Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


DC Wrapup

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.





This morning we woke to ice covered roads.  Freeways everywhere were being closed because of crashes involving multiple cars and trucks.   I crept slowly all the way to work wondering why this winter has been so brutal; so many horrible commutes this year.

While driving I was listening to talk radio which was listing closed roads and crash sights.  I saw lots of cars in the ditch, but mostly just hung on to the wheel and kept moving slowly behind the car in front of me.

Thankfully I made it to work just fine, but lots of other people weren’t so lucky –  including the driver of a pickup truck that slid into and under the back of a semi.  Ironically just this week there has been national news about the rear guards of semis not being strong enough to deflect a vehicle; that they are giving way and people in cars are continuing to slide beneath the trucks.  It’s another thing we need to work on, along with side under ride deflectors.

Here’s the video about our roads and the truck crash.

While I was posting the information of today’s crash to the truck safety website I came across this story, which is even more heartbreaking because it involves two young boys who were in a car last August that was hit from behind by a trucker who fell asleep.  Their Mom was killed, both boys were seriously injured and  of the boys has brain damage. The father who was not in the car at the time of the crash is writing almost every day about how life is different now, about his new reality.  I could only read a few entries, some from the beginning last August, some from recently.

These events have steeled my resolve to keep working.   Sometimes I get mad, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed by it all.  Sometimes I’m confused about how to feel.  And sometimes I get tired and want to rest, to give up.  But these families remind me once again that we can’t rest yet.

Sorry to bring up the truck issue again, it just seems like the more I know the more I notice.

Be safe out there.


Stop heavier trucks

I don’t have much time, as I need to start my commute to work early…but I got an email last night from the Truck Safety Coalition asking for help opposing a bill.  I’ll just cut and paste it here.  If you can, contact your Senators to voice your opposition to Senate bill S-112 which would allow exemptions for trucks up to 100,000 pounds (normal trucks are limited to 80,000 pounds) on Maine and Vermont highways.

If you wonder why worrying about highways in Maine and Vermont effects YOU…well…if they get permission to drive there, they’ll work on the adjoining state, and then the next one, and then the next.  So we’re trying to stop larger trucks NOW.

They’ve had a year of a “trial” period in these two states and they are trying to make that permanent.  We’d like to see the trial end now.  Below is what I received:


January 31, 2011

UPDATE: Thank you for your efforts to keep a continuation of the Maine and Vermont one-year exemption to the federal truck weight limit out of the 2011 Appropriations Continuing Resolution.  This victory is great news, but we must continue our efforts.  Senator Collins just introduced a bill that would give Maine and Vermont permanent exemptions, S. 112.  We also expect a major push for permanent exemptions when the Continuing Resolution expires on March 4th.

TAKE ACTION NOW:  Please call or email your Senators and ask them to oppose S. 112 and any attempts to give Maine & Vermont permanent exemptions to federal truck weight limits.  If these states are given exemptions, special trucking interests in neighboring states will then seek exemptions and soon there will be 100,000 lb. trucks throughout the country.

To contact your Senators, go to and

in the top right corner, click on your state.


  • Daphne Izer, Parents Against Tired Truckers Co-Chair, recently submitted an op-ed to the Bangor Daily News which was printed on Jan. 27. Daphne makes several compelling arguments – please use them for talking points.  Also, at the end of the op-ed, there is a place to submit comments.  Supportive responses would be greatly appreciated.
  • The chances of a large truck crash resulting in death and serious injuries increase with each extra ton of weight over the 80,000 lbs. GVW limit in federal law.  Heavier trucks take longer to stop and roll over more frequently.
  • Overly heavy trucks, particularly 100,000 lbs. trucks, dramatically underpay their fair share of taxes and user fees for the repair of U.S. roads and bridges.  States and Congress are already struggling to find funds to address the backlog of road and bridge needs across the country.
  • Supporters of the exemption claim that a permanent exemption is necessary because the federal weight limit of 80,000 lbs. places Maine and Vermont at a “regional disadvantage.”  However, by securing exemptions for Maine and Vermont, the trucking industry is laying the groundwork for other states to request similar exemptions.
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) reported that 36% of Maine’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and 29% of its major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.  Similarly, 39% of Vermont’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and 40% of its major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.

