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Safety & Accident

Department of Transportation Contests Criticisms of Truck Safety Record

December 26, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Public Affairs has issued a statement in response to two recent articles in the New York Times (“Making the Highways Less Safe,” the New York Times, 12/10/06; and “Loosening the Rules,” New York Times, 12/3/06). The DOT said the New York Times has refused continued requests to correct their errors.“In their frenzy to find fault, the New York Times has cherry-picked data, rewritten history, and incorrectly reported the most basic facts. The New York Times needs to admit its errors and set the record straight,” said Brian Turmail, director of communications, U.S. Department of Transportation. The articles appearing in the Times criticize the trucking industry for close ties to the Bush administration, which has resulted in extensive deregulation and looser safety rules. In the statement, the DOT said the truck fatality rate has reached a record low, declining by 11 percent on the Bush administration’s watch. Since 1996, truck vehicle miles traveled increased 43.5 billion miles (more than 24-percent increase), but the number of fatalities from large truck crashes increased by less than 0.1 percent (5,142 in 1996 to 5,190 in 2004). With state enforcement partners, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) completed more than 36,000 safety audits and more than 3 million roadside inspections in 2005 alone. In addition, the new Hours-of-Service rule, updated for the first time since 1939, requires drivers to take a mandatory 10-hour break between shifts, up from eight in the previous rule. The rule is being challenged in court by the trucking industry for being too restrictive. Identical to the old rule, drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7-8 consecutive days, according to the statement.The statement also cites the FMCSA’s administrative leadership. For the past five years, President Bush’s FMCSA Administrators have been two former state police officers with long public safety careers. John Hill, the current FMCSA administrator, spent 30 years with the Indiana State Police and headed its commercial enforcement division before joining FMCSA. Preceding Hill, Annette Sandberg served as chief of the Washington State Patrol and was the deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before leading FMCSA from 2002 to 2005.

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