Saturday, November 07, 2015

Jane Mathis Guest Column: Big trucks, high dangers, deep sorrows

Guest Column: Big trucks, high dangers, deep sorrows
Posted: October 31, 2015 - 4:14pm | Updated: October 31, 2015 - 11:04pm
St. Augustine
A mother tells of her two sons killed by a tired trucker who rear-ended their car on the Interstate. A devastated father tells the story of his son, a Marine home from war, only to be killed by a young, inexperienced semitrailer driver.
This is Sorrow to Strength — a Truck Safety Coalition conference where we survivors and families of victims come together every other year in Washington, D.C., to listen, to grieve, to learn and to advocate. Our only goal is to keep other families from experiencing the same horror of sudden loss or devastating injury of a loved one in a big truck crash.
Last week, as part of our conference, we asked elected officials to oppose measures that would mandate increasing the size of double tractor-trailers, as well as lowering the permissible driving age for interstate trucking from 21 to 18 years of age. Truck crash fatalities and injuries in the United States have increased by 17 percent and 28 percent respectively from 2009 to 2013. The nonsafety measures recommended by Congress will only increase these percentages.
The push for longer trailers is based on the premise that a size increase will reduce the number of trucks. As history has shown, truck size and/or weight increases have never resulted in fewer trucks. Proponents of double 33s also fail to mention the dangers that accompany the additional 10 feet of trailer: an extra 22 feet of stopping distance, a six-foot wider turning radius, and a 33 percent increase in low-speed off-tracking.
The proposal to allow 18- to 20-year-old interstate truck drivers will result in devastating consequences.
In an attempt to address a perceived shortage in the industry, supporters of the measure, such as the American Trucking Association, fail to address the underlying causes. Certain segments of the industry have turnover rates that are upwards of 85 percent. Clearly, the shortage problem stems from driver retention issues rather than driver supply issues. The solution should not and cannot be to introduce a driving demographic that is 66 percent more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers 21 and older.
Yet ignoring problems or kicking the can to the next Congress has become commonplace with regard to truck safety policy. We need not look any further than the issue of minimum insurance required by trucks per incident. The amount of $750,000 was set in 1980. It has not been increased once since then — not even to account for inflation. As a result, the minimum level required has become woefully insufficient. The payout to truck crash victims is inappropriate and, in catastrophic crashes, fails to adequately compensate them. Consequently, the victims are punished in two ways: first there is the physical devastation caused by the crash and then they can be financially ruined in the wake of that crash. In those instances where the cost of the crash exceeds the payout, it is the victims as well as the taxpayers who are left to cover it.
Lawmakers cannot continue to ignore the data that shows trucking is becoming more dangerous. Many speak out about it, but we want them to do more than talk — we want them to take action.
They need to hear from you, their constituents. Please email your elected officials through their websites: and
Ms. Mathis is the mother of David Mathis, killed with his wife, Mary Kathryn, in a big truck crash. She is VP of the Truck Safety Coalition.

Follow This Article
tmtransport 11/02/15 - 10:59 am 30truck safety coalition
Ms. Mathis, I am sorry for your loss. However more people die from automobile accidents, with no truck involved, everyday. Perhaps we should see how many women drivers, or people that drive Toyotas or chevys or Dodges are the cause of accidents. Then we could force all kinds of rules and regulations on those people.
Most of the new rules that have been enacted in the past few years make it harder to make a living. The HOS regs force drivers to drive when tired. For the most part, semi drivers are very safe and responsible drivers and records indicate most accidents involving a semi are caused by four wheelers. By the way, I have to have a million dollars of liability insurance.
People who want to enact laws that effect an industry that is so important to the day to day life of every American should be forced to spend a few days in the cab of a truck as a prerequisite.

Dawn President of the Truck Safety Coalition 11/03/15 - 12:49 pm 00Truck Safety
While it is true that many truck drivers are responsible and safe drivers it is also true that some are not. The HOS regulations do not force drivers to drive when they are tired. The HOS require drivers to rest after the maximum number of hours have been driven. If you drive a truck and choose not to rest during the designated rest time, then choose to drive tired you are being irresponsible. Studies sponsored by the FMCSA show that 65% of commercial drivers admit to driving while feeling tired or drowsy. Half of the drivers say they have actually fallen asleep while driving. That is very scary.

And while I'm glad that most companies carry at least $1M in liability insurance, $1M won't nearly cover the loss and expenses that people in passenger cars incur in a crash with a large truck. The minimum required is $750K, that was established in the 80s and has never been increased. Not even increased with the cost of living. Hospital and lifelong care expenses eclipse $1M almost instantly. And if more than one person is injured the liability insurance has to be split between everyone. Having $1M of insurance doesn't begin to cover the cost of doing business for a truck company.

I believe that increasing liability insurance minimums and decreasing the number of hours a driver is allowed to drive would make the roads safer for everyone - truck drivers included.

Linda Wilburn 11/03/15 - 01:00 pm 10Truck Safety
Much like Ms. Mathis I like to put my heartache into helping improve safety for the traveling public. My son's crashes was near a carbon copy of David's crash. That is where the passion comes from to try to make a difference and save some lives. I do believe that good things can come out of tragedy. The trucking industry has a huge impact on the traveling public, therefore I think we have a right and obligation to let our law makers, the unknowing traveling public and the trucking industry know that we want improvements. Truck crash fatalities is on the increase and not just for the traveling public but for truck drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists as well. If I had lost my son to a train crash perhaps I would channel my efforts towards train crashes. You are correct in that there are good truck drivers out there. There are good companies out there. We just want to improve or get rid of the bad ones.

No comments: