Opposing parties

| April 01, 2006

The FMCSA argued it could not direct states to provide status reports unless direct evidence of fraud was present. The OIG disagreed and noted federal and state officials would not be required to take action against suspect drivers unless a specific case warranted it – not if, for example, a driver was only coincidentally associated with a corrupt CDL examiner.
-Jill Dunn

NTSB Says Manually Adjusting Automatic Slack Adjusters is Dangerous
The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a warning that manually adjusting automatic slack adjusters is dangerous.

The board recommended Feb. 15 that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration develop with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance a North American Standard Inspection training materials module against this practice.

The FMCSA will work with the board to learn how often manual readjustment occurs and to keep this from happening, said Ian Grossman, FMCSA communications director.

“The agency has considered ways to deter manually adjusting automatic slack adjusters, but there is no information that indicates it is a widespread practice – though we do recognize that some drivers and mechanics do it,” Grossman said.

These adjusters are required on certain air-braked vehicles manufactured on or after Oct. 20, 1994. Motor carriers must ensure that the devices are properly maintained, Grossman added.

Manually adjusting automatic slack adjusters should be done only during installation or for an emergency move to a repair facility, the NTSB said.

Manual adjustment “fails to address the true reason why the brakes are not maintaining adjustment, giving the operator a false sense of security about the effectiveness of the brakes, which are likely to go out of adjustment again soon,” the NTSB said.

This practice also can cause abnormal wear to the internal adjusting mechanism, which can lead to brake failure, the board said.

The board also advocated that drivers of air braked commercial vehicles weighing less than 26,000 pounds undergo training and testing to demonstrate proficiency with such vehicles.
The board’s recommendations stem from a Feb. 7 report on a 2003 accident in Glen Rock, Pa,. involving a 1995 Ford dump truck on a steep two-lane residential street.

The driver for Blossom Valley Farms was unable to stop at an intersection where four passenger cars were stopped. The truck pushed one vehicle into the intersection, and the car in turn hit three children on a sidewalk. One vehicle driver and an 11-year-old passenger were killed.

The board said the accident’s cause was the lack of oversight by Blossom, which resulted in an untrained driver improperly operating an overloaded, air-braked vehicle with inadequately maintained brakes.

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