WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Highway safety activists on Monday called for stricter truck safety standards in the U.S., including measures to ensure drivers get enough rest before getting behind the wheel. During a press conference, representatives from the Truck Safety Coalition released state safety rankings and sharply criticized the effectiveness of the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The Truck Safety Coalition is a partnership between the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT). In particular, coalition members criticized the Motor Carrier Safety Administration's measures to increase the number of hours a driver can operate a truck by 28 percent since 2003. That number is now as much as 88 hours over an eight-day period. Joan Claybrook, chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, said the Motor Carrier Safety Administration "is shortchanging safety for the productivity and economic interests of the trucking industry," according to an AP report on the press conference. Congress created the Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 1999. More than 100 people each week die in large truck accidents in the U.S., the Truck Safety Coalition reported. Wyoming, Arkansas and Oklahoma rank as the worst in truck fatalities; Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut are the safest. The rankings are based on the number of fatalities per 100,000 residents during 2006. Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, told reporters that federal truck safety efforts pale compared to federal food safety regulation. Nearly 61 people die from E.coli infections each year, but that many die from truck crashes in a typical four-day period, she said. Motor Carrier Safety Administration spokesmen reached by the Associated Press, however, defended their agency's efforts. They argued that the truck fatality rate is 16 percent lower compared to a decade ago, and that the administration has increased the time off between truck-driving shifts from eight to 10 hours.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials