Statement of Cathy Chase on Fatigued Truck Driver Crash

  • May 7, 2016
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                           

Contact: Allison Kennedy, 360-281-7033

May 6, 2016


 Next Week the U.S. Senate may Debate Transportation Spending Bill that Includes “Tired Trucker” Provision

 Thursday morning a horrific crash occurred on I-24 in Nashville, Tennessee caused by a truck driver behind the wheel of a FedEx double trailer truck who was cited by police for fatigued driving.  Gratefully no one was killed in the 8-car pileup that caused one car to catch fire.  Unfortunately crashes like this happen every day in every state.  See footage of the crash captured in real time:

Fatigue is a known cause of truck crashes. Yet, next week the U.S. Senate is expected to consider a transportation spending bill that includes, once again, a provision, authored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and supported by special trucking interests, that rolls back the Obama Administration’s rule on truck driver hours of service (HOS).  Currently, a truck driver can drive up to 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days.  This provision will allow truck drivers to drive up to 73 hours in 7 days (Section 131 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill (S. 2844)).

There has been absolutely no congressional hearing, no independent expert analysis and no public input about this dangerous proposal.  It was drafted by well-connected trucking lobbyists to advance the economic agenda of the industry at the expense of worker and public safety.  Safety groups and families of loved ones killed in needless crashes caused by tired truckers are working to stop passage of this controversial provision slipped into a must-pass bill.  It will re-write and repeal the Obama Administration’s truck driver HOS rule and does nothing to address the serious and deadly problem of cumulative fatigue among truck drivers. The remedy to address fatigue is not increasing on-duty working hours and reducing time off for rest and recovery. This ludicrous solution to a serious safety problem is the product of Congress only listening to the regulated industry.

This is the third year in a row that the Senate Appropriations Committee has passed a major anti-truck safety provision.  The first time, in 2014, it did so a week before the N.J. Turnpike crash caused by a fatigued truck driver which killed James McNair and seriously injured Tracy Morgan. The second time, in 2015, it did so around the same time as the devastating crash which killed five nursing students from Georgia Southern University, Emily Clark, Morgan Bass, Abbie Deloach, Catherine (McKay) Pittman, and Caitlyn Baggett.  The driver in that crash had a history of falling asleep at the wheel in previous incidents.  The Nashville FedEx crash is the third strike in a deadly “game” being played out in the back rooms of Congress. It is time for the Senate to put a stop to the unfettered greed of certain segments of the trucking industry.  The safety of families on the roads must come before corporate profits.

Before today is over, 11 people will die in large truck crashes and 275 more will be injured.  Truck driver fatigue is a contributor to truck crashes according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) which included reducing fatigue related crashes on the 2016 Most Wanted List of safety changes.  Moreover, truck driving is one of the 10 most dangerous jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  A 2006 survey prepared for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that almost two-thirds of drivers often or sometimes felt drowsy while driving and almost half had said they had fallen asleep while driving the previous year.

We urge Congress to take this opportunity to stop indulging special interests and ignoring a major highway safety problem that is causing needless deaths and injuries. It is time to start acknowledging the price we are paying for these safety assaults.  Truck drivers falling asleep behind the wheel is what happens when Congress puts trucking interests in the driver’s seat.