Whenever I read about a fatal large-truck crash, my heart goes out to the families of those whose lives were ended too soon.
I know what they are going through. More than 20 years ago my son Guy was killed in a crash with a grossly overloaded coal truck. This is why crashes like the chain-reaction crash in May on Interstate 75 in Rockcastle County, which killed two young men, hit especially close to home.
As an engineer I acknowledge the need to improve the country's crumbling infrastructure. As a father and a forensic engineer who has reconstructed many fatal truck crashes, however, I cannot justify the safety sacrifices in the Senate's long-term highway bill.
For instance, the provision that allows 18-to-20-year-old interstate truck drivers may please several motor carriers, but it deprives Kentuckians of the safety we are entitled to on our roads.
This should be especially concerning given the fact that WKYT found that the number of truck crashes involving out of state drivers is rising in Kentucky, spiking from 25 percent in 2009 to 46 percent in 2013.
Additionally, the U.S. Senate highway and transportation bill contains language that would make it easier for groups of motor carriers to acquire exemptions from hours of service requirements, while at the same time making it more difficult for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to engage in rule-making on critical safety regulations.
The current Senate bill forsakes several clear opportunities to enhance safety. Legislators should use this opportunity to craft a strong safety title that requires large trucks to be equipped with lifesaving technologies, like forward collision and mitigation braking systems and improved rear underride guards. Mandating these measures would reduce crashes and the severity of crashes that do occur.
I agree with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was key to negotiating the transportation bill, that with a long-term highway bill "we can rebuild our infrastructure... and improve traffic safety for Kentuckians." Yet, the DRIVE Act fails to accomplish this dual goal.
It is vital that lawmakers go back to the drawing board and include meaningful safety reforms and remove dangerous rollbacks before enacting a six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill.