When Isaac and I were in Washington, DC, to talk with our senators and congressmen, as well as administrative officials at NHTSA and FMCSA (DOT), we were interviewed by Geoff Bennett, Washington Reporter for Time Warner Cable.
His report is airing October 30 – November 1. We appreciate the opportunity to share our story with a wider audience and invite them to support our underride research and join the thousands who have already signed our Vision Zero Petition.
My family knows all too well, the great loss which can come from a truck crash. We are doing everything in our power to keep your family from experiencing such life-changing tragedy.
For those of you who have the ability to impact the upcoming HR 3763, Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act, please consider these insights from the Truck Safety Coalition on potential riders or amendments and their likely impact on safety for travelers on the roads of our country:
ACTION NEEDED TO ENHANCE SAFETY TITLE IN HOUSE TRANSPORTATION BILL
October 28, 2015
The surface transportation reauthorization legislation currently being considered by Congress will set transportation policy for the next six years. During that time, approximately 24,000 people will be killed in truck crashes and 600,000 more will be injured. This legislation is an opportunity to reverse the upward trend of the truck crash death and injury toll. If the safety title in the bill is not enhanced when the House and Senate meet in conference on the legislation, the American public will pay with their lives and their wallets.
On Thursday, October 22, The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed H.R. 3763, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015. While a large number of amendments were offered, the majority of those amendments were withdrawn due to a bipartisan agreement between the Committee leadership to pass a bill through the Committee. The bill will now move to the House floor for a vote by the full House of Representatives. We expect that many of the same amendments that were withdrawn could be offered when the full House takes up the legislation.
It is expected that H.R. 3763 will be on the House floor next Tuesday and Wednesday, November 3-4.
TAKE ACTION NOW:
Please take the time to contact your Representative either by phone or email, and urge him/her to oppose anti-truck safety provisions and amendments.
There is no data that analyzes whether it is safe to allow teenagers to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate traffic. In fact, research has demonstrated that truck drivers younger than age 21 have higher crash rates than drivers who are 21 years of age and older.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) previously declined to lower the minimum age for an unrestricted CDL to 18 as part of a pilot program because the agency could not conclude that the “safety performance of these younger drivers is sufficiently close to that of older drivers of CMVs[.]” The public overwhelmingly opposed the idea with 96 percent of individuals who responded opposing the proposal along with 88 percent of the truck drivers and 86 percent of the motor carriers who responded.
Changing Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Data (Secs. 5221, 5223, 5224)
Hiding critical safety information in the FMCSA’s CSA program will deprive consumers from learning about the comparative safety of motor carriers and bus companies when hiring a motor carrier company to transport goods or people.
Letting the public know the government safety scores promotes public accountability and improves safety. CSA is working as intended and includes a process so that it can continue to be fine-tuned and improved.
Delaying Rulemaking on Minimum Financial Responsibility (Sec. 5501)
Minimum insurance levels have not been increased once in over 35 years.
During this time medical care costs have increased significantly and the current minimum requirement of $750,000 is inadequate to cover the cost of one fatality or serious injury, let alone crashes in which there are multiple victims.
Limiting Shipper and Broker Liability (Sec. 5224)
Shields brokers and shippers from responsibility based on low standards related to hiring decisions. Reducing standards effectively removes safety from the carrier selection process.
Expected Amendments to Oppose to H.R.3763:
The Safe, Flexible and Efficient Trucking Act (H.R. 3488) increases the current federal 80,000 lbs. limit to 91,000 lbs. This bill, which is expected to be offered as an amendment by Rep. Reid Ribble (WI), contains a provision that would violate the federal bridge formula.Additionally, the U.S. DOT determined that introducing a 91,000 lb. weight limit would result in $1.1 billion immediate one-time bridge strengthening or replacement costs for non-interstate bridges on the National Highway System (NHS) as well as create bridge posting issues for nearly 5,000 bridges on the Interstate and NHS.
Mandate increasing the size of double tractor trailers from 28 feet per trailer to 33 feet per trailer, resulting in trucks that are at least 84 feet long. Double 33s will be more dangerous to motorists and truck drivers, and more destructive to our nation’s already compromised roadways and bridges. This length increase will overturn the laws in a majority of states that currently prohibit Double 33s.
The recent U.S. Department of Transportation Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study (DOT Study) concluded there is a “profound” lack of data from which to quantify the safety impact of larger or heavier trucks and consequently recommends that no changes in the relevant truck size and weight laws and regulations be considered until data limitations are overcome.
