Before the
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
UNITED STATES SENATE
Statement of
AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS, INC.
On
HIGHWAY SAFETY

THOMAS J. DONOHUE

President and Chief Executive Officer
May 7, 1997

I. Introduction

Chairman Warner, Senator Baucus, members of the Subcommittee, thank you for holding this hearing on safety and for giving me the opportunity to share with you the trucking industry's recommendations for improving the safety of all motorists on our nation's highways.

ATA Represents the Trucking Industry

The American Trucking Associations, Inc. (ATA) is the national trade association of the trucking industry. We are a federation of over 36,000 member companies and represent an industry that employs over nine million people, providing one out of every ten civilian jobs. ATA's membership includes nearly 4,200 carriers, affiliated associations in every state, and 13 specialized national associations. Together, ATA represents every type and class of motor carrier in the country.

Safety is Our Driving Goal

While our industry is diverse, we all agree that safety is one of the primary considerations behind every decision affecting our operations. The industry has championed aggressive safety initiatives that have helped to make our nation's truck fleet much safer today than it was just a decade ago. Our initiatives are paying off. Between 1985 and 1995, while the number of miles traveled increased 41%, the fatal accident rate dropped 39%, the best year ever. Because of the trucking industry's safety efforts, the driving public can be confident that the truck drivers with whom they share the road are safe professionals. Indeed, Federal statistics show that mile for mile, truck drivers have an accident rate less than half that of car drivers. The professional truck driver is the best driver on the road; the industry expects nothing less of them, and neither should the public.

This stellar safety record did not happen by chance, nor was it achieved easily. It was earned through vigorous, industry-led efforts to improve the safety of our highways, our drivers, and our vehicles. For example, ATA has fought for and won:

└The national Commercial Drivers License (CDL), which for the first time required drivers to meet strict national skill and knowledge requirements and gave prospective employers basic information we need to weed out unsafe drivers.

└A more than ten-fold increase in the number of inspections of heavy trucks.

└Common-sense, cost-effective drug and alcohol testing to ensure that truck drivers are free of drugs and alcohol when they are behind the wheel.

└The elimination of commercial zones in which trucks and drivers were allowed to operate without having to comply with Federal safety regulations.

└A ban on the use of radar detectors in trucks.

We are currently pursuing additional safety initiatives:

└Recognizing the value that advanced technology brings to safety, we will be spending $6 billion over the next decade to equip our trucks with anti-lock braking systems.

└While fatigue plays a relatively small role as a cause of truck crashes, we need to recognize that fatigue is a concern for all drivers and a problem that affects our entire society. The trucking industry has taken the lead in addressing this challenge, embarking on extensive, ground-breaking fatigue research that has expanded the knowledge base on this subject and set the stage for finding solutions. Just last week we completed a ground-breaking international forum on ways to reduce fatigue in transportation operations.

└We opposed elimination of the national speed limit two years ago and continue to encourage states to resist increasing allowable speeds on their highways.

└Recognizing that truckers who wear their safety belts are twenty times less likely to die in an accident, ATA has conducted outreach efforts to encourage truckers to buckle up. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing a safety belt reduces the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45%. We support and encourage efforts to increase safety belt use for all motorists.

└We have expanded our efforts to educate all drivers on how to safely share the road with others. For example, ATA has hosted forty "How-to-Drive" press events throughout the country to point out local traffic hot spots and inform motorists about how to share the road safely with a truck. Members of the America's Road Team, and state and corporate Road Teams, have made safety presentations before more than 1,000 school, business, and media audiences. We have distributed hundreds of thousands of brochures and pamphlets about highway safety, including more than half a million brochures about the dangers of drowsy driving. ATA has also aired public service announcements about the dangers of drowsy driving, reaching millions of radio listeners.

└Finally, we support the common-sense use of conspicuity markings on trailers.

II. We Must Improve Highway Safety

The human toll of crashes on our nation's highways cannot be overstated. Nearly 42,000 people die annually in highway crashes and 2.3 million people are seriously injured. That is a national disgrace. To put this in more illustrative terms, the number of fatal accidents is equivalent to a Valujet crash each and every day of the year. Motor vehicle crashes represent about 40% of accidental injuries and deaths each year and are the leading cause of death for young people ages five through 32 years. In addition to the severe human costs associated with highway crashes is the economic burden on all Americans that result from motor vehicle crashes. Crashes create traffic delays which cause more accidents, contribute to air pollution, consume energy, and lower the productivity of the nation's industries and work force. The annual cost to our economy of the deaths, injuries, and property damage is $150.5 billion, the equivalent of $580 for every person living in the United States, or 2.2% of the country's Gross Domestic Product. Motor vehicle crash costs funded through public revenues cost taxpayers $13.8 billion in 1994, the equivalent of $144 in added taxes for each household in the United States.

