STATEMENT OF JACKIE GILLAN,
PRESIDENT OF ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY,
ON SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE PASSAGE OF THE FY 2016 TRANSPORTATION, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
Today, our highways became more deadly and our families less safe because of actions by the Senate Appropriations Committee in agreeing to adopt anti-truck safety provisions as part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill. If these provisions become law, next summer, millions of families in every state will be sharing the road with monster-sized trucks because of the success of special interests in rolling back important safety laws and rules.
The bill is a lethal assault on public safety by special trucking interests and completely disregards the existing and growing carnage on our highways caused by oversized trucks. Several provisions in the appropriations bill put corporate trucking interests in the driver’s seat and abandoned public safety on the side of the road. All of these safety rollbacks will significantly alter national transportation policy yet none has ever been the subject of a single congressional hearing, safety analysis or public review.
In addition to the continuation of the Tired Trucker pilot program sponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) in last year’s spending bill currently allowing truck drivers to work and drive as many as 82 hours a week, the trucking industry’s anti-safety agenda was championed by others. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) shepherded through the “FedEx Double 33s” amendment which will force all states to allow dangerous and deadly 33-foot double trailer trucks on their roads jeopardizing the safety of all road users. This amendment passed on a 16-14 vote along party lines with the exceptions of Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) voting for the FedEx amendment and Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) voting against it.
Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Tom Udall (D-NM) offered a counter amendment which would have allowed the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct an open and public rulemaking after the Secretary determines the safety and infrastructure consequences of increasing the size large trucks. Safety lost to special trucking interests when this commonsense and transparent approach was rejected by a vote of 15 to 15 with support from all Democratic Senators except for Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) with Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voting for it.
Provisions in this bill ignore the emotional and economic devastation of large truck crashes on our roads and highways and strong public opinion. Over the past five years alone (2009-2013), fatalities from large truck crashes have increased by 17% and injuries have increased by 28%. Every year, on average, there are 4,000 people killed and 100,000 more injured in large truck crashes which is equivalent to a major airplane crash every week of the year. Yet, rather than Congress taking steps to address this significant safety problem, the bill in fact goes the opposite direction – granting a trucking industry’s “wish list” of provisions that will result in oversized and overweight trucks being driven by overworked truck drivers.
Safety groups, labor, law enforcement, truck crash victims and survivors, and others will continue to fight to remove these provisions from the bill. We also call on President Obama to veto this transportation spending bill if it includes these anti-safety measures. This bill simultaneously underfunds our roads and bridges and imposes unacceptable costs on families everywhere by causing more crashes, more deaths, more injuries and more infrastructure damage.