My daughter, Rebekah Karth Chojnacki, is an Instructor for a First-Year Experience class at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her students were required to do a community service project as part of the class. They chose to work on our underride prevention advocacy efforts.
First they gave us some feedback on our various social media sites. Then they divided up into three groups and did some research to determine just how many votes we would need to get in order to pass the STOP Underrides! Bill — especially those hard-to-get Republican votes.
Here are the results:
Making progress toward better underride protection is a team effort involving many, many people; and I am thankful for the students’ practical assistance. I hadn’t looked at the numbers previously and, when Rebekah shared the results of their class project, I thought, “Maybe this won’t be so hard to win after all!”
But wait. . . Republicans chair the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee and the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. Once the bill is introduced, we will definitely need these committees to take a lead and team up with us to end these preventable deaths — because they play a key role in getting the bill to the floor for a vote.
Surely they don’t want people to die, do they?
WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT? Because it is not necessarily always the collision of a passenger vehicle with a large truck which causes horrific deaths and injuries but rather the collision of the truck with the passenger occupant space in the SECOND COLLISION which occurs with truck underride. This is what we aim to end.
Becoming educated about underride was not a direction I had planned on going with my life and time. But I have gained a great deal of knowledge related to the fact that AnnaLeah’s and Mary’s deaths (and Roya’s, too, along with countless other individual loved ones) might have been prevented had adequate underride protection been on the truck, into which our sturdy Crown Vic crashed — along with the fact that many more countless, unknown individuals will die unless this country takes decisive action.
This information, along with my unresolved grief due to the frustration of knowing that years have gone by without effective protection, fuels my efforts to work collaboratively to bring about widespread and significant change. It is now my aim to equip everyone with the same information — without the accompanying unwanted grief.
It has actually been encouraging for Lois Durso and I to see the extent of interest from the trucking industry, NTSB, DOT, and Congressional leaders — including both the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee members and the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee members. And our meetings and discussions have included both Republican and Democratic Offices.
We have appreciated the degree of engagement in discussion and the enlightenment taking place as we share detailed information about the underride problem and its promising solutions. We are excited to see the needle moving as we continue to push for bipartisan collaboration to get a stand-alone bill introduced and passed in order to end this decades-old public health problem.
V. Bipartisan Discussion of Legislative Strategy
Legislative Process and Discussion Handouts: Bipartisan Discussion RAMCUP Handouts FOR RAMCUP Draft 15 with Cover (knowing that our draft will be fine-tuned to be the best legislative package to achieve our objective); See more information here: 2 Moms, Sick & Tired of Waiting, Draft Truck Underride Legislation
Non-negotiables for RAMCUP:
a. Keep it comprehensive; don’t divide it up into separate bills or amendments or rulemaking.
b. Mandate the establishment of a committee to oversee underride protection (COUP) rulemaking (include at least two victim advocates).
c. Specific deadlines for rulemaking timeline (due to The Glacial Pace of Truck Underride Improvements (along with countless other safety issues) )
d. Research $ to determine the outer limits of underride protection.
e. Strongly encourage the development of a voluntary truck safety certification program to include certification of underride protection (COUP).
COUP/COUP: Upon reflection, it is my belief that the system for arriving at regulations has been working harder to protect the industry from liability than to protect road users from harm. Furthermore, this has led to a non-transparent process for arriving at appropriate and effective safety measures.
In stark contrast, the crafting of this bill, the Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017, was based upon extensive research and the gathering of experts and interested parties over the last four years,
· first of all, at the Underride Roundtable at IIHS on May 5, 2016;
· secondly, through a follow-up meeting at IIHS on June 24, 2016, to hammer out details of the Rear Underride Guard specifications then submitted to NHTSA on August 8, 2016, and IIHS Underride Test Protocol submitted to NHTSA on December 23, 2016;
· and third, through a continued discussion among engineering experts which led to the Comprehensive Underride Consensus Petition presented to Secretary Foxx on September 23, 2016 (see attached) — upon which this Bill is based.
These discussions involved trucking industry representatives, including Ted Scott, VP of Engineering for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), and Gary Fenton, who is VP of Engineering for Stoughton Trailers and Chairman of the Engineering Committee for the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA). Participants also have included engineering experts from universities, international experts in truck underride, and two engineers who have designed side guards which have
recently been successfully tested.
In my humble opinion, the interests of this country would best be served if this group would be formally recognized and commissioned to work with NHTSA and to develop the specifications for the final comprehensive underride protection rule. Why re-invent the wheel? Why delay the process any longer than necessary? Wasted time translates into more unnecessary death and life-long grief. AND
The COUP truck safety certification program (modeled after the Transport for London FORS) could also be integrated into the comprehensive underride protection vision/scenario/strategy/bill:
COUP (Certification Of Underride Protection). In order to get fully certified, a trucking company would have to get an award in each aspect of underride protection, including:
1. Rear (Already introduced by the IIHS with their recent presentation of a ToughGuard award to five trailer manufacturers)
4. Maintenance of underride devices (annual inspection and training in how to do pre-trip inspections of the devices)
5. Training for drivers in what to do and not do in terms of parking and U-turns
6. Other (whatever I am forgetting right now)
This would be required for ALL trucks, including Single Unit Trucks (Straight, Box).
I plan to add this aspect to the drafted bill, along with a mandate for establishment of a Committee of Experts to Oversee This.
FORS Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme: It is my recommendation that this comprehensive underride protection mandate work hand in hand with a truck safety certification program and I am taking steps to help the ball get rolling on this.