Despite these grim statistics, against ATA's objection, the national maximum speed limit was repealed in 1995. Since then, 34 states have raised their speed limits, and 23 of these 34 states have increased their speed limits to 70 miles-per-hour or greater. We are extremely concerned about the potential impact of these changes on highway safety. Recent reports from two states - New Mexico and Texas - indicate an increase in fatal accidents since those states raised their maximum speed limits. ATA strongly supports the U.S. DOT's research efforts in this area. We urge Congress to develop incentives for states to create speed management programs that will improve highway safety.

III. Trucking's Safety Performance

As a leading highway safety advocate, the trucking industry is moving ahead with initiatives which will continue to make trucks the safest vehicles on the road and reduce our role in the daily tragedy played out on our nation's highways. However, we all have to acknowledge where the problem is. The fact is that in 88% of highway fatalities, trucks are not even involved in the crash. The latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) figures show that the fatal accident rate for trucks is going down, even while the number of fatalities for car drivers is going up. Of the crashes causing the remaining 12% of the fatalities - where a truck was involved - 72% of the time the problem began with the driver of the other vehicle. As the statistics bear out, trucks are safe and getting safer, not withstanding what you will hear from some others.

IV. The Administration's NEXTEA Proposal Will Not Improve Highway Safety

Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jane Garvey acknowledged during recent Senate testimony that the Administration's budget proposal provides insufficient funding for maintenance of our nation's transportation systems. In addition, under NEXTEA, the Administration's proposal for reauthorization, user fee revenues available for investment in the National Highway System (NHS) fall nearly $7 billion short of the $15.6 billion annual Federal funding level necessary to simply maintain these most important highways.

Furthermore, NEXTEA dilutes funds available for national highway needs by providing for greatly increased diversion of user fee revenues to projects that will have extremely limited highway safety benefits. The Administration's proposal raises the funding levels of non-highway programs such as the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ) and Transportation Enhancements Program (TEP). Regardless of how well-intentioned these programs might be, all of them - particularly the TEP - have funded superfluous projects such as the landscaping of a picnic area, enhancement of a jungle trail, rehabilitation of a beach chalet, and preservation of a Shaker barn. Clearly, these projects will not reduce highway fatalities. At the same time, the Administration proposes to cut funding for the Bridge Program, a program which clearly contributes to highway safety.

Finally, the Administration has proposed turning its back on 40 years of history by allowing tolls on the Interstate Highway System. Every motorist's experience with toll barriers teaches us that forcing traffic on a free-flowing Interstate to come to a halt at a toll plaza increases the accident risk. Moreover, tolls could divert drivers from freeways, causing them to use less safe secondary roads. Charging highway users to rent what they have already bought is a travesty. The trucking industry is already paying more in highway taxes than we get back, and under the Administration's proposal, Highway Trust Fund balances will increase to approximately $48 billion by 2002.

V. ATA's Proposal to Improve Safety

Just as the demands on our industry are constantly changing, our strategies for improving the trucking industry's safety performance must also adapt to meet new challenges. Therefore, ATA has developed a comprehensive strategy which builds on previous safety efforts and focuses attention on those areas of growing concern. Many laws and regulations were written decades ago, and did not anticipate such innovations as just-in-time (JIT) delivery or modern truck equipment. Our new safety initiatives take into account the just-in-time, 24-hour society that we have become and that increasingly shapes trucking industry operations.

It is essential that safety legislation recognizes the importance of efficient freight delivery to our nation's global competitiveness. We firmly believe that safety does not have to be compromised to achieve financial goals. However, we all have to be smarter in the way we invest limited resources and in the methods we use to affect driver performance and carrier responsibility.

VI. Roadway Improvements will Reduce Accidents and Save Lives

A key step in improving highway safety is increasing the investment in better highways. While safety improvements such as anti-lock brakes and a reduced drunk driving rate undoubtedly make our highways safer, the fact remains that approximately 30% of highway fatalities - 11,000 lives each year - are the result of inadequate roadways.

