Posted by: project151 | December 19, 2007

Lobby Watch : Statement of Daphne Izer, Founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.)

Statement of Daphne Izer, Founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.)
Before the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security
United States Senate – December 19, 2007

Good morning, my name is Daphne Izer and I am the founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.). P.A.T.T. is a member of the Truck Safety Coalition and my testimony reflects the views and position of our coalition. I would like to begin by thanking Senator Lautenberg, Ranking Member Smith and the other Members of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security for inviting me to participate in this critical hearing on the issue of truck driver fatigue and the Hours of Service (HOS) rule.

On October 10, 1993, my life was forever changed. A truck driver fell asleep at the wheel of his 80,000 pound rig, killing four innocent teenagers. One of them was my son Jeff. He and four of his friends were on their way to a hayride and had just pulled into the breakdown lane on the Maine Turnpike when a Wal-Mart truck driver fell asleep at the wheel of his big rig and crashed into my son and his friends. As a result of this horrific, preventable crash, four beautiful teenagers: Jeff – age 17, Angie – age 16, Dawn Marie – age 15, and Katie – age 14 were killed. One friend, Linda, survived but was seriously injured and she is mentally scarred for life. Five families suffered incomparable personal loss as a result of a single tired trucker. Yet, there are hundreds of thousands of us — parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, co-workers and friends — who will be without a loved one during the holidays because a trucker fell asleep at the wheel. I shudder to think about how many fatigued truckers are on the roads right now, during this hearing, due to the unsafe and illegal HOS rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This danger that threatens all motorists is unacceptable and unnecessary.

I formed P.A.T.T. in May of 1994 to try to make a difference and protect other families from what I have gone through. P.A.T.T. has grown from a Maine grassroots group to a nationally recognized organization. In 2002, we combined efforts with Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and formed the Truck Safety Coalition. Together, we are dedicated to reducing the number of preventable 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.

There are hundreds of victims throughout the country who volunteer time to work with the Truck Safety Coalition to achieve our mission. Their hard work and dedication are astounding. Like others who have been affected by motor vehicle deaths and injuries, they have taken their sorrow and turned it into strength. Conversely, it is difficult to comprehend, as a mother who lost her son, why the federal agency Congress created to protect the traveling public, the FMCSA, has shown so little safety leadership and made so little effort to address more than 5,000 fatalities and over 110,000 injuries annually as a result of truck crashes. In fatal crashes involving a truck and a passenger vehicle, 97% of the deaths are the car occupants. The ineffective and incompetent changes to truck safety regulations, especially on the issue of HOS, is a clear and convincing example of the wrong direction this agency repeatedly takes on so many issues affecting public health and safety.

This lack of positive action by our federal government on the issue of tired truckers lies in sharp contrast to actions taken to stop drunk driving. Historically, the reaction of Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to the epidemic of drunk driving on our highways was to pass stronger federal laws like the National Minimum 21 drinking age and the national .08% BAC law, as well as implement tougher enforcement programs like sobriety checkpoints and “use it or lose it” initiatives. We are especially grateful for your long-standing leadership on this issue, Senator Lautenberg.

Unfortunately, even though the issues are quite similar, compared to legislative and executive branch resolve to combat impaired driving, the responses of the Administration to the epidemic of truck driver fatigue have actually undermined truck safety. Any action taken to address the problem of truck driver fatigue contributed to making a dire situation even worse. After 17 to 19 hours without sleep, a person’s response speeds are as much as 50 percent slower and equivalent to having a .05% blood alcohol level. Moreover, FMCSA’s hours of service rules issued in 2003 and 2005 actually increase truck driver fatigue and sleep deprivation that correspondingly increases crash risk.

Numerous studies have shown that fatigue is a major factor in big truck crashes. Research, including studies conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Australian Federal Office of Road Safety, has found that 30% to 40% of big truck crashes are due to fatigue. Even the U.S. DOT has repeatedly cited fatigue as a major factor in truck crash causation. In its 2000 proposed rule on hours of service, FMCSA claimed that fatigue is involved in as many as 15 percent of truck crashes. Decades of studies on many other types of work have repeatedly shown that very long working hours, erratic schedules, and working mostly at night while trying to sleep during the day are consistently related to high injury rates and performance errors that can directly impact the safety and lives of many people.

