June 22, 1999
Truck Safety Groups Release Study on Industry’s Campaign Cash
Children of Crash Victims Call for Proper Safety Standards
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Public Citizen and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) released a study at a press conference today detailing the trucking industry s political contributions and lobbying expenses. Four children who lost family members in truck crashes spoke at the conference and called for greater regulation of the industry and improved safety standards.
The report, Truckloads of Money for Congress, shows that between 1993 and 1998 the trucking industry spent almost $14 million in political contributions and over $15 million in lobbying expenses (not counting grassroots activity), years which coincided with marked Congressional inaction on truck safety standards.
“The more money they give, the less they’re regulated. It’s Congressional protection money — you pay them to leave you alone,” said Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen. “There are so many deaths and injuries because the trucking industry has used its influence 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 OMC.”
The study found that since 1993 the industry gave almost $14 million in political action committee donations, individual contributions, and unregulated soft money to the national political parties. Pennsylvania Republican Bud Shuster, who chairs the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, took $145,400 from the trucking industry over the last six years. He is the largest single recipient of trucking industry money.
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.
“Over 140,000 American families experienced the bloody trauma of a heavy truck crash in 1998,” said Michael J. Scippa, Executive Director of CRASH. “Trucking lobby dollars are turning the highways scarlet.”
Some of the children participating in CRASH’s Sorrow to Strength conference in Washington, D.C., spoke out for proper regulation of the industry. “My dad was one of over 5,000 people killed in a heavy truck crash in 1997 when a big rig truck ran a stop sign and hit his car,” said 13-year-old Ryan Hensley from Ohio. “Too many politicians take a lot of money from the trucking industry. What does the industry expect to get in return? Heavier trucks? Fewer safety inspections? More hours behind the wheel for tired truck drivers?”
Katie Ettredge, a ninth-grader from Pilot Point in Texas, told how her brother Daniel was killed in a truck crash in September 1997. “I’m here to help tell and show the government that too many families are hurt because of these large trucks,” she said. “I think the government can change things to help save others from the pain I’ve been through.”
Last year more than 5,300 people died in crashes involving large trucks — an average of more than 100 per week — and another 141,000 were injured. It is estimated that deaths will rise to 6,000 in 2000. But the OMC has done little or nothing to stem the highway carnage.
The study found that the industry spent over $8 million in PAC contributions, over $2 million in the form of individual contributions and over $3.7 million in soft money to the political parties.