Barletta Highlights Need for Stronger Work Zone Safety Measures after Death of Local PennDOT Contractor
WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today highlighted the need for stronger safety measures along highway work zones in the wake of the death of a PennDOT contractor who was struck and killed by a car as he was setting up a construction zone on Interstate-81 in Franklin County.
Barletta discussed the June incident involving Michael Friendy, a 41-year-old Hazleton native, during a hearing in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. The hearing included witnesses from various modal administrations at the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board testified about how the policy provisions in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act are impacting the safety and reliability on our nation’s roads.
“Before I came to Congress, I owned a road construction business, so I know firsthand how dangerous it can be working in construction zones,” Barletta said. “We actually put the lines on the road that saved lives. I always used to say, you never read the names in the paper of the people whose lives you saved. But there is only so much signage and protection you can offer your employees to protect them from the constant threat of distracted drivers and speeding trucks.”
According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in 2014, 119 roadway construction workers lost their lives in work zone crashes. In 2015, 700 people were killed in work zones as a result of motor vehicle crashes.
“Just last month, I was personally touched by such an incident involving Michael J. Friendy, who I had hired when I had my business,” Barletta said. “He was setting up a construction zone on Interstate-81 when he was struck by a car and killed. I knew Mike for over 20 years and was incredibly saddened by his death. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with his friends and family and his co-workers as they grieve this incredible loss.”
Walter Waidelich, Jr., Acting Deputy Administrator of the FHWA, said that his administration is working in many different ways with local and state stakeholders to improve work zone safety.
Waidelich pointed to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which includes minimum standards for work zone safety signage, buffer zones, and other safety elements within a work zone. The FHWA also deploys safety technology – for example, intrusion alarms that notify workers when a vehicle enters the work zone. Additionally, the agency is undertaking initiatives, such as Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, to raise awareness and public education about work zone safety.
“Work zones are not only dangerous for workers,” Waidelich said. “They’re also dangerous for those vehicles that are going through it.”
Barletta has long advocated to improve the safety of our nation’s roadways. He asked for increased funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program, which helps states to address roadway infrastructure challenges by investing in rumble strips, guardrails, signs, pavement markings, high friction surfacing applications, and other safety projects.
Motor Carrier Safety Score Update
Barletta also asked Daphne Jefferson, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), if the FMCSA believes that the findings of a recent report on the Safety Measurement System (SMS), which evaluates motor carrier safety, requires a better statistical model for determining motor safety carrier scores.
That report, published last month by the National Academies of Science found that FMCSA’s system for ranking motor carrier safety uses a “defensible” method, but recommended that it employ a more empirical model that more accurately estimates motor carrier safety. Barletta fought for this report requirement to be included in the FAST Act.
Jefferson said that FMCSA supports the findings in the report and will work with industry stakeholders and Congress to implement its recommendations.
“It’s our intent to provide a corrective action plan to Congress within 120 days of submitting that report,” Jefferson said. “We are also working with the National Academies of Science to identify strategies for implementing those recommendations. They’ve given us a roadmap, if you will, of ways to improve SMS, and it’s our intent to follow through on that.”
The 2015 Highway Bill included Barletta’s provisions to improve the safety score calculations for carriers by making the scores more reflective of a company’s safety record. The FMCSA, which is the lead U.S. Department of Transportation agency responsible for truck and bus safety, had appeared prematurely poised to amend safety regulations by implementing the Obama Administration’s flawed Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rule before the Congressionally-mandated reforms were completed. In March of this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it would withdraw the SFD rule, allowing Congress to put forth reforms that more accurately reflect a company’s safety record.