Yet, FMCSA has engaged in persistent denial of these scientific findings and refuses to acknowledge that it is, in fact, making motor carrier and highway safety more dangerous. Its hours of service regulations are designed to push truck drivers to work and drive to the point where the chance of a crash is dramatically increased. Furthermore, trucking interests have, at times, found a sympathetic ear in Congress to allow requests for dangerous and deadly special interest exemptions to the hours of service rule to get out from under any regulation. Exemptions for utility workers, agricultural workers, and others have no justification in science. Industry productivity should not come at the expense of the safety and health of the truck drivers who have no protection from exploitation. It is time to stop the squeaky wheel, or perhaps more aptly, the well-greased wheel of the trucking industry from steering public policy in Congress and the Executive Branch that jeopardizes everyone’s safety.

In 1995, a summit organized by the Federal Highway Administration that involved participation by safety groups, law enforcement, government officials and trucking industry representatives ranked “driver fatigue” as the number one issue that needed to be addressed. I participated in that forum soon after P.A.T.T. was formed and hoped that this recognition would finally result in effective solutions. Yet, 12 years later and after more than 60,000 truck crash deaths and a million more injuries, truck driving, according the Centers for Disease Control and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, still remains one of the most dangerous occupations and thousands of innocent people are needlessly killed annually on our roads and highways.

Meanwhile, no real progress has been made by the FMCSA to substantially reduce the truck crash death and injury toll. The agency has missed every single safety goal it has adopted. Deaths continue to mount, dangerous trucks and unsafe drivers remain on the road because of weak enforcement, and safety rules are routinely issued that promote the trucking industry bottom line rather than protecting the personal safety and improving the health of truck drivers and the motoring public.

It would be preposterous for the U.S. DOT to allow drivers to consume more alcohol by increasing the federal BAC level for drivers as a solution to reduce impaired driving. Yet, this irrational action is comparable to the federal response to the epidemic of fatigued truck drivers. FMCSA has twice issued a blatantly dangerous rule on hours of service that dramatically increases the working and driving hours of truck drivers, twice been legally challenged by safety groups including P.A.T.T., and twice has had its final rule unanimously overturned in the courts.

In the first unanimous decision, FMCSA sought to avoid the Court’s ruling and requested that Congress grant the agency time to rewrite the rule. Congress enacted a special provision giving the agency a one-year reprieve to issue a new rule while the dangerous and illegal 2003 rule remained in effect, threatening the safety of truck drivers and the public more than ever. The agency responded by issuing the same rule that the Court, in a stinging rebuke, had declared illegal. Ultimately, in a betrayal of its assurance to Congress to draft a revised HOS rule, FMCSA re-issued in 2005 a nearly identical rule that the Court overturned. The rule, once again, allowed the same excessively long working and driving hours that permitted truck drivers to drive more than 25 percent more hours and work up to 40 percent more hours in the same number of days as under the pre-2003 regulation. Incredibly, the agency claimed that the “new” rule addressed the issues identified by the Court.

In the second Court case, a separate panel of three different judges unanimously held that FMCSA had ignored the dangerous impact on safety that the extended driving time allowed by the rule would have, and that the agency manipulated its data to support its view while failing to disclose crucially important information to the public. As a result, the Court vacated the increase in the daily shift driving limit from 10 to 11 hours, as well as the 34-hour restart provision that allows drivers to accumulate dramatically more driving hours each week than were previously permitted.

In both cases, the Court opinions pointed out that the conclusions on which the agency based elements of the HOS rule raised “very real concerns,” “assume[d] dubious[]” propositions and relied on “problematic” justifications. In effect, six different judges in two separate cases agreed that the FMCSA has failed to justify the dramatic increases in daily and weekly driving and working hours that both the 2003 and 2005 final rules allowed. What is even more incredible about these rules is that they directly contradict the U.S. DOT’s own statements about the dangers of exceptionally long driving and working hours made in earlier rulemaking actions on truck driver hours of service. In a complete reversal, hours that the U.S. DOT formerly held to be unacceptable and dangerous were now deemed acceptable in the 2003 and 2005 final rules.

Current federal hours of service regulations allow truck drivers to drive up to 11 hours in each shift after 10 hours off duty. The hours off-duty can be split into two portions for drivers using sleeper berths. This means that a truck driver can now drive up to 77 hours over 7 consecutive calendar days and up to 88 hours over 8 consecutive calendar days because the driver’s work week now “floats” by using a minimum 34-hour “restart.” A driver can restart another tour of duty during days when, under the pre-2003 regulation, that driver had layover and rest time. This is equivalent to driving from Washington, DC to Atlanta, Georgia without stopping and driving this long distance every day for a week. I cannot imagine driving for that long in my car day after day, much less behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound big rig.

This anti-safety rule, which was first issued in 2003, dramatically increased truck drivers’ workdays by 40% more hours over 8 consecutive calendar days and allowed them to drive 28% more hours over the same time period. This amounts to truck drivers working double the amount of hours in a calendar week compared to the typical 40-hour work week of most workers in the United States. And, these incredibly long working hours are mostly used in driving, often for hours on end at high speeds, all through the night, and sometimes in horrendous weather conditions.