Heavier Trucks Mean Bigger Safety Problems

For More Information, contact the Truck Safety Coalition, 703-294-6404

Daphne’s son, his girlfriend and two other friends were killed many years ago when a truck driver ran over the top of them as they were sitting on the side of the freeway after having car trouble.  One teenager survived.  Daphne has spent her life since then making our roads safer.  She lives in Maine.  You can see her story on video at the Truck Safety Coalition website:

I know this is rambling, but I have to go.  It’s snowing out and I have a long commute.  I’m probably staying in a hotel down near work tonight, so I won’t have access to anything.  Everyone…stay safe during this storm.  Stay off the roads if you can.  Hugs to you all.



We watched the news coming out of Tucson yesterday with horror.  That an elected official could be doing her job, making herself accessible to the people in her district and yet be in such danger is something I’d not wanted to think about.

But it needs to be thought about.

Did last years bitterly fought health care debates where ludicrous concepts were thrown about as truth fuel the gunman’s hate?  Maybe it was Arizona’s difficult  discussions about immigration or the acrimonious November elections?  Perhaps the 24/7 talking heads on television incited his rage.

Or maybe this young man is mentally ill.   Maybe he would have behaved the same whether or not our country was arguing so vehemently among itself.  Right now, so early in the investigation it’s impossible to know.

We do know this: Though U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is likely to survive this assignation attempt, survivability is different than recovery.  And even as our hearts lifted at news she was following commands after surgery the reality is that her life has been changed forever.

And perhaps ours should change as well.  Maybe we should be less naive.  Maybe America can’t be as free as we’d like.  Maybe elected officials have to maintain more space, be more protected from regular folks.  Maybe they will have to ride around in  pope-mobiles, wave from distant windows, talk to us only from our TV.

I hope not; I want to be able to talk face-to-face with decision makers.  That’s who we Americans are, why this country is different from so many other places in the world.  But still.  Would a little more defensive protection have prevented the gunman from harming Gabrielle Giffords and the other 17 people killed or injured?  Would a security detail have been enough to save the  nine year old girl,  the federal judge, or the others  who died?  How much security is enough?  Or too much?

It’s obvious we have to change.  This is going to take much thought and debate and I hope it doesn’t turn into a partisan fight.  Meanwhile the best that we can offer today is our hopes and prayers that all the survivors make full recoveries.  And send deeply sad condolences to the families of those that did not.


Six years to say goodbye

Yesterday was the 6th anniversary of Dad’s death. He was killed while driving to the airport, on the way north to visit family for Christmas.  He was killed by a sleepy truck driver who didn’t notice that traffic had stopped.  He was killed because some people put profit over safety.

I wasn’t going to blog about it.  No one wants to read a sad blog two days before Christmas.   We should be concentrating on package wrapping, grocery shopping, tree decorating.  But the reason we do all that is for family, and sometimes family has to travel to be together.  And sometimes traveling is not so safe.

This morning as I was lying in bed thinking that I had survived another anniversary I began to feel sad that I hadn’t written about Dad.  As if ignoring the anniversary in public somehow lessened the loss or his worth.  Which is, of course, not true.  And it’s also not true that I didn’t think about him all day yesterday, because of course I did.  And compounding all these thoughts was the fact that  yesterday my brother was driving to the airport and flying up to stay with us for the holiday weekend.  It was a complicated layer filled emotional day.

And the point is that though the pain recedes it never goes away, and though the fight to make our roads safer, to enforce the laws that are on the books and to pass new, even safer laws never ends, we’re all made of pretty strong stock, and we’ll keep fighting through the pain.

Next year on this anniversary I want to be able to say that we’ve made progress with the length of time a  truck driver can legally drive, that we’re closer to having on-board recorders that make it harder to cheat on the hours of service rule, that we’ve stopped bigger, heavier trucks from being allowed to roam freely across the country.

For now I’m happy that Dad’s picture, along with many others, hangs in the offices of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  And that the Truck Safety Coalition is a constant reminder to them (and sometimes a bur under their skin) of the importance and urgency of their work.  It’s not enough but it’s a beginning. I’m thinking we’ve already saved lives and Dad would be proud.

Meanwhile, all of you traveling this holiday weekend…be careful out there.



Misery is:

Getting up early because you know the roads are going to be bad.

Going outside to find your vehicle covered in ice and snow.  And the wind is howling, making the wind chill well below zero.