By overwhelming margins in numerous public opinion polls over the last 20 years, the American public consistently and convincingly rejects sharing the road with bigger, heavier and longer trucks. The most recent poll in January 2015 by Harper Polling revealed that 76 percent of respondents oppose longer and heavier trucks on the highways and 79 percent are very or somewhat convinced that heavier and longer trucks will lead to more braking problems and longer stopping distances, causing an increase in the number of crashes involving trucks.
Special interest truck size and weight exemptions are essentially “earmarks” for states and “unfunded mandates” imposed on all American taxpayers who bear the cost of federally-financed infrastructure damage and repairs. We expect that there could be several amendments seeking size and weight exemptions.
The compounding effect of these anti-safety provisions will allow trucks, the size of an eight-story building, higher risk interstate truck drivers, and insufficient insurance for large trucks. A national surface transportation authorization bill should not be a legislative vehicle to pass special interest provisions that would never be supported by the public. Yet, this bill is rife with truck safety rollbacks that throw the safety agenda into reverse and further endanger everyone on the roads.
Put the Brakes on these Anti-Safety Provisions. Save Lives, Taxpayer Costs and our Crumbling Infrastructure.
“Towards Zero – There’s no one someone won’t miss.”
I received a wonderful email this morning with the Mid-Semester Progress Report from the 6-student team of engineering students at Virginia Tech who took on the creation of a better rear underride guard design as their senior capstone project.
In their words, “our team must strive to achieve the perfect design with respect to each specification, ensuring the absolute best final product.” (Sweet words to this mother’s heart!)
We look forward to seeing them in person at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center on May 5, 2016, as they share the results of their dedicated and innovative efforts at the Underride Roundtable.
I will be praying for the team everyday, including Wayne Carter (Team Facilitator), Daniel Carrasco, Kristine Adriano, Sean Gardner, Andrew Pitt, and Brian Smith–along with Jared Bryson (their Sponsor) and Robin Ott (their Project Advisor).
I remember our trip back from visiting a research & design center in June 2014 and thinking that surely a group of engineers could get together and design better underride protection. It is amazing to watch this unfold.
I recently returned from a trip to DC where Jerry, Isaac, and I joined with other families who had experienced unexpected loss by way of devastating truck crashes. At the Truck Safety Coalition’s Sorrow to Strength Conference we shared our stories with one another, attended workshops to learn more about truck safety issues and how to advocate for change, as well as participated in meetings on The Hill.
One of the workshops was on the topic of grief and I had made the comment that what we all experienced in our horrific, tragic losses made the grief more complicated because of the anger and frustration we all too often feel when too little is done too late to save (other) lives. It is sometimes hard to move on fully with, as they say, “a new normal” when you witness the seemingly calloused and indifferent attitude toward what should be preventable deaths.
Supposedly its a risk you take when you choose to get on the road, you know. Or, changes would not be “cost effective.”
In any case, I wanted to share an article which I read last year. It helped me process my feelings of grief at the unexpected loss I have felt after discovering in 2010 that many of our family members face challenges we had never anticipated with a progressive hereditary peripheral neuropathy (Charcot Marie Tooth or CMT). What they tell us is that it is not life-threatening, but it is a life-changer.
I had searched online and found this interesting article about the grieving of parents with disabled children, which could be helpful for any grieving person–no matter what their loss, The Impact of Childhood Disability: The Parent’s Struggle, by Ken Moses, Ph.D.: http://www.pent.ca.gov/beh/dis/parentstruggle_DK.pdf
I just now re-read it and noticed this statement by the author: After working with parents of the impaired for many years, I have come to believe that I was given bad advice. I have come to believe that pain is the solution, not the problem.
That reminded me of something my 5 year-old granddaughter said earlier this year:
One day, Vanessa asked me (out of the blue), “Does pain fix sadness?”
Me: “Well. . .?”
Vanessa: Runs off to play. . .
I don’t know. Will the pain which I am going through eventually “fix” my sadness? Is the pain a process–or at least a signal or indication that a process of healing is taking place? If I were not feeling the pain, would it be harder to complete that process? Will the pain ever lessen?
I have also known real peace in this season. It also comes and goes–seeming elusive. Comes mostly when I am focused on the promises of God–in word or song–like the song I sang at their funeral, In Christ Alone. I really believed it then and I believe it now. It just seems in stiff competition with the real pain.
Just yesterday, I read a facebook post and comments by some of the TSC family members. They were commenting on how hard it was to get back into things after the conference in DC and how they struggled anew with the grief and sadness. It reminded me of how thankful I was for the comment made several times at the conference that we will not tell each other, “Get over it.” It is such a complicated grief; we will never fully get over it.
