To the Editor:
Truck driver fatigue has recently gained wide media attention because of the tragic crash that occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike that killed one man and critically injured others, including actor Tracy Morgan.
Unfortunately the Tracy Morgan crash is just one example of the hundreds of thousands of truck crashes that occur on our nation’s roadways each year. Every minute and a half of every day, a large truck is involved in a crash resulting in, on average, 4,000 yearly fatalities and 100,000 more injuries. Truck driver fatigue has been recognized as a major safety concern and a contributing factor to fatal truck crashes for more than 70 years, which is why Congress should focus on remedying the current safety problems and not creating new ones.
Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), along with Senators John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif )., Barbara Boxer (DCalif.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod C. Brown (D-Ohio), Richard J. Durbin (DIll.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Brian E. Schatz (D- Hawaii), and Chris S. Murph (D-Conn.), filed an amendment to the FY 2015 Transportation Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill, which would protect important safety rules governing rest periods and the hours of service truck drivers may work each week.
The Booker Amendment was introduced as a response to the language of the Collins Amendment, which would increase the truck driver weekly workweek from the current 60 to 70 hours to more than 80 hours. This is equivalent to adding an additional workday to the already long workweeks of truck drivers. While the Collins Amendment is being portrayed as a small change to the rest period, it actually has a large impact on fatigue and crash risk and will set back safety for everyone sharing the roads with large 80,000 pound trucks. Senator Booker’s amendment would strip the Collins Amendment of its language to suspend the restart provisions, and would prevent an increase in truck driver work hours while preserving the study on this issue.
I understand all too well how quickly life can change on our roadways because of a big truck. My son Guy was killed by a coal truck that weighed more than 134,000 pounds, had insufficient rear conspicuity, and absolutely no rear underride guard. As a forensic engineer I have reconstructed dozens of crashes in which overweight was a factor.
Local truckers have told me they work too many hours with not enough rest, and that some of them take drugs to stay awake; others just for fun.