Operation Safe Driver Week slated for July 12-18

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Photo: Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance

Greenbelt, MD — Law enforcement officers are expected to keep an extra sharp watch for commercial and passenger vehicle drivers engaging in unsafe behaviors July 12-18 during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s annual Operation Safe Driver Week.

Officers will be looking for drivers who are texting, following too closely, not wearing seat belts or maneuvering in otherwise unsafe manners, while placing added emphasis on speeding.

A May 12 CVSA press release cites recent findings from the Governors Highway Safety Association showing that state highway officials nationwide “are seeing a severe spike in speeding” as traffic volume has decreased as a result of quarantines and stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council show that, in March, the rate of motor vehicle deaths in the United States was 14% higher than in March 2019 despite fewer drivers being on the road.

CMV and passenger vehicle drivers in North America received nearly 47,000 citations and around 88,000 warnings during last year’s Operation Safe Driver Week, per data collected from law enforcement personnel. Citations and warnings related to speeding were most common, with CMV drivers receiving 1,454 citations and 2,126 warnings, and passenger vehicle drivers receiving 16,102 citations and 21,001 warnings.

“It’s essential that this enforcement initiative, which focuses on identifying and deterring unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding, go on as scheduled,” CVSA President John Samis said in the release. “As passenger vehicle drivers are limiting their travel to necessary trips and many [CMV] drivers are busy transporting vital goods to stores, it’s more important than ever to monitor our roadways for safe transport.”

FMCSA seeks to close ‘loophole’ that lets CMV drivers who fail drug, alcohol tests get licenses

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Photo: KLH49/iStockphoto

Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking input on a proposed rule that would ban states from issuing commercial driver’s licenses to operators with existing drug or alcohol violations, in an effort to eliminate a “regulatory loophole.”

The proposed rule, published in the April 28 Federal Register, also would prohibit state driver’s licensing agencies from renewing, upgrading and transferring CDLs for those operators.

FMCSA contends that although its online Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse – fully implemented in January – provides real-time national data on commercial motor vehicle drivers who have failed drug and alcohol tests, most states remain unaware that the violations have occurred.

“Consequently, there is no federal requirement that SDLAs take any action on the license of drivers subject to that prohibition,” FMCSA states. “As a result, a driver can continue to hold a valid [commercial learner’s permit] or CDL, even while prohibited from operating a CMV under FMCSA’s drug and alcohol regulations.”

Provisions of the clearinghouse require employers and medical review officers to report information about drivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol, or who refuse to comply with testing. Substance misuse professionals must report information about drivers who participate in the return-to-duty drug and alcohol rehabilitation process.

The proposal outlines two possible methods for determining the process by which SDLAs would access driver-specific information from the clearinghouse:

  • Require SDLAs to initiate a mandatory downgrade of the CLP and CDL driving privilege. Drivers would be required to complete the [return-to-duty] process and comply with any state-established procedures for reinstatement of the CMV driving privilege.
  • Provide SDLAs with optional notice of a driver’s prohibited status from the clearinghouse. The states would decide whether and how they would use the information under state law and policy to prevent a driver from operating a CMV.

Under the second alternative, SDLAs could choose to receive “push notifications” from the clearinghouse when drivers licensed in their state are prohibited from operating CMVs because of violations of drug or alcohol regulations.

Comments on the proposed rule are due June 29.

FMCSA makes Crash Preventability Determination Program permanent

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Photo: PeteMuller/iStockphoto

Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has made permanent and expanded a program designed to determine to what extent commercial motor vehicle crashes are preventable, according to a notice published in the May 6 Federal Register.

After weighing stakeholder feedback on an August proposed rule that sought to continue FMCSA’s Crash Preventability Determination Program, the agency is removing “not preventable” crashes as a classification under the Crash Indicator Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Category of its Safety Measurement System website.

