The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) that cuts money for truck safety programs and reduces funds for infrastructure improvements, both of which are critical to improving highway safety for truck drivers and motorists.
Amendments were attached to the transportation budget that would halt truck safety studies that Congress mandated two years ago in MAP-21, the last transportation bill. Another amendment ignores a USDOT recommendation on freight policy and would force states to adopt an opposite position, one in which the industry is deeply divided.
The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (aka Trucking Alliance) urges the U.S. Senate to reject these House amendments in its transportation budget bill and to adhere to the truck safety initiatives that Congress adopted in MAP-21. Further, Congress should increase dollars for much needed truck safety programs, as well as infrastructure improvements.
The commercial transportation industry performs a vital service to the U.S. economy and the standard of living all of us enjoy. Ninety percent of trucking companies employ fewer than 10 people. Collectively, these companies employ 6 million people who make sure we have the manufactured goods, food, and medicine upon which businesses and consumers depend.
Yet, drivers of commercial trucks were involved in 330,000 highway accidents in the last reportable year; accidents in which 4,000 people were killed, and another 100,000 were injured, including 25,000 truck drivers. These numbers are tragically too high. The trucking industry must do more to ensure a safe working environment for truck drivers.
That’s why in 2011, a group of safety-minded transportation companies formed the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security – to promote legislation, regulations and technologies in order to improve corporate efficiencies, reduce liabilities, and lower the number of highway accidents involving truck drivers.
In 2012, progress was achieved when Congress adopted the MAP-21 transportation reauthorization legislation. The truck safety directives included the following:
• Require electronic logging devices in all commercial trucks to track the hours a truck driver has been behind the wheel.
• Create a national database to identify job applicants who previously tested positive on a USDOT drug and alcohol exam.
• Determine if the minimum insurance level required of trucking companies is adequate to compensate accident victims.
• Complete a field study on the efficacy of the truck drivers’ hours-of-service restart rule and its impact on driver fatigue and highway safety.
• Implement electronic technologies to ensure compliance with federal and state laws.
• Study the effect that bigger tractor-trailer length and weight limits would have on highway safety, as well as roads and bridges.
Republicans and Democratic members of Congress adopted these pro-safety trucking initiatives in a bipartisan fashion. However, some in Congress are now attempting to reverse the progress they made in 2012.
Amendments are attached to the current transportation budget bill that would delay, halt, and even contradict these important 2012 congressional safety initiatives in MAP-21:
• A proposed amendment would prohibit the Secretary of Transportation from determining if the minimum insurance level for trucking companies is sufficient to fully compensate the victims of trucking accidents, even though the level hasn’t been increased in 35 years.
• An amendment would prohibit the USDOT from pursuing the development of wireless roadside electronic truck inspections, an emerging technology to ensure that tractor-trailers are in full regulatory compliance.
• An amendment adds conditions to the study on truck driver hours-of-service restart rules that would essentially delay its completion for many years.
• Another amendment would force states to accept longer double 33’ trailers on all U.S. highways, despite a just-released USDOT report required in MAP-21 that recommends “no change” in truck size and weight laws.
• Budget cuts in the transportation budget to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration could delay its’ ability to implement the electronic logging device mandate and the national drug and alcohol database, two critical elements for lowering large truck accidents, that Congress also passed MAP-21.
The nation’s highways, bridges, and railways must be maintained to handle the demands of a growing population and economy. Congress must increase transportation budgets, not cut them, in order to build a safer and more sustainable freight transportation system.
Trucking is the only transportation mode that operates literally within a few feet of millions of Americans each day. Congress should support efforts to lower the number of accidents and injuries involving truck drivers and motorists, not adopt policies that could increase them.
The amendments described above ignore the bipartisan congressional directives in MAP-21 and also contradict USDOT’s recommendations on methods to improve truck safety. Therefore, the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security urges the U.S. Senate to reject these House amendments, as it considers USDOT appropriations.
End of Statement
The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (aka “Trucking Alliance”) is a Washington D.C. based coalition of freight transportation businesses that support safer highways, a cleaner environment and an improved economy. Policies represent the unanimous position of the Alliance Board of Directors only and are not necessarily the opinion of businesses that financially support the Trucking Alliance.