AAJ: Transportation Agencies Need to Quickly Enact Safety Standards

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For Immediate Release: April 23, 2009

Contact: Kerri Axelrod or Jen Fuson
202-965-3500, ext. 369
media.replies@justice.org

AAJ: Transportation Agencies Need to Quickly Enact Safety Standards

Safety Board Rules Severity of Crash Due to Delay in Agency Action

Washington, DC—The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently concluded driver fatigue, and the lack of federal safety standards protecting passengers on buses, contributed to the death and severity of the injuries sustained in the 2008 Utah bus rollover which killed nine and injured 43.  In response, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) is calling on transportation regulators to review pending pre-Obama administration regulations and open new rulemaking proceedings to enhance commercial transportation safety measures for both trucks and buses. 

The NTSB cited the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) slowness in failing to implement new safety standards as a factor contributing to the Utah crash.  Pending safety regulations in the transportation industry include on-board electronic recorders to monitor a driver’s hours of operation and prevent fatigue, seatbelts, and stronger roofs and windows; all recommendations NTSB has been calling on the agency to enact for nearly a decade.   

“The finding from the NTSB shows how the public is endangered when federal agencies drag their feet,” said AAJ Director of Regulatory Affairs Gerie Voss. “The Obama administration must make updating transportation safety standards a priority.” 

Commercial buses are not the only dangers on the nation’s roads. According to NTSB, large commercial trucks also lack similar safety measures to protect drivers and the public. Currently, there are no roof crush standards for commercial motor vehicles, including trucks and buses, and a prevalent safety problem in the trucking industry is companies ignoring driver fatigue.  

For example, on March 12 the NTSB sent a letter to the American Trucking Associations (ATA) asking the industry group to raise awareness about the dangers of driver fatigue.  The letter was in response to another investigation by NTSB that determined a 2005 fatal trucking accident occurred after the driver fell asleep at the wheel.

“The transportation industry has been aware of these problems for years, if not decades, and they have done nothing about it. Current federal standards are needed to save lives,” said Tennessee attorney Morgan Adams, a leading expert on commercial vehicle safety. “Driver fatigue is a killer and it will continue to kill until the government takes action. There is no question some corporations will overwork employees, and ignore problems, in order to earn another dollar.”

According to a March 2009 study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 3.9 million of the nation’s 14 million commercial vehicle drivers could be affected by sleep apnea, a leading cause of driver fatigue.

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