“The longer Congress waits, the more people will die. That’s the position of a leading auto safety group calling for new regulations on tractor trailers.”
Examining Ways to Improve Vehicle and Roadway Safety – See more at: http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/examining-ways-improve-vehicle-and-roadway-safety#sthash.F4YzqjVb.dpuf
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.”
Just read this Op-Ed in today’s New York Times:
Earlier this month, I met with Congressman George Holding’s Constituent Services Representative, Doug Wegman, in Sharpsburg, North Carolina. I was the only one at the “Town Hall meeting” and was able to share the story of our truck crash and some of our concerns about truck safety. It seemed like a productive meeting.
I had emailed Congressman Holding’s office in June asking for an opportunity to meet with him while he was in recess in North Carolina. That never came about until I emailed my contact again early this week and repeated my request. I was then asked if I could meet with him in Raleigh on Friday, August 21, at 11:00 a.m.
Actually, that worked out very well (couldn’t have planned it better myself) because I was dropping our son off at the airport to go back to college in Texas that morning and then proceeded to the meeting with Holding. Doug Wegman was also there along with Holding’s District Director, Alice McCall.
I shared with Congressman Holding that I had grown up as a Republican and was quite surprised after our crash to find out that, in general, the Republican party line related to truck safety legislation consistently appeared to be pro-trucking industry and anti-safety. I am puzzled why there cannot be bipartisan solutions to these issues.
His response — a typical one — was that Republicans generally oppose government involvement and regulation. The problem I have with that is the reality which I have painfully discovered that “safety is not an accident” — it doesn’t just happen by itself. Without rules and regulations and enforcement and justice and requirements, chaos and injury and death are more likely to occur.
At least I have not seen a better alternative. Have you?
However, thankfully, I came away from the meeting feeling that it was productive — a thought echoed by another son who attended with me. We had the opportunity to raise several truck safety concerns, including driver fatigue (electronic logging devices and hours of service), underride guards, and the minimum liability insurance for truckers.
We concentrated on the minimum insurance issue — which has not been raised — for 30 years and therefore certainly has not kept up with inflation. (Is that any surprise?!) The current level, $750,000, set in in the 1980s — adjusted for inflation — would now be more like $3.2 million for the medical CPI adjusted level according to p. 11 from this document: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/Financial-Responsibility-Requirements-Report-Enclosure-FINAL-April%202014.pdf .
And the statistical value of life is $9.2 million: VSL Guidance-2013-2 DOT value of life
I had a binder put together to leave with Congressman Holding. It had numerous articles about the insurance issue, including what the opposition (the trucking industry) has been saying about premiums skyrocketing if the minimum liability is raised — from $5,000 to $20,000. I showed him what I had found out from a couple of insurance companies which indicates that it would be more likely to go up to maybe $9,000. A bit of a difference.
This kind of potentially inaccurate and misleading information has been publicly disseminated and has influenced many truckers (most vociferously by representatives of OOIDA, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which by the way happens to sell insurance to truckers, http://www.ooidatruckinsurance.com/) and legislators. In fact, I showed him the House Roll Call in which he had voted to freeze the funding for FMCSA to study this issue — even though Congress had previously authorized them to do so.
I was gratified that Holding took the time to look over the roll call and examine the 10 Republicans who had supported the need to allow FMCSA to proceed with rulemaking on this issue. He indicated that he intends to make some contacts for us, asked Doug to write down some of the names and the people both in the Senate and House with whom he is willing to connect us so that we can continue to shed light on this concern and ensure that the truth of the matter is uncovered.
I was also appreciative of the District Director’s input. When we discussed our pursuit of underride research to support the improvement of underride guards, Alice McCall mentioned that they could help with some contacts at universities, among other things.
In addition, she asked me how to pronounce AnnaLeah’s name (An-na-Le-ah) and said that it was beautiful. I told her that AnnaLeah loved her name and its uniqueness–although she had planned on publishing any written works under a pen name. I had showed them Mary’s braids and said that I was thankful that the nurse saved them and gave them to us. I had also brought along a shoulder bag which AnnaLeah had knit from a pattern in her head.
It reminded me of the many triggers which daily life brings of the loss we bear; as we drove to Raleigh I had seen a car on the side of the road. There was something sitting on top of the trunk of the car and for some reason that reminded me of our car after the crash — demolished with broken bodies inside. And it took my breath away once more to think of AnnaLeah’s life instantly snatched away. And the joy and creativity that were abruptly cut short.
Alice also mentioned that she has several daughters. And, I had noted that Congressman Holding has 3 young daughters and a son himself. It is helpful to know that people understand that this is not just a matter of corporate profit but a life and death matter which could happen to anyone at any time.
Interesting articles, letters, and documents on the minimum insurance topic:
All in all, we felt that we were heard and are hopeful that Congressman Holding is likely to make decisions and take actions in the future to positively affect road safety as a result of the time which we spent with him.
p.s. Just read an Op-Ed (by a former executive of the American Trucking Associations) in today’s New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/22/opinion/the-trucks-are-killing-us.html?emc=edit_tnt_20150821&nlid=37926955&tntemail0=y&_r=0
p.p.s. Just scanned this OOIDA brochure–found at a truck stop while we were on a road trip.
Maybe its’s just me–and my frustrated opinion–but I have had it up to here with the impact of political battles on the safety of travelers on the road.
Just one example is the HOS (Hours of Service) Rules which have been debated forever and a day. Back & forth, back & forth–until what are we left with but an unenforceable mess of regulations and little accountability for truck drivers who are too often driving fatigued, under pressure to drive too many hours to make a living.
Then there is the provision which ties the hands of DOT to increase minimum insurance levels (not done for 35 years)–though they have already issued a lengthy report saying that it is necessary.
And don’t forget the increase in truck length (Double 33s). . . do we really want to share the road with them & will the drivers be trained to handle them?
It seems to me that those who have crafted & approved the anti-safety provisions in the FY2016 THUD Appropriations Bill have either had the wool pulled over their eyes or care very little for the human lives that are ended on a daily basis–whose blood is spilled on the highways of our country.
There has got to be a better way to move this mountain! It’s a matter of life & death.