I was reading an editorial this morning before heading to work. It was talking about fatigued truck drivers and how the Collins amendment to the Senate Appropriations bill wanted to withdraw part of the new Hours of Service Rule, and how safety groups were opposing any such measure. There was a place for comments below the editorial, and one of those comments was from a truck driver who was upset about being regulated. He said he was a good driver, had driven for years, never had an accident and he didn’t think he should have to follow rules, or be tested for sleep apnea, or told when or how long he could drive. His comment was long and angry.
I thought about that comment as I headed off to work, driving my daily 40 minute commute in rush hour, truck infused traffic. At first I could see his point about not wanting to be told how to do his job; I don’t like it when I’m micromanaged myself. But then I got to thinking about the bigger picture. An industry that asks it’s drivers to work 70 or more hours in a workweek, an industry that allows it’s employees to drive up to 11 hours each day with only a 30 minute break, an industry that pays by the mile causing drivers to want to drive further and faster to make a decent living, that’s an industry that pushes employees beyond what’s safe in order to make a bigger profit. That’s an industry that will never self regulate and will always need rules and, yes, even micromanaging.
Four thousand people die in crashes with semi trucks each year. Another 100,000 are injured. There are debates about what percentage of these crashes are caused by the commercial vehicle. I’ve heard anywhere from 7% to 18%. Let’s say it’s only 7%. That would mean that about 280 people a year are killed by trucker error. And 7,000 people are injured. How many people are on a typical airliner? Three hundred? So if an airliner fell from the sky every year do you think it would be ignored? If 7000 people were injured while flying would we say that was just the cost of doing business? That sounds ludicrous doesn’t it. But that’s what’s happening in the trucking industry and we ignore it until it happens to our family.
As I’m thinking about this I’m stopped in traffic on the freeway, keeping one eye on the rear view mirror, like I’m sure my Dad did when he was stopped in traffic ten years ago, and I’m getting madder and madder about the whole thing. Our safety group has an amazing opportunity this week to gain attention for our issues, but it’s at the cost of a person’s life, people’s injuries. We need more people to understand what is happening and to join our cause. We need to make a bigger noise. And here’s what I’m thinking. You don’t have to wait until someone you love is killed or injured in a crash with a semi to join our group. Look around your dinner table tonight. Who there would you be willing to sacrifice in the name of commerce, the economy, trade, profits? No one. So don’t wait until you are forced to join the unhappy club of survivors after tragedy strikes. How about joining the cause now?
We’ll need you soon to call your Senator and/or House Representative and voice opposition to amendments that are being attached to large bills. The House just passed an amendment that will prohibit the DOT from raising the required minimum level of liability insurance, which stands today at $750,000, the same as when it was originally enacted decades ago. That amendment came out of the blue and was pushed through by people influenced by the American Trucking Association which says that making truck companies carry more insurance is unfair to independent truckers. What’s unfair is that the families of people injured in truck crashes often have to bear the brunt of the medical expenses because there’s not enough insurance to cover all the expenses. And earlier this week a Senate subcommittee approved the Collins amendment that would withdraw part of the Hours of Service Rule that calls for specific rest periods after a driver works 70 hours. That amendment will come up before the full Senate next week.
We need to educate our elected officials. The ATA is already there, talking in their ears, helping with their campaign finances. We’re just families without big budgets. All we have are voices, yours and ours, united in protest. We need to get angry. And then we need to get loud. Congress doesn’t do anything without an outpouring of public concern. An outpouring. So join the fight. Let’s get angry and then lets get moving. One person lost in a preventable crash it too much. We’re way beyond that and it’s got to stop.
How many of you remember the story of Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss? It took a lot of Whos in Whoville to be heard, to save their world. It’s the same here today. All of us together are stronger than any one of us protesting. Check out a few editorials about the current issues, and decide for yourself. Can you help our cause? Because it’s not really our cause….it’s yours as well.
Some people might call me the crazy truck lady. That’s OK – I’ve been called worse. And you could do a lot worse than spending a little time fighting to make our roads safer.
Thanks to all of your for your support. You are all wonderful.
Happy Fathers Day Dad.