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.

Managing transportation worker distraction amid COVID-19: NSC hosts webinar

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Photo: WendellandCarolyn/iStockphoto

Itasca, IL — Concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic are creating distractions for many commercial drivers, putting the safety of these essential employees – and others – at risk, Brian Fielkow, CEO of Houston-based Jetco Delivery, said during an April 17 webinar hosted by the National Safety Council.

“Let’s face it, none of us are running right now with perfect clarity like we would’ve been a month or two ago,” Fielkow said during the webinar, which focused on safety in the transportation industry amid the pandemic. “[Transportation workers] are concerned about their health. They’re concerned about their family’s health. Maybe there are family members in poor health that they can’t visit.”

Other concerns include worries about layoffs, leaving home while under stay-at-home orders from respective governors and being assigned routes to COVID-19 hot spots.

“If you think the cellphone is a distraction – and it is – consider the impact of COVID,” Fielkow said. “That’s important because you have to approach your employees as if they’re distracted.”

Leaders and managers need to acknowledge worker concerns and “adjust your style to understand and manage distraction,” he said. “Lead with a firm commitment to safety, but with empathy, too. COVID-19 requires us to change how we lead.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 18 expanded a national emergency declaration, granting temporary exemption from federal hours-of-service regulations to commercial motor drivers transporting items intended to help in the COVID-19 relief effort. Fielkow is concerned about the exemption.

“Fatigue doesn’t care if we’re in a crisis or if we’re in normal times,” he said. “I’d be very, very careful about disregarding the hours-of-service rules, even if you’re hauling COVID-related materials, because fatigue is fatigue. Let’s be sure that we’re focused on safety above compliance.”

During this crisis, drivers might need more frequent breaks and more say over assigned routes. “Don’t force work,” Fielkow said. “If an employee is not comfortable with a particular assignment, you can’t force it.”

Fielkow also encouraged employers and managers to check in frequently with drivers about any concerns or questions they might have.

“We’ve done that in our company a couple of times and we’ve gotten great questions,” he said. “Those questions led to discussions and conversations, then an understanding that we can be safe and we can operate with a clear head in the COVID-19 era.”

Fielkow described a situation in which a trusted, reliable employee was having performance issues and making mistakes.

“It may be that they’re distracted,” he said. “What you’ve got to do is diffuse that distraction, stay firm on the safety issues, but put the rule books and discipline forms away. Let’s coach. Let’s call time-out. If we start inundating people with every (safety) rule out there, we’re going to lose our peoples’ minds. We’ve got to narrow the focus to what’s most important.”

Employers must understand that their clients and vendors are most likely following the same best practices when it comes to safety and health as well. To do so, Fielkow said having those conversations can advance the topic.

“You’ve got to be a resource that gathers resources,” he said, noting many industry associations are offering free COVID-19-related resources that can be downloaded and shared with clients and vendors.

Jorge Chavez, a Jetco Delivery driver with more than 15 years of experience, discussed his work delivering essential supplies to grocery stores and other businesses during this time.

“For us as professionals, we have to be extra vigilant and alert – checking our mirrors, increasing our following distance, because people could be scared,” Chavez said. “They could be distracted.”

To ensure his own safety, Chavez said staying connected with news about the pandemic, along with federal and local safety guidance updates, has been critical.

“I’m also reading all emails from my company, making sure we’re on the same page,” he said.

PSP MCMIS Data Update

The FMCSA Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) Website has been updated with the April 24, 2020 snapshot from the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS).  The term “snapshot” refers to data captured from the MCMIS database as it appears on a particular date.

Request Reports Today

You may request a prospective driver’s latest PSP data at: https://www.psp.fmcsa.dot.gov.

PSP records include a 5-year crash and 3-year inspection history for commercial drivers.  Account holders may access a PSP record during the hiring process after the driver’s consent has been properly obtained.

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»

Drugged Driving—What You Should Know

Blurred nighttime road from perspective of a drugged driver

In 2016, 44 percent of drivers in fatal car crashes (with known results) tested positive for drugs, according to the recent report entitled “Drug-Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States” by the Governors Highway Safety Association. This is up from 28 percent in 2006. See a graphic from the report below for more information about drugged driving and marijuana and opioids.

 

graphic from GHSA report

“Drug-Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States”  by the Governors Highway Safety Association

 

More “Drugged Driving” Facts

What is drug-impaired driving? Driving under the influence of over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, marijuana, or illegal drugs.