Thanks to the leadership of Chairmen Warner and Chafee, and Senator Bond, a clear majority of Senators have now indicated a recognition of the need for significant increases in highway investment. We applaud these efforts and encourage all Members of Congress to support a program level that will address the many deficiencies of our highways and bridges.

The Condition of our Highways is Unacceptable

The National Highway System (NHS), consisting of the 162,000 miles, or four percent of the nation's most critical highway mileage, carries 40% of all traffic, 75% of truck traffic, and 80% of tourist traffic. Despite this high usage, 40% of the NHS has been allowed to slip into poor or mediocre condition, and nearly a quarter of NHS routes experience periods of severe congestion. While an annual Federal investment of $15.6 billion is required simply to maintain conditions and performance on the NHS, just $6.5 billion in Federal funding was authorized for investment in the NHS in FY 1997.

Fortunately, sufficient highway user revenues are available to improve the condition of the NHS and bridges and reduce congestion on NHS routes. However, these funds are being diverted to the General Fund and to projects which will contribute little or nothing toward a reduction in the 42,000 fatalities that occur on our highways every year. Spending all highway user revenues in a timely manner and prudently drawing down the $22 billion surplus in the Highway Trust Fund will allow for a total annual investment level of at least $34 billion.

This level of investment is essential to achieving the common goal of significantly improved highway safety. A $19 billion investment in the NHS and a $4 billion investment in bridges is necessary to reduce the absolutely unacceptable carnage on our nation's highways. This level of spending will halt the deterioration of NHS routes and highway bridges, improve road conditions, and ease congestion.

It is important to keep in mind that 47% of the NHS is made up of two-lane roads. Many of these roads, and other non-Interstate NHS routes, lack the characteristics that can prevent or lessen the severity of accidents, such as medians or median barriers, twelve-foot lanes, shoulders, and clear zones. These deficiencies contribute to a higher overall fatal accident rate. While the Interstate System has the lowest fatality rate - 0.73 fatal accidents per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) - NHS routes not on the Interstate have a death rate of 1.74, nearly 60% higher than the rate for Interstates.

Fortunately, certain countermeasures and treatments can substantially reduce the incidence and severity of crashes on these non-Interstate NHS routes:

Clear Zones are areas adjacent to the roadway which are free of fixed objects and allow motorists to stop safely and regain control of their vehicles. Clear zones can reduce the single-vehicle accident rate on two-lane highways by up to 63%.

Gentle Roadside Slopes reduce the risk of vehicles over-turning if they leave the road. Side slopes which are too abrupt are the major factor in roadway departure crashes, representing almost 30% of the total number of such crashes. Flattening the side slopes on two-lane rural roads could reduce accidents on these roads by up to 15%.

Forgiving Devices are roadway features such as signs and utility poles which breakaway on impact, barrier walls or guardrails which redirect vehicles away from hazards, and crash cushions which absorb the energy of impacts.

Rumble Strips alert drivers encroaching on the road shoulder or approaching some other potentially hazardous situation. Rumble strips are especially useful in preventing fatigue-related accidents. On roads which have very long, straight sections, these features can reduce the number of run off the road crashes by as much as 50%.

Signing, Pavement Markings and Reflective Delineation Devices improve driver perception of important roadway features and alert them to changes in roadway geometry or other conditions that might not be otherwise anticipated. Roadway departure crashes are about four times more likely to occur on curved roads than straight roads.

Pavement Improvements provide drivers with greater increased traction for maneuvering and stopping, particularly in adverse weather conditions. Where there are a large number of wet weather crashes, resurfacing can cause a net reduction in crashes, averaging 20% over the life of the project.

Preventive Pavement Maintenance can eliminate drop-offs between the road pavement and shoulder, reducing the chance that drivers who wander off the road and try to return will lose control. Maintenance to repair potholes can eliminate erratic maneuvers by motorists.

Widening Lanes provides a larger road surface on which to maneuver during an emergency, reducing head-on collisions and roadway departure crashes. In some studies, more than 3/4 of the crashes on roads with narrow lanes were found to be associated with inadequate lane width. Although 12 feet is the optimum safe lane width, more than 13,000 miles of NHS highways have lanes that are less than 12 feet wide.

Adding or Widening Shoulders provides drivers with additional room to maneuver on narrow roads.