The normal 40 minute commute stretching into 2.5 hours as you creep  with the rest of the fools along crowded roads at an average of 6 mph.

Realizing hours later, after a short but long day of work, while walking back out to the car that the wind is still howling, it’s still freezing out.  And guess what?  The roads are no better.

Spending 1 hour to move 2 miles in a multi mile backup with no escape route available.

But on the other hand….Joy is:

Listening to music from the Nutcracker at 7:00, the exact hour your own community band concert should have been starting…because you have time to mess around with the radio in the new car.  Given you aren’t moving anyway.

Getting an enthusiastic hand wave from the young lady you let merge into traffic ahead of you.  Because really, after 45 minutes and less than a mile traversed, what does one more car matter?

Then again...misery is:

When the “holiday pops” music turns into some sort of monk chant.  You change the channel to a Grateful Dead station.  Who knew there was such a thing?  Playing music from 12/13/1980.  You’re not even a Grateful Dead fan, but this is better than the monk thing.

When you realize the young woman you let merge in front of you is texting and not paying attention.  So she’s not moving ahead when she could be.  OK.  So it’s only going to move you up a few feet.  Maybe a yard.  But after 50 minutes you want every foot of progress you can get.

Watching a guy walking on the shoulder pass you.  And seeing him many minutes later head over the hill about 1/2 mile away.  And you’re still pretty much where you’ve been for the past 50 minutes.

Joy is:

Realizing you sort of like this Grateful Dead stuff.

Misery is:

Getting past the accident that  has snarled traffic after more than an hour and 2 miles of progress and realizing the roads are still really really bad.  And deciding that 6 mph is about as fast as you’re willing to go anyway.

And there are at least 20 more miles to make it home.

And that the roads are so bad you turn off the Grateful Dead.  Because you don’t want to become one.  And you have to listen to the sound of the wheels on the snow and ice so that you can anticipate any problems.

Finding yourself behind a really slow car just before a big hill.  Who stops to turn left.  Leaving you to creep up the hill of ice with no momentum.  Left tire in the left turn lane which is snow covered helps.  But it’s still misery.

Joy is:

After almost 3 hours you see the blue lights of the trees in your own back yard.

And your husband has plowed the driveway.

And it’s stopped snowing.

And Katie is very happy to see you.

Misery is:

Knowing the roads won’t be any better tomorrow.


Random thoughts

There are all sorts of thoughts bumping around in my work and holiday distracted brain.  None of them are significant enough to write a blog entry of any substance.  So here are some random thoughts I had this week.

While walking down the 4 flights of stairs at the end of a very long day of work:   If I had my druthers I would be living on that island  Kathy talked about over on her blog.    And that walking up and down the stairs each day isn’t really about the exercise.  It’s about avoiding conversation in the elevator.  Yep.  I’m a hermit.

While working in my cube:  I overheard a woman across the aisle bitterly dissing her parents  who were driving two days to visit her, but wouldn’t provide her a specific arrival time.  She thought they were so thoughtless, that they didn’t care that she had to have things ready for them but didn’t even know when they would arrive.  I bit my lip and didn’t tell her that I’d give a lot to have my parents driving cross country to visit me.  And that it wouldn’t particularly matter exactly when they arrived.  Just that they arrived safely.  Silly woman.   Someday she’ll know, like we all know eventually, what it’s like not to have any parents at all.

While driving to work early in the dark morning:  Note to high speed driver in dark sedan who passed  five of us traveling down the  narrow,windy dirt road in the last 1/2 mile before the stop sign.  What was so important that you had to be moving that fast?  That caused you to pass each of us individually, whether we were on a hill or a curve?  To risk your life, all of our lives and the lives of some innocent going the other way?  And when we all got to the stop sign and you, at the front of the line, had to wait while a string of cars went by on the main road, all of us lined up behind you, did you recognize how little time you had made up?  Tomorrow will you risk less?

This morning, while playing “where’s Mama” while attempting to distract Katie-dog from wanting me to get up and take her out in the dark early hours of a weekend:  I flung the sheets up over my face and waited; still, hardly breathing, I waited in anticipation of Katie’s pounce.  Except she didn’t pounce right away.  Not even a little bit more than right away.  I could hardly stand it.  I was just going to move the sheet a little bit, check on what she was doing, when I realized I had less patience than an almost 4 year old Sheltie!

