It all started when my dad was killed by a tired semi-truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel and didn’t see the traffic stopped ahead of him early in the morning of December 23, 2004.
Since them members of my family have been traveling to Washington DC regularly to tell our story and lobby for safety on our nation’s roads. This past week my husband and I were there again, talking to the staff of House Representatives and Senators, as well as people at the DOT, about the bigger, heavier, longer trucks that are once again being proposed by some in the trucking industry.
Back in 2015 double 33 foot trailers were proposed by the trucking industry, they say because of a driver shortage. What they didn’t say is that adding 5 feet on each of two trailers, hauled in tandem, made the entire truck 83 feet, 8 inches long. That’s similar to an 8 story building. Try passing that on a busy freeway.
They also don’t tell you that it will take longer to stop, that the back trailer doesn’t track correctly going around corners and that they’re harder to drive, requiring a special endorsement on a driver’s commercial license.
There’s already a shortage of drivers, finding experienced drivers to haul double 33 foot trailers isn’t going to be easy.
Aside from the safety issues, many companies ship their goods ‘intermodal’ meaning they move over land on rails as well as highways, and across the ocean on ships. The 33 foot trailers won’t fit on rail cars as they are configured now, and container ships may have to change the way the trailers are stacked as well. Some people fear that smaller transport companies will be forced out of business as shippers and brokers move to the more competitive larger trailers to ship their goods, regardless of the level of safety attributed to these trailers.
There’s an appropriations bill in the House of Representatives right now. It’s the kind of bill that ‘must pass’ because it funds most of the Federally mandated programs across the country. Some members of Congress have added amendments to the bill that we consider anti truck safety. Allowing for a study of the double 33 foot trailers is one of these amendments.
You might think that we shouldn’t be afraid of studying something, and normally I’d agree. But there isn’t much data out there on double 33s, they are running on some roads of certain states, but not many. We’re concerned that the trucking industry will fund studies of their own, and of course those will be favorable.
Right now the amendment is still in the appropriations bill. An amendment offered by another Representative to strip it from the bill failed by a few votes. So we have work to do.
And this is just one issue. There are so many more that I want to tell you about. We worked all week on the Hill, talking about speed limiters, hours of service, underride crashes and the bill sitting in Congress right now, Stop Underride, that needs to move out of committee.
We walked between appointments, from the House side to the Senate side of the Hill and back again, in the hot, humid air of summer in DC. It was hard. But getting the call about Dad was harder and I reminded myself how important this all is.
I know truck safety is not everyone’s thing. And I know some of you will have differing opinions on how to solve the problem of truck crashes on our highways. I have so much more to tell you, and to show you, about our trip to DC last week. But this is already too long, too boring, and just a little stressful.
So I put a few photos in for relief — just in case you’d rather just look at cool stuff. I’m OK with that too.
I’ll tell you more about our work in another post. Stay tuned.
May 28, 2018 at 8:45 pm
Truck safety should be everyone’s thing, Dawn. We all share the roads. This is scary stuff. Thanks for being there.
May 30, 2018 at 6:27 pm
Thank you Lois. It’s such a complicated issue that sometimes it’s easier to just not think about it. That’s how I feel about most politics. But that’s also the way the trucking industry got to be the way they are, most people just didn’t want to think about it.
May 28, 2018 at 9:29 pm
Hard work you are doing for everyone’s safety on the road. Thank you.
And thanks for the beautiful photos.
May 30, 2018 at 6:28 pm
Thank you Martha. Yes, we’re working to make the roads safer for everyone…including truck drivers.
May 29, 2018 at 4:36 am
Not too long, not too boring, exceptionally important! Can’t tell you how many trucks I’ve worked on and, of course, how many truck drivers I’ve talked with over the years who want these changes as well. I know you know, but please know that others are right there with you. I witnessed an underride happen oh probably 25 years ago. Actually it was an override, I guess. Again, truck driver had fallen asleep on the freeway, I was right behind him, the semi truck/trailer so very neatly and apparently purposefully took the exit, but it was obvious pretty quickly that the truck was not slowing down. There was a car at the stop sign in front of the truck … ‘nuf said. I had passed the exit before I realized what was happening, but I pulled over and then walked/ran up to the top of the exit. That truck driver, great big burly guy, couldn’t stop crying and screaming his heart out. There is technology that will monitor when a driver is falling asleep and automatically stop the truck, but it doesn’t always work, and it isn’t required by law (that I know of) anywhere in the USA, and it isn’t being installed by choice in all trucks. Why the heck not, I don’t understand. The cost of that technology is so cheap compared to the value of a life, not to mention the lives of a family, AND the life of the truck driver and his/her family. That technology (and better stuff yet), along with drivers’ hours/rest, size/weight of trucks/trailers, and the other issues you write about, are so incredibly important. Stay the course, Dawn. Thank you.
