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Crash Survivors Press for Tighter Truck Safety Rules

June 4, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Highway tragedies half a continent apart claimed the lives of the men they loved and brought Brenda Berry and Karen Clancy together on a Washington sidewalk to demand safer truck regulation.

Gathered with demonstrators outside the Transportation Department building Monday, Mrs. Clancy spoke of her 22-month-old daughter, Kaitlin, who will never know her father because he was killed before she was born.

It was Thanksgiving Day 1993 when a truck driven by an driver with two months experience crossed the median of a Texas interstate and ended the life of Mrs. Clancy’s husband, David. She said she later learned that the driver had been working 22 of the previous 24 hours.

Mrs. Berry said her husband, Walter, survived two tours of duty as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam only to die on I-95 in northern Virginia.

On Dec. 2, 1993, Berry halted his car behind a dump truck in stopped traffic when a garbage truck struck him from behind.

``My husband was crushed to death,″ she said. ``I found out later that the garbage truck was overweight by 6,800 pounds and that three of its six brakes were not working.″

Organized by Citizens for Reliable and Safer Highways, the demonstrators carried signs mourning the loss of loved ones while a delegation met with Transportation Secretary Federico Pena inside.

Pena issued a statement commending the group ``for turning personal tragedy into action that may save lives″ and promised to work with them on improving truck safety.

The group released a series of recommendations, including strict enforcement of truck inspection requirements and maintaining current limits on size and weight.

Mexico and Canada both allow larger trucks than the United States, they said. Those countries should tighten their standards rather than asking the United States to ease its rules under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the group said.

They also called for better driver training, requirements for reflective tape, antilock brakes and other safety devices and for drivers to be paid by the hour rather than the mile.

Tired drivers are a particular hazard, the group contended, saying payment by the mile encourages drivers to keep working when they are overtired.

Quentin Lewton, a truck driver from Lincoln, Mo., who was present to support the group, said drivers often have to work 100 hours to get 40 hours pay under the pay-by-the-mile system.

John J. Collins, vice president of the American Trucking Association, said his group supports many of the goals of the demonstrators, including better driver training and enforcement of laws covering trucks.

Many of the tragedies recounted by survivors of accidents involved operators violating laws, Collins said. ``Any accident taints the whole industry.″

But he said that it is ``not realistic″ to advocate paying drivers by the hour, since they are unsupervised most of the time and cannot easily be monitored.

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