Statement of the Truck Safety Coalition on Pilot Program Proposal to Allow Drivers Ages 18-20 to Operate Commercial Motor Vehicles in Interstate Commerce

In 2015, 4,067 people were killed in large truck crashes in the United States

    Statement of the Truck Safety Coalition on Pilot Program Proposal to Allow Drivers Ages 18-20 to Operate Commercial Motor Vehicles in Interstate Commerce

    The Truck Safety Coalition, and our volunteers, who are truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, oppose the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposal to allow teenagers to operate trucks across state lines. It’s not just unnecessary, it’s downright dangerous.

    Lowering the age required to operate a big-rig across state lines will do nothing to reverse the worsening death toll from truck-related crashes, which are up 41 percent since 2009. In all likelihood, it will make the situation worse.

    Based on 2017 federal crash data analyzed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers ages 18 to 19 are 2.3 times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older (up to age 84) to be in a fatal crash and nearly 3.5 times more likely to be involved in any police reported crash. Moreover, a recent report analyzing 10 years of fatal crash data involving teen drivers from the Governors Highway Safety Association revealed two other disconcerting data points about 18 to 20 year old drivers: 1) 19-year-olds accounted for the greatest number of teen drivers killed during this 10-year period, followed by 20- and 18-year olds; and, 2) older teens (18- 20-years-old) were twice as likely as their younger counterparts to be involved in a fatal crash between midnight and 6 a.m. These facts should give lawmakers in Congress and regulators at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) pause before moving forward with proposals that promote the pecuniary interests of a few companies while exposing the rest of us to the dangers of driving alongside teen truckers.

    Sadly, this seemingly innocuous call for public comment will likely result in a pilot program which will inevitably become a permanent policy because it has become clear that facts take a back seat at the U.S. Department of Transportation to the priorities of the American Trucking Associations (ATA). This was evidenced by the Department’s acquiescence on the California meal and rest break issue, and will continue to be evidenced as they ignore their own data in advancing industry-backed changes to roll back hours of service regulations. Unfortunately, this seems to be an issue that starts at the top as even U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Chao has eschewed facts from the U.S. Department of Labor, which she once managed, for misinformation and myth created by and for the ATA. On an October 2018 appearance on Fox Business, Secretary Chao made no mention of a September 2018 study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that dispelled the notion of a truck driver shortage, but, instead parroted the ATA-line that there is a truck driver shortage, which derives from a 2005 study by the American Trucking Associations.

    It is time for the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Chao and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Martinez to stop just saying that safety is a top priority of the Department, and start acting like it. No matter how often they may say it, the actions that the DOT and the FMCSA have taken, including this most recent one, have done nothing to improve truck safety.

      Entry Level Driver Training

      Requiring Comprehensive Training for All Entry-Level Commercial Driver License Applicants Is Long Overdue

      One of the first curricula on entry level driver training (ELDT) for commercial motor vehicle drivers was developed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in the mid-1980s. Yet it was not until 1993, that the agency published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). Following this initiation of the rulemaking process, regulatory action stalled again until 2002, when the agency that is now responsible for this regulation – the FMCSA – was sued by safety advocates.

      In response to the lawsuit, the agency produced an inadequate final rule in 2004. The training requirement was 10-hours of classroom instruction on four topics; there was no BTW training required. And once again, safety advocates sued the agency – this time for producing a capricious rule. The court agreed with plaintiffs and remanded the FMCSA to produce an ELDT final rule that included behind-the-wheel training. The agency finally published a Notice of Propose Rulemaking (NPRM) in 2007, however, the FMCSA once again failed to promulgate a final rule.

      ELDTAC Brought Together Parties with Different Interests and Arrived at a Consensus

      The ELDTAC was formed to negotiate a proposed rule to establish entry level driver training requirements. The committee consisted of 26 members, all of whom have varying interests in and ideas about entry level driver training, to work together and with the agency to craft the rulemaking. Members included family members of truck crash victims, safety advocacy groups, motor carriers, driver organizations, state licensing agencies, training schools, labor unions, state enforcement agencies, and several other parties. In the end, 24 members of the ELDTAC agreed that there should be a required amount of time for BTW training; the two dissenting members represented industry interests.

