WASHINGTON — Although it didn’t have a seat at the witness table for Wednesday’s “Under Pressure: The State of Trucking in America” hearing before the House Highways and Transit, the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, better known as the Trucking Alliance, submitted comments touching several key areas of the trucking industry.
Among other things, the Alliance said:
- There should be no greater pressure on the trucking industry than to reduce large truck crash fatalities and injuries because large truck crash fatalities can be eliminated.
- No industry segment should be exempt from installing electronic logging devices.
- Thousands of commercial truck drivers are illicit drug users.
- Truck drivers should be 21 years old or older to operate commercial trucks in interstate commerce.
- Large trucks should adhere to a reasonable maximum speed of 65 mph.
- Collision mitigation systems should be required on new commercial trucks.
Steve Williams, chairman and CEO of Maverick USA in Little Rock, Arkansas, who is co-founder of the Trucking Alliance and serves as the coalition’s president, noted that 2017, the last reportable year, there were more than 415,000 large truck accidents in the U.S. in which 4,761 were killed, including more than 600 truck drivers and 148,000 were injured.
“These statistics should alarm every trucking company employer, whose drivers share the road with millions of motorists every day,” Williams said. “The trucking industry is indispensable to the US economy,” Williams recently said. “But the industry has too many accidents. More truck drivers lost their lives in 2017, than in any year in the previous 10 years. We must aggressively address these tragic figures.”
Williams believes a first step is to reverse the industry priorities. “Support progressive safety reforms that make sense for our country and citizens first, our industry second, and our companies third,” he said. “Yet several trucking-specific bills before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee would propose the opposite – legislation to benefit companies first, the trucking industry second, and our country and citizens, third. This committee must adopt safety reforms to reduce large truck crashes and reject legislation that would appease special interests but sacrifice public safety in the process.”
Williams noted that ELDs play a major role in reducing truck crashes, yet rather than embrace ELDs for the safety benefits they will achieve, certain industry segments want an exemption from ELDs.
He said there are at least two bills before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that would allow thousands of truck drivers of agricultural goods to operate “off the grid” and without a reliable way to verify whether they are in compliance with on-duty regulations. These bills would compromise public safety.
Another bill would allow any motor carrier that operates 10 or fewer trucks to operate without an ELD.
According to data provided by the American Trucking Associations, over 90 percent of the nation’s motor carriers have 10 or fewer trucks.
In its comments, the Trucking Alliance also renewed its push for hair testing for substance abuse.
Williams said the Alliance recently submitted data to the Department of Transportation showing “compelling evidence” that thousands of habitual drug users are manipulating federal drug test protocols and obtaining jobs as commercial truck drivers.
He said the survey data compared the pre-employment drug test results of 151,662 truck driver applicants, who were asked to submit to two drug tests — a urinalysis and a hair analysis. Almost all applicants held an active commercial driver license. Williams said 94% of the truck driver applicants tested drug-free. However, thousands of applicants failed either or both drug tests.
“Alarmingly, the urinalysis, the only method recognized by USDOT, and relied on by almost all trucking company employers, actually failed to identify most drug abusers,” Williams said. “The urinalysis detected drugs in 949 applicants, about 1% of the population. However, 8.6%, or 8,878 truck driver applicants, either failed or refused the hair test. Put another way, the urinalysis missed nine out of 10 actual illicit drug users.”
The Trucking Alliance is probably the most prominent group that is lobbying against any efforts to allow drivers under 21 to operate in interstate commerce.
“Most states allow teenagers between the ages of 18-21 to operate commercial trucks within their state boundary,” Williams said. “While statistics are lacking, anecdotal evidence suggests these teenage truck drivers operate lighter weight, short trucks, such as delivery vans and straight or panel trucks. Few teenagers actually operate Class 8 tractor-trailer combinations within their state. These big rigs carry a laden weight of 80,000 pounds. These are the tractor trailers used in interstate commerce. Operating these tractor trailer combinations requires elevated skills, considerable experience, maturity and self-discipline.”
Williams said the Trucking Alliance supports a new federal safety standard that would require all large commercial trucks to maintain a maximum speed limit of 65 mph on the nation’s highways.
According to NHTSA, in 2017, speeding was one of the factors for almost 27% of motor vehicle crash deaths. The World Health Organization’s “Report on Road Safety” estimates that for every 1% increase in mean speed, there is a 4% increase in the fatal crash risk and a 3% increase in the serious crash risk. The top speed of large tractor trailer combinations should be limited.
The trucking industry has historically supported truck speed limiters.
As for safety systems, Williams said collision mitigation systems installed in commercial trucks can reduce large truck crashes.
He said the Trucking Alliance supports the conclusions of a 2017 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Study. The study, entitled “Leveraging Large Truck Technology and Engineering to Realize Safety Gains,” researched four truck safety technologies, all of which can greatly reduce injuries and fatalities in large truck crashes:
- Lane departure warning systems, which detect when the vehicle drifts out of its lane and warns the driver
- Video-based onboard safety monitoring, which utilizes in-vehicle video cameras and sensors.
- Automatic emergency braking systems, which detect when the truck is in danger of striking the vehicle in front of it and brakes automatically, if needed.
- Air disc brakes, which will eventually be superior to traditional drum brakes, as these systems are continually improved.
Some of the largest trucking companies in the U.S. are members of the Trucker Alliance, including Cargo Transporters, Dupre, J.B. Hunt, KLLM Transport Services, Knight Transportation, Maverick Transportation, Swift, U.S. Xpress and May Trucking Co.