But, with hope, we will carry on because we know that someday we will see their face again:
After a great deal of thinking and talking and preliminary planning, we now have a host facility–the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Vehicle Research Center–and a date, Thursday, May 5, 2016, for our Underride Roundtable.
We will be reaching out to engineers, manufacturers, trucking industry representatives, regulatory officials, safety advocates, and others–inviting them to join us in a collaborative effort to bring about the best possible underride protection.
This morning, I was reminded of my early beginnings as an advocate for nursing home patients. My first job out of college was as the Chapter Director of a local advocate organization for nursing home patients. The position was as a VISTA Volunteer–a stateside version of the Peace Corps.
I have thought many times how that role prepared me to speak up on behalf of the defenseless–victims who could not speak for themselves. It taught me to be tough and diligent and thorough. It paved the way for me to be an advocate for crash victims.
Then, I read my email and found the latest edition of the University of Michigan digital newsletter, Michigan Today, which I receive as an alumni. One particular article caught my attention: the early beginnings of the Peace Corps which took place in October 1960 at the University of Michigan. I read it with great interest.
The birth of a movement Over the next two weeks, events moved fast. [Alan and Judy Guskin] were contacted by Samuel Hayes, the professor who had written the position paper on a youth corps for Kennedy. Together, they called a mass meeting. Some 250 students came out to sign a petition saying they would volunteer. Hundreds more signers followed within days. . .
On Sunday, Nov. 6, two days before the election, Kennedy was expected at the Toledo airport. Three carloads of U-M students, including the Guskins, drove down to show him the petitions. “He took them in his hands and started looking through the names,” Judy Guskin recalled later. “He was very interested.”
Alan asked: “Are you really serious about the Peace Corps?”
“Until Tuesday we’ll worry about this nation,” Kennedy said. “After Tuesday, the world.”
Two days later, Kennedy defeated Nixon by some 120,000 votes, one of the slimmest margins in U.S. history. Some argue the Peace Corps proposal may have swayed enough votes to make the difference.
“It might still be just an idea but for the affirmative response of those Michigan students and faculty,” wrote Sargent Shriver, JFK’s brother-in-law and the Peace Corps’ first director, in his memoir. “Possibly Kennedy would have tried it once more on some other occasion, but without a strong popular response he would have concluded the idea was impractical or premature. That probably would have ended it then and there. Instead, it was almost a case of spontaneous combustion.”
I pray that our Vision Zero Petition and our truck safety advocacy efforts will likewise garner countless signatures and sway the hearts and minds of those who have the authority to make the difference in ways that will mean many saved lives for years to come.
I was additionally intrigued by the mention of Kennedy’s campaign trip through Michigan because one of my vivid childhood memories was when he came through Grand Rapids when I was 5 on a train and went by at a spot which was a 10-minute walk from my home.
Senator John F. Kennedy’s motorcade rolled into Ann Arbor very early on the morning of Friday, Oct. 14, 1960. The election was three and a half weeks away. The Democratic nominee for president and his staff had just flown into Willow Run Airport. A few hours earlier, in New York, Kennedy had fought Vice President Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, in the third of their four nationally televised debates. The race was extremely close, and Michigan was up for grabs. Kennedy’s schedule called for a few hours of sleep, then a one-day whistle-stop train tour across the state.
My family still talks about it because his train was delayed and so we were gone from home longer than expected. My mother had put a batch of bread in the oven and it ended up being overbaked so that it had a very thick & dark crust. In the future, whenever bread got overdone, we called it “Kennedy Bread.”
How did you react when you heard our crash story? I have been thinking about that a lot this week.
On Saturday, we heard other crash stories at Truck Safety Coalition’s Sorrow to Strength conference in Arlington, Virginia. It is hard to hear the same problems with truck safety over and over again and know that too many things are not getting any better. Yes, we heard of the successes over the years. But some of these families have been advocating for safer roads for over 20 years–including for safer underride guards.
On Monday morning, Isaac and I met with Russ Rader at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s DC office. We discussed some of the details for the Underride Roundtable that we are planning with them for May 2016 at their Ruckersville, Virginia, conference & crash testing center. I am getting excited as it is getting closer to becoming a reality.
We arrived early for our meeting and, while we were waiting to start, we sat in the reception area, drank some water, and watched the video loop which they show on a wall monitor. I have seen many of their crash test videos before but learned many new things. It had my attention.
Later that afternoon, Isaac and I joined other Truck Safety Coalition volunteers for meetings at DOT with FMCSA and NHTSA. As we got off the elevator, Scott Darling, FMCSA Administrator, pointed out the framed photo collage of truck safety victims (a fraction of the total number) which was presented to them in 2009. FMCSA staff see it every day as they pass by on their way to work.
