We thought long and hard about this column.
The topic — Hours of Service — wasn’t hard to choose, but it’s been difficult to write for a couple of reasons, which we will explain as we go along, but let us start off by saying that this column is about emotion and common sense.
We were on deadline when the HOS listening session was live Feb. 17, so the following Monday, we set about watching the webcast.
As the afternoon session began, the moderator called on Marchelle Wood of Falls Church, Va.
Mrs. Wood signed the register as representing the Truck Safety Coalition.
She began this way:
“I am requesting that the Hours of Service be reduced to 10 hours or lower, but we’ll take 10. Not to be 11. I’m here today because my daughter Dana and a friend were killed by a tired trucker eight years ago. It still takes my breath away.”
We can certainly empathize with Mrs. Wood.
My wife and I lost a two-week-old son to spinal meningitis some 37 years ago and although I know he’s in heaven today, our eyes fill with tears when we visit his grave.
Mrs. Wood continued with understandable emotion:
“They were returning to East Carolina University after a weekend at home for fall break. The crash took place on I-95 in Virginia. This tractor-trailer struck and pushed Dana’s car over 1,500 feet before coming to a stop. That’s a quarter of a mile. During the investigation of this crash, numerous violations came to light from the truck driver to the trucking company, one of which was the Hours of Service. This driver produced two sets of logs and both were erroneous. According to two expert accident re-constructionists, this crash could have been avoided and it was due likely to fatigue. Over 4,000 people are killed by these trucks on our roads in a year. Serious action has to be taken for the safety of the motorists and the truck drivers. Research shows that performance declines after the eighth hour. Adding the 11th hour is not worth it. It defies logic. My family and I paid the ultimate price of unreasonable Hours of Service. There are no words to describe the constant pain that this truck driver has inflicted upon us. Please set reasonable Hours of Service. Make EOBRS be mandatory on all trucks. Provide efficient enforcement and harsh punishment. We depend on you to have the integrity to put the safety before commercial interests. Our lives depend on it.”
Safety advocates commonly use emotion to make a point when it comes to HOS and accidents, but emotion has no place in regulatory decision — facts do.
The facts about Dana Wood’s accident from news accounts paint a different picture.
Those accounts report she and the friend were traveling south on I-95 not too far north of the Virginia-North Carolina state line when an animal ran onto the roadway.
Dana Wood swerved to miss the animal, lost control of the car, hit a guard rail and came back onto the interstate into the path of a tractor-trailer traveling the same direction.
Needless to say the impending collision was horrific.
We spent the five solid days prior to deadline trying to run down the accident report or documentation of a lawsuit that was filed against the trucking company, but to no avail.
We’re told the trucking company paid as a result of the suit.
We were hoping to better understand how the accident could have been avoided.
Two vehicles traveling 65 mph in the same direction.
The truck was about six car lengths behind the co-ed’s vehicle, the investigating trooper told a newspaper at the time.
One swerves, hits the guard rail and bounces back onto the roadway.
The second, a big rig at that, is supposed to be able to stop or avoid the collision?
Though there was no evidence of speeding, both vehicles were traveling too fast for the rainy conditions that night, the trooper said.
As for fatigue, we’re not sure how that contributed to the accident.
We doubt that the most alert trucker could have stopped before hitting Ms. Wood’s car.
We figure that whatever the suit cost the trucking company, it was the result of the violations found during a compliance review following the accident.
One final thing: Remember the accident occurred when the HOS rules allowed only 10 hours of driving daily.
One other thing we’d like to discuss:
It is a fact that —based on all the comments that have been received — it will be a travesty if the Final Rule reduces daily driving time to 10 hours.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org