and Transit Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, is a long-time safety champion who sponsored numerous motor vehicle safety provisions that will protect families. Our families appreciate the work of Rep. Garcia (D-IL), Rep. Espaillat (D-NY), Rep. Cohen (D-TN), and Rep. Johnson (D-GA) for successfully adding the provision increasing minimum insurance for commercial operators to address a significant financial burden affecting families of truck crash victims and survivors. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Chair, House Rules Committee, was instrumental in bringing H.R. 2 to the House floor for consideration and protecting lifesaving provisions from attack. He also championed opposition to anti-truck safety amendments including efforts by corporate interests to expand driving hours of truck drivers as well as to increase truck size and weights. In particular, an amendment was offered to dramatically change truck weights on Connecticut interstate highways from the current limit of 80,000 pounds to 100,000 pounds. Bigger and heavier trucks are more dangerous to motorists, more difficult for truck drivers to operate and more damaging to our roads and bridges. Fortunately, in the face of strong opposition from numerous consumer and safety organizations, truck crash victims/survivors and families, labor and the Connecticut State Troopers, the amendment sponsors wisely withdrew the amendment. We had urged them to reject it completely and not degrade public safety, as well as the roads and bridges in Connecticut, by promoting this reckless increase.
Passage of H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, comes at an especially critical time in truck safety. Truck crashes exact a stunning death and injury and financial toll on our country. In 2018, nearly 5,000 people were killed in truck crashes – a staggering 46% increase since 2008. Furthermore, 148,000 more were injured.
An important provision adopted in H.R. 2 is long overdue. Minimum levels of insurance for trucks have not been increased for nearly 40 years and are woefully deficient. Consequently, a very large portion of the damages and losses caused by truck crashes are imposed upon the victims/survivors, families, and taxpayers. The bill raises the minimum insurance from $750,000 to $2,000,000 and includes a requirement that it be adjusted every 5 years for inflation. This is a modest increase that has not even kept up with inflation, particularly increases in health care costs, these past four decades. The pain and trauma of a serious truck crash should not be compounded by imposing a lifelong economic burden on families who are victims and survivors.
Other critical provisions in H.R. 2 which will significantly improve commercial vehicle safety include a mandate to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue a safety rule requiring Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) to be standard equipment in all new commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds and school buses. Furthermore, passenger cars traveling under the rear or side of a truck’s trailer result in some of the most horrific and deadly crashes. For too long, we have known that the existing federal standard regarding rear underride guards on trucks is inadequate. The bill directs action on an upgraded rear underride standard. Also, there is a need for a standard on side underride guards and the bill requires the DOT to begin the process by undertaking research.
The bill also increases transparency by requiring DOT to make publicly available information on high risk carriers. Furthermore, the bill delays DOT implementation of unsupported and unsafe changes to the current hours of service rule for truck drivers which will contribute to truck driver fatigue, an already known and widespread problem in the trucking industry that is a major contributor to truck crashes.
Dawn King of Davisburg, MI, and president of TSC, stated, “My father was killed in a preventable truck crash in 2004. In his memory, I have dedicated my life to supporting improvements to truck safety to bring down the unacceptable death and injury toll as well as the exorbitant financial cost crashes impose on our families and society. Truck crashes cost our nation $135 billion a year. The legislation includes essential protections for families as well as hard-working truck drivers who put their lives at risk every day because of inaction by DOT. Once implemented, the bill will bring down crashes, deaths, and costs”.
CRASH Board Chair and Former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Joan Claybrook, applauded the passage of these safety provisions. “Every day families are paying the price for DOT’s delaying and ignoring commonsense and cost-effective public health and safety measures. For too long some corporate trucking interests have blocked, stalled, and attacked sensible and proven safety measures that could be preventing crashes, saving lives, and reducing injuries. The passage of H.R. 2 puts public safety ahead of corporate profits. We need the Senate to pass this bill immediately. We can’t wait for another record year of truck crash deaths when solutions are available right now”.
Daphne Izer of Lisbon, ME, and founder and Chair of Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T), has been a relentless voice for victims and survivors of crashes involving tired truckers. Her 17-year-old son, Jeff, and three of his friends were killed in 1993 when a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into her son’s car. “The National Transportation Safety Board has long recognized truck driver fatigue as a major safety problem contributing to crashes, deaths and injuries,” she said. “Yet, the U.S. DOT recently proposed changes to the federal hours of service rule that will actually result in more driving time and less rest time for truck drivers. It is shocking, but not surprising with the out-sized influence that trucking interests have over this department. This legislation includes language preventing DOT from implementing those changes until an objective study is conducted and reviewed. Also, AEB systems are critical to preventing truck crashes and saving lives. Some truck manufacturers are equipping some trucks with this lifesaving technology. That’s not good enough. Every new truck needs to be equipped with AEB. This bill achieves that goal with a mandate for DOT action on a safety standard.”