Bridge Needs are Critical

Sufficient funding for a Federal Bridge Program is needed to address a national crisis. Approximately 28% of highway bridges are structurally or functionally deficient. FHWA estimates that over the next twenty years more than 200,000 bridges will have to be replaced or repaired just to maintain current conditions; that figure jumps to 450,000 if a commitment is made to significantly improve nationwide bridge conditions.

In addition, narrow bridges are a known cause of crashes, which are often severe. About 300 fatal crashes result annually from collisions with either the bridge abutment or rail. An unknown number of fatalities also result from head-on collisions on bridges, many of which occur as a result of a motorist's tendency to gravitate toward the centerline of a narrow bridge.

Countermeasures can reduce the frequency and severity of these narrow bridge crashes:

Bridge Widening leaves more room for oncoming vehicles to pass, reducing the likelihood of collisions.

Bridge End Treatments, such as crash cushions or guardrail transitions to the bridge ends can reduce crash severity.

Signing, Pavement Marking and Delineation alert drivers to approaching narrow bridges and allow them to position their vehicles safely when crossing bridges.

One of the most pressing issues facing all who rely on Interstate 95 for their personal mobility or ability to conduct their business is the need to replace the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River. Built by the Federal government in 1961 to carry 75,000 vehicles per day, it now carries a daily total of 175,000 vehicles, including over 17,000 trucks. In addition, the bridge is rapidly deteriorating and has a useful life of no more than eight years. Closing the bridge to truck traffic within five years has been discussed as a method of extending the life of the bridge if a replacement is not completed on time. If bridge traffic is diverted, congestion in the Washington region would become unbearable, leading to many more accidents and fatalities and more air pollution. The ability of trucking companies to meet delivery schedules would be highly compromised, affecting industry productivity throughout the nation.

As the owner of the Wilson Bridge, the Federal government is responsible for the completion of a replacement structure before it is necessary to close the bridge to traffic. ATA recommends that the Federal government fully fund the project. This would both facilitate timely completion and prevent the need for construction of a toll facility on one of the nation's busiest Interstate freeways.

VII. ATA's Proposed Initiatives to Improve Highway Safety

America's truckers are the safest drivers on the road and they are getting safer. ATA has identified two areas that would enhance their safety even further, and requires help from this Committee: additional public rest areas and safer rules for non-divisible loads.

Public Rest Areas

A recent study found a shortfall of 28,500 truck parking spaces in public rest areas. According to the study, eight out of ten of the nearly 1,350 rest areas nationwide report truck utilization as either full or overflowing onto the ramps at night. A similar percentage of private truck stop operators also reported that their facilities were full or overflowing at night.

When truck stops are full, truck drivers have little choice but to either park illegally - which can create a hazardous situation - or to continue driving, possibly breaking hours-of-service laws or becoming so fatigued that they put themselves and other motorists at risk. Neither choice is acceptable.

The nationwide cost to develop the necessary parking spaces is estimated to be $489 million to $629 million. Sufficient funds are available within the Highway Trust Fund for this purpose. We urge Congress to address this very serious safety problem by making rest area construction, expansion, improvement, and access eligible under all major funding categories of the Federal-aid highway program.

Non-divisible Load Grandfather Right

FHWA has recently adopted a new definition of the "non-divisible load" regulation and has begun enforcement. Unfortunately, the new definition and its interpretation have caused shippers, carriers and state enforcement agencies to make changes to long-established practices, changes that negatively impact the safety of truckers and the driving public.

For example, Colorado and Wyoming have a long accepted practice of moving two long concrete panels for bridge construction together in an "A-frame" configuration. This method improves the stability of the load and maintains the integrity of the panels, and is considered to be the safest technique for loading and shipping the panels. Unfortunately, FHWA has failed to recognize this evidence and, under the new definition of non-divisible load, has rejected this safe method of transport.

Congress should provide a grandfather right for states which have been managing their non-divisible load transportation needs safely and effectively. It is illogical and dangerous to force states to abandon traditional safe practices without strong evidence that those practices no longer serve the public interest in highway safety.

VII. Other Issues

ATA is pursuing several other highway safety reforms that involve the jurisdiction of other committees. We hope you will support our efforts to advance these important concepts.

Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) Funding

Ensuring that our nation's truck fleet is well maintained and operates within the limits of state and Federal law is essential to the safety of our highways. The vast majority of trucks on the road are in safe condition and are continuously improving. One indication of this is the "out-of-service" rate, i.e. the percentage of trucks inspected found to have a problem that causes them to be pulled off the road until the problem is corrected. Over the past seven years, while the number of inspections has increased 51%, the number of trucks placed "out-of-service" has dropped 34%. We want to build on this progress by expanding efforts that ensure America's truck drivers are safe professionals and our nation's truck fleet operates safely and in adherence to the law.

MCSAP, the Federal motor carrier inspection program, has contributed significantly to the improved truck safety record. This program must be expanded. ATA supported the original program and recommends an authorization of $150 million for MCSAP, which is 50% higher than the amount proposed under NEXTEA and 60% higher than the current authorization.

This higher funding level would increase the number of inspections and help to ensure that trucks on the road are safe. This is especially important because FHWA uses roadside inspections to identify carriers who need more detailed reviews. More inspections, therefore, would identify more companies who should be scrutinized more closely.

Commercial Drivers License (CDL) Improvements

While the national licensing program for truck and bus drivers has had very positive safety effects, it needs to be improved to be a better measure of driver skills and a more effective system for keeping track of driver records. We see four areas that need improvement.

└└Performance-Based Testing - Congress should require FHWA to work with the states and industry to raise the skills and knowledge requirements of the CDL to make it a better measure of driver performance. Federal start-up funds should be provided; ongoing funding would come from CDL fees.

└└Biometric Identifiers - FHWA should select a more effective biometric identifier to ensure that every commercial driver has only one CDL.

└└Accurate Information Availability - States should be required to maintain an accurate and timely record of driving violations and related warrants for holders of CDLs. This information should be available to drivers and employers as quickly as possible so that drivers with poor safety records are not able to move between jobs before their poor record is able to catch up with them.

└└Accurate Information Sharing - Motor carriers are currently reluctant to share adverse driver record information with subsequent prospective employers of a driver because of the potential for a lawsuit. Carriers need to be free to share accurate information regarding a previous employee with a subsequent employer without being subject to liability damage awards because an unsafe driver was prevented from being hired based on his poor driving record.

Improved Alcohol Testing

Under a Congressional mandate, motor carriers are required to administer, within eight hours, a post-accident alcohol test to drivers involved in certain accidents.

Carriers, even large ones with full-time safety staffs, have experienced extreme difficulty in locating suitable test facilities and getting drivers to the facilities within the prescribed time frame.

We recommend that Congress remove the post-accident alcohol testing mandate in favor of a system that allows law enforcement officers to conduct a test if there is reasonable cause to suspect the use of alcohol, and during random testing at sobriety checkpoints. Congress should extend funding eligibility through the current Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) for testing conducted outside the bounds of current state DWI/DUI laws performed to comply with Federal regulations.

Driver Safety Qualifications

The physical qualifications to drive a truck safely should be the major concern of trucking companies when they recruit drivers. Currently, carriers have to make the choice between risking a major lawsuit because they refused to hire a driver who was physically or medically unqualified or putting a driver on the road who they believe to be a danger to themselves and other drivers. Congress should amend Federal law to ensure that carriers have the ability to make a reasonable determination as to whether a driver is physically qualified to engage in a particular task or operate a piece of equipment without fear of legal retribution.

Innovative Safety Programs

Under current law, FHWA has very limited ability to explore new or innovative safety regulation programs, even with carriers that have the best safety and compliance records in the industry. If granted such ability, FHWA could move its regulatory framework from the current prescriptive approach to a performance-based approach. We recommend that Federal law be amended to provide FHWA with greater flexibility to initiate pilot safety programs.

Raise the Insurance Liability Limits for In-Bulk Petroleum Products

While technical changes have been made to the requirements regarding minimum financial responsibility levels for motor carriers involved in incidents involving bulk petroleum products, for 17 years there have been no changes made to account for inflation or changes in the transport costs.

The minimum level of financial responsibility required for flammable liquid petroleum products in capacities above 3,500 gallons should be increased from $1 million to $5 million.

Reduce Truck Registration Paperwork

The original goal of the single state insurance registration program (SSRS) was to enable shippers, other carriers and the public to find out about a trucking company's insurance information, in the event of an accident. FHWA now maintains such a system, so the state system, and associated paperwork are unnecessarily duplicative. And, because the Federal system is updated more frequently, it is more accurate.

