The Truck Safety Coalition is a non-profit that works with safety advocates to advance the agenda of safer highways across the country. This year we celebrated it’s 20th anniversary. It’s a wonderful organization and I wish I didn’t belong to it. Because for a person to belong to this group usually means there has been loss and suffering. Someone related to almost all members of the group has been killed or injured in a truck related crash.
Every two years the TSC hosts a conference called Sorrow to Strength where heartbroken families gather to share their sorrow and reap the strength that being together affords. On Saturday and Sunday while we listen to each others stories we learn how to tell our own, how to talk to the media, to bring attention to our issues. We learn how government works and which issues are closest to being achieved and where we should put our focused efforts. We become lobbyists extraordinaire.
Monday and Tuesday we are scheduled in meetings with our members of Congress, with transportation committee members, and with the staff of regulatory agencies. Each of us has our own schedule and they are chock full. Sometimes we’ll see other members of our group coming or going from Senate or House buildings, or eating in the cafeteria deep beneath “The Hill.” But essentially we’re on our own, telling our stories, asking support for our issues. Trying not to cry, but not feeling so bad when we don’t succeed at remaining clear-eyed. Everywhere we go we’re wearing pins with our family member’s face and we’re carrying larger pictures of them too. My photo collage had a couple pictures of Dad, and a picture of the car taken after the crash; people seem drawn to the destruction. Whatever helps the cause.
One of the issues we pushed this year was getting Electronic On Board Recorders mandated on all commercial vehicles. I was in DC 18 months ago when we met with the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, and requested that he move along a bit faster in his study of the problem of fatigued drivers who were driving longer than was legal and risking the lives of all who share the roads with the big rigs. At that point he was planning on putting out a memo to start thinking about maybe looking into EOBR’s. I was frustrated. This weekend I learned that the DOT has actually put together a proposed rule that would mandate that EOBR’s be installed on all commercial vehicles. I am elated.
At the end of a meeting with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro I gave her a hug and told her I knew she was working hard at important issues. She hugged me back and said she knew it wasn’t fast enough. We’re on the same page.
Every year that goes by another 4000 people die in truck related crashes, and another 100,000 are injured. We don’t have time for the over analysis of no brainer decisions. Every industrialized country in the world has had EOBR’s for years. Here in the states we let drivers keep track of how many hours they drive by writing it down in a paper logbook. How much analysis does it take to figure out the logbooks are fraudulent?
Meanwhile, we also have a bill being introduced by a Democratic Senator to mandate EOBRs. We’re looking for a Republican cosponsor. It’s another way to get the EOBR’s on trucks, just in case the DOT doesn’t move forward with their proposed rule. We’re also trying to get mandated EOBR’s put on a major transportation re-authorization bill. We don’t care how it happens, as long as it happens soon. We’re pushing all three processes in the hopes that one of them actually makes our goal a reality.
This is getting long and I haven’t even told you about the Hours of Service reduction that might happen soon or the increase in liability insurance we’re pushing. I haven’t told you about side under-ride guards we want installed, the SHIPA bill that freezes size and weight restrictions, or the underlying safety problem, which is the way drivers are paid. I guess all that will have to wait for another blog entry someday.
Meanwhile, if you’ve read this far, thank you. We can’t do this alone. We need everyone’s support, and if the EOBR bill makes it to a point of being voted on I’ll let you know so you can ask your Senator to support us.
And if you read or hear about truck crashes in your area, please forward any links or information to the Truck Safety Coalition at their website. Last year we contacted over 700 families to offer help. This year we expect to do even more.
We had three or four new families at the conference this year; their loss is recent, their grief is raw, uncontrollable. All we could do was hold them, let them cry and cry with them. Their stories are horrific. We have to make a difference because this can’t go on.
So stay safe everyone; call us if anyone needs us. We’ll be there. Membership is not restricted. Unfortunately.