Groups air hazmat regulation concerns before congressional committe
Affected groups told a congressional committee on hazmat trucking security reform that both the current system and proposed changes are cumbersome and some believe not especially secure.
Michael Laizure, a Washington hazmat trucker, testified on behalf of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association before a House Homeland Security subcommittee in November.
“The chief complaints that OOIDA hears from drivers about the present system is the shortage of facilities, available times of operation for the facilities and the amount of time necessary to get results,” Laizure said.
The Transportation Security Administration should use the intensive background checks on truckers already in use by other federal agencies and have one database for drivers with security sensitive clearance, he said.
OOIDA believes the TSA lacks sufficient access to information to do equivalent checks on non-U.S. drivers, he added.
Finally, instead of the current proposal to require GPS tags on hazmat trucks, federal officials should monitor the load itself, Laizure noted.
Linda Lewis-Pickett, who heads the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, also noted existing burdens on truckers and state officials. Montana truckers must drive as much as 200 miles to apply for a threat assessment, while Virginia officials have to contact other states to verify if a driver transferring to the state has received a previous threat assessment.
The AAMVA is concerned about the proposed two-tier commercial driver credentialing system, which provides hazmat drivers with a pocket card.
This two-tier system is meant to differentiate between commercial drivers hauling very hazardous materials and those transporting materials considered less hazardous.
It is difficult to tie a driver to the shipment carried, and administration costs are considerable, she said. “Most DMVs do not know what types of hazardous loads a driver would be required to transport and therefore, would not be in a position to adequately inform drivers which clearance process they would need to undergo,” Lewis-Pickett stated.
The pocket card proposal concerns AAMVA members because possible document fraud, the lack of a secure issuance process and administrative resources. If this program goes forward with pocket cards, the association wants the TSA or the Department of Homeland Security to be responsible for program implementation.
Steve Russell, chief executive officer of the Celadon Group, testified for the American Trucking Associations that hazmat background check costs are deterring drivers from getting the endorsement.
The program also lack uniformity across states, and the number of locations and hours are insufficient. The ATA also suggested revamping the screening process to focus on hazardous materials that are true security risks.
The USA Patriot Act required threat assessments of the hazmat endorsement applicants and the 4 million U.S. CDL holders who have hazmat endorsements.
ATA Voices Concerns Over Sleeper Berth Provision
The American Trucking Associations expressed concern over the sleeper berth provisions in the new hours-of-service rule via a letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, wrote in an Oct. 26 letter to FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg that he had “serious and pervasive concerns” with the agency’s sleeper berth provision.
The association had an earlier dispute with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association after OOIDA sent a letter to carrier executives asking for support of its petition of federal officials to change the new sleeper berth provision. That letter also indicated the association believed the ATA had not battled hard enough for HOS issues.
The sleeper berth provision that existed for decades was efficient
and safe, Graves told Sandberg. “Allowing flexibility in the splitting of sleep periods for both single and team drivers affords inherent protections and provides scheduling options that are critical for driver safety,” he stated.
The ATA will gather historical and current sleeper berth data and safety and productivity metrics for team and solo drivers to provide to the agency and industry, Graves concluded.
Oversight Group Finds Crash Data Improved
While the quality of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s truck crash data has improved, it still has a ways to go, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The GAO, the congressional investigative arm that examines public funding, issued a report Nov. 20 following a Senate request that it evaluate the FMCSA program for helping states improve truck crash data. That evaluation noted the Department of Transportation agreed with the report.
The Senate also requested the GAO address issues raised in the DOT Inspector General 2004 report on Motor Carrier Safety Status Measurement System or SafeStat. The FMCSA uses SafeStat to identify high-risk motor carriers so the agency can better focus resources in compliance reviews and enforcement action.
The OIG had noted that the quality of data being fed into the Safety Status Measurement System, or SafeStat was poor. The FMCSA has removed key data elements from the public Internet site until it improves.
In response to recommendations in that 2004 report, the agency developed the State Safety Data Quality map, considered a tool for rating states’ data quality. The GAO stated the FMCSA should develop an assessment and improvement plan for the map’s methodology and should furnish a crash specific data rating and limitations of the map on its website.
While the map is useful, the office GAO said the methodology problems could result in false conclusions about the extent of improvements states have made.
The FMCSA’s other program to help states improve truck crash reporting also appears beneficial, the GAO said. Through the data improvement program for states, FMCSA has provided nearly $21 million in discretionary grants to states 2002-05 and helped states better their data.
The GAO did not find problems with FMCSA’s oversight of the program, but said the agency needs formal guidelines for awarding grants to states.
According to FMCSA, as of fiscal year 2004 nearly one-third of truck crashes that states are required to report to federal officials went unreported. Those that were reported were not always accurate, timely, or consistent.
Tapering Lanes Lead to Many Work-Zone Accidents
Truck-car accidents often occur where lanes taper for work zones, according to a study released Nov. 16.
