The death of Dorris Edwards around Thanksgiving in 2004 when her SUV was crushed by a tractor-trailer can be traced to the cozy relationship between the trucking industry and the Bush Administration.
As Dorris Edwards slowed for traffic near Kingdom City, Mo., on her way home from a Thanksgiving trip in 2004, an 18-wheeler slammed into her Jeep Cherokee.
The truck crushed the sport-utility vehicle and shoved it down an embankment off Interstate 70. Ms. Edwards, 62, was killed.
The truck driver accepted blame for the accident, and Ms. Edwards’s family filed a lawsuit against the driver and the trucking company.
In the course of pursuing its case, the family broached a larger issue: whether the Bush administration’s decision to reject tighter industry regulation and instead reduce what officials viewed as cumbersome rules permitted a poorly trained trucker to stay behind the wheel, alone, instead of resting after a long day of driving.
These are the lead paragraphs of an article in yesterday’s New York Times.
After intense lobbying by the politically powerful trucking industry, regulators a year earlier had rejected proposals to tighten drivers’ hours and instead did the opposite, relaxing the rules on how long truckers could be on the road. That allowed the driver who hit Ms. Edwards to work in the cab nearly 12 hours, 8 of them driving nonstop, which he later acknowledged had tired him.
Government officials had also turned down repeated requests from insurers and safety groups for more rigorous training for new drivers. The driver in the fatal accident was a rookie on his first cross-country trip; his instructor, a 22-year-old with just a year of trucking experience, had been sleeping in a berth behind the cab much of the way.
Federal officials, while declining to comment about the Edwards accident, have dismissed the assertion that deregulation has reduced safety and have maintained that in fact it has helped, though the Edwards family and many other victims of accidents have come to the opposite conclusion.
In loosening the standards, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was fulfilling President Bush’s broader pledge to free industry of what it considered cumbersome rules. In the last six years, the White House has embarked on the boldest strategy of deregulation in more than a generation. Largely unchecked by the Republican-led Congress, federal agencies, often led by former industry officials, have methodically reduced what they see as inefficient, outdated regulations and have delayed enforcement of others. The Bush administration says those efforts have produced huge savings for businesses and consumers.
Those actions, though, have provoked fierce debate about their benefits and risks. The federal government’s oversight of the trucking industry is a case study of deregulation, as well as the difficulty of determining an exact calculus of its consequences. Though Ms. Edwards’s family and the industry disagree on whether the motor carrier agency’s actions contributed to her death, her accident illuminates crucial issues in regulating America’s most treacherous industry, as measured by overall deaths and injuries from truck accidents.
…advocates of tighter rules say the administration’s record of loosening standards endangers motorists. The fatality rate for truck-related accidents remains nearly double that involving only cars, safety and insurance groups say. They note that weakening the rules has reversed a course set by the Clinton administration and has resulted in the federal government repeatedly missing its own targets for reducing the death rate.
In decisions that had the support of the White House, the motor carrier agency has eased the rules on truckers’ work hours, rejected proposals for electronic monitoring to combat widespread cheating on drivers’ logs and resisted calls for more rigorous driver training.
While applauded by the industry, those decisions have been subject to withering criticism by federal appeals court panels in Washington who say they ignore government safety studies and put the industry’s economic interests ahead of public safety.
The article then explains how the trucking industry pays to have its own officials appointed to head regulatory boards.
To advance its agenda, the Bush administration has installed industry officials in influential posts.
In addition to supplying prominent administration officials, the trucking industry has provided some of the Republican party’s most important fund-raisers. From 2000 to 2006, the industry directed more than $14 million in campaign contributions to Republicans. Its donations and lobbying fees — about $37 million from 2000 to 2005 — led to rules that have saved what industry officials estimate are billions of dollars in expenses linked to tougher regulations.
We have two more years of this absurdity. But, we do not have to keep it a secret. Thank you, New York Times for remembering what and who likely killed Dorris Edwards.