FMCSA also is allowing motor carriers and drivers to submit requests for data review for eligible crashes occurring on or after Aug. 1, 2019. Requests must include police accident reports and may contain supporting documents, photos and videos “to present compelling evidence that the crash is eligible and not preventable,” the notice states. Crashes are classified under 16 types:

  • Struck in rear
  • Legally stopped or parked
  • Suicides or suicide attempts
  • Wrong direction
  • Animal strikes
  • Individuals under the influence
  • Infrastructure failure or struck by cargo, equipment or debris
  • Struck on the side in the rear
  • Struck by a vehicle that didn’t stop or slow in traffic
  • Struck by a vehicle that failed to stop at a traffic control device
  • Struck by a vehicle that was making a U-turn or an illegal turn
  • Struck by a driver who experiences a medical issue that caused the crash
  • Struck by a driver who admits to falling asleep or driving distracted
  • Involves an individual under the influence, even if the CMV was struck by another vehicle involved in the crash
  • Involves a driver operating in the wrong direction, even if the CMV was struck by another vehicle involved in the crash
  • Rare or unusual crash

“If the crash is not eligible under the crash type for which it was submitted, FMCSA will move the crash to an eligible crash type, if one exists,” the agency states. “However, if the crash does not meet one of the eligible crash types, the [request for data review] will be closed.”

FMCSA further states that crashes found to be “not preventable” won’t be used when calculating the carrier’s Crash Indicator BASIC measure or percentile. The agency uses this data “to prioritize carriers for safety intervention.”

As part of preliminary research for its proposed rule, FMCSA reviewed – from Aug. 1, 2017, to approximately Jan. 30, 2019 – more than 5,600 crash data submissions from commercial truck and bus companies under the program. According to an Aug. 5 agency press release, FMCSA found that about 94% of the crashes reviewed during the first 18 months of the initial 24-month duration of the program were considered not preventable by the motor carrier or CMV driver.

Speaking to Transport Topic in a May 1 report, American Trucking Associations Vice President of Safety Policy Dan Horvath said ATA was “happy to see a permanent program come to fruition” and would “continue to work with FMCSA to encourage further improvements.”

New from NTSB: Safety tip card for truck drivers

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Photo: National Transportation Safety Board

Washington — A new safety tip card created by the National Transportation Safety Board for commercial motor vehicle drivers and owners is intended to reinforce common lessons learned from agency crash investigations, as well as issues outlined in NTSB’s list of 10 “Most Wanted” safety improvements for 2019-2020.

Designed to be stored above a truck’s visor, the card advises drivers to:

  • Minimize all distractions and follow federal regulations regarding cell phone use.
  • Follow posted speed limits, and drive slower in inclement weather.
  • Stay healthy by taking breaks, exercising and managing fatigue. Also, avoid driving while taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can cause impairment.
  • Wear seat belts, and make sure passengers follow suit.
  • Drive sober; never operate a CMV while impaired by drugs and alcohol.

Tips for CMV owners and/or managers include:

  • Implement a fatigue management program following North American Fatigue Management Program guidelines.
  • Purchase CMVs equipped with underride protection, advanced speed-limiting technologies and collision avoidance technologies, and train drivers on their use.
  • Establish policies to address driver medical fitness for duty.

Citing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the card states that 4,951 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks in 2018 – an increase of almost 6% from 2016.

COVID-19 pandemic: Rest stops must remain open, trucking stakeholders contend

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Photo: tekinturkdogan/iStockphoto

Washington — Transportation officials and a trucking industry group are calling for highway rest stops to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic to help ensure the safety and well-being of commercial motor vehicle drivers, especially those transporting items intended to assist in relief efforts.

In a March 17 letter sent to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear asks that the federal government keep rest stops open. On March 23, Federal Highway Administration Administrator Nicole Nason sounded a similar call in a letter to American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials President Patrick McKenna.

“Closing rest areas where professional drivers can rest may risk the safe and timely delivery of medical supplies, food and other essential goods,” Nason writes. “As we all work to stem the tide of this outbreak, let us also continue to facilitate the safe, efficient and seamless transport of critical supplies across the nation.”

The requests came as multiple states decided to close their rest stops. On March 16, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation shuttered 35 interstate rest stops, including parking access. Two days later, however, in response to pushback from industry stakeholders, the department announced 13 of its facilities would reopen.

During the pandemic, ATA is tracking state declarations concerning various trucking issues, including parking and rest stop availability. As of April 1, three states – Illinois, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania – had enacted partial closures of rest stops. ATA notes that although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration lacks preemptive authority over states that elect to close rest stops, the agency is “working closely with the states to ensure adequate truck parking and facilities are available.”

According to a March 17 report from Transportation Nation, FMCSA acting administrator Jim Mullen sent a letter that same day to NATSO (formerly known as the National Association of Truck Stop Operators) President and CEO Lisa Mullings, demanding that rest stops remain open.

