I’m not sure that Washington, DC, was ready to be invaded by 2 moms prepared to do battle for safer trucks in memory of their daughters. So much happened in three days that I’ll simply summarize it here:
- Monday, March 13, we met at DOT with nine staff members from the NHTSA and FMCSA. We were thankful to be able to share our stories and recommendations for underride protection. But the lack of transparency and ability for them to discuss their rulemaking (or not) activities was once-again frustrating. We did find out that side underride has become a topic of discussion there recently. What that will mean, I do not know.
- Tuesday, March 14, the streets of Washington, DC, were covered with snow and government offices had a three-hour delay. We had originally planned to drop by some senate offices before an afternoon meeting. We got a late start with that but were actually able to arrange a meeting with Commerce Committee staff from the office of Senator Nelson (FL). We talked about both the need for trucking minimum liability insurance to be raised from its 1980’s level and the need for improved truck underride protection.
- We also stopped by Senator Marco Rubio’s office and arranged for a meeting with his staff the next morning.
- Then, we attended a Senate Hearing at 2:30: Continuing to Improve Truck Safety on our Nation’s Highways, U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, will convene a subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. titled “Continuing to Improve Truck Safety on our Nation’s Highways.” The hearing will examine truck safety advancements in the bipartisan Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act that passed last Congress and potential reforms moving forward. The hearing will also hear from a range of perspectives on the implementation of safety programs and other opportunities and challenges facing truck safety.
- Witnesses:– The Honorable Christopher A. Hart, Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board
– Captain Chris Turner, Kansas Highway Patrol and Vice President of Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance
– Dr. Paul P. Jovanis, Professor Emeritus, Pennsylvania State University; Chair, Transportation Research Board Committee
– Mr. Jerry Moyes, Chairman Emeritus, Swift Transportation
– Dr. Adrian Lund, President, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
- Other than Dr. Lund’s announcement of the IIHS Toughguard Award for trailer manufacturers, I’m not sure that there was a whole lot of new information shared. Same old, same old. I could hardly stand not being able to share about the need for side underride protection.
- Fortunately, afterward, I was able to speak with Lane Kidd director of The Trucking Alliance, say hello to Dr. Lund who is retiring (I found out from Senator Booker), and speak enthusiastically with Jerry Moyes who founded Swift Transportation and who, with a Swift VP, seemed very interested in the pieces of Aaron Kiefer’s side guard invention which I had brought along with me (polyester webbing & side skirt plastic).
- Lois Durso and I also had a chance to speak briefly with Senator Cory Booker (who had made important mention of the minimum liability insurance issue).
- Then, at 5:00 p.m., we were able to meet with Commerce Committee staff from Senator John Thune’s office. That seemed to go well.
- The next day, we had a 9:00 a.m. meeting with Senator Marco Rubio’s staff to enlighten them especially on the side underride problem.
- Then, we discussed what other offices we could stop in at. We had a binder full of almost 10,000 Side Guard Petition signatures. When I woke up, I thought, “To whom shall we give the signatures?” After considering several options, I thought, “They should go to Senator Thune, since he is one of the ones it is directed to and we would be on The Hill where his office is located.” But his staff had told us that we would not be able to meet with him.
- We also had some information packets which we wanted to give to Senator Richard Burr and Senator Cory Booker. We could not meet with their staff, but we dropped off the information at their offices.
- In the midst of going to and fro in a maze of Senate office buildings (Dirksen, Hart, and Russell), getting lost and making spontaneous decisions about where to go next, we passed by a meeting room where there had been a “Sunrise Breakfast” — must have been kind of a meet & greet affair. Senator Thune’s name was included on the sign. We asked staff at a table outside the door if Senator Thune was still there. They didn’t know. I said, “Could you please check.” They figured he probably had some other meeting he needed to be at.
- Then, all of a sudden, I looked up and he was walking out of the door and starting down the hall. I quickly went over to him, he introduced himself, and we shook hands. By that time, Lois was there, too. I don’t know what all we had time to tell him. It happened so fast. But Lois said to me, “Give him the book.” And his assistant took it. The book being the binder with the 10,000 signatures* which we told him we got after the Today Show broadcast on side underride for which he had been interviewed.
- Senator Thune had seen the video and we showed him the pieces of the guard and he actually appeared genuinely interested. After that short and unexpected meeting, we parted ways. Lois and I continued down the hall. We kept looking at each other and grinning! And grinning.
- Clearly, though we had tried for several weeks to get a meeting with Senator Thune (Chair of the Transportation Committee) to no avail, the task was not too hard for the Lord, who had no trouble arranging that serendipitous meeting in the Capitol halls.
- Man makes plans and the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9
- *The Petition shows less than 10,000 signatures (9,577 signatures as of 3/17/17), but I had started another side guard petition last summer (which has 9,071 signatures), so two petitions for side guards are online. Some people have actually signed both, but together the two petitions actually have more than 10,000 people calling for better underride protection. I have to get my tech people (my family) to help me do an analysis of how many signatures we actually have to date! In any case, Senator Thune is now fully aware of the support this issue is receiving.
- Before we left our country’s capital to go back to our respective homes, Lois and I plotted to take further action, which I began as soon as I got to Union Station and waited to board Amtrak. Stay tuned for exciting news about the Roya, AnnaLeah and Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act!