These new hours of service are not just taking a toll on the safety of truck drivers and everyone who shares the roads with big rigs, but have severe, adverse impacts on the health of truck drivers. Truck drivers are being pushed beyond the limits of human endurance. The current regulation is not protecting these drivers. Truck drivers should be afforded the same respect as other workers, work reasonable hours, and be permitted to have sleep patterns that are in accord with normal human needs.

As I mentioned, the federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., struck down as illegal the two parts of the HOS rule that increase driving and work hours, the 11 consecutive hour driving shift and the 34-hour restart. Yet, in an amazing display of bureaucratic arrogance, FMCSA last week took special measures to reinstate the same two illegal rules while it once again tries to figure out a way to justify them as legal. That will not happen if I have anything to say about it.

While I am not a lawyer, it strikes me as a total violation of our law and system of government for an agency to so blatantly defy a court’s order. Truck crash victims, like me, who depend on the federal government to protect our families and friends, cannot believe that the agency’s action is legal and that FMCSA can thumb its nose at a federal court. The agency’s course of action makes it quite clear that they are intent on putting the trucking industry’s profits ahead of public safety and nothing, not even two court opinions overturning the rule, will stand in their way. So the agency will continue to force these longer hours on drivers and jeopardize safety but I will to continue to fight against this killer rule.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, this is the second hearing you have held this year on rules issued by FMCSA that are setbacks for safety. Groups like P.A.T.T. and the Truck Safety Coalition, urge you to do something to rein in this agency. When FMCSA was created in 1999, Congress specifically included language stating that “safety” was the highest priority of this agency and not “industry profits”. FMCSA has already proven how little regard it has for the safety of American citizens, and now it has shown how much contempt it has for our legal system. Enough is enough. Too many people are dying and too little is being done to stop the carnage on our highways.

Let me conclude by thanking you again for allowing me to participate in today’s hearing on an issue that has deeply affected my family. The importance of this issue is the reason I flew down from my home state of Maine to be here today. It truly is time to stop truck drivers from being turned into abused and exploited workers in rolling sweatshops. We need to put the brakes on longer workdays for truck drivers. We need your leadership to step in and stop this 19th century abuse of American workers and protect the traveling public

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Responses

  1. […] weeklyinsight article is brought to you using rss feeds.Here you will find the best trucking resources for truckers.In 1995, a summit organized by the Federal Highway Administration that involved participation by safety groups, law enforcement, government officials and trucking industry representatives ranked “driver fatigue” as the number one issue … […]

  2. i worked in the trucking for several years andhave uncovered by companies; because of this i have been harrassed by law enforcement and private investigators. HELP

  3. check out inside info i have on industry
    8 years experience; can give insight on how they operate. E mail me i’ll be glad to help

  4. after passing falls gro.on 151-on your right is chapel holler road-on your right is pounding branch road.there are no signs to let you knowno that cars will be entering the road from ashley’s mkt.there are sings warning drivers about rt.635 entering on the left of 151.

  5. The rules the FMCSA adopted where a driver can not take a break because of the 14 hr rule is really bad. What is needed is to allow a driver to split sleeper time, stop his 14 hr so he can get rest when needed. Right now the driver starts work and has to push to get the work done that is required by his job. This is not safe!
    The current rules do not allow a driver to split that time. You are wrong! Once a drivers clock starts it does not end until 14 hrs have been worked. The driver knows when he is tired, but because of the current rules pushed by MATT and other groups you have made it unsafe for the driver as well as the public.
    I am sorry for your loss, but ride with a professional driver for a few days and you might know what you are talking about. Up until the new rules came into effect we had less accidents than after and these rules were pushed by people that have never worked in the industry. Get you facts straight

    • Nicely said. These people will continue to push unrealistic HOS rules until we are all forced out of the industry. 95% of the drivers out here are safe and courteous, the other 5% give us all a bad name. I am tired of fighting groups like this because of my fellow drivers tailgating and leaving piss bottles on the side of the road. But I am really sick of getting cut off by unsafe 4-wheelers and they have to answer to no one.

      How many teens have been killed by unsafe drivers of cars? What percentage of accidents are the truck drivers actually at fault? I have been cut off so many time, I couldn’t even begin to count. Very sorry for the loss, but please lets get all sides of the story out there.

