STATEMENT OF RICK CURL, OVERLAND PARK, KANSAS,
FATHER OF ASHLEY CURL
KILLED IN A TRUCK CRASH INVOLVING A TIRED TRUCKER
March 8, 2005
Good afternoon, my name is Rick Curl. I flew here today from Overland Park, Kansas with my wife, Ann, to ask Congress to oppose legislation that will jeopardize the safety of truck drivers and families like me on our highways.
This week, Congress may vote on an amendment to extend the work day of truck drivers to 16 hours even though fatigue is a major problem in the trucking industry. I know because I paid the ultimate price of any parent. On August 26, 2001, my daughter, Ashley, age 15, and four of her friends including two other children, were killed by a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel after too many hours on the road.
Ashley was returning from a horse show in Kentucky. She had flown to Kentucky to join her best friend and was driving back with the friend’s mother, little brother and trainer. Five people were killed. In fact, they were almost home when a truck driver fell asleep on the interstate, crossed the median and hit them head-on. You cannot imagine the scene. It was as bad as a car bomb.
Before that horrible day, I assumed like most Americans, that it was someone’s job in government to make sure that truck drivers operated safely, obeyed the rules of the road, and that someone took the job seriously. I was dead wrong.
Ironically, my wife and I had been worried when Ashley flew to Kentucky to meet her friend. We hadn’t worried about the ride back. Little did we know that although the government is serious about safety in the skies, it is willing to accept thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of serious injuries when it involves trucks on our streets and highways. If my daughter had been killed in an airplane crash involving a tired pilot the federal government and Congress would be racing to pass bills and regulations to address fatigue. Instead, this Congress is considering special interest legislation that will only add to the problem. How many more children have to die before Congress and the federal government get serious about truck driver fatigue?
After Ashley’s crash I also learned many surprising facts about the safety record of the trucking industry. For years, we have known the causes of truck driver fatigue – too many hours behind the wheel, work days that are too long, unscrupulous companies that put unreasonable demands on truck drivers pressuring them to drive beyond human limitations, inadequate rest for drivers, insufficient protections for those who complain, cheating on log books, and a pay scale for truck drivers based on how many miles you drive and how fast you can drive them.
In response, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has actually increased the number of hours that truck drivers can drive from 10 consecutive hours to 11 and has given truck drivers only 34 hours off after they finish a week’s driving of 77 hours in 7 days or 88 hours in 8 days. And, even though a unanimous Court of Appeals decision overturned the rule, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is asking Congress to make them permanent by writing these unsafe rules into law. These hours are too long and will result in more crashes, more deaths, more serious injuries and more funerals for parents like Ann and me.
The work day for truck drivers is limited to 14 total hours in the hours of service rule currently in effect. But some segments of the trucking industry want to push drivers to work even longer days that last for 16 hours, with no overtime pay. Why are companies pushing this ridiculous proposal and why is Congress even considering it when thousands of lives are at stake?
A fatigued truck driver can kill anyone, even my child or your child, on any highway at any time. I know, it happened to me. I urge Congress to reject this proposal and put the safety of the traveling public first.