      The Curricula Requires Knowledge of Skills and Minimum Hours that Will Ensure Truck Drivers Are Adequately Trained

      The negotiated rulemaking will outline the requisite skills that candidates applying for a Class A or B CDL should have in order to be certified as a professional driver that is capable of operating his or her vehicle. The Truck Safety Coalition is pleased that both curricula require that candidates learn more than 19 different topics while on the range and/or road. We also agree with the agency’s assessment that “…a hybrid approach combining minimum BTW hours requirement with detailed curriculum requirements is the best way to ensure that drivers will be adequately trained in the safe operation of Class A and Class B CMVs.”9  

      The minimum hours requirement for BTW will help the agency make sure that CDL applicants have sufficient time to learn the wide array of topics in the proposed curriculum. This commonsense move will modernize the trucking industry to be more in-line with other licensed professions that use hours-based entry-level training or continuing education to promote best practices and reduce bad actors. In addition, requiring that candidates receive a minimum amount of BTW training is not something new to the industry. Leading CDL training schools, certain states and the largest trade association, The Commercial Vehicle Training Association, all mandate a minimum number of BTW hours.  

      Standardized Training Will Improve Safety Outcomes

      Given that some training schools only cover some topics, while not requiring BTW, and other schools require BTW training, while not covering as many safety issues as other training schools, setting a standard curriculum will reduce truck crashes because the drivers will be better trained to operate a truck. TSC is pleased that all A and B Class CDL applicants will need to study fatigue awareness, hours of service, trip planning, operating a vehicle under various conditions to name a few of the topics, and then demonstrate how knowledge of that topic translates to safe operations.

      Moreover, harmonizing various driver training facilities and establishing a database of training providers will also help the FMCSA enforce this rule. The NPRM requires the agency to set up a registry of the facilities that meet the proposed qualifications. This will help the FMCSA identify training schools that are more concerned with money than with graduating safe driver by allowing them to remove CDL mills responsible for churning out inadequately trained truck drivers who cause injurious and fatal crashes.

      Continued Delays and Removal of Minimum Hours of BTW Training 

      The Truck Safety Coalition and our volunteers, many of whom are families of truck crash victims and survivors seeking truck safety advances, are extremely disappointed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA, agency) final rule requiring entry-level driver training for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.

      After languishing for 25 years after it was mandated by an Act of Congress, we were hopeful that the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee (ELDTAC), which brought together law enforcement, safety advocates, and members of the industry, would be able to produce a negotiated rulemaking that included a minimum number of behind-the-wheel (BTW) training hours. After meeting several times throughout the past year, the ELDTAC negotiated a proposed rule that included both a theoretical curriculum as well as a minimum number (30 hours) of BTW training hours. Unfortunately, the years of waiting and the participation of the ELDTAC members has been for naught. The final rule will not mandate a minimum number of BTW training hours, severely blunting the potential safety benefits of it.

      Without a minimum BTW training hours requirement, the agency will not be able to ensure that CDL applicants have adequate time to learn the wide range of topics in the proposed curriculum. Given the overlap between trucking companies and training programs and an industry turnover rate above 90 percent, the FMCSA is naïve to think that a “BTW training standard based solely on a driver-trainee’s proficiency in performing required range and public road maneuvers is a more flexible, and thus less burdensome option than required minimum hours because it recognizes that driver-trainees will complete BTW training at a pace that reflects their varying levels of individual ability.” The driver-trainees will not complete the BTW training at their own pace, they will complete it at the pace of the training school they attend or the trucking company that runs it, which is how the current, safety-deficient system operates.

      The FMCSA’s latest attempt to produce an entry-level driver training for CMV drivers has been a colossal waste of time. This final rule is both insufficient in terms of advancing safety and an insult to the memories of those killed in crashes caused by inexperience and untrained truck drivers. In particular, our thoughts are with Ron Wood, who served on the ELDTAC and at each meeting revisited his grief associated with losing his mother, sister, and three nephews in a terribly tragic truck crash in Texas in 2004.  




