I don’t quite know where to start, how to catch you up on the activity here in DC. Sunday was a fact filled day as we learned more about how government works, how bills become laws, how agencies write regulatory rules, how change can happen. It’s all so ponderous. What seems like common sense to all of us, raising the required insurance minimums for truck companies from $750,000 a crash (where it has been for almost 30 years) to something more representative of actual expenses families incur…adding side guards and strengthening the rear guard to prevent people from sliding under semi trailers…freezing the maximum size and weights on trucks where they are now to preserve lives and infrastructure…well apparently all of that needs to be studied. Some more. To make sure the data is correct…to make sure implementation (if there ever is any) will be done correctly.
We spent this morning in meetings on ‘The Hill” in Senate office buildings meeting with transportation staff members. Some we’ve seen before, some were new. Turns out talking to the new people isn’t that bad, as we had an opportunity to educate them on safety issues and they had fewer preconceived ideas. The afternoon was spent at four back to back meetings with different agencies at the Department of Transportation. They’re the ones doing all the studying. The legislature mandated last summer that several things be studied, and that some rules about implementation (for example, the Electronic On Board Recorders I am so excited about) be written. They’re under tight deadlines and we wanted them to know that we’re watching to make sure things are done correctly, with safety in mind. Most of the meetings were cordial, an exchange of ideas between us and agency officials. Sometimes it got a bit tense when we expressed concern over our perception of bias toward heavier trucks being present in some study processes.
On a bittersweet note I got to tell Secretary LaHood how much we appreciated his work toward safety during the past four years. He told us then that safety was his priority and that this “was not our grandmother’s DOT.” He has kept his word. We wish he could stick around as we work through some very difficult issues. but we hope his leadership will lay the foundation for continued progress, and that our relationship with the agency will continue to move forward to positive outcomes.
On occasion I’d look at Dad’s picture sitting in front of me and wish he could see all of this; listen to the engineers in our group talk about sway tests and automated brake systems with administrators of agencies tasked with mandating safer vehicles of all types. Pretty fascinating if you didn’t let yourself be overwhelmed by it all. I’m still surprised to find myself sitting in these meetings, to be representing families everywhere that have lost members or been injured in truck crashes.
At a dinner Sunday night, after we spent the day talking laws and regulations, issues and mandates, after an hour spent crying together as we shared the longer versions of “our crashes,” with each other, after we shared dinner and hugs the Truck Safety Coalition gave me an award for volunteering. It’s a beautiful crystal vase and I will be proud to put flowers in it this summer. It’s their way of thanking me for work done. But I don’t know how I will ever thank them for the opportunity to take my anger and pain and turn it into something constructive. This is all so much bigger than me or my family or even our group. I’m honored to be involved.
Right now I’m so tired I can’t even add photos to this post. So just imagine large buildings with lots of people all working on something vital, and us running around in between pushing for the issues we know will save lives. Now think of us doing this all over again tomorrow. In the rain.
Yep, it’s going to be another great day!