Washington D.C. – The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, commonly known as the Trucking Alliance, is once again urging U.S. Congressional leaders to take new action in order to “reduce large truck crash fatalities and injuries.”
The safety group, comprised of some of the trucking industry’s largest and most powerful carriers, submitted comments for the record today to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Sub-Committee on Highways and Transit at a hearing entitled “Under Pressure: The State of Trucking in America”
Pointing to the recent rise in the number of fatalities involving large truck crashes (4,761 people in 2017, including more than 600 truck drivers), Steve Williams, Chairman and CEO of Maverick USA in Little Rock, Arkansas, and president co-founder of the Trucking Alliance said the trucking industry simply “has too many accidents.”
“More truck drivers lost their lives in 2017 than in any year in the previous 10 years,” Williams lamented. “We must aggressively address these tragic figures.”
Williams believes the adoption of more “progressive safety reforms” will aid in reducing crashes.
“Support progressive safety reforms that make sense for our country and citizens first, our industry second, and our companies third,” Williams urged lawmakers.
Williams said the Trucking Alliance is determined “to fully eliminate all highway accident fatalities within 30 years.”
To accomplish this goal, Williams implored leaders to consider the following safety priorities.
1. “NO INDUSTRY SEGMENT SHOULD BE EXEMPT FROM INSTALLING ELECTRONIC LOGGING DEVICES (ELDS)”
The Trucking Alliance is asking lawmakers to reject recently introduced legislation that would provide relief from the ELD mandate to certain segments of the trucking industry (H.R. 1673 and H.R. 1698), as well as carriers with 10 trucks or fewer (H.R. 1697).
“ELDs should be required in all large commercial trucks, regardless of how many trucks are owned, the commodity being hauled, length of trip, or whether the truck driver operates in interstate or intrastate commerce,” the statement said.
Arguing these new legislative efforts would endanger public safety because “paper logbooks are easily falsified,” the group said thousands of truck drivers cannot be allowed “to operate ‘off the grid’ and without a reliable way to verify whether they are in compliance with on-duty regulations.”
2. “THOUSANDS OF COMMERCIAL TRUCK DRIVERS ARE ILLICIT DRUG USERS”
The safety group is once again arguing for the adoption of hair follicle testing to be required by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) in the pre-employment screening of commercial driver applicants.
“Drug use in the trucking industry is a public safety crisis,” the group said.
According to a recent survey conducted among its members, the safety group said of the more than 150,000 applicants tested by both urinalysis and a hair follicle analysis, the “urinalysis missed 9 out of 10 actual illicit drug users.”
The survey noted that “almost all” of the applicants currently held a CDL at the time of their testing.
The group estimates that more than 300,000 truck drivers should be “purged” from the industry due to drug use.
“These illicit drug users must be identified and taken out of commercial trucks and off the nation’s highways,” the group urged.
The Trucking Alliance said the industry has “no greater safety issue than to aggressively address illegal drug use among commercial truck drivers.”
3. “TRUCK DRIVERS SHOULD BE 21 YEARS OR OLDER TO OPERATE COMMERCIAL TRUCKS IN INTERSTATE COMMERCE”
The group is also imploring lawmakers to reject the new push to lower the interstate driving age for commercial truck drivers from 21 to 18.
Newly re-introduced legislation known as the DRIVE Safe Act is supported by industry groups like the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), while opposed by groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).
“The nation’s public highways should not be used as a proving ground to determine if teenagers can operate Class 8 tractor-trailer combinations safely,” the Trucking Alliance said.
Citing a lack of data on the issue, the group argued that operating a big rig cross-country requires “elevated skills, considerable experience, maturity and self-discipline.”
Not only would putting 18-year-olds behind-the-wheel of big rigs operating across the U.S. be a safety concern, the group argues it would also be a financial one for many carriers.
“The industry’s property and liability insurance rates, for incurring the additional risk of teenage truck drivers in interstate commerce, would assuredly go up,” the statement said.
4. “LARGE TRUCKS SHOULD ADHERE TO A REASONABLE MAXIMUM SPEED OF 65-MPH”
The Trucking Alliance wants big rigs governed at 65 mph.
The group points, in part, to an estimation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that setting a truck speed limiter at 65 mph, “could save as many as 214 lives and prevent approximately 4,500 injuries from large truck crashes each year.”
In the statement, the group contends, “Slowing the top speed of tractor trailers will greatly reduce the number of fatalities and the severity of injuries from large truck crashes.”
Obviously unhappy with the Trump Administration’s actions to thwart the mandating of speed limiters, the Trucking Alliance wants action now.
“Congress should support legislation that would direct the Secretary of Transportation to issue a final rule requiring truck speed limiting devices and for those commercial vehicles currently equipped with the technology to engage the devices,” the group said.
5. “COLLISION MITIGATION SYSTEMS SHOULD BE REQUIRED ON NEW COMMERCIAL TRUCKS”
The safety group argued that collision mitigation systems can and do help to prevent truck crashes.
Technologies such as lane departure warning systems, video-based onboard safety monitoring, automatic emergency braking systems, and air disc brakes should all be deployed, according to members of the Trucking Alliance.
The group said its member carriers are committed to continuing to test these technologies and more, but urged Congress to “require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to set a minimum performance standard and issue a final rule requiring that commercial motor vehicles are equipped with automatic emergency braking systems, as standard equipment.”