Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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What’s the difference?

You all know my dad was killed in a preventable truck crash December 23, 2004, and that ever since then I’ve been a volunteer for the Truck Safety Coalition. Our mission is to provide compassionate support to victims and their families, and to educate people and policymakers about changes that should be implemented to make our roads safer for everyone.

And, you all know that change is slow and hard.

Many of you have expressed frustration in support of me and our organization’s effort, and here’s an easy way that you can help.

The Senate is taking up S. 2016, the Surface Transportation Investment Act (you have heard it referred to as the Infrastructure Bill) this week. They’ll probably debate into next week. Inside that bill is a weak attempt at getting automatic emergency braking systems (AEB) on trucks.

Due to pressure from the trucking industry, the bill only calls for this lifesaving technology to be mandated on new Class 7 and 8 trucks. Those are the biggest trucks out there, and yes it will be very good to have mandated AEB on the new trucks that size. But what about all the medium and small commercial trucks running around in our neighborhoods?

Last year there was a bill that mandated AEB on all vehicles. Doesn’t that make more sense? Car manufacturers have agreed to have AEB on all their new vehicles in the next few years. Truck cab manufacturers already offer it, but it’s not mandated and companies, looking to save some money, often order new cabs without it.

In case you’re interested, the cost of adding AEB to a new truck will run about $270 to $290. For perspective, the cost of a new Class 6 truck can be $90,000 or more. Seems a small price to pay for safety, don’t you think?

Based on new truck sales data there are about 500,000 new Class 3-6 trucks sold every year. New sales of these medium and small trucks has increased by 16% in the past 5 years alone. And many thousands of these trucks are running through our neighborhoods daily, delivering all the stuff we buy online these days.

Kids playing, people walking or biking, or just driving home through their neighborhoods are exposed to all the delivery trucks, all days of the week, early in the morning and late into the evening. Why would we not want these trucks equipped with available and inexpensive safety technology?

One last statistic. Small and medium trucks are responsible for 27% of all fatalities in commercial truck crashes. In 2019 there were almost 5,000 people killed in truck related crashes. So approximately 1350 people were killed in crashes with small and medium trucks. I don’t know how many of those were crashes, like my dad’s, where the victims were waiting in traffic and were struck from behind. But even if it’s only a few, are those lives not as valuable as the lives lost to crashes with huge trucks?

It should be a simple decision to mandate Automatic Emergency Braking on all vehicles, all cars, all trucks, no matter the size. That way, no matter the reason for the inattention of a vehicle driver, be it a medical event, distraction, or sleepiness, the vehicle can sense when something is up ahead and slow or stop before the crash happens.

If you were sitting in that car, stuck in traffic with nowhere to go, while another vehicle, car or truck, was bearing down on you, wouldn’t you be hoping they had AEB? I think about it all the time, maybe you will too, now that you’re heard about an easy solution.

So here’s what you can do. Call or email your two Senators and tell them that you want Senate Bill S. 2016 to require the DOT (Department of Transportation) to mandate Automatic Emergency Braking systems on all vehicles, not just Class 7 and 8 trucks. Tell them every life that can be saved should be saved, regardless of the size of the vehicles involved.

You can find the phone number and/or the websites of your Senators by going to this link. You put in your state and it will bring up your two Senators. You can click on them and go directly to their email contact form. Their phone numbers are there too, so if you’d rather call, you can. Just tell the person that answers the phone what your concern is. Don’t be nervous. It’s their job to listen to you.

We don’t know if we will be able to get all vehicles into this bill. But for darn sure it won’t happen if we don’t try.

Your voice is important, and I’m grateful, as always, for your support. Next time you see that delivery van zipping around your neighborhood wonder, like I do, if it has Automatic Emergency Braking. And look forward to the day, sometime in the future, when you won’t have to wonder about that anymore.

Thanks, dad, for being the inspiration for my work. You never gave up. We won’t either.