“As the nation continues to come to grips with the realities of COVID-19, I am writing to let you know that [FMCSA] recognizes the integral role that travel centers and truck stops play in the nation’s supply chain,” Mullen writes. “All of your members must heed the [Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention] guidelines and follow state and local restrictions. In the coming weeks and months, it will be critical that these businesses remain open, 24 hours per day, providing America’s truck drivers with fuel, food, showers, repair services and opportunities to rest.”

A day before Mullen sent his letter, Mullings issued a statement confirming that member facilities remain open.

“Truck drivers are depending on truck stops and travel centers as they deliver food and life-saving supplies,” Mullings said in a March 16 press release. “As the nation confronts the coronavirus outbreak, the country’s travel centers and truck stops are committed to remaining open and serving America’s drivers.”

FMCSA on March 18 issued an expanded national emergency declaration granting temporary exemption from federal hours-of-service regulations to CMV drivers transporting items intended to assist in COVID-19 relief efforts.

CVSA’s New 2020 North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria is Now in Effect

Starting today, April 1, 2020, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) 2020 North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria is now in effect. The 2020 out-of-service criteria replaces and supersedes all previous versions.

The North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria (OOSC) is the pass-fail criteria for roadside safety inspections. The purpose of the criteria is to identify critical safety violations. Those violations render the driver, vehicle and/or motor carrier out of service until the condition(s) or violation(s) are corrected or repaired. Read More»

Passenger drivers believe CMV operators are more risky, survey finds

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Atlanta — Drivers of passenger vehicles have a considerable misunderstanding of the safety performance of commercial motor vehicle operators, results of a recent survey show.

An online survey commissioned by Verizon Connect and Wakefield Research asked 1,000 U.S. adults about CMV road safety. In addition, researchers analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Survey results show that 83% of the respondents believe they are safer behind the wheel than commercial drivers. That contrasts with the data, which, according to a press release from Verizon Connect, shows that only 3% of severe crashes nationwide involve commercial drivers.

Other findings:

  • 81% of the respondents said they have witnessed a commercial vehicle operator driving dangerously. Of them, 54% reported witnessing a traffic incident involving a CMV.
  • 69% of the respondents said they’ve seen commercial drivers speeding. The next most common unsafe driving behaviors observed were abrupt lane changes (55%), erratic driving (46%) and turning too quickly (37%).

FMCSA reminds passenger vehicle drivers that CMVs “have large blind spots, long stopping distances and limited maneuverability that make it vital for other drivers to focus on safety.” The agency offers a number of tips, including:

  • Don’t drive in a CMV’s blind spot.
  • Pass safely.
  • Anticipate wide turns.
  • Remain focused and be patient.

ADOT partners with Hopi Tribe on commercial vehicle safety inspections

Officers using mobile ports to check semis driving through reservation
PHOENIX – To enhance safety on state highways, the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Enforcement and Compliance Division partnered with the Hopi Tribe to set up a mobile commercial vehicle inspection site on the reservation.

Concerned that overweight semi trailers and those in violation of safety regulations may be using state roads that pass through the Hopi reservation to evade commercial ports of entry, the tribal government reached out to ADOT for assistance. ADOT sent officers to set up a mobile inspection site along State Route 264 near the junction with State Route 87, while officers patrolled other parts of SR 264, SR 87 and Indian Route 2 to ensure that commercial vehicles weren’t evading the mobile inspection site. Continue reading»

House lawmakers call for automatic emergency braking on new commercial trucks, buses

Photo: Chesky_W/iStockphoto

Washington — Automatic emergency braking would be a standard feature on all new commercial motor vehicles, including large trucks, under legislation introduced in July by Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL) and Hank Johnson (D-GA). Read more

DOT needs your help defining ‘agricultural commodity’ and ‘livestock’

Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking input on whether it should clarify or revise the definitions of “agricultural commodity” or “livestock” in its hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers.

FMCSA made the announcement in an advance notice of proposed rulemaking published in the July 29 Federal Register. Current regulations call for exemptions in HOS requirements during harvesting and planting season in each state. Drivers are exempt in a 150-air-mile radius from the source of that agricultural commodity.

In 49 CFR Part 395.2, FMCSA defines “agricultural commodity” as “any agricultural commodity, non processed food, feed, fiber or livestock.” The agency states that the newly published ANPRM “is prompted by indications that the current definitions of these terms may not be understood or enforced consistently when determining whether the HOS exemption applies.”

The comment period is open until Sept. 27.

In June 2018, FMCSA issued guidance intended to clarify both the agricultural commodities exemption and the “personal conveyance” provision in HOS regulations.