Press Release on FY 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill

  • April 20, 2016
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety


Contact: Allison Kennedy, 202-408-1711

Senate Appropriators Once Again Cede to Corporate Trucking Lobbyists – Another Rewrite of the Safety Rule on Tired Truckers

This Year’s Industry Provision is Broader, Bolder and More Brazen

For the Last 3 Years Trucking Industry Lobbyists Have Penned the Legislation on Truck Drivers’ Hours Behind Closed Doors and Tucked It Into Must-Pass Spending Bills

Washington, D.C. (April 20, 2016) – Tomorrow morning the Senate Committee on Appropriations will mark up the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill.  Tucked into the bill is a major revision and rewrite of the Obama Administration’s truck driver hours of service (HOS) rule.  This will be the third year in a row this must pass bill has been used as a legislative vehicle to advance the trucking industry’s agenda and push another major assault on truck safety.

Jackie Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said, “For three years now well-financed and well-connected trucking lobbyists have drafted legislation that has repealed the safety improvements of the Obama Administration’s hours of service rule for truck drivers.  Congress has already made significant changes to the rule to accommodate industry, but the industry lobbyists are back again and this time with the most serious attack yet.   Not content to just stop the Obama Rule from being enforced, trucking interests are now writing a brand new regulation behind closed doors.  There has never been any congressional hearing, any federal agency review, or any public input.  The pattern is always the same – keep it under wraps so no one has a chance to see it and slip it quietly into must pass bills so no one has a chance to stop it.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has repeatedly cited fatigue as a contributor to truck crashes and included reducing fatigue related crashes on the 2016 Most Wanted List of safety changes.  The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently warned that drowsy driving can have the same consequences as driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.  In addition to conclusive research and analysis, the devastating consequences of truck driver fatigue have been repeatedly demonstrated in horrific crashes. While high profile crashes like the one that killed comedian James McNair and seriously injured Tracy Morgan grab national headlines, fatigue-related crashes happen to families all over the country every day. In a recent investigative report by the Huffington Post, there were four other crashes last spring that were suspected to be attributed to tired truckers that killed a total of 21 people.  One of the crashes happened on April 22 in Georgia and killed five Georgia Southern University nursing students heading to their final training shift of the year. Another crash in Indiana on July 23 killed five people, including a mother and her two young sons, after a truck driver failed to stop for traffic that had slowed for a construction zone.

Daphne Izer, Co-Founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), has been advocating for truck safety since her 17-year-old son, Jeff, was killed on the Maine Turnpike by a tired Wal-Mart truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel and ran over the top of the car, killing four. “Since his tragic but preventable death in 1993, I have worked to advance safety rules to prevent truck driver fatigue.  My battle to ensure the adoption of important safeguards like maximum driving hours and mandated meal and rest breaks to improve work conditions for truckers and to prevent fatigue-related truck crashes are being foiled by Senators who placate the industry and ignore families like mine. Some Members of Congress are using the Appropriations process to evade public scrutiny and slide in a special interest provision that makes our roads and highways more dangerous. While Congress buries this new rule in a must-pass bill, families like mine are burying our loved ones killed in preventable truck crashes.”

Joan Claybrook, Chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), said, “Last year, trucking lobbyists for the second time wrote a new provision to do even more damage to the Obama HOS rule but it contained a major mistake.  Once again, trucking industry lobbyists are running to their friends in Congress for a quick fix and are being welcomed with open arms. Not only is this an affront on public safety it is also an affront on a transparent and democratic legislative process in Congress.  The Appropriations Committee has continually bypassed the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to ensure success and secrecy for well-connected and well-financed corporate trucking interests.”

Truck driving is consistently considered one of the most dangerous occupations. In 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 600 drivers killed and another 18,000 were injured. Self-reports of fatigue generally underestimate the problem.  However, 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 in the previous year.

Ed Slattery, whose wife Susan was killed in a crash that also seriously injured his sons Peter and Matthew after a truck driver fell asleep behind the wheel, commented, “It is unthinkable that Congress has given the trucking industry such unfettered access and power to revise and repeal safety rules. Since the crash that killed my wife, Susan, and severely injured my sons, I have been fighting to advance safety laws so that other families do not have to experience a similar tragedy.  For the last three years Congress has rigged the game.  They continue to hand over the pen to special trucking interests to scratch federal safety rules they don’t like and write new rules they do like without any scientific research or analytic review.  This is the last Appropriations bill that my Senator, Appropriations Committee Vice Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), will work on in Congress.  I urge her to fight to strike this provision and stand up for public safety, not corporate profits.”

Today, a letter was sent to the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee signed by public health and safety groups and truck crash victims in staunch opposition of the included changes.