Thursday, April 28, 2011

Freight Truck Drivers And Haulage Operators Should Listen To LaHood

Transport Secretary Tirelessly Campaigns for Safer Driving
Shipping News Feature

US – The Handy Shipping Guide mailboxes are jammed every day with the unfortunate accidents which are one of the penalties of working in a freight and haulage based environment. Seemingly endless fatalities caused by trains and trucks however are rarely inevitable and in amongst the chaos come voices of sanity.

One such is Transport Secretary Ray LaHood who devotes much of his time (and his blog) attempting to illustrate the pointlessness of so many of the injuries and deaths seen on the country’s roads. Working hand in hand with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Mr LaHood is on a crusade to cut the unnecessary list of misery, firstly by persuasion and common sense and then, if needs be, by legislation.

The world view of the US is the traditional ‘land of the free mentality’ where a citizen has the right to forge their own path without hindrance or interference, this philosophy however is only practical when a person’s choices do not interfere with anyone else. Secretary LaHood long ago recognised that certain freedoms of choice cannot extend to drivers, both of private vehicles and particularly when it comes to articulated trucks with the potential to cause devastation if involved in an accident.

This week Mr LaHood congratulated Governor Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota on joining thirty other states, Guam and the District of Columbia in banning texting whilst driving as a fitting conclusion to the Distracted Driving Awareness Month, an initiative Mr LaHood has enthusiastically supported. To outsiders it is an endless puzzle that rules meant to preserve life made for one state do not apply in a neighbouring province and that federal legislation is so often viewed as intrusive. One gets the feeling that if Mr LaHood leaves office without persuading every state of the need to protect its own citizens he will feel he has failed in a very worthy quest.

Earlier this year the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a new rule that required interstate commercial truck and bus companies with serious patterns of hours of service violations to install electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) in all their vehicles (the US doesn’t accept the term Tachometer which is used throughout Europe). Around 5,700 interstate carriers will need to install the devices after the final rule's first year of implementation. As LaHood said at the time:

"We are committed to cracking down on carriers and drivers who put people on our roads and highways at risk. This rule gives us another tool to enforce hours-of-service restrictions on drivers who attempt to get around the rules."

One of the things which give LaHood such credibility when he presses his points for increased safety measures is the fact he is recognised as truly supporting American principles, he was behind legislation celebrating President Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial and, even more tellingly he voted against the renewal of the Patriot Act in 2005 saying it was too intrusive.

Anyone who reads the Secretary for Transport’s blog on a regular basis can be in no doubt that here is a man dedicated to protecting citizens from their own and others foolishness when behind the wheel. He has made the phoning and texting whilst driving a personal campaign but has also to deal with the countrywide campaign for more truck stops for drivers to prevent incidents like the terrible case of Jason Rivenburg, murdered in his cab for $7.

As one of only two Republican members of the Obama cabinet one gets the feeling that LaHood will continue to fight for the innocent victims of bad driving until they tear him, kicking and screaming, from an office many said he was unsuited for.

Photo: Secretary LaHood working on Habitat for Humanity’s Atlantic Avenue project in Brooklyn in 2009.