For Immediate Release: June 17, 2015
Contact: Jody Couser (443) 703-8678, firstname.lastname@example.org
State Action Comes as U.S. Senate is Poised to Consider Transportation Spending Bill, a Likely Vehicle for Anti-Truck Safety “Riders”
U.S. House Transportation Spending Bill (HR 2577) Forces Illinois and Other States to Allow Oversized Trucks on its Roads and Highways
Illinois Truck Crash Deaths Climb by 13% Yet, Congress Ready to Pass Bill that Jeopardizes Highway Safety
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A broad coalition representing truck crash victims, safety and consumer groups, law enforcement, labor, and railroads commends bi-partisan unanimous adoption of Illinois Senate Resolution (SR) 233 sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton, opposing an increase to federal truck size and weight limits on all roads in Illinois. The passage of this Resolution comes on the heels of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) releasing the Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study Technical Reports on June 5, 2015, which determined that no changes to current truck size and weight laws and regulations should be made due to “profound” data limitations. But, there is a major disconnect between the safety concerns of Illinois citizens and state legislators as well as the U.S. DOT recommendations and the lobbying goals of special trucking interests and their friends in Congress to roll back safety. On June 9, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a federal transportation spending bill (H.R. 2577) which includes numerous repeals to lifesaving truck safety laws and rules. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to reveal its version of the transportation spending bill next week.
Truck crashes are a serious, deadly and costly problem to families, our health care system, and to the economy. Nationally, large truck crashes kill approximately 4,000 people and injure nearly another 100,000 annually. This is equivalent to a major airplane crash every week all year long. Commercial motor vehicle crashes cost over $99 Billion every year. Truck crash fatalities have gone up by 17% and injuries by 28% over the last five years.
Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, stated, “Senate President Cullerton has been a champion of numerous safety laws that have saved hundreds of lives in Illinois. He showed that same leadership in sponsoring this resolution which puts the safety of Illinois families first and foremost before special industry interests. Despite trucking industry claims, increases to truck sizes and weights have never resulted in a reduction in big trucks on the roads or an increase in safety. We urge Congress to heed the bipartisan unanimous action of the Illinois Senate and put the brakes on oversized and overweight trucks.”
Kate Brown of Gurnee, Illinois, reacted to passage of the Resolution, “It has been nine long and painful years since my son, Graham, was hit by a drugged and fatigued truck driver. As a result, Graham is now permanently, partially disabled. While the truck that hit Graham was within the state legal limits, I cannot begin to imagine the consequences if that truck had been even bigger and heavier. Bigger trucks will result in bigger impacts on passenger cars and bigger and more deadly consequences.”
The American public is clearly opposed to having larger trucks on the highways beside them and so are Illinois residents. An April 2014 survey by SMART (Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation, formerly United Transportation Union (UTU)) found Illinois residents overwhelmingly oppose (73%) increasing the federal truck weight limit of 80,000 lbs. to 97,000 lbs., regardless of political viewpoint, gender or age. A national survey released on Feb. 10, 2015, by Harper Polling found that 76% of respondents oppose longer and heavier trucks, and 79% are very or somewhat convinced that heavier and longer truck will lead to more braking and longer stopping distances, causing an increase in the number of crashes involving trucks.
Bob Guy, State Legislative Director-Illinois, SMART-Transportation Division, stated, “In poll after poll the sentiment of the citizens of Illinois is clear, they do not want to share the road with hazardous bigger, heavier trucks. We applaud Senate President Cullerton’s leadership and dedication in ensuring that our roadways in Illinois are as safe as possible for all motorists.”
Beth Mosher, Director of Public Affairs, AAA Chicago, responded to the passage of SR-233, “Illinois’s roads will be safer thanks to Senate President Cullerton’s stewardship of this resolution to protect all motorists and truck drivers. We urge our elected officials in Congress to also take action to make our nation’s roads safer and retain current safety laws.”
Joan Claybrook, Chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, commented, “Special trucking and shipping interests are essentially bullying their way through Congress to get even bigger and heavier trucks on our roads. Unanimous bipartisan passage of this resolution speaks loudly that Illinois is putting the safety of their families before corporate greed. Families in every state share this view and don’t want to jeopardize their safety; our compromised infrastructure can’t handle them; and, taxpayers don’t want to pay the price of more deaths and more damage. Motorists will be paying with their lives and their wallets if Congress increases truck sizes and weights.”
In Illinois, during the last five years (2009-2013), there were 586 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks. In 2013, there were 10,397 crashes involving tractor-trailers in Illinois. Highway deaths caused by tractor-trailers increased by 13% and the number of fatal crashes increased by 16% in Illinois from 2012 to 2013. Illinois has the third largest interstate system in the U.S. and the third largest bridge inventory in the U.S. Currently, nearly 16% of the bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and 15% of the major roads are considered to be in poor condition in Illinois, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Driving on roads needing repairs costs Illinois motorists $3.7 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs. This amounts to nearly $450 per motorist (ASCE).