Truck Bashers: Who Are These Guys

April 15, 2013

With truck driver hours of service rules back in the courts you've most likely noticed an uptick in negative news reports about trucking in the general media stories warning of the dangers of killer truckers sharing the highways with hapless four-wheelers and putting everyone's lives at risk. Who are these guys behind all the anti-trucking stories? Here's a rundown on the usual suspects. One group that has historically been responsible for truck bashing media reports is CRASH Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways. On its website, CRASH describes itself thusly:

"Citizens For Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) was formed in 1990 to help mitigate the devastating problem of truck crashes. CRASH is a nationwide, grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to improving overall truck safety in the U.S. and eliminating the senseless deaths and injuries caused by truck crashes every year. We represent the millions of Americans who travel the nation." The group was actually around long before 1990, when its primary cause wasn't aimed at improving truck safety, but at hampering truck productivity. In the early '80s, the organization was behind a nationwide push for ton-mile taxes on trucks. A truck trade publication uncovered that at that time the principal financers of CRASH were the railroads. And although there have been no investigations into who funds the group now, CRASH still jumps on the bandwagon on issues that impact the productivity and cost of operations of trucks. Key issues on CRASH's agenda are limiting truck driver hours of service, imposing stricter standards for truck underride guards, pushing for improved truck conspicuity, mandatory electronic onboard recorders and limiting truck size and weight. In recent years CRASH has expanded its scope by forming a partnership with P.A.T.T. (Parents Against Tired Truckers). The partnership calls itself the Truck Safety Coalition and says it "is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public, policy-makers and media about truck safety issues." Parents Against Tired Truckers was formed by Daphne Izner, a Maine mother whose son Jeff was one of four teenagers killed in 1993 when their disabled vehicle was struck by an 18-wheeler. Izner says the group was formed "out of grief anger and hope for the future." The group formed the Truck Safety Coalition Survivors Network, families and individuals who have been involved in truck crashes. Members of the Survivors Network are often called on to testify in government hearings on truck safety issues.

"None of our accomplishments on educational or legislative issues would be possible without their help and commitment," P.A.T.T. says. "They volunteer many, many hours of their time to fight for improving truck safety standards for everyone, including truck drivers, even if it means confronting painful emotions on a daily basis." That emotion plays well to the press. Ed Slattery lost his wife Susan in a truck crash. His two sons were also seriously injured in the accident. Following is his testimony on the issue truck driver hours of service that was picked up by media outlets throughout the country. "This is not a happy day for my family and we feel badly for the truck driver and his family but responsibility must be taken for the crash. What happened to my family is clear and compelling proof of why the HOS rule must be changed and what the real costs of fatigue in the trucking industry are. The truck driver HOS rule must be based on scientific studies, not the financial desires of the trucking industry. While the trucking industry may claim that reducing the HOS to 10 consecutive hours would negatively impact their bottom line, I want to point out that it would produce more than $2 billion a year in crash, injury and health cost savings. My family's crash alone cost millions and health care costs for the rest of my son Matthew's life are estimated at beyond $18 million. Our lives will never be the same but I will continue to work to reduce truck driver fatigue so that another family will not have to suffer the tremendous loss that my family lives with every single day." P.A.T.T.'s main areas of focus include: - Hours-of-service rules that promote safety, take into consideration circadian rhythms, and provide sufficient time for drivers to obtain quality sleep. - Drivers paid for all hours worked. - Mandatory posting of the STAA 3113 Poster (Drivers Rights) detailing carrier, shipper, broker, freight forwarder, receiver accountability and liability for their involvement in illegal shipments and violations of hours-of-service regulations. - Mandatory on-board computers. - Availability of sufficient, safe rest areas. - Shipper loads - drivers drive - receiver unloads. - Public education on fatigued driving. More safe parking spaces for tractor trailers. On the hours of service front, the Truck Safety Coalition is pushing for truck drivers to be paid by the mile and for upcoming changes to hours of service rules to be made more restrictive.

"Truck drivers are paid by the mile which results in a financial incentive to drive as fast and as far as they can," John Lannen, Truck Safety Coalition executive director stated in a press release. "The DOT issued this inadequate hours of service (HOS) rule and still has not required electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) in all trucks and buses. They are perpetuating an unsafe work environment for truck drivers and endangering all those on the roads." Studies show that truck crash risk increases exponentially after 8 consecutive hours of driving and the highest level of crash risk occurs during both the 10th and 11th hours of consecutive driving, Lannen said. "Decreasing truck driver's HOS by one hour would limit the time they are on the road during this period of highest crash risk." Another key player on the hours of service front is Public Citizen, principal in the current lawsuit to make the rules more restrictive. Public Citizen says it is continuing its legal battle with DOT because "many truckers routinely put in double the hours of other workers in a job where fatigue jeopardizes their lives and the safety of other drivers." "Nearly 20 years ago, Congress required the DOT to revise limits on truckers' hours to improve safety. After lengthy delay, the DOT did the opposite: It increased driving hours even though there is no safety benefit to allowing more tired truckers on the roads," the organization states. "Twice before, the courts agreed with Public Citizen that the DOT's rules did not comply with Congress' safety mandate and struck down the rule. Nonetheless, in December 2011, the DOT again issued a rule that increases driving hours. Public Citizen again challenged it in court." While these organizations are all adept at getting media coverage for their causes, the most prolific dissemination of anti-truck news comes from ambulance-chasing attorneys. Thousands of lawyers and attorney groups specialize in representing motorists involved in big rig accidents and they are responsible for dozens of press releases issued weekly warning of the perils of sharing the roads with trucks. Following is one such press release issued via PRWEB on April 11 that was picked up by the New York Times Union, among other media: A group of bipartisan leaders in the Senate and House Appropriations Committees sent their letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) asking to delay implementation of the truck driver hours-of-service regulations set to become effective July 1. According to a March 22 report in Transport Topics, the lawmakers are asking for a three-month delay to wait for a federal appeals court to make its determination regarding challenges to the newly issued HOS rules. The new HOS rule, which was published in December 2011, requires truck drivers to take a half-hour rest break before driving for more than eight hours, the report states. Also, it requires that drivers who use the optional 34-hour restart include two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. within the restart and that the restart can be used only every seven days. While trucking companies have spoken up against this rule asking the courts to overturn the rest break and restart provisions, safety advocates such as Public Citizen have asked that the 11-hour driving day be shortened to 10 hours and the 34-hour restart be eliminated, the report states. The FMCSA rule is meant to keep sleepy drivers off our roadways, said New York personal injury lawyer Kenneth A. Wilhelm. "Fatigued truck drivers put everyone on the roadway at great risk. These new rules are needed to ensure that truck drivers get adequate rest before they start driving." Truck drivers are required to maintain logs for their driving hours as well as for how much time they rest, Wilhelm said. "Truck drivers and trucking firms are required to maintain accurate logs of their drive time and rest time. These logs become important pieces of evidence in a truck accident case that is caused by a fatigued or drowsy truck driver. I truly hope the new HOS rules go into place without delay. These rules are critical for the safety of commuters." Another press release a day earlier on April 10 via 24-7PressRelease also the dangers of truck driver fatigue. It was written by North Carolina law firm Nagle & Associates, P.A. and begins, "When commercial truck drivers fail to be alert and drive safely the consequences can be deadly." To read the complete release go to: http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release/fatal-north-carolina-truck-accident-possibly-due-to-driver-fatigue-338771.php While it's impossible to counter every negative truck news report, it's important to keep on top of the activities of the organizations behind them. As the saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Links to organizations: http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=183 http://www.trucksafety.org/

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