The American Transportation Research Institute study, titled Safety by Design: Optimizing Safety in Highway Work Zones, noted that many states are looking to shorten that region to increase traffic flow and lane capacity. This may cause four-wheel drivers to cut in front of trucks more often, forcing the big rigs to brake quickly and unsafely. The institute is the research arm of the American Trucking Associations.
The report recommended standardized accident reports and greater adherence to the work zone design guidelines of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
“Given the emphasis that the Federal Highway Administration and state DOTs are placing on improving work zone safety, the issues raised in this report should be taken into account by all work zone planners,” said Dean Carlson, former Kansas DOT secretary and former president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
“The study provides the basis for a partnership of the trucking industry and government to provide safer work zones for all motorists,” said Doug Duncan, institute chairman and president and CEO of FedEx Freight.
ATA: Visual Rear-Detection Equipment Not the Only Solution
Fleets should not be limited to visual-only rear-detection devices, the American Trucking Associations said in response to a federal proposal to require rear-detection systems on straight trucks.
The group’s comment, filed Nov. 14, responded to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposal that straight trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds have a detection system to alert drivers of anything directly behind the vehicle.
Vehicle manufacturers could satisfy the proposal by installing mirrors or video cameras that would make the space behind the truck visible to the driver.
Fleets should not be limited to such devices, the ATA said, noting that backup alarms and warning devices could work as well.
Other industry groups also voiced concerns. The Truck Manufacturers Association said it may be better to standardize equipment installation, rather than mandating it.
The Truck Equipment Association said the equipment would cost more than the NHTSA’s estimate of $212 per truck . “Even assuming a labor rate of $50/hour, and no time for compliance determination or placement strategy, a video system is likely to cost between $450 and $835,” the association said.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an organization of consumer groups, safety activists and insurance companies, called the proposal insufficient. Cross-view mirrors, the organization said, “are clearly less effective than rear-mounted video systems with in-cab monitors.”
Super Singles May Reduce Rollovers
For carriers and owner-operators still considering whether to replace traditional duals with the new generation of wider single tires – marketed as a lighter, more fuel-efficient alternative – there may be evidence of another advantage.
In recent tests, researchers at the Center for Transportation Analysis at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee found a decreased propensity for rollover when tractors and dry vans were equipped with modern super singles over standard duals. A study of the tests was released Nov. 14 at the 2005 International Truck and Bus Safety and Security Symposium in Alexandria, Va.
One of the study leaders, H.E. “Bill” Knee, said researchers put a tractor-trailer with traditional duals, dynamic sensors and outriggers through a series of tests to emulate three events that lead to rollovers: evasive maneuvers, driving around curves with a constant radius, and running off the road. The same tractor-trailer was re-equipped with singles and a wider slider trailer suspension in various configurations and put through the same paces.
The result? In most cases, new generation single tires and slider suspensions reduced rollover propensity, at least in van operations. In evasive maneuvers, the new-generation combination decreased the maximum trailer roll angle per lateral acceleration ratio by 45 percent, a significant amount, Knee said.
A wider suspension spreads out the center of weight, as do super singles, Knee said. “Replacing the standard duals with the new generation of super singles effectively moved out the center of where the weight was on either end by 3 inches,” Knee said. “That gives you a 6-inch wider area. We expected that.”
Some anomalies need further investigation, Knee said. For example, a truck equipped with duals coupled to a trailer equipped with singles and a wider slider suspension performed best in the evasive maneuver test. That may have something to do with driver feel from having dual tires on the tractor, Knee said.
Further tests are planned for tankers and flatbeds, Knee said.
TCA Names Finalists in Driver Contests
The Truckload Carriers Association has named finalists for its Company Equipment Driver of the Year and Independent Contractor of the Year contests.
The 38 finalists were chosen based on safety criteria measured by accident-free miles, driving record, moving violations and hours-of-service violations.
The contest is open to drivers who have logged more than 1 million miles and follow strict safety standards. The finalists represent 22 states and include three husband-and-wife driving teams.
Truckers News co-sponsors the Company Equipment Driver of the Year contest.
Overdrive and International Truck and Engine Co. co-sponsor the Independent Contractor of the Year contest.
The top five winners in both contests will receive numerous prizes, including cash, savings bonds, trucking supplies and gift cards donated by industry suppliers.
The Independent Contractor winner will get a new, fully loaded International tractor.
The finalists are now asked to provide more information for the final phase of the competition. The top three for both contests will be announced at the TCA 2006 Annual Convention at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Florida, March 12-15.
