With tears in my eyes and a tremendous ache in my heart I read tonight, on the eve of the 7th anniversary of my father’s death at the hands of a fatigued semi driver, the new HOS rule. You and I have met. You’ve looked at Dad’s photo, the picture of the car, heard his story. You listened when I spoke about how he fixed dangerous things, nodded in agreement when I said that fatigued driving could be fixed. You hugged me and said you knew your work wasn’t fast enough for me. I thought you recognized the opportunity you had to make a difference, to save lives, to put safety ahead of commercial profit.
But you left the most dangerous part of the HOS rule intact. You are continuing to allow drivers to drive eleven hours in a row. Your own agency studies indicate that driving eleven hours contributes to fatigue related crashes. Your own surveys tell you that drivers report driving fatigued, report falling asleep while driving. Your own research tells you the truth. Yet you allowed pressure from wealthy and profit oriented organizations to convince you that profit is more important than the public’s safety. Ensuring safety on our roads is your number one job. Safety is your number one responsibility.
In the same week that the FAA responded to the problem of fatigued airline pilots and lowered the number of hours pilots can work before they must rest, you ignored the fact that fatigued truck drivers are just as dangerous. If even 1% of last year’s 3,675 semi related deaths were caused by fatigued semi drivers, the 367 people killed should cause national outrage. An agency such as the FMCSA should sit up and take notice. Two people died last year in fatigue related airline crashes and the FAA responded. Critics of the FAA ruling say it didn’t go far enough, and I agree, but at least they are moving in the right direction.
How many more people have to die before our government recognizes that profits can not come before the safety of the innocent public? Don’t you think that we’d all be willing to pay a few more dollars for that microwave it we knew that we could save lives by getting it to the store just a bit later? Under this ‘new’ rule people will continue to die because of fatigued truck drivers. Regardless of the once a week restart rule and the mandated overnight sleep, the fact is that driving eleven hours is fatiguing. So more people die, more families get that call, more lives are shattered. Profit wins, but the public pays the price. It’s just so wrong.
Dad was killed seven years ago tomorrow. I promised him that I’d make a difference and I’m not giving up. But I have to say that tonight I feel more than a little discouraged. You and I sat in a meeting, with other family members who have suffered terrible loss, and I told you then that of all of us in that room, you were the only one with the power to make our roads safer. I don’t think you understood what a grave responsibility you had.
You were our best hope for change. And tonight I feel saddened, betrayed, confused and angry.