May 30, 2018 at 6:30 pm
Thank you Ann. The underride bill currently in committee has a portion to study front override. Europe has guards, but different truck cab configuration than the US, so not exactly apples and apples. We have one couple who volunteer with us, they are a truck driving team. They were hit from behind by another semi and pushed up over the top of the car in front of them. They witnessed the death of those people and are still and always will be traumatized.
May 29, 2018 at 9:58 am
I’m glad you got to have a bit of fun on your working trip — love the pandas! But what you’re doing is important. Not everyone can explain truck safety in terms the average person can understand and appreciate. Still, it’s hard to fathom a driver shortage, when it seems like our roadways are way overcrowded with huge trucks right now!
May 30, 2018 at 6:32 pm
I think the driver shortage is seen in the amount of goods that do not get shipped ‘on time’ because there are not drivers to move them. As people buy more and more online more is shipped, and people expect it to be a same day or as close to instant as possible delivery too. This adds pressure to an already overloaded system, causing drivers to drive faster and further to make more profits.
May 30, 2018 at 6:47 am
Not too long or boring at all. These are important issues. I enjoyed the photos, too.
I love that a torpedo factory has been turned into an artists loft. We should turn all our weapons into art. 🙂
May 30, 2018 at 6:38 pm
What a good idea. Turn our weapons into art…
May 30, 2018 at 10:26 am
Regarding the Driver shortage — Usually when supply goes down, and demand goes up, the cost goes up. Trucking companies are going to have to take care of their drivers better.
Help me out Dawn, but didn’t Truck Safety find out that many CDL drivers think the double 33’s are dangerous and don’t want to drive them? Or was that the triple trailers? Both seem bad to me.
May 30, 2018 at 6:36 pm
Truck companies have notoriously not taken care of their drivers, though now there are signing bonuses and I’m sure higher rates per mile. Still, as long as they’re paid by the mile we’ll have the problem of drivers trying to cheat either by speeding or driving more hours. As the ELD (electronic logging devices) go into effect they can’t cheat as easily by going longer hours, so they are now forced to speed to make more money. We tried to get speed governors mandated at the same time as the ELDs but were unsuccessful. We are now afraid of speeding trucks.
Yes, in 2015 when we were fighting double 33s the last time there were drivers who said they wouldn’t want to drive them.
May 31, 2018 at 10:57 am
Truck safety concerns everyone who’s on the road, we all share the highways. Thank you for being there to represent, and glad you got out to take some photos. I’m sure that provided a little mental relief during and intense week. 🙂
June 12, 2018 at 11:01 am
You’re right, taking photos always releases the stress. Some trips to DC there is no time to do anything but meetings, but this time we stayed an extra day.
June 12, 2018 at 7:30 am
When I haul horses, my rig can weigh up to 24,000 lbs. I’m a super cautious driver and it makes me shudder to think what my weight could do if we get into an accident with all these plastic cars on the road these days. What they’re proposing to put on the roads are freight trains. Do we really want ill trained, over worked drivers careening past us at 80 mph with 80,000 lbs in cargo? Current cargo capacity is 80,000, but the loads are usually cubed out before they’re maxed out on the weigh. Longer loads would allow every haul to reach its limit. I’d like to see those doubles on some of the hilliest stretches of I-81.
June 12, 2018 at 11:02 am
Thank you. You are exactly right in that they cube out before they weigh out. Which is why they are trying to raise the federal weight limit to 95K, or higher. And why they want longer trailers. And why they want double 33s. All of which will mean more energy expended in a crash, more people injured and killed, including drivers, who on the whole don’t want any of this.