        Require Side Underride Guards

        Side Underride Crashes:

        NHTSA has reported that large truck side impacts comprised 17 percent of fatal two-vehicle collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles during 2015. One reason why collisions with the sides of tractor-trailers are hazardous is that there is a large area of the trailer where underride may occur during these collisions. In addition, bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to side underride interactions because of their size and the lack of protection. As the length of a truck increases, so does the size of the blind spot area. These interactions can occur when a truck is turning or making an illegal U-turn, and the cab or trailer obstructs the driver’s view.

        Side Underride Crash Test:

        The Truck Safety Coalition’s Underride Initiative, consisting of families of truck underride crash victims and survivors, is extremely pleased with the results of a recent crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that assessed a side underride guard for the first time ever.

        The IIHS conducted two tests of a midsize car traveling at 35 mph colliding with the center of a 53-foot-long dry van at a 90-degree angle – the most difficult type of side underride collision to prevent.

        In one scenario, the trailer was equipped with a fiberglass side skirt intended (only) to improve aerodynamics, which did nothing to prevent the car from riding underneath the trailer. The car was decimated, the roof sheared, and any passengers would have been killed.

        In the other scenario, the trailer was equipped with an AngelWing Side Underride protection device –manufactured by Airflow Deflector Inc. Instead of riding under the trailer and allowing for passenger compartment intrusion, this innovative side underride guard allowed the car’s airbags to deploy and its crumple zone to help diffuse the kinetic energy transferred upon impact. These safety features have been rendered ineffective in the past due to the lack of crash compatibility between cars and the sides of trailers.


        Truck Underride Roundtable

          Electronic Stability Control

          Federal Mandate in Effect on December 2017

          Prevent 40-56 Percent of Rollovers

          Prevent 1,800-2,300 Crashes Annually

          Prevent 649-858 Injuries Each Year

          Electronic Stability Control (ESC) seeks to reduce crashes by applying selective braking to prevent rollovers and mitigate loss of control. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that ESC on large trucks would prevent 40 – 56 percent of rollovers and 14 percent of loss of control crashes. The agency also estimates that the ESC final rule has the potential to prevent 49- 60 fatalities, 649- 858 injuries, and 1,807- 2,329 crashes annually. The final rule takes effect in December 2017, and all trucks manufactured after December 2019 will be required to have ESC. TSC supports the full implementation of the life-saving technology.

          Link to Federal Register:

            Safety Groups Respond to U.S. DOT IG Rubber Stamping Study on Truck Driver Hours of Service Safety Protections

            Study Created with Pre-Determined Outcome of Failure

            WASHINGTON, D.C. –Late last week, the Office of the Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) sent a letter to Congress regarding a study of safety reforms to the truck driver hours of service (HOS) rules. By sending this letter, the IG essentially gives the imprimatur of this well-respected office to a study that was set up for failure at the onset and will ultimately result in the continuation of the widespread industry problem of truck driver fatigue.  Parameters of the study and what it was charged with finding were widely attributed to being crafted by corporate trucking interests in an effort to undue safety reforms which took effect in 2013.  While the IG may have signed off that the study was carried out as mandated by Congress, the IG did not assess the underlying data used.  Rather, the IG simply “rubber stamped” that the “junk science” study checked off all the boxes required by Congress when it created the study.

            As part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill, corporate trucking interests and their friends in Congress inserted legislative language that suspended enforcement of the 2013 HOS reforms until the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) completed further study on the effectiveness of the provisions.  Concerned that the study would not produce results favorable to their agenda, these same interests inserted additional language into the FY 2016 THUD bill which raised the bar on what the study had to find. This backroom industry rewrite all but guaranteed the preordained outcome that was realized today.  These policy provisions were inserted to a funding bill behind closed doors without any public input. Further, they belie decades of irrefutable data that shows that driver fatigue is a serious safety problem within the trucking industry.  “When I began advocating for truck safety after a truck driver fell asleep while driving and killed my son Jeff, I never thought I would still be fighting on the issue of fatigue more than two decades later,” said Daphne Izer, Co-Founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), “Truck drivers should not be forced to drive and work such grueling schedules, and the public should not be subjected to the risk that tired truckers pose to all road users.”

