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.




Where to begin

I have so much to tell you and hardly know where to start.  I could start with the fact that an expensive hotel room that charges extra for internet access won’t get my business again.  The combination of being booked from morning to night with appointments and not having access to the internet in our room means that you didn’t get daily updates of our activities while we were in DC.

We’re home now and though my heart says I need to write this blog entry before I forget the intense emotions of the last four days, my head says I need to get to sleep in order to function at work tomorrow.

So I’ll leave you with a little hope.  We are so close to having Electronic On Board Records mandated on all commercial trucks to help us enforce the hours of service rule, and we are so close to having reduced hours of service for commercial drivers.  We have the ear of the Department of Transportation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the NTSB and many other important transportation committees  that regulate commercial vehicles.  We were heard.

I’ll tell you more later.  For now, stay safe everyone.





Santa Fe style

We spent a day in Santa Fe which in some ways reminded me of Italy; the town centered on a square, and the narrow streets lined with galleries.

And of course the churches.   St Francis of Assisi, where a statue of the first Native American Indian to become a saint stands out front….

…to the Loretto Chapel which houses the mysterious unsupported circular staircase up to the choir loft…

…to San Miguel the oldest church, whose refurbished architecture  reminded me of everything New Mexico.

We walked among the galleries and parks under the brilliant blue sky I’ve begun to expect here.  I drank in the color and the light…

…appreciating the old…

…and the new.

And when we could walk no more we drove up the mountain into the snow and watched the sun set.

We’ll be home soon, far away from the endless sun, turquoise skies, exquisite light and  colorful buildings that are New Mexico.  And winter hasn’t released Michigan.  I’m told there is snow in Sunday’s forecast.  But winter can’t get me down now.

Because I’ll have the colors and sights of New Mexico in my heart.


Cliff dwellers share their homes with us

Yesterday and today we visited the ancient homes of cliff dwellers.

Today we visited Bandelier National Monument, the home of cliff dwellers who built homes on the valley floor and up in the red cliffs along the walls of the mesas.

We had a wonderful afternoon of walking under New Mexico blue skies, imagining what life was like back in the days when these homes were built.

We were so far back into the mountains that the only sounds were our feet on the path, the wind in the trees, the call of birds and the chatter of long eared Abert squirrels.

Yesterday we had a guided tour of the Puye cliff dweller homes, built both on top of the mesa…

…and within the cliffs.

Our guide was a young man not yet 21 whose family traces back hundreds of years on the lands he showed us.

We learned about the way his people felt about the land we were standing on.  He said that the cliff dwellers left the area when their source of water dried up.

What caused the stream to dry up we asked?  He said his elders felt it was because there had been fighting among the people so God had dried up the water and forced them to leave.

Personally I’d have a hard time leaving the peace and beauty, not to mention the views from the cliffs and mesas.

I’m sure it was hard on the original inhabitants too.


More hiking

Today we spent more time at the Petroglyph Monument west of Albuquerque.

On a 2.5 mile hike along a hill covered with huge black volcanic rock were hundreds of petrogylph drawings done several hundred years ago.

Amazingly they are still there.

They are just sitting out along the hillside waiting to be discovered over and over again by tourists and locals alike.

We had a wonderful time looking for them.

And I’m sure we missed many.

Blue skies, history there on the rocks, sunshine on our faces.

Can’t beat it.