The next morning, when I woke up, an idea came to me: create a video loop (which could be updated) of crash victim stories and raise money to put it on monitors throughout DOT. I told Isaac about my idea and he said that it should be on The Hill as well.
Then, as we headed for our meetings on The Hill, we encountered rush hour traffic at the Metro. People piled into the first train that stopped and it was so full that they were packed like sardines and the door couldn’t even shut until the riders pushed themselves closer together.
The woman just in front of me, who was a regular Metro commuter, commented that one time she had seen someone’s backpack get stuck in the door. We continued to talk and, after getting on the next train, eventually got a seat next to each other some stops later.
She asked me about the buttons on my lanyard:
When I told her that two of my daughters were killed in a truck crash, she had tears in her eyes and held my hand. Imagine the power of our story and the impact it could have on the future of highway safety.
I want the faces and voices of once-alive truck crash victims and their surviving families to be seen and heard daily throughout Washington, DC. And then just maybe we will have their attention so that, armed with facts and figures and reasonable solutions, we will be able to bring about dialogue to solve trucking safety problems which take into account the needs of the industry without unnecessarily sacrificing the lives of our families.
Joan Claybrook, Consumer Co-chair of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) and former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), spoke today to the COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE, SUBCOMITTEE ON COMMERCE, MANUFACTURING AND TRADE:
“It is essential that NHTSA, the agency charged with ensuring the safety of our vehicles and our drivers, be equipped with both the appropriate resources and personnel to confront the myriad of emerging issues presented by new technologies. It is almost incomprehensible that the entire vehicle safety program for the U.S. has a miniscule budget of only $130 million, and it has barely increased over the last six years. It is both unfortunate and unnecessary that this agency is chronically underfunded by Congress even while its critical importance to public health and safety continues to expand. Congress has a moral obligation in the safety title of the six year reauthorization bill to give NHTSA the ability to do its job and to do it effectively. Our lives and those of our families as well as yours literally depend on it.”
Towards Zero–Street Interviews: People on the streets of Melbourne are asked how they feel about deaths on our road. See how their responses change when the issue changes from an anonymous road toll number to the personal.
Transport Accident Commission Victoria. http://www.tac.vic.gov.au
What a Vision Zero policy means to me: Towards Zero. While at a Sorrow to Strength Conference sponsored by the Truck Safety Coalition this weekend in Washington, DC, I experienced support and understanding by being with other truck crash victim families. But at the same time, I felt the frustration of the same scenario playing out year after year on the roads of our nation while there continues to be a tug of war over truck safety measures.
Even though many have shared their tragic stories on The Hill and at DOT countless times over the years, still the battle continues unabated. One participant quoted Joseph Stalin in order to describe the attitude that seems to prevail, “A Single Death is a Tragedy; a Million Deaths is a Statistic.”
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t naively believe that something could be done to result in never ever any crash deaths. What I believe is that a Vision Zero policy–with a vision statement of Zero Crash Deaths & Zero Serious Crash Injuries–would impact decision-making to the extent that, when options were identified, choices would be made and strategies would be followed which would lead ever closer to that vision of zero.
The opposite attitude always ends up compromising human life and health. It gives power to the lure of the almighty dollar and the promise of efficiency and an improved economy. It means that too many people like my daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13), are unnecessarily cheated of the opportunity to naturally live out their lives because their lives were deemed too costly to spare.
Yesterday, I was at Panera Bread in Arlington, Virginia, having some breakfast before going to The Hill with other Truck Safety Coalition volunteers to talk with my U.S. Representative and Senator about safety concerns. I saw a poster about Panera’s clean food vision statement/strategy and quickly memorized it:
Are we, as a nation, really more concerned about healthy foods than about the safety of our roads? What will happen with our Truck Safety Legislative No No List?
I shared those thoughts with my Democrat congressman’s office staff and it was well-received along with this 33-second video:
There was not quite as much openness to the Vision Zero idea from my Republican senator’s staff. Hmmm . . . wonder what’s up with that?
I thought that we generally had a productive visit to my nation’s capital but came home yesterday with too many frustrations. And aftergoing out for breakfast with my husband this morning to update him on what he had missed (because he had left DC before I did), I drove home and weeped and yelled as I passed by the entrance to I-95 where we had started our fateful journey on the morning of May 4, 2013–wishing desperately that that day had never unfolded and taken my girls from me.
I also wished that somebody had let me cast a vote for Vision Zero when it might have meant the difference between life and death for Mary and AnnaLeah.