The Slatterys take their battle for safer roads to Washington

WASHINGTON D.C. - It was in a subcommittee on Capitol Hill where the Slattery family's emotional reality clashed with the political; where the economics of tears may have failed to resonate as loudly as the dollar.


"If this is what a congressional hearing is like, then I understand why communism has a higher approval rating than congress," said Ed Slattery.


Those are the words of a man who has a story to tell but failed to get the right audience.


Ed Slattery and his son Matthew were hoping to testify in the subcommittee on regulatory affairs, a hearing to debate the cost of implementing a new Department of Transportation rule that would decrease drive time for truckers while increasing their rest.


House rules dictate the majority party, the Republicans, choose most of who speaks in these hearings.


There were five witnesses were from trucking companies that testified versus just one safety expert.


While Slattery's statement was read into the record, he was not chosen to speak.


"This whole hearing was a farce.  If the American people knew what these hearings were, I think they would be even more sickened then they are now."


Slattery's words were spoken to us, but he says they were aimed at Subcommittee Chair and Ohio Republican Jim Jordan.


A conversation Slattery invited us to witness in the halls of congress, but one Jordan's staff refused us access too.


Even without a microphone or a seat at the table, Slattery would make his point to any lawmaker he saw exiting the hearing.


"That's a farce," Slattery explained to subcommittee member and Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich, "The rules of the house need to be changed.  It's nuts to have all of those people from the trucking interest lined up and only one safety advocate.  Mr. Jordan knew what he believed when he walked in there and everybody simply parroted what he wanted to hear," Slattery explained.


Kucinich heard Slattery loud and clear and through the lawmaker from his wife's district, found a sympathetic voice.


"The important thing about congress you have to remember is that even if you walk into a situation where the deck is stacked against you, if you can still get your point across...that's huge," replied Kucinich.


Now there is the other side of this story albeit not nearly as emotional.  The trucking industry says these new regulations could cost them up to two billion dollars.  A cost inevitably they will pass on to you the consumer.    


"It means greater cost for the cereal, greater cost for gasoline at the pump, clothing...anything you and I buy at the store." 


David Oscieki is with the American Trucking Associations and says the cost of decreasing drive time outweighs the benefit.


Fatigue alone causes a very small percentage of deadly accidents on American roadways he says and congress should broaden its scope as to why three to four thousand Americans die from truck crashes each year.


"It's misbehaviors and mistakes.  Misbehaviors meaning speeding and other unsafe actions that some people choose to make," said Oscieki.


But safety advocates feel no matter mistake or fatigue, the rule must change, even at the cost of two billion dollars.


"We are trying to create a rule that will result in more rested truck drivers and bringing down the number of deaths and injuries that are occurring because we have tired truckers on the road," said the President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Jackie Gillan.


It is a message Ed Slattery and his family is now slowly becoming the face of.


Fighting through what they call the partisan farce of the congressional hearing process to be heard; expressing that dollars are simply not worth more than tears.


"There are 330 million of us that can share that cost.  As it stands right now, 3000 families a year lose a family member and those 3000 families bear the whole cost."


Numbers Slattery hopes causes Capitiol Hill pause as congress debates the cost of lives and doing business.


The new rule that would increase the rest of truck drivers while decreasing drive time is in its final stages of review.


It is ultimately up to the White House to enact it or not; a decision that is expected by the end of the year.


In addition to cost, the American Trucking Associations also argues against the proposed rule change saying that truck crash fatalities have dropped every year from 2005 through 2009.  In 2010 however, the number of truck crash fatalities increased to about four thousand; up from 3,380 in 2009.

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