Senator Feinstein Calls on U.S. Department of Transportation to Re-examine Risk of Long-Distance Truck Driver Fatigue
Nov 15 2007
Washington, DC – In response to recent tragic accidents involving long-haul trucks on California highways, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today called on the U.S. Department of Transportation to revisit its efforts to improve the safety of our highways by requiring onboard computers that automatically record when a truck is being driven.
In a letter to John H. Hill, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Senator Feinstein highlighted the risk of long-distance truck driver fatigue and requested information about current efforts to address this growing problem.
The following is the text of Senator Feinstein’s letter:
November 15, 2007
Mr. John H. Hill
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Mr. Hill,
On May 4, a tractor-trailer slammed into the back of a minivan on Interstate 5 in Orange County, CA, killing three children. On October 12, a fiery crash that took the lives of three people and involved 33 big rigs destroyed the tunnel beneath the Golden State and Antelope Valley freeways. These devastating crashes in California highlight the cost of not moving forward with common sense measures that could make our highways safer.
I am concerned that your regulations to reduce long-distance truck driver fatigue are failing. The regulations, which require truck drivers to record their hours in written logbooks, continue to tempt drivers to falsify their books. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, about a third of drivers admit to often or sometimes omitting hours from their log books. Perhaps more alarming, the Institute reports the percentage of drivers who reported dozing at the wheel at least once during the past month rose from 13 percent in 2003 to 21 percent in 2005.
With the log book system failing and driver fatigue increasing, it seems like common sense to require onboard computers that automatically record when a truck is driven. I understand that Europe has required mechanical (nonelectronic) tachographs, designed to record vehicle travel hours, for three decades. To reduce tampering, the European Union required all new trucks and intercity buses to be equipped with electronic recording devices almost two years ago.
In 2000, your agency published a proposal to require these devices as part of a broader rulemaking, but dropped the proposal before the rules took effect in 2004. Considering the recent tragedies in California, I think it may be time for Congress and your agency to revisit this matter. I would appreciate your thoughtful response to the following questions.
- Does the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration possess the legal authority to require electronic recording devices on long-haul trucks in the United States?
- Is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration considering requiring such devices on U.S. domiciled long-haul trucks?
- Does the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration propose another approach to address the growing problem of truck driver fatigue?
I look forward to working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to improve highway safety.
United States Senator