As you know, truck driver fatigue has recently garnered wide media attention because of the tragic crash that occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike that killed one man and critically injured others including actor Tracy Morgan ("Keep truckers alert," June 9). Unfortunately, the Tracy Morgan crash is just one example of the hundreds of thousands of truck crashes that occur on our nation's roadways each year. Every minute and a half of every day, a large truck is involved in a crash resulting in, on average, 4,000 yearly fatalities and 100,000 more injuries. Truck driver fatigue has been recognized as a major safety concern and a contributing factor to fatal truck crashes for over 70 years, which is why Congress should focus on remedying the current safety problems, and not creating new ones.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey along with Senators John D. Rockefeller, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Robert Menendez, Richard Blumenthal, Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Edward J. Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod C. Brown, Richard J. Durbin, Mazie K. Hirono, Brian E. Schatz and Chris S. Murphy filed an amendment to the FY 2015 Transportation Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill which would protect important safety rules governing rest periods and the hours of service truck drivers may work each week. I am disappointed that Maryland's two senators have not seen fit to sign onto this amendment. I urge them to vote yes when it comes up for a vote.
The Booker amendment was introduced as a response to the language of the amendment championed by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine which would increase the truck driver work week from the current 70 hours to 82 hours. This is equivalent to adding an additional work day to the already long work week of a truck driver. While the Collins amendment is being portrayed as a small change to the rest period, it actually has a large impact on fatigue and crash risk and will set back safety for everyone sharing the roads with 80,000-pound trucks. Senator Booker's amendment would strip the Collins amendment of its language to suspend the restart provisions and would prevent an increase in truck driver work hours while preserving the study on this issue.
My family understands all too well how quickly life can change on our roadways due to a big truck. My wife was killed and both our sons were critically injured, one permanently, when a trucker fell asleep at the wheel. Peter has physically recovered but Matthew will never be the man he was meant to be. He requires around the clock attention, special education, a wheelchair, anti seizure medication and urinary catheterization.
The trucking industry is the only one in America that can get away with 4,000 deaths and over 100,000 injuries per year. Let's stop the mayhem on our highways and save lives — maybe yours.
Edward M. Slattery
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