Effective solutions that could save thousands of lives are readily available but await implementation. What is lacking is effective and committed leadership at the federal agencies responsible for regulating safety – NHTSA and FMCSA.
Truck crash victims and survivors from around the nation today joined Joan Claybrook, national safety activist and Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) during the Carter Administration, to call on President-elect Joe Biden to address the alarming rise in truck crash deaths and injuries over the past 10 years.
The 28 families outlined urgently needed government actions that, if implemented, could save thousands of lives. On Friday, December 18, President-elect Biden visited the grave of his first wife and infant daughter who were tragically killed 48 years ago in a devastating crash involving a tractor-trailer. Every day on average, 13 people die and 400 more are injured in truck crashes.
Commonsense and cost-effective solutions are readily available but have been ignored by the current Administration. Instead, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has worked to weaken current safety rules.
In addition to recommending overdue safety reforms, the families and Claybrook are requesting President-elect Biden to appoint leaders to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), who are committed to aggressively advancing safety solutions and are free of motor carrier industry ties and corporate influence. Without effective and committed leaders to implement lifesaving standards, it is expected that 20,000 people will needlessly die in truck crashes during the next 4 years.
The full text of the Truck Safety Coalition’s letter to President-elect Biden is below.
The Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) is a partnership between the Citizens for Reliable and
Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation, and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.). The coalition 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.
December 22, 2020
Dear President-Elect Biden:
We are writing to you as survivors of large truck crashes, as family members who have had loved ones needlessly killed in a large truck crash, and as safety advocates who share your goal of advancing laws and government regulations to achieve safer vehicles, safer drivers, and safer roads. The annual death, injury and economic toll of truck crashes is staggering. In the past year, 5,000 people have been killed in truck crashes representing a 46 percent increase since 2009. Additionally, nearly 150,000 were injured and the total economic costs of truck crashes exceeded $135 billion.
This is a critical time in our country for highway and auto safety and there are serious challenges ahead for your Administration. Fortunately, effective solutions that could be saving thousands of lives are readily available but await implementation. What is lacking is effective and committed leadership at the federal agencies responsible for regulating safety – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This must change if we are to reverse the upward trajectory of truck crash deaths, injuries, and costs.
Each day on average 13 people die and 400 more are injured in crashes involving large trucks. For 30 years, victims and survivors of truck crashes and safety activists have joined forces to push for enactment of stronger laws and safety regulations to protect all motorists from the needless and horrific tragedies of large truck crashes. Our organizations, the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), a partnership of Citizens for Reliable and Safety Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), have given us a necessary voice in public policy debates and decisions over crucial truck safety policies and programs. Additionally, our organization provides compassionate support and services for victims and survivors. Our goal is to prevent other families from suffering our lifelong loss and grief by advancing responsible and reasonable solutions.
TSC’s record of achievements in the face of well-organized and well-financed corporate opposition is extraordinary. Our roads are safer today because of our work to mandate retro-reflective taping on trucks, to require electronic logging devices to prevent cheating in driving logbooks, to stop dangerous increases in truck size and weights including the spread of triple trailer trucks in every state, and to thwart special interest attacks on federal hours-of-service (HOS) rules concerning maximum daily and weekly driving and working hours for truck drivers.
The immediate truck safety agenda requires issuing overdue and ignored safety requirements for new trucks that, for the most part, are already mandated in other countries including the European Union. These include crash avoidance technologies such as automatic emergency braking (AEB) as standard equipment on all new trucks, stronger guards to prevent cars in a crash from sliding under the rear and side of large trucks, speed limiters to reduce the deadly consequences of excessive speeding by large trucks, and others. Furthermore, during the past four years the U.S. Department of Transportation has not advanced a single major safety regulation. Instead, government officials have relentlessly attacked existing truck safety rules with efforts to increase the work hours of truckers and to allow teen truckers to operate in interstate commerce.
We cannot wait and allow another 20,000 truck crash deaths and 600,000 injuries in the next four years when solutions are already at hand. For these reasons we call upon you to fill the leadership positions at NHTSA and FMCSA with qualified, dedicated individuals who are free from motor carrier industry ties and corporate influences and have a history of advancing public health and safety initiatives.
In addition to the signatures on this letter representing our leadership at TSC, CRASH and P.A.T.T., we are also joined by other families who share our views that direct and swift action is urgently needed to reverse the indifference and inaction by federal agencies that have cost our nation so much sorrow and tragedy. These deaths and injuries simply did not have to happen.
We can say with certitude and conviction that every person whose life has been permanently altered because of a truck crash that kills or injures a loved one wants strong leadership in Washington, DC. You have the power to change the “business as usual” approach and influence of special interests in these two regulatory agencies. It is truly a matter of life and death.
We look forward to working with you for change to achieve a safer trip for every family and truck driver, in every state on every road.
Joan B. Claybrook, former NHTSA Administrator and President Emeritus, Public Citizen.
Joan also serves as Chair of CRASH, one of the two organizations comprising the Truck Safety Coalition.
Dawn King, President, Truck Safety Coalition & Board Member, CRASH. (Michigan)
Dawn’s father, Bill Badger, was killed in 2004 while slowed in traffic when he was hit from behind by a semi driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel.
Daphne and Steve Izer, Founder and Co-Chair, Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) and Board Member, Truck Safety Coalition. (Maine)
Daphne and Steve Izer’s son, Jeff, and three of his friends were killed in 1993 when a semi driver fell asleep at the wheel and ran over the car as it was parked on the shoulder.
