Defining a large truck as any vehicle more than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (Class 8 tractors are defined as over 33,000 pounds), CRASH said violent truck crash fatalities have increased more than 18% since 1992. Texas, California and Florida were the top three states for truck-related highway deaths.
The organization, which has received part of its funding in the past from railroad interests, said 660 children were killed in large truck crashes in 1997. “If 12 children a week were dying from contaminated hamburger meat, the government would take immediate action to cope with the disaster,” the group said, “But it’s business as usual at the Office of Motor Carriers and for the trucking industry.”
Walter McCormick, president and CEO of the American Trucking Assns., denounced CRASH’s rhetoric: “Any death on our nation’s highways is a tragedy, especially that of a child. But the hysteria that is being orchestrated cannot hide the facts: Truck safety is improving every day, and the risk of being killed in a car-truck collision is at an all-time low.”
McCormick pointed out that ATA has lobbied for more roadside inspections, mandatory antilock brakes on new trucks and trailers, a single commercial drivers license, and random drug and alcohol testing. “As a result of these efforts, the fatal accident rate for the past year was at its lowest in a decade. Government statistics show that in [a 10-year period], the rate of fatal accidents involving large trucks has dropped 31%, even though mileage has increased 43%,” according to a recently released report from the Federal Highway Administration. The fatal-wreck rate for large trucks was 2.39 for each 100 million miles driven in 1997 – a slight decrease from 2.41 in 1996.
CRASH is calling for the OMC to be moved from the FHWA to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A proposal to do so by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA, did not make it into the recently passed highway funding bill, but the proposal is far from dead. In addition, CRASH’s efforts have been blamed for FHWA’s last-minute cancellation of the Truck and Bus Safety Summit scheduled for December. CRASH claimed OMC “attempted to organize a truck safety summit stacked with industry lobbyists and mouthpieces who set the agenda with only token victim and consumer representation.”
“The Office of Motor Carriers has fatally failed its duty to offer proper oversight of the trucking industry,” said CRASH chairwoman Joan Claybrook. “Its cozying up to the industry has meant more deaths, more injuries and more devastated families across the country.”