Company Driver of the Year Contest finalists:
· Eric Bauman, Grand Island Express
· Steven Bradford, Contract Freighters
· Brett Campbell, O&S Trucking
· Jay Coker, FFE Transportation
· Dora Colvin, Contract Freighters
· James Conner, Team Transport
· Bobby Downes, O&S Trucking
· Roger Elliott, Sherman Brothers Trucking
· Dale Henderson, Marten Transport
· Fred Howard, Arnold Transportation Services
· Ricky Howell, Summitt Trucking
· Kenneth Luther, Sherman Brothers Trucking
· Barry Nauman, Marten Transport
· Tim Setterlund, Marten Transport
· Ruppert Stevens, Epes Transport System
· Edward Teuscher, Team Transport
· Robert White, Hogan Transports
· Zimri Zirkle, Jet Express
Independent Contractor of the Year Contest finalists:
· Daniel Beber, Warren Transport
· Albert Beck, Dart Transit
· Constance Beyer, Midwest Coast Transport
· Lanny Beyer, Midwest Coast Transport
· Alvin Courte, Contract Freighters
· Dennis Grills, Sherman Brothers Trucking
· Mark Hohensee, O&S Trucking
· Elizabeth Jordan, Christenson Transportation
· Paul Jordan, Christenson Transportation
· Debra Jurashen, Landstar System
· Robert Jurashen, Landstar System
· Theodore Kasparie, Sammons Trucking
· James Lyle, Dart Transit
· Robert McCray, Warren Transport
· Stacy Moran, Contract Freighters
· Steven Recker, Warren Transport
· Artie Reid, Dart Transit
· Henry Shriver, Smithway Motor Xpress
· Paul Stallibrass, Contract Freighters
· Bridget Stanton, Pottle’s Transportation
· Ronald Warner, Davis Transport
· Carter Williams, National Carriers,
· Dean Winkcompleck, Ace Doran Hauling and Rigging
Parade Article Less Controversial Than Feared
Parade magazine ran its third truck-safety article in nine years Oct. 30. Written by Bernard Gavzer, the short article headlined “Do Trucks Make You Nervous?” was not the assault the industry had feared. The cover headline, in fact, was “Stay Safe Around Trucks.”
While the article was quick to point out that the 2003 hour-of-service rules allowed truckers to drive as many as 60 hours in a seven-day period and claimed that tired truckers are a major safety issue on the road, the article also noted that fatalities and injuries from crashes involving commercial trucks have not increased significantly in the past nine years.
The article made no mention of how many of those crashes were the big rig drivers’ fault.
American Trucking Associations’ spokesman Mike Russell, who was quoted in the article, said after its publication that it painted a fair picture of the industry.
“For the first time, thanks in large part to the efforts of the trucking industry and professional truck drivers, they seemed to make an effort to include the straight scoop on trucking safety, pretty much disproving the usual unsubstantiated charges from the usual truck bashers,” Russell said. “While there were some comments that could be challenged, overall, Parade gave the industry a pretty fair shake.”
“Motorists have a responsibility,” the article noted, “to be aware of their own fatigue, not to drive while intoxicated, to avoid risky driving and to know what precautions to take when driving in the vicinity of a large truck.” An illustration headlined “How To Share The Road” showed four-wheelers how to pass a truck, how far to stay behind a truck, and how to avoid the large blind spot on the truck’s right side.
Diesel Prices Continue to Drop
The national average retail price of a gallon of diesel fell another 3 cents for the week ending Nov. 28, to $2.479. That’s 36 cents more than in the same week of 2004, but a far cry from the $3-plus record prices of October. The biggest drop, 6 cents, was in the Rockies; the smallest, a penny, in the Central Atlantic states.
The U.S. plaza at the Peace Bridge connecting Buffalo, N.Y., and Fort Erie, Ontario, has been upgraded and is now processing truck traffic more efficiently. The $4.3 million improvement project sped up truck traffic from opening day Nov. 8, said David Bradley, Canadian Trucking Association chief executive officer. The U.S. plaza has three new truck inspection lanes and three new motorist inspection booths, as well as a reconfigured traffic pattern.
Truck and trailer repossessions and liquidations in the third quarter of 2005 increased 188 percent compared to the same quarter in 2004, according to Nassau Asset Management.
“There is no question that rising fuel costs earlier this year made it harder for truckers, construction companies and other firms to do business,” said Edward Castagna, Nassau’s president.
The Love’s Travel Stop in Marshall, Mich., is now open. The facility is located at I-94 and Partello Road, off Exit 112. This is the 116th Love’s facility and was the last location scheduled to open in 2005.
Willie on the Biodiesel Board
Country music star Willie Nelson was appointed to the Earth Biofuels Board of Directors Nov. 10. Nelson has been active in marketing his own “BioWillie” biodiesel fuel since January 2005 through the Willie Nelson Biodiesel Company.
Mark Butcosk won a trip to the 2006 Daytona 500, courtesy of Volvo Trucks North America’s “Race Day Get Away” promotion. Butcosk, his wife, son and son-in-law, will all receive round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, local transportation, tickets to the Daytona 500 and $500 spending cash for his trip. Butcosk lives in Kreamer, Pa, and has been a truck driver for 30 years. He drives bulk tankers full of liquid chocolate for Foodliner.
President George W. Bush recently presented a 2004 National Medal of Technology to Paccar. Established by Congress in 1980, the National Medal of Technology recognizes the contributions that America’s innovators make to the nation’s economic strength and technology advancements. This award honors Paccar’s development of aerodynamic, lightweight commercial vehicles that have reduced fuel consumption and increased the productivity of freight transportation.