Russell Swift, Co-Chair, P.A.T.T. and Board Member, Truck Safety Coalition. (Maine)
Russ’s son, Jasen, was killed instantly, as was a fellow Marine, while they drove in the dark to work in 1993, by an 18-year-old truck driver without a permit whose truck was stuck across two lanes after trying a U-turn, causing the car to drive into and under the side of the trailer.
Jane Mathis, Vice President, Truck Safety Coalition, and Board Member, P.A.T.T. (Florida)
Jane’s 23-year-old son, David, and his bride, Mary Kathryn, were killed while on their way home from their honeymoon in 2004 when they were stopped in traffic and hit from behind by a semi whose driver fell asleep at the wheel.
Jennifer M. Tierney, Board Member, CRASH and Truck Safety Coalition. (North Carolina)
Jennifer’s father, James Mooney, was killed in 1983 when he crashed into a truck with no visible lights blocking the roadway.
Tami Friedrich Trakh, Board Member, CRASH and Truck Safety Coalition. (California)
Tami’s sister, Kris, brother-in-law Alan and two of their children, Brandie and Anthony, were killed in 1989 when a tanker truck overturned in front of them and exploded.
Larry Liberatore, Board Member, P.A.T.T. and Truck Safety Coalition. (Maryland)
Larry and Patty Liberatore’s son, Nick, was killed in 1997 by a fatigued truck driver who drove his semi over their son’s vehicle.
Nikki Hensley Weingartner, Board Member, P.A.T.T. and Truck Safety Coalition. (Hawaii)
Nikki’s husband, Virgil Hensley, was killed in 1997 when a truck driver ran a stop sign at an intersection, killing him instantly.
Linda Wilburn, Board Member, P.A.T.T. and Truck Safety Coalition. (Oklahoma)
Linda and Gary Wilburn’s son, Orbie, was killed in 2002 when a tired truck driver slammed into his car.
Nancy Meuleners (Minnesota)
Nancy was severely injured in 1989 when her vehicle slid under the back of a semi stopped in traffic without emergency flashers illuminated. She has had over 40 surgeries to reconstruct her face and mouth.
Julie Magnan (Vermont)
Julie was severely injured and her husband, David, was killed in a crash in 2002 when a semi crossed the median and collided with their car.
Franklin Wood (Virginia)
Franklin’s daughter, Dana Wood, and her friend were killed in 2002 after they lost control and were struck by a distracted truck driver
Ron Wood (Washington, DC)
Ron’s mother, Betsy Wood, sister, Lisa Wood Martin, and Lisa’s three children, Chance, Brock and Reid Martin, were killed in 2004 when a tractor trailer driver fell asleep at the wheel and crossed the median, striking their vehicle.
Kate Brown (Illinois)
In 2005, Kate’s 27-year-old son, Graham, was injured and has endured more than 22 surgeries after he was hit by a drunk, drugged and fatigued semi driver.
Debra Cruz (Texas)
Debra Cruz survived being hit from behind by a semi in 2008, though she lives with life- changing injuries that require her to wear a nerve stimulator to cope with overwhelming pain.
Elissa Schee (Utah)
Elissa Schee’s 13-year-old daughter, Margay, was riding home from school in a school bus in 2008 that was struck from behind by a semi and burst into flames.
Vickie Johnson (Georgia)
Vickie’s husband, Curt, and stepdaughter, Crystal, were killed in 2009 when they were stopped in traffic and hit from behind. Vickie and her daughter, Abby and stepson, Cody, survived with injuries.
Tracy Quinichett Whitehead (Maryland)
Tracy’s daughter, Channing, was driving on the Capital Beltway in 2009 when a tire flew off of a truck being towed, smashed through her windshield and killed Channing and her unborn child.
Ed Slattery and Kelli McClelland (Maryland)
Ed’s wife and Kelli’s stepmother, Susan, was killed, and his sons and Kelli’s brothers, Peter and Matthew, were severely injured in 2010 when they were rear-ended by a truck driver who fell asleep.
Pierenna Arrington (South Carolina)
Pierenna’s husband, Scott, was killed in 2012 while riding his motorcycle to work when he was hit and killed by a semi-truck pulling into traffic.
Eileen Kosc (Delaware)
Eileen was driving in slow traffic in 2013 and was struck from behind by a semi, killing her 7 year-old son, Bryan, and injuring her and her other son, Brandon.
Santiago Calderon (California)
Santiago survived a crash in 2014 where 10 other people died when a semi crashed into the charter bus on which he was a passenger.
Pamela Biddle (Georgia)
In 2017, Pamela’s 23-year-old son, Aaron Lee, his father, Brian Lee, and Brian’s partner, Stephanie Swaim, were killed when they were stopped in interstate highway traffic caused by a semi with a wheel fire, and hit from behind by another semi which failed to slow. The semi truck driver also perished.
Becky McCammon (Florida)
Becky’s 20-year-old son, Dyllon, was killed in 2017 when a semi pulled out in front of his car.
Laura and Richard Fredricks (New Jersey)
Laura and Richard’s daughter, Emily, was killed while riding her bicycle to work in 2017 when a sanitation truck turned in front of her.
Sarah Jo Plucker-Wright (Ohio)
Sarah Jo was severely injured in 2018 when a semi driver ran a red light and struck her vehicle.
Catherine DeSalvo (New Jersey)
Catherine’s husband, Jim, was killed while riding his bike in 2019, when the tire flew off of an overweight, unmaintained dump truck and hit him.
Anna Guardipee (Virginia)
Anna and her dear friend, Jennifer Burton, were slowed in construction traffic in 2019 when a semi failed to stop and rear ended their vehicle, pushing them into another semi. Anna was paralyzed and Jennifer was killed.