            The study, while yet to be made available for public review, could have only examined 15 months of data as the Obama reforms went into effect in July of 2013 and were suspended at the behest of the certain segments of the trucking industry in December of 2014.  The fact that the study was fatally flawed from the start and reached such a dubious conclusion is totally unsurprising. “This study does nothing to shed light on the serious problem of truck driver fatigue,” said Jackie Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.  “But, it does shed light on the power of special trucking interests to run to their friends in Congress and repeal important health and safety rules.  Sadly, the U.S. DOT IG has become yet another political pawn in this tortured process.”

            Common sense and real world experience clearly show that truck driver fatigue is a serious and pervasive safety problem, no matter how much special trucking interests wish to believe otherwise. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has repeatedly cited fatigue as a major contributor to truck crashes and included reducing fatigue related crashes on the 2017-18 Most Wanted List of safety changes.  In addition, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has warned that drowsy driving can have the same consequences as driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.  “Since 2009, truck crashes have shot up by 45 percent, resulting in a 20 percent increase in truck crash fatalities and a 57 percent increase in truck crash injuries,” stated John Lannen, Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition. “Instead of focusing on requiring crash avoidance technologies in large trucks that would have actually reduced crashes, FMCSA was forced to spend time and money conducting an ill-conceived study based on flawed data.”

            While high profile crashes like the one that killed comedian James McNair and seriously injured Tracy Morgan grab national headlines, fatigue-related crashes happen to families all over the country every day.  Until leaders in Congress are willing to face the real facts about truck driver fatigue, far too many Americans will continue to be needlessly killed by tired truckers.


              Karth Family to Deliver Truck Safety Petition To U.S. DOT

              Contact: Beth Weaver 301.814.4088


              Karth Family To Deliver Truck Safety Petition To U.S. DOT

              On Monday, May 5, Marianne and Jerry Karth and members of their family, will deliver their “AnnaLeah and Mary Stand Up for Truck Safety” petition to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington, D.C. The petition asks DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx to use his authority to immediately make truck safety improvements to issues that may have contributed to the loss of the Karth daughters AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13).  Photos of the Karth family and the petition delivery will be available at

              The Karth petition, a grassroots effort which received over 11,000 signatures, asks the Secretary to make long overdue improvements to truck safety by immediately increasing the minimum insurance level to account for over 30 years of inflation without a single increase, releasing a rule for improved rear underride guard standards to protect car occupants in truck crashes, and releasing the final rule for electronic logging devices (ELDs) to reduce truck driver fatigue. The Karth family will meet with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator (FMCSA) Anne Ferro and National Highway Transportation Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) Acting Administrator David Friedman to deliver the petition and discuss truck safety issues.

              “Advocating for these changes helps with the grief because it gives us an opportunity to make a difference,” said Marianne Karth. “There is some healing that goes with that, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. Fighting for these changes stirs up all those memories that we went through, but it gives us hope that other families won’t have to go through what we’ve been through.”

              On May 4, 2013, as the Karth family drove to Texas to celebrate four graduations and a wedding, their car was hit from behind by a truck that was unable to stop in time for slowed traffic. The impact spun their car around and forced it backward and underneath a second truck’s trailer. Marianne and her son were in the front seats and survived the impact with injuries. AnnaLeah and Mary were in the back seats, which went underneath the trailer, and died as a result of catastrophic injuries.

              On September 12, 2013, Marianne Karth joined Truck Safety Coalition members and safety advocates for a meeting with Secretary Foxx, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro and then NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. Secretary Foxx promised tangible progress within a short period of time on the truck safety issues discussed at the meeting. Administrator Strickland added that there would be a decision for underride guards on his desk by November 2013. To bring attention to these safety issues and honor the memories of their daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary, on the first anniversary of the crash the Karth family began a petition asking Secretary Foxx to fulfill his promise.

              “We are asking Secretary Foxx to take three specific actions to implement tangible solutions which will bring immediate improvements in truck safety issues,” said Marianne Karth. “Unnecessary delays may have cost Mary and AnnaLeah their lives. How many more lives will be lost due to delay?”

              The Truck Safety Coalition,, is a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public, policymakers and media about truck safety issues.