Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


This is how you can help

I’ll try to make this short because I know not everyone is into the whole truck safety thing.  But some of you have wondered how you can help move safety issues along.  Here’s an easy way.  There is now a House and a Senate version of the SHIPA bill.  SHIPA stands for Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act.  It seeks to freeze the size and weight of commercial trucks where they are now as they travel on the national highway system.  Size and weight are already frozen on the interstate system, but larger trucks are allowed on many highways.  SHIPA would eliminate that loophole.

You can go to your Senator’s and Representative’s websites and ask them to cosponsor these bills.  The more bi-partisan support we can get the better the chance that we can get the bill to pass.   The Senate version of the bill is S. 876,  and the House version is H. R. 1574.

The House version already has over 30 cosponsors so your person might have already signed on.  Here’s how you can tell.  Go to this site.  Click the bill # option under the search summary.  Then type in H.R. 1574. (you can also type hr 1574)  That will take you to a spot where you can click on “cosponsors” and see if your Representative has already signed on.  If not, email them and ask them to cosponsor.

The Senate version doesn’t have any cosponsors yet.  It was just introduced at the beginning of May, by a Democratic Senator.  It would be great to get more Senators to cosponsor.

If you’ve never written to a Member of Congress before, don’t be intimidated.  You are important and they want to hear from you.  You can find their websites by just googling their name, or you can go to this site to find out who your Representative is and this site to find out who your Senators are.

Each one has a comment section on their individual websites.  You have to fill out your name and address so they know you are actually one of their own, then there’s a big box where you can type.  We don’t want all the messages to sound canned, so just ask them to cosponsor either H.R. 1574 (if they are a House of Representative Member) or S. 876 (if they are a Senator).  Tell them that bigger, heavier trucks are more dangerous, will kill more people and cause more damage to our bridges and roads.  Tell them you want their support to make our roads safer.

That’s all you have to do…ask them to help us make the roads safer.  Try it, it’s easy and it will empower you.

And the victims and their families will thank you.


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.





Heading to DC

I’m on my way to DC this weekend.  It’s our semi-annual Truck Safety Coalition Sorrow to Strength conference.  Seems like we were just there, but it’s been two years.  Every time we go to this conference we say that we’re going to go a day early, stay a day late, and then we never have the time.  This year we’re flying out in the morning and arriving about an hour before the conference starts.  We’ll be in meetings over the weekend, then in appointments on Monday and Tuesday, talking to anyone and everyone that will listen.

I’ll tell you more about it later.  I’m a bit worried that with all the hoopla going on in Washington our story just isn’t going to get the attention we need.  But I feel that way every year. I guess it’s up to us to make enough noise to get noticed.

I should take lessons from Katie; she’s got that down pat.




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.


Purple memories

Today is the 2 year anniversary of the death of a young woman, killed when a tire flew off of a truck and smashed through the windshield of her car.  She was driving on the beltway near Washington DC, on her way to a doctor’s appointment because she was pregnant with her first child.  She and her unborn child were killed instantly.

Channing’s mother Tracy has become a friend of mine; she’s someone I never would have met if it weren’t for our common tragedy.  A couple of days ago Tracy emailed to remind us all of the anniversary coming up and to ask us to wear purple, Channings favorite color, in her honor today.

All day long Channing has been on my mind.  And as the TV and radio celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s inaugural it occurred to me that two years ago was President Obama’s inaugural.  And that Channing was driving in Washington DC on that historic day.  That she died on that historic day.  Somehow that made the loss worse, though I don’t know why.  To die on a day of such excitement and expectation seems so wrong.  Of course it all seems so wrong.

All day long today I noticed other people wearing purple.  People who didn’t know Channing’s story, people that don’t even know my story.  And each time I caught a glimpse of purple I thought of her, and the waste of potential that is her loss.

Tonight I’ll be emailing Channing’s mom, offering her my condolences, and knowing it isn’t enough.  Knowing that nothing will ever  be enough.

Here’s to Channing’s family today.  May they be comforted that we haven’t forgotten her, and that her spirit lives with us all.


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.


Sometimes you should look a gift horse in the mouth

Some of you might be wondering what’s happened to the Senate Bill mandating Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBRs) for commercial trucks.  You remember — the bill I was so excited about when it was introduced.  (Click on the word excited to read my Sept 29 blog.)

Back then I told you that finally someone in the Senate was listening and was brave enough to buck the American Trucking Association; a group dead set against any installation of the monitoring device.  I was excited by the fact that a bill was being introduced and finally we might have a chance to make a big change that would save lives.

