Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook Statement on Trucking Industry Money in Congress

June 22, 1999

Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook Statement
on Trucking Industry Money in Congress

Good morning. I?m Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen with 150,000 members nationwide and volunteer Chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways – CRASH – a grassroots organization of over 43,000 members working to reduce commercial big rig involved crashes, fatalities and injuries.

Before I introduce our speakers from CRASH I want to tell you about the study we?re releasing today on the money the trucking industry pours into Congress.

Since 1993, the industry has given almost $14 million in political action committee donations, individual contributions and unregulated soft money to the national political parties. One member of Congress alone, Pennsylvania Republican Bud Shuster, who chairs the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, took $145,400 from the trucking industry over the past six years. He is the largest single recipient in Congress.

Members of his committee each received, on average, $21,783 from trucking industry PACs during the six years studied — 73 percent more than the average $12,586 received by all other House members.

The industry also racked up over $15 million in lobbying expenses. What did it expect to get for this money?

This cash has helped the trucking industry to secure legislative exemptions from existing safety requirements, to block legislation to improve truck safety, to prevent any increase in fuel taxes, and to stop proper Congressional oversight of the Office of Motor Carriers.

The companies have paid for Congress to neglect the OMC, allowing it to become a wholly owned subsidiary of the industry, for the agency to delay and ignore crucial safety standards, and for it to fail to do its duty under the law.

But the people here today have also paid. They know the cost of allowing overweight trucks driven by exhausted drivers to roam our highways. These children know the real price of OMC?s failure to regulate the industry.

This agency bases important safety standards on flawed research that it pays the trucking industry to conduct. This agency has significantly reduced the number of safety inspections, compliance reviews and fines imposed, even as the number of truck miles traveled and deaths and injuries have increased, and this agency took seven years to require $100 worth of reflective tape on trucks to improve visibility at night and gave some trucks up to 10 more years to comply.

Every week in America, more than 100 people die on our roads and highways in crashes involving big trucks. Fatalities from large truck crashes increased by 10 percent from 1995 to 1997. This carnage in airplane crashes would not be tolerated by the Congress, the Department of Transportation or the media.

With virtually no Congressional supervision of truck safety programs, there has been no counterbalance to the intimate and unhealthy relationship between the trucking interests and the OMC. The OMC must be moved away from the Federal Highway Administration, where it has languished ineffectively for too long, and into the more independent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, where it would do a proper job. The agency?s years of reckless neglect of safety are now on the public record and, from today, so is the money that encouraged it.

The CRASH survivors here this morning know what that $13.9 million of trucking money buys in Congress — it buys more devastated families, more communities consumed by grief, and more children without a father on Father?s Day.