Nothing like checking the mail in your bunny slippers and seeing a strongly worded letter addressed to you. That was Secretary Pete Buttigieg when he checked the USDOT’s mailbox Tuesday and saw he got some mail from the Truck Safety Coalition.
The joint letter, co-signed by the likes of Sean O’Brien, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Joan Claybrook, chair of Reliable and Safe Highways (formerly an administrator of the NHTSA), Daphne & Steve Izer and Russel Smith, co-chairs of the Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), and several others, blasted Buttigieg and his Administration for not prioritizing the safety of travelers against the trucking menace.
Using the East Palestine railroad disaster (which has nothing to do with trucking if I’m correct) and the nitric acid truck rollover in Arizona as a catalyst, they called out the USDOT for delaying safety regulations. The TSC feels that the USDOT is delaying “to accommodate the objections of the railroad corporate interests.”
According to the letter, there have been over 18,000 hazmat incidents of various degrees since 2014. Also from the letter, from 1990 to 2021, there were 16 times more hazmat-related fatalities involving trucking than their rail counterparts.
The following is the list of demands from the joint letter that the coalition believes will fix all problems and grievances they have:
- Require automated brake system on all CMVS
The Infrastructure and Jobs Act always has this as a statute but the coalition wants a mandate from Secretary Pete demanding all commercial vehicles, big and small, to have an automated braking system. But as we saw with the ELD mandate, not all trucks are compatible with a computer mashing the brakes through the floorboards for them.
Older trucks do not have the automated actuators necessary to comply with this demand. They still use old-fashioned mechanical linkage to open the valves and stop the trucks.
- Mandate speed limiters on trucks, just like the EU
Ah yes, the speed limiter mandate. It seems the battle continues against the popular opinion that trucks should be driving nose to tail, forgetting the simple fact that a fully loaded tractor-trailer takes 300-1,000 feet to stop safely.
Yes, speeding takes lives, I agree wholeheartedly with that. But in the grand majority of these fatalities, it is not the trucker that instigates the incident, but an overly impatient and often distracted non-professional driver.
- Stop truckers from driving fatigued
Finally, something I can get behind, but to a point. Truckers are hammered by stress factors leading them to drive half-asleep.
From brokers and driver managers calling at all hours of the night to not getting enough oxygen, drivers have a hard time getting a proper night’s sleep. As a sleep apnea sufferer myself, I understand that drivers should be checked out by a medical professional to see if they need a C-PAP device to help them out.
The joint letter calls for a C-PAP test to meet the DOT medical requirements, something most carriers have already implemented.
- Make sure new carriers know the laws about hazmat
The New Entrant Carrier Proficiency Exam is a concept going back to 1999. It’s an exam, similar to a tradesman’s test, to see if you know everything you need to be a safe and legally respected trucking carrier.
As we all know, getting into trucking is simple, but it has its challenges. There’s the journey of getting a business license, filing your paperwork with the DOT and FMCSA to get your permits and numbers, and some audits that pop up every now and then.
This would add a test you would take to make sure you know everything there is about being a trucking company. The issue I see would be that small businesses have maybe one or two people involved in their daily operations, while enterprise carriers have tens of thousands.
Are we going to test each and every employee?
- Stop CAB and SHIP-IT immediately
So you want Secretary Pete to circumvent Congress and not abide by duly voted-on legislation? While I am no fan of the teenage interstate trucking program, if it’s voted on by Congress and signed by the President, it is what it is.
The waivers granted by the SHIP-IT Act have been used by truckers to show they can operate safely by driving on their own accord and not having to follow the HOS rules to the letter. They drive as long as they feel alert and safe, then sleep when they are tired.
I think someone might not be happy with drivers having free will in the truck and want to keep the yoke on the driver’s neck, pulling the wagon more with every whip crack. Let’s wait and see what Secretary Pete does with this letter and if he will take immediate action on it as it politely requests.
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