ATA recommends the repeal of the Federal requirement for a state insurance registration system. The Federal filing system can be strengthened further through automation and by seeking vendors to provide the service.

Intermodal Roadworthiness

Existing Federal law holds motor carriers responsible for ensuring that the intermodal equipment they use, but neither own nor control, meets U.S. DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety standards. The equipment providers have both the opportunity and capability to ensure that the equipment is roadworthy. However, while motor carriers are held responsible for the equipment, providers do not give carriers the opportunity to perform more than a cursory inspection of this equipment or the opportunity to repair defects that are discovered.

While motor carriers should still be responsible for the equipment they operate, the equipment providers should be responsible and that the equipment they hand over to the motor carrier meets Federal guidelines and that it is safe to operate on the highway. U.S. DOT and state safety inspectors should be given the authority and responsibility to inspect and enforce such requirements. This is the most effective method of ensuring that intermodal equipment is safe to operate before it is taken onto the highway.

Hours of Service Reform

Current hours of service regulations, many of which have been on the books for 60 years, are too inflexible and outdated. We need to revisit these regulations as a way to maintain highway safety and avoid driver fatigue. A 1930s solution to a 1990s problem is unacceptable, and does not address the realities of today's operating environment or JIT delivery systems. New options should be developed that improve highway safety, as well as industry productivity and efficiency.

ATA is absolutely committed to finding workable countermeasures to fatigue. Through extensive research and outreach efforts, ATA has taken a leading role in developing solutions to the fatigue problems that affect all modes of transportation and all facets of our society.

ATA has a multi-faceted action plan to fight fatigue. The plan contains five broad elements: research, rest areas, education and training, hours of service reform, and countermeasures to fatigue. Last week, our Foundation, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation and representatives from other industry sectors, hosted an international conference on fatigue. Some of the world's leading experts on the subject discussed the latest fatigue research and the most innovative approaches to managing fatigue.

Meals Deduction for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers were the principal victims of the cutback in the meals deduction from 80% to 50% in 1994. Hours-of-service limits on driving time often force truckers to stay out on the road and incur added meal expenses instead of returning home. The reduction in deductibility means that drivers eat lower cost meals that can be less healthy or travel longer distances off major highways to get lower cost food.

Drivers should not face the penalty of having only a 50% deduction for meal expenses that are incurred in connection with a federal safety mandate. Therefore, we seek a restoration of the 80% deduction for business meals for workers covered by U.S. Department of Transportation hours-of-service rules.

Safety Ratings/Audits

Under a recent court decision, FHWA procedures used to assign safety ratings to trucking companies were abolished. The court based its decision on the fact that FHWA had not gone through a public comment period.

The court decision has created an important opportunity to make the safety rating process more equitable and ensure that it truly reflects a motor carrier's overall safety performance. In an effort to move this process along more rapidly, ATA is sponsoring a June 18 forum which will bring together insurance companies, safety experts, representatives from the truck and bus industries, and government officials.

Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study

FHWA is currently conducting a comprehensive study on truck size and weight. ATA urges Congress and the Administration to refrain from proposing changes to restrict Federal size and weight laws until the final report is released and all involved parties have had the opportunity to review and discuss the results.

X. Conclusions

Nearly 42,000 people die on our highways every year. Improvements can be made to our highways and bridges that will reduce this human devastation. The fact that funds which could be made available for these improvements are held back or diverted to non-highway purposes is incomprehensible and indefensible. Promotion of a safer, more efficient system of highways and the ability to give states and localities the flexibility and resources to address their unique concerns requires the availability of all highway user revenues for investment. We urge the Committee to support our efforts to improve the safety of carriers and drivers, and to ensure that trucks are properly maintained and operated legally.

The first step in addressing highway safety is to identify the real roots of the problem. Eighty-eight percent of fatal accidents do not even involve trucks. A third of all fatal crashes are caused by roadway hazards, not the vehicle or driver. The responsibility for reducing crashes must be placed with every driver, not a select few who are easily singled out. Federal, state, and local transportation officials must commit to making the improvements to their highways that will curtail the number and severity of crashes. They must also make a commitment to ensure that vehicles and drivers are safe. Without sufficient funding, however, these efforts cannot be carried out. Congress has a responsibility to invest the money that highway users pay into the Highway Trust Fund in programs that will address the critical safety needs of our nation's roads and drivers.