And finally, Katie’s thought for the week:  Sometimes if you are very short you have to lick the condensation away from the front door in order to see out properly.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Purple confusion

Katie had to go outside earlier than usual, at 5:30 a.m., this warm November morning.  After we got back inside I went back to bed, turning off the alarm clock, sure I’d be awake at 6  like always.  Instead I went on a wild purple adventure.

I was in a small town, perhaps intermingled with a college campus.  Lots of brick buildings and large trees. I went into a gift shop that was attached to a larger building.  For some reason I was attracted by a purple plaid adult size suit.  The fabric was somewhere between flannel and wool, and it was all over, head to toe, purple and gold plaid.  The top had a hood that almost covered my face.  I know that because I decided to try it on.  In the back of the store.

I took off my pants and shirt and slipped awkwardly into the purple plaid outfit.  I noticed one of the sales women keeping an eye on me and I was sure she thought I intended to shoplift the outfit.  As if I could actually walk out covered entirely in plaid and not get noticed!  I struggled to get it all on, pulled the hood over my head and decided I needed it.

So, still fully clothed in plaid I went up to the counter to pay for it.  I told the astonished saleswomen that I could use it to be the Cookie Monster, but in retrospect I’d have made a better Barney.  Anyway, I start searching in my purse for my wallet.  The purse is filled with the normal debris that accumulates in a purse.  Receipts and crumpled gum wrappers.  There was a large coin purse shaped like a elephant, pretty beat up, with someone else’s name on it.  That confused me.  How had I acquired it?  There were lots of gift cards and bonus cards from assorted stores.  Worn out tissues.  I began to pull all this out onto the store counter, searching for my wallet and my credit cards.  Even the sales lady stopped what she was doing to help me look.  No luck.  Finally I told her I’d go change out of the purple outfit, go home, find my wallet and come back.  The growing line of people waiting behind me breathed a collective sigh of relief.

I decided to change back into my own clothes in a bathroom rather than the back of the store, so I went in search of one.  Out in the hall of the larger building I found a bathroom, but it was decrepit and partially outside.  The stall door wouldn’t stay shut; you had to hold it shut while you used the toilet.  So I tried to do that, wearing my purple outfit, holding the door shut I realized the side wall of the stall was missing and I was outside near a high school.  And that I had forgotten my jeans and sweatshirt to change back into anyway.

So I left the quasi-bathroom and headed back to the store, but it wasn’t where I thought it was and now I was lost.  Evening was approaching.  I went into another store and the husband of the saleswoman there said he’d take me over to my original store.  I felt ridiculous as I was still dressed head to toe in purple plaid.  He starts walking really fast and I can’t keep up and then I trip on some bumpy ground and fall behind a school bus.  When I crawl out from behind the bus I can’t see the man anymore, so I’m back to wandering around.

I pass some people planting purple and green plants in beds around light poles.  And it’s darker and I’m wandering near a big empty high school when I finally see the man who was supposed to take me back to the store.  He’s sitting on a bench, one ankle on the other knee, arms spread across the top of the bench.  I walk toward him, finally relieved that there is someone who will help me.

As I reach him I ask myself if this is perhaps the beginning of dementia.  That I’m feeling the way someone on the verge of full blown Alzheimers might feel.  The knowing what you’re doing that turns into complete chaos.  The not understanding why or how or where.   Right from the beginning of this adventure, somewhere in the back of my mind I didn’t understand why I’d want a purple suit, or why I’d change in the back of the store, or why I couldn’t find my wallet, or why there were other people’s stuff in my purse.  Nothing made sense even before the wandering around and not recognizing anything or even where I’d been just moments before.

I woke up glad I don’t own any purple plaid.  And glad I have no aspirations to be a purple plaid cookie monster.  Or even worse, Barney.


Haiti braces for Tomas

How much can one small country endure?  Especially one that started out with nothing, only to see what little they had lost in the rubble of an earthquake in January.  Now in November a hurricane is bearing down on the tent cities that so many have lived in for far too long.  Conditions are already too difficult there for those of us here in our snug homes to fully understand.

This morning as the hurricane bears down on some of the world’s most vulnerable, keep them in your hearts.  And after, if the worst happens, perhaps find a few dollars to send to the Red Cross or other agency that you support in Haiti’s behalf.