  6. Although the loss of any life is terrible I feel you have your facts wrong. Trucking has never been safer. It is to bad that others think they have the right to tell an adult what to do. You seem to think you can tell me when to sleep when I can work etc etc. I don’t tell you or your family that you cannot drive home after working overtime cause you might hit so wine with your car

    I agree there needs to be a limit set by the fmcsa and if you have read there rules maybe you should they have the utmost concern It has been proven that 95% of all truck to cat accidents has been the car at fault.

  7. how do i find the direct website or contact information to parent against tired truckers I have configured a way of reducing the percentages of deaths in our young drivers involving big rigs by possibly 50% and would like to speak to them to see if maybe they could help me or possibly point me in the right direction to try and get my plan put into action. it could thousand or more lifes a year. thank you for your time, C.E.O. Rachel Smith HightailinMustangTransportation@hotmail.com

  8. i totally agree it has caused so many problems with logs and it in a since causes some drivers to be afraid of taking a break if they need it because it messes things up.. I personally dont give a crap what the laws say if im needing a break i take one even though it risks me getting a ticket from DOT which in turn risks my CDL because of the new CSA crap. which is another unbelievable hair brain scheme, i mean really since when is a bad tire out of 18 of them more dangerous or more important then a break to were a tire violation gets more points?! A child could have written better laws then what these over educated and under expereinced law makers have done. All the CSA is designed to do is eliminate drivers period so that way the government can take over control of the trucking industry by narrowing it down to 3-4 major companys which is exactly what they have tried to do in the past and been trying to do since the 60s and now theyve found a way thats going to make this alil more easy to succeed in doing it shortly mark my words on that if something isnt done soon to stop then. thats all most of these rules are for hidden under the agenda of safety. Dont get me wrong as not only a owner of a trucking company but also mainly as a parent i believe in safety but theyre going bout it all wrong

  9. I have been in the industry for 12 years accident free. If you think you can live on the road well rested sleeping in a truck with constant distactions and interruptions you are sorely mistaken. You can pass all the laws and require what ever “big brother” devices you want but it is what it is. I am sorry that you lost a loved one but all this is doing is creating more expenses and making the industry more dangerous because drivers are scared to do their job.We have a job to do. Accidents happen. I’ve lost a number of friends and relatives but I did’nt have to create an organization to try to find closure. Keep it up and you”ll have stores with empty shelves.

  10. I am sorry for the loss of your son and the other teens. How has the FMCSA given the truck drivers “dramatically” more hours to drive in a day or week? From 10 to 11 hours does not seem “dramatic” to me. All studies done have shown no increase in accidents since the 11th hour was granted.

    Why are you against the 34 hour restart? Can you realistically tell me that after 34 consecutive hours off duty, that a person is not well rested?

    It is frustrating to have a small group of my fellow drivers being idiots and driving unsafely and illegally. But it is equally as frustrating to have special interest groups tell only one side of the story and to attempt to take money out of safe, hardworking truck drivers pockets.

  11. There are a few of us that operate in compliance with the regulations. There are however many who do not. Further, the FMCSA is pushing it’s agenda to allow Mexican domiciled trucks to operate in the United States. Please keep in mind that the Mexican regulations are practically non-existent.

    Contrary to your statement the new HOS rules have truly helped the true professional driver be safer. But only if he/she operates in full compliance with the regulations. The coming mandate for onboard E-logs is also going to improve compliance.

    Please take the time to study the HOS rules for Motor Coach operators. These regulations need to be aligned with the HOS rules for truckers. The Charter bus companies take advantage of these rules and it is NOT uncommon for a coach operator to have an actual 24 hour day even though his log books shows he worked 15 hours. Contact me for an explanation.

  12. You are right Charles,I drove over the road for over 33 years and I can tell you many of the rules are ,in fact,creating a traffic hazard.The #1 safty issue facing the American trucker is:finding a place to park.By 9:00 pm most truck stops and rest areas are full-no more parking and lots of times you try to stop you are looking at a $200 parking ticket even when you are too tired to drive,law enforcement forces you to drive.I might add that in %80 of fatel truck crashes,the 4 wheeler is at fault

  13. Do You Know That In Pa, Most Rest Areas Are Closed? They Use Them As Weigh Stations. Some States, Mainly In The South Only Allow Us To Park For 2 Hours. Some States Such As Maryland Open The Rest Area From 9Am To 6 Pm. So The Problem Is If You Were Tired And Wanted To Sleep At On Of These Facilites Your Out Of Luck. Why Is This Dangerous Situation Allowed. Who Can We Contact At Mothers Against Tired Truckers To Get Answers. These Rest Areas Were Built So Truckers & Motorist Could Rest. If Anyone Knows Who To Contact To Make Some Noise About This Please Let Me Know, Thanks.


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