(This was written in January 2012. It was sitting in my draft folder, never posted, probably because I was afraid of offending someone. Now, nine years later, the same issues are still being studied by the DOT. Other than mandating unboard recorders nothing has been accomplished there.)
Warning – this is probably not going to be politically correct. And I remind myself that what’s put out on the internet stays on the internet. Good or bad. But I’m working on truck safety stuff again, which makes me relive some of the initial moments and days after Dad’s crash. And some things just need to be said. Out loud. Emphatically.
I’m heading to Washington again, for more meetings with the DOT; Secretary LaHood, FMSCA Administrator Anne Ferro and then members of Congress, to talk about things that can be done to improve safety. Sometimes it all feels pointlessly repetitive, like we’re just wasting time, ours and theirs.
But then I remember.
I remember getting the call at work. I remember signing papers to have Dad cremated and faxing them to the funeral home from a retail UPS store the night before Christmas Eve. I remember suffering through the holiday cheer of the employees as I waited for my confirmation while trying not to cry. I remember sitting in my brother’s Alabama living room the night of Christmas Eve listening to the county coroner explain what happened. I remember not understanding.
And this is what I can tell you now that I know more, understand more.
I know that though Dad was the kind of guy that would fix things and make them better, dead is forever and dead can’t be fixed. And as much as I want to I can never make my family whole. I told my sister, a couple of years into this journey, that if we could save one life through our efforts with the Truck Safety Coalition we’d be even. She said “No we won’t.” And she’s right. We will never be even, not ever again.
So we can’t fix the fact that Dad is dead. But we can fix fatigued driving. And though common sense says that the easiest way to fix fatigued driving is to lower the number of hours a person can consecutively drive, well, maybe I’m just a naive civilian.
I received an emailed response from Administrator Ferro to my own emotional email expressing my displeasure with the new Hours of Service rule. She says, and rightly so, that reducing truck crashes will take a complicated combination of rules, a push toward safety from many fronts – and that reducing the number of allowed hours would continue to be studied. She assures me a reduction in consecutive hours of driving could still be on the table. OK. So let’s study this for another year or more. Apparently the people that will be killed by fatigued drivers during this period of study are expendable…collateral damage if you will.
Or maybe they’re just the cost of doing business. After all, the trucking industry is the backbone of our economy, don’t you know. So what’s good for the ATA (American Trucking Association) is good for all of us. Right? Well maybe good for everyone except those of us who get calls in the middle of the day, those of us signing our family member away to a funeral home, those of us left with a hole that can never be filled. Those of us angry in our grief.
I’m not apologizing for this rant. It’s your choice to read or not read. Comment or not. It wasn’t written for you. It was written for me. Because I have to go back to Washington and talk to these people again about common sense safety issues. And I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to explain simple concepts to people that are in power and are supposed to be experts in their fields. I shouldn’t have to exploit Dad’s death to get something done. I shouldn’t have to relive the whole thing over and over and over so that they can justify ‘studying’ things some more.
Give it up people. The time for studying and discussion is over. We need some action. People are dying.
I don’t know what more I can say.