But even during my initial euphoria there hovered in the back of my mind the feeling that it was odd the two Senators bringing this to the floor were not people our group had worked with over the years, not Senators known to be active safety advocates.  Still, it was something of a gift, this bill  – and I was elated.   It didn’t matter, I thought, who introduces the bill if it resulted in EOBRs on trucks.

Turns out it DOES matter who introduces the bill.  Turns out you have to look at all things political carefully.  Turns out I was naive.

Because guess what?  Tucked into the middle of this bill was material that would make it illegal to use any information accumulated by the EOBR in any civil case a family might file against a truck company.   That would be like saying you can’t use the information gathered by the black boxes on airplanes to sue an airline after a crash, that you wouldn’t be able to use information from the black boxes on cars to sue an insurance carrier after someone hits you.  Turns out that the American Trucking Association knows that EOBRs are inevitable and they are trying to get their version of a bill passed before anyone notices that they’re not actually becoming more safety conscious.  That in fact they’re trying to cover themselves while looking like they’re concerned for the safety of people on the roads.

I am so frustrated.  And angry and sad and mystified.  Powerful organizations like the ATA are just so hard to fight when you’re just a little nonprofit.  They’ve got money and they aren’t afraid to use it.  But they didn’t count on this little nonprofit actually having someone (not me!) read the proposed bill.

And so the fight is on.  Though right now it’s more like a waiting game then a fight.  And every day we wait another 14 or so people die in crashes with commercial trucks.  How many more does it take before we really get noticed?

I’ll keep you posted.


Disclaimer: This one's about trucks. And hope

Do you remember hearing about a horrific crash out in Oklahoma a year ago June?  Ten people were killed when a semi driver didn’t notice that traffic had stopped.  I wrote about it then in a blog called “It’s not all about Michael” because the news that day was all about Michael Jackson’s death.  I remember being upset that one celebrity death was overshadowing the deaths of so many innocents.

Well, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) has made a determination about the cause of that crash.  Bet you can guess.  Here’s a bit of their findings:

“The National Transportation Safety Board today determined

that the June 2009 fatal multi vehicle collision involving a

2008 Volvo truck-tractor semitrailer and a traffic queue

near Miami, Oklahoma, was caused by the truck driver’s

fatigue stemming from his acute sleep loss, circadian

disruption associated with his shift work schedule, and mild

sleep apnea. The 76-year-old driver failed to react to

slowing and stopped traffic ahead by applying brakes or

performing any evasive maneuvers to avoid colliding with the

traffic queue.”

“Ten passenger vehicle occupants died, 5 received minor-to-

serious injuries, and the driver of the truck combination

unit was seriously injured.”

I’ll spare you the description of how these people died.  Whatever we imagine is probably not as bad as it actually was.  I was disheartened to read the report this morning that confirmed my suspicion that this crash was almost exactly like the one that killed my dad.  It just seems as though the death continues and no one takes notice.

I was going to write this blog entry about my outrage over an issue that I feel is at the center of the fatigued driving problem – the lack of good and honest record keeping on the number of hours a driver drives – which could be solved with the mandate of Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBRs.).  EOBRs would keep the drivers, and their management honest, would allow drivers to rest when they should, and would monitor the bad drivers and companies in order to get them off our roads faster.  I was going to write about how the NTSB has been advising that EOBRs be mandated on all commercial trucks for almost thirty years but no one was listening.  I was going to write with passion about the thousands of people that die every year, the hundreds of thousands that are injured yearly and how EOBRs would be a relatively inexpensive way to lower those numbers.

I was all fired up.

And I came home to an email from the Executive Director of Truck Safety Coalition that told me two Senators introduced today a bill on the Senate floor to mandate EOBRs on all commercial trucks.  Really.  I had to read it twice to believe it.  And I’m having trouble breathing right now I’m so excited.

We don’t have a bill number yet.  But when we do, and hopefully we’ll have it soon, I’m going to find out the best way for us to make it clear to our Senators that we want them to support this bill.  If any of you want the text from Senator Pryor’s (D-AR) let me know and I’ll forward the email.  The other sponsor is Senator Alexander (R-TN).  I’m excited by everything about this; that it’s in the Senate, not the House, that it’s bipartisan, that someone gets it and is willing to do something.

I know that time is short with this legislative session.  I know it could die on the Senate floor.  I know we’re still a long way from making this law.  And I know that every day we wait 13 or 14 people will die.

Let’s not wait anymore.  Let’s get this bill passed.  Truck companies are behind it.  The NTSB is behind it.  Safety groups are behind it.   There’s no reason we can’t get this bill passed into law.  It’s worth the effort.  Because each of us is worth the effort.

Safety is  not partisan, not religious, not sexist, not elitist.  Safety just is.

Let’s not waste this opportunity.  Dad’s watching.