How common is drug-impaired driving?  In 2017, 12.8 million people (ages 16 and older) drove after using illicit drugs. (2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables)

man with pills behind the wheelWhy is drug-impaired driving dangerous? Over-the-counter (OTC) medications and drugs affect the brain and can alter perception, mental processes, attention, balance, coordination, reaction time and other abilities required for safe driving. Even small amounts of some drugs can have a serious effect on driving ability.

A recent national survey showed 22.5% of nighttime weekend drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or OTC drugs that can impair driving. (Drug-Impaired Driving: A Guide for States, April 2017. NHTSA 2014 Drug-Impaired Driving Survey)

What substances are used the most when driving? After alcohol, marijuana is the most commonly used drug. (Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse)

What happens when you use drugs and drive? Marijuana can decrease a person’s ability to drive a car. It slows reaction time, impairs a driver’s concentration and attention, and reduces hand-eye coordination. It is dangerous to drive after mixing alcohol and marijuana. Driving after using prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicine, such as cough suppressants, antihistamines, sleeping aids, and anti-anxiety medications may impair driving ability.

Check out the graphic below from the National Institute on Drug Abuse about the effects different drugs can have on driving (click to enlarge).

Graphic: Marijuana- slows reaction time and impairs judgement of time and distance; meth or cocaine - aggressive and reckless behaviors; opioids - drowsiness and impaired memory and thinking skills; sedatives (benzodiazepines, barbiturates) - dizziness and drowsiness

Is it legal? Even in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, driving while under the influence of marijuana is still illegal. Unfortunately, too many people are misinformed. A study conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) found that a third of all teens believe it is legal to drive under the influence of marijuana. In addition 27 percent of parents believed it was legal.

Not only is driving while high illegal, it’s also very dangerous. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the effects of marijuana can include: altered senses and sense of time, slow reaction time, anxiety, hallucinations and more.

TIP: Parents—tell your teen not to drive after using marijuana or other drugs, and don’t get in a car with a driver who has used marijuana or other drugs!

Remember: Marijuana and many medications act on parts of the brain that can impair driving ability. Many prescription drugs have warning labels against the operation of machinery and driving motor vehicles, for a certain period of time after use. You are more likely to be injured or in an accident while driving while under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs.

FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse Query Plan Details

Query plans will be available for purchase on the Clearinghouse website in fall 2019.

FMCSA has released the query plan options for employers of CDL drivers. The query plan information is in the attached factsheet, it is also available for download on the Clearinghouse website. Query plans will be available for purchase fall 2019.

Learn More About Query Plans →

International trucker safety training expands with refresher course

Program allows qualified drivers in Mexico to keep knowledge up-to-date

PHOENIX – Two years after launching a first-of-its-kind truck safety training program for drivers and companies in Mexico, the Arizona Department of Transportation has added refresher instruction for those who have been through the program.

ADOT launched the International Border Inspection Qualification in 2017 by sending trained officers from commercial ports of entry into Mexico to provide instruction, in Spanish, on safety regulations. The goals: reducing violations that can lead to delays for truckers from Mexico and making state highways safer by allowing ADOT officers to focus on vehicles needing the most attention.

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The FMCSA Wants Your Input on the Need for the DOT Employment Application

The FMCSA has released an official notice proposing to completely eliminate the requirement that trucking companies obtain a DOT-specific employment application. If implemented as proposed, this will radically affect your hiring practices and make it more difficult for you to hire drivers. We’ve been following the FMCSA’s activities on this proposal since it was first mentioned last year. The FMCSA regulators are now at the point in the rulemaking process where they want to hear how the proposal will affect actual trucking companies. That is, they want to hear from you.

The FMCSA has asked specific questions directed to carriers in the industry on how the proposed changes will affect hiring drivers. Read on for more information and our suggestions of how best to address these questions. This is a valuable opportunity to give your feedback on an issue that will impact you significantly – you can do so at this link.

To see the specific notice by the FMCSA and the additional questions they’ve posed, you can read more at their website

FMCSA Launches Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Website, Updates SMS Website

FMCSA Launches Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Website
This week, FMCSA launched a new website with information about the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. Visit https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov to learn more about how CDL drivers and their employers will be required to use the Clearinghouse beginning January 6, 2020. You will be able to sign up for email updates.

FMCSA Updates SMS Website
FMCSA has updated the CSA SMS Website with the February 22, 2019 results.

Motor carriers participating in FMCSA’s Crash Preventability Demonstration Program will continue to see the Agency’s final determinations on SMS for crashes reviewed as part of the program. Logged-in carriers and enforcement users with crashes determined to be Not Preventable as part of the program can view measures and percentiles calculated with and without those crashes.