Activists want tighter hours rule

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Four activist groups, calling themselves the Truck Safety Coalition, held a press conference in Washington, D.C., urging the U.S. Congress not to write the new driver hours-of-service rule into law.

Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Public Citizen also renewed their pleas for the U.S. Department of Transportation to lower the maximum driving time.

The groups on Monday, Oct. 17 criticized the 11-hour drive times, the 34-hour restart provision and the absence of electronic onboard recorders.

The groups also criticized the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s “soft enforcement” period during the first weeks of the new rule. Until Oct. 31, minor infractions will be given nothing but a warning, but obvious violations will be cited and the drivers penalized.

The groups issued what they called a Travelers Alert, saying they wanted to warn the public they were sharing the road with tired truckers.

“In giving states the green light to not enforce truckers’ hours of service, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is also giving the green light to unsafe driving conditions,” said PATT founder Daphne Izer. “No load of freight is worth a human life.”

The regulations issued Aug. 19 by the FMCSA are “a thinly veiled attempt to undermine federal safety laws and the U.S. court system,” CRASH said in its statement. “The new rule will endanger the lives of everyone on our nation’s highways at a time when truck crash deaths have increased.”

CRASH cited statistics from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System showing that 5,190 people died in large truck crashes in 2004, a 3.1 percent increase over 2003.

The 2004 FARS details only fatality locations, types of vehicles involved and the presence of alcohol as a factor, not who was at fault. Past studies have shown that most truck-car collisions are the fault of four-wheelers, not truckers.

Also not mentioned by the activists was the fact that according to the FMCSA, only 5.5 percent of truck-related fatalities are because of fatigue.

“We at FMCSA will continue to look at the science and the data to reduce fatalities in not only this 5.5 percent of truck crashes which are fatigue-related but in the other 94.5 percent of large truck crashes as well,” said FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg.

Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said: “Truck deaths are increasing, government safety goals are ignored, and enforcement of safety rules is suspended while special trucking interests continue to push a dangerous agenda in Congress. It’s time to stop coddling the trucking industry and make the safety of all motorists, including truck drivers, a priority.”

According to the 2004 FARS, “The most lethal state in the country, measured by truck crash fatalities per 100,000 population, is Wyoming, followed by Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Georgia,” the activists announced.

Wyoming had 8.09 truck crash deaths per 100,000 people. Hawaii was last on the list with 0.32 deaths per 100,000 people. The complete list is posted at www.citizen.org.

The press conference was part of the activists’ Sorrow to Strength conference for survivors and victims of truck crashes, which drew attendees from 15 states and the District of Columbia.