For the Record
Current federal hours-of-service rules have played a role in improving highway safety, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should modify the sleeper berth provision to allow for additional flexibility to further improve driver alertness, the American Trucking Associations said April 21 in comments submitted to FMCSA.
Extensive federal data shows that trucking industry safety performance has improved substantially since 2004, when the basic framework for the current HOS regulations took effect. The most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation indicate the truck-involved fatality rate declined 12.3 percent in 2008 to 1.86 per 100 million miles, from 2.12 per 100 million miles in 2007. This decline marks the largest year-to-year drop ever and the fifth consecutive year the fatality rate has dropped.
Persons injured in large truck crashes went from 44.4 per 100 million miles to 39.6, an 11 percent reduction. Since 2004, the number of large truck crash injuries per 100 million miles has dropped 25 percent, and the truck-involved fatality rate has declined 22 percent. The fatality rate has dropped 66 percent since DOT began keeping those records in 1975 and is now at its historical low.
ATA says FMCSA, to better address the true causes of fatigue in transportation, should focus its resources on sleep disorder awareness, training and screening; promoting the use of fatigue risk management programs; evaluating the use of fatigue detection devices; increasing the availability of truck parking on important freight corridors; and partnering with the trucking and shipping communities to develop an educational process that identifies for drivers the location of available truck parking.
ATA’s comments are in response to questions posed to participants during the five public listening sessions recently held across the country as FMCSA again considers HOS changes requested by special interest groups.
FYI News Briefs
Diesel Prices Continue Upward
The national average retail price of a gallon of diesel for the first week of May jumped to its highest level in 18 months, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The price rose 4.4 cents to $3.122. The national price was the highest since Oct. 27, 2008, when it was $3.288.
NAFTA Surface Trade Increases
Surface trade between the United States and Canada and Mexico was 24.1 percent higher in February than a year earlier, reaching $59.5 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The 24.1 percent increase is the largest year-over-year rise on record but freight value remained 14.3 percent less than the value in February 2008.
ATA Tonnage Index Rises
U.S. truck tonnage rose 7.5 percent in March from a year earlier, the fourth straight year-over-year monthly increase, American Trucking Associations said April 27. The increase was the biggest since January 2005. For the first quarter tonnage gained 4.9 percent over last year’s first quarter, ATA said in its monthly seasonally adjusted for-hire truck tonnage index.
Michigan Begins Texting Ban
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm on April 30 signed an anti-texting bill into law, making the state the 24th with such a ban. The newly signed legislation explicitly prohibits a person from reading, writing or sending text messages while driving a vehicle in Michigan. Under the ban, texting while driving is a secondary offense that allows law enforcement officials to ticket drivers if they are pulled over for another offense.