Pennsylvania highway safety initiatives unveiled

| 1/25/2002

In a speech that kicked off a two-day Pennsylvania Truck Safety Symposium in Carlisle, PA, Gov. Mark Schweiker made public a list of legislative, policy and educational initiatives to improve road safety. He announced initiatives calling on truck and automobile drivers to be partners in making state highways safer.

"Too often, safe driving is being replaced by careless driving," said Gov. Schweiker. "Some of our truckdrivers are putting deadlines above safety. The same can be said for a great many of our automobile drivers as well. This behavior must end."

Owner-operator Ray Lippert of Manns Choice, PA, agrees safer roads are a worthy effort but takes issue with the governor's comments targeting truckdrivers. "It's not the truckers who put deadlines above safety, it's the logistics companies who set unrealistic schedules. The governor says his heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones in crashes due to out-of-control truckdrivers and motorists. I was steaming when I read that in the Bedford paper."

More than 200 participants met Jan. 23 and 24 to consider a wide range of measures, focusing on the areas of education, penalties and enforcement for both heavy truck and automobile drivers.

Gov. Schweiker's list of legislative, policy and educational initiatives include: targeting aggressive drivers; exploring ways to improve driver education for both heavy-truck and automobile drivers; holding more frequent and random heavy-truck and waste-hauler inspections; promoting more education and public awareness campaigns to ensure truck and automobile drivers and work-zone employees share responsibility in making roadways safe; requiring all commercial drivers to take a knowledge test before obtaining a commercial driver permit for Class A or B; and examining how points and fines are given to all drivers committing violations in work zones.

The symposium grew out of a recommendation the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee made to the state Transportation Department in July 2000. The committee's study on efforts to reduce crashes involving large trucks recommended that PennDOT take the lead in coordinating a statewide strategy and hold a symposium to deal with the issue.

PennDOT formed a Commercial Driver and Vehicle Task Force to review the issue and hold the symposium. The task force, made up of representatives from the public and private sector, offered and reviewed recommendations during the symposium on what should be included in a comprehensive truck safety plan. The task force expects to make a report to the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee by July.