Victims’ families press Congress for truck safety requirements

“Look my sons in the eye and tell them why you can’t implement these changes,” said Dan Langenkamp, seen with his 10-year-old son, Oliver, at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol. (WTOP/Mitchell Miller)

Less than a month after his wife, Sarah, was struck and killed on her bike in Bethesda, Dan Langenkamp joined D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and other families in pressing Congress for new safety requirements to address an increase in deadly trucking accidents.

“Look my sons in the eye and tell them why you can’t implement these changes,” said Langenkamp, standing next to his 10-year-old son, Oliver, at a news conference Monday outside the U.S. Capitol.

Sarah Langenkamp, 42, was struck and killed by a flat bed truck on Aug. 25 while riding a bike on River Road, near Little Creek Parkway in Montgomery County. No charges have been filed against the driver.

The mother of two had served in Ukraine, working for the State Department, and their family had recently moved to Bethesda.

A GoFundMe campaign to help organizations involved in bike safety has already raised more than $270,000.

“I find it morally irresponsible — I find it repugnant — that we can’t implement simple measures that are readily available and inexpensive on trucks, to keep us from having deaths like Sarah’s,” Dan Langenkamp said.

He spoke along with family members of others whose lives have been lost in accidents involving trucks.

Members of the Truck Safety Coalition, along with Norton, called for what they call “critical truck safety” reforms, as they released a report of the Deadliest Truck Crash States.

The report says the deadliest state for truck crashes per 100,000 residents is Wyoming, followed by South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas and Montana.

“The roadway safety crisis does not receive the attention it deserves,” Norton said, noting she’s sponsoring legislation that would implement new requirements for trucks as well as provide more federal resources to deal with safety issues.

The advocates are seeking requirements for trucks of certain sizes to have rear and side underride guards, to prevent smaller vehicles from trapping drivers under them in accidents.

They also want automatic emergency braking and driver-assistance technology to be required on commercial motor vehicles.

Trucking industry representatives have said they are continually addressing safety issues. Advocates for the industry in Congress have said they are already dealing with burdensome regulations, while trying to hire more drivers.

Norton’s legislation is supported by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, and other Democrats in the House. Norton said they are still trying to get more support in the U.S. Senate, where new restrictions are opposed by some lawmakers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports deadly accidents involving at least one truck rose 13% between 2020 and 2021 — to about 5,600.

“Truck crash fatalities have increased 66% since 2009, costing victims and taxpayers an estimated $180 billion,” said Joan Claybrook, chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH).

Safety advocates are also calling on U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to strengthen federal guidelines related to the trucking industry.

Dan Langenkamp’s young son Oliver stepped up to the microphones on Monday and joined his father in seeking to get something done.

“Maybe we can have others’ parents not to have to go through the same thing as I do,” he said.

Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up