The email below was sent to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in advance of the March 22, 2022 Executive Session.
Oppose anti-safety truck amendments to the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (S. 3580) being considered during tomorrow’s Commerce Committee Executive Session — Lee 13, Lee 14, and Lummis 1 would jeopardize the safety of truck drivers and all road users.
In 2020, nearly 5,000 people were killed in crashes involving a large truck. Since 2009, the number of fatalities in large truck crashes has increased by 47 percent. Additionally, nearly 147,000 people were injured in crashes involving a large truck that same year. The cost to society from crashes involving large trucks and buses was estimated to be $163 billion in 2019, the latest year for which data is available. Truck driving is one of the most dangerous occupations.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Center for Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Consumer Federation of America, Kids and Car Safety, National Safety Council, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Society for Advancement of Violence and Injury Research, Trauma Foundation and Truck Safety Coalition urge you to oppose these anti-safety amendments:
Lee 13: This amendment would allow for a waiver from safety regulations including hours of service rules for truck drivers.
- Driver fatigue is a well-known and documented commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safety problem. All truck drivers, regardless of what they are hauling, are susceptible to fatigue. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has repeatedly cited fatigue as a major contributor to truck crashes. Drivers of large trucks operate very long shifts often without adequate sleep, on constantly changing schedules that can conflict with biological circadian rhythms.
- Self-reports of fatigue, which almost always underestimate the problem, find that fatigue in truck operations is a significant issue. In a 2006 driver survey prepared for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), “65 percent [of drivers] reported that they often or sometimes felt drowsy while driving” and almost half (47.6 percent) of drivers said they had fallen asleep while driving in the previous year.
- In practice, this could result in egregiously long trips. For example, under this proposal a carrier operating under this waiver could pick up a load at the Port of Long Beach in California and drive to the Port of Baltimore and not have to stop to rest.
Lee 14: This amendment would allow for a waiver for “teen truckers” to operate in interstate commerce if transporting cargo to and from a port.
- Research has shown that 18- to 20-year-old drivers have higher crash rates than drivers who are 21 years of age and older. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), citing numerous studies, has stated that “age is a strong risk factor for truck crash involvement.” Studies of young CMV drivers show that as the age of the driver decreases, large truck fatal crash involvement rates increase. CMV drivers under the age of 19 are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes, and CMV drivers between the ages of 19 and 20 are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than all truck drivers.
- Efforts to lower the age to operate a CMV in interstate commerce have been consistently rejected. Attempts to lower the age requirement have been opposed by government regulatory agencies, industry, drivers, law enforcement, safety groups and others because of substantial safety concerns associated with young drivers operating CMVs across state lines. The public has also rejected lowering the minimum age for interstate truck and bus drivers with 62 percent of respondents in opposition, according to a 2020 public opinion poll conducted by Engine’s Caravan Survey.
- Improving driver working conditions – including safety – will improve driver retention without degrading public safety. Instead of pulling teenagers from high school hallways to drive on high speed highways, the trucking industry should address the problems causing high turnover rates. A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study found that “the labor market for truck drivers works about as well as the labor markets for other blue-collar occupations” and “a deeper look [at the truck industry labor market] does not find evidence of a secular shortage.”
Lummis 1: Opens the door to dangerous rollbacks of protections regarding the licensure of commercial drivers.
- One of the critical components to enhancing safety of CMV operations on our nation’s highways is to ensure that only safe drivers operate CMVs. Over the past three decades, Congress has enacted laws establishing uniform standards for every state to follow when issuing a commercial driver’s license (CDL). It is essential that the testing of candidates for CDLs ensures that only those individuals who have acquired the requisite skills needed to safely operate a CMV are given a license to do so.
- Waiving the requirement that a CDL holder be physically present in the front seat next to a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holder removes an essential component of skills development and supervision for this category of novice driver. Allowing the CLP holder to drive without adequate supervision of the CDL holder wholly undermines the intent of the CLP. It would not only put the novice driver in danger, but similarly poses a threat to all other road users. The presence of a CDL holder in the passenger seat supervising the CLP holder is critical to ensure that the CLP holder is operating the CMV safely.
- Could result in skills test “shopping” by waiving the requirement that a state may only administer the skills test to an out-of-state student that has received training in the state. CDL applicants would be allowed to choose any state in which to test, including those that could be believed or demonstrated to be “easier” or less stringent.
Truck crashes continue to occur at an astonishingly high rate. The complex issues facing our nation’s supply chain will not be solved by advancing reckless proposals that imperil truck drivers and the public.