FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 4, 2021
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety / firstname.lastname@example.org / 301-442-2249 (C)
Joint Statement on “INVEST in America Act”
Following one of the deadliest recent years for motor vehicle crashes, the urgency to act on proven, available solutions could not be clearer
Today the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure released legislation that takes affirmative steps towards a future of safer roads, drivers and vehicles; however, it also includes a significant carve-out from proven safety technology for special trucking interests. The “INVEST in America Act”, includes numerous provisions that if enacted have the potential to significantly reduce motor vehicle crashes and fatalities. Yesterday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released data showing 38,680 crash deaths in 2020, representing a 7.2 percent increase and 13-year high despite a drop in the number of miles driven on U.S. roads last year. The data also showed alarming increases in reckless behavior such as speeding, impaired driving and lack of seat belt use.
Organizations representing vehicle safety, road safety, consumer rights, public health, child safety, truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims sent this letter to the Committee.
“The shocking increase in roadway fatalities in 2020 should be a wake-up call from a bullhorn for Congress. Major safety improvements are needed to protect all road users and to upgrade our crumbling infrastructure,” said Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates). “The INVEST in America Act makes some advances including provisions to address truck underrides, school bus safety and protections for vulnerable road users. However, it misses a critical opportunity to require proven automatic emergency braking (AEB) for all new trucks. With many consumers reliant upon e-commerce and next-day delivery by small-to-mid-size trucks, AEB should absolutely be required on these vehicles and not just the heaviest of trucks traveling on highways. We urge the Committee not to leave an essential improvement on the cutting room floor.”
“I am devastated that the Committee bill excludes four Classes of trucks including delivery and box trucks from the requirement for automatic emergency brakes (AEB). This new carve-out in the INVEST Act is unsafe and unnecessary. A box truck was responsible for the crash that killed my 7-year-old son Bryan and injured my other son Brandon and me. Every day, millions of these delivery trucks travel on our roads and through our neighborhoods posing a threat to other motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and children. For too long, corporate trucking interests and their front groups have put up roadblocks to effective safety solutions like automatic emergency brakes for all trucks. We hope a universal requirement will be restored in the bill when the Committee takes it up next week,” said Eileen Kosc of Delaware. Her car was struck from behind returning home from the beach in slowed traffic in 2013. The box truck also hit four other cars.
“The automatic emergency braking requirement is absolutely crucial for all new trucks,” said Joan Claybrook, former NHTSA Administrator and Chair of Citizens for Safe and Reliable Highways (CRASH). “The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has studied this issue, finding that commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) equipped with AEB are involved in over 40 percent fewer rear-end crashes than those without. This clear and compelling evidence speaks to why every new truck rolling off the assembly line – from 10,001 lbs. to the heaviest trucks – should include this commonsense safety technology. The families of those injured and killed in small-to-medium delivery, garbage and other trucks are devastated that the Committee bill does not require AEB for these vehicles as it does for tractor trailers. We urge the Committee to correct this omission. The financial interests of trucking groups to evade lifesaving upgrades should not come before the safety of the traveling public.”
Fatal truck crashes continue to occur at an alarmingly high rate. In 2019, over 5,000 people were killed in crashes involving a large truck. Between 2009 and 2019, the number of fatalities in large truck crashes has increased by 48 percent. The cost to society from crashes involving CMVs was estimated to be $143 billion in 2018, the latest year for which data are available. When adjusted solely for inflation, this figure amounts to over $150 billion. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), truck driving is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended repeatedly, including most recently in its 2021-2022 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, that AEB and other crash avoidance technologies should be standard equipment on all vehicles. The NTSB makes no distinction for different classes of trucks. They support every vehicle being equipped with advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) technologies.
“The annual economic and emotional cost of truck crashes is devastating and avoidable when we have effective safety solutions at hand. In fatal crashes involving a truck and a car, 97 percent of the deaths are the passenger vehicle occupants. We can’t wait any longer for action to require safety improvements when every week of the year about 100 people are killed and nearly 3,000 are injured in preventable truck crashes,” said Dawn King, President of the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) and daughter of Bill Badger who was killed by a tired trucker.
Further, horrific crashes in which a car travels underneath the rear or side of a truck trailer and results in death or gruesome injuries to the vehicle occupants can be prevented with the use of available technology known as underride guards. “Families should not be forced to endure the pain and anguish of a loved one killed or suffering devastating injuries in an underride crash when comprehensive underride protection can stop these crashes from happening altogether,” said Jennifer Tierney, Board Member of CRASH and daughter of James Mooney who was killed in a truck underride crash. “The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has shown that the current federal rear underride standard issued in 1996 is weak and inadequate. We need Congress to direct the agency to issue an improved standard for rear underride guards and a new requirement for side underride guards. We are pleased that the Committee bill sets these long overdue rulemaking actions in motion.”
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement, and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to improve road safety in the U.S. Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.
The Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) is a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), also known as The CRASH Foundation, and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.).