Thank you, Bill Mack—and good morning everyone.
Secretary Mineta, Administrator Sandberg, my fellow trucking association executives, and especially the professional truck drivers and their families with us this morning—I am honored to be here to represent the motor carrier members of the American Trucking Associations and our drivers as you kick off this much needed national safety belt program.
We're all here—as goes the old movie line—because "we have a failure to communicate" when it comes to safety for truck drivers. On our own, the trucking industry has a history of voluntarily taking steps toward improving highway safety. For example, before being required to do so by the government, we put reflective tape on our trailers, we made our mirrors much larger, we installed anti-lock braking systems, and we installed safety belts for our drivers.
But that was apparently only half the ball game because, as you'll hear confirmed later by the experts, it turns out that literally less than half of our truck drivers are using their safety belts today.
This doesn't make sense for several reasons. First, safety belts save lives. Second, we're supposed to be the "Knights of the Road," the "safe professionals" out there. We need to assume some personal responsibility for our actions and set a good example, not a bad one—for other motorists driving alongside us.
While the safety belt project being unveiled today will help make this happen, there is more the trucking industry can and should do for our own safety and that of those with whom we share the road.
Here is one suggestion. We know that states with primary safety belt laws have usage rates about eight percent higher than states without them. This means they do a better job of saving lives—including those of truck drivers.
Last year, the American Trucking Associations called on the governors of the fifty states to support primary safety belt laws. This would enable law enforcement officials to strongly and visibly enforce safety belt use, something that now takes a back seat in states with so-called secondary enforcement laws.
Today, as Chairman of the American Trucking Associations, I'm renewing our call on the nation's Governors to champion primary safety belt laws; to support this important public safety initiative to save lives.
Mr. Secretary, Madam Administrator—driver safety, truck safety, highway safety—none of it can be accomplished unless we work as a team. And today the American trucking industry is proud to be a partner with your team—the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Belt Partnership.
It is now my privilege to introduce one of your team players: Annette Sandberg, the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. We have learned—some of us the hard way—that she is tough, that when she says be safe, she means it. But we have also learned that she listens to our concerns, that she knows our business, and that under her leadership—the American trucking industry and the professional truck drivers up in our cabs are driving safer every mile and everyday.