Broken rail led to bridge collapse, trucker's death | Brake Safety Week results

Updated Oct 22, 2023

Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023:

Brake Safety Week nets 2,375 out-of-service orders

During the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s annual Brake Safety Week inspection blitz focusing on brake systems and components, more than 87% of the commercial vehicles inspected were free of brake-related out-of-service violations.

Of the 18,875 total commercial motor vehicles inspected, 2,375 (12.6%) were removed from roadways because inspectors discovered OOS-brakes violations. Examples include broken brake drums, loose air tanks, corroded holes in a spring brake housing, inoperative tractor protection valves and more.

Service brake violations, such as cracked linings, brake adjustment or loose chambers, may combine to put the combination of vehicles out of service under the 20% rule, which states a vehicle is out of service if the number of defective brakes is equal to or greater than 20% of the service brakes on the vehicle or combination. Certain service brake violations automatically net an OOS order when found on the steering axle.

Among the vehicles placed out of service, 295 (12.4%) had steering axle brake violations, 1,127 (47.5%) had stand-alone brake violations and 1,394 (58.7%) failed the 20% defective brakes rule.

The focus area for this year’s Brake Safety Week was lining/pad violations. Throughout the week, as is routine, inspectors checked brake lining/pads for cracks, voids and contamination. They also looked for loose, missing or worn brake lining/pads, tallying the results: of 379 power units and 261 trailers had lining/pad violations.

Although not necessarily OOS violations, CVSA selected this year's blitz focus given lining/pad violations still affect a motor carrier’s safety rating. And if left unaddressed, they can lead to more serious problems -- they can also be OOS violations in some conditions on the steering axle or combined with other brake violations to meet the 20% rule.

Next year’s Brake Safety Week is scheduled for Aug. 25-31, 2024.

[Related: The 20% rule: How brake adjustment alone can put your truck out of service]

Broken rail to blame for bridge collapse that claimed trucker’s life

A broken rail appears to have caused the derailment of a freight train that led to the collapse of a bridge that killed a truck driver in Colorado Sunday. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board made the announcement of its preliminary assessment Tuesday.

I-25 near Pueblo remains closed as debris cannot be cleared until the NTSB completes its investigation. Numerous cars of the BNSF freight train were carrying coal when they derailed on a bridge over the interstate. The derailment caused the bridge to collapse on a tractor-trailer beneath it, killing the driver.

The Pueblo County Coroner’s Office identified the truck driver killed in the crash as Lafollette Henderson, 60, of Compton, California.

The derailed train cars spilled tons of coal across the interstate.

The NTSB's investigation could take several more days, and the cleanup of the spilled coal and collapsed bridge could take several more. The NTSB's complete report could take as much as two years to complete, according to the agency.

[Related: Driver dies as train derails off overpass & bridge lands on truck]

Georgia expands real-time slowdown alerts for Drivewyze users

The Georgia Department of Transportation recently announced that it has expanded its deployment of real-time traffic alerts through Drivewyze’s Smart Roadways service, providing truck drivers access to heavy congestion and slowdown traffic alerts across 1,400 miles of interstate and state highways in Georgia. The expansion of the service nearly triples the connected roadways in the state since deploying the service in 2022. 

Drivewyze Smart Roadways traffic alerts notify truck drivers about hazards, such as where drastic speed changes or heavier than normal congestion is detected, using visual messages such as “sudden slowdown ahead” along with an audible chime. The alerts allow ample time for trucks to slow down or stop. 

Said Ben Lempke, assistant ITS engineer for the Georgia DOT. “The alerts are having a positive impact on driver behavior. We believe they are helping prevent potentially catastrophic collisions involving heavy trucks from happening, which is why we expanded the use of the service.”

According to Lempke, telematics data from a 2020 pilot test in the Atlanta area with more than 500,000 vehicle visits, showed between a 10% and 16% reduction in hard braking events for drivers who received the alert, compared to those who did not.

The congestion and sudden slowdown alerts, part of Drivewyze Smart Roadways, were developed through a partnership between Drivewyze and INRIX. Leveraging INRIX real-time traffic data allows the Georgia DOT, and other partner states, to send real-time alerts to commercial truck drivers through the Drivewyze software application, embedded in most ELDs, as well as on mounted mobile devices.

These alerts are provided free to any fleets subscribed to the Drivewyze PreClear bypass service on their ELDs and are also available for free unlimited use on any Android smartphone (and soon iOS phones) for all truck drivers who download the Drivewyze app -- no subscription required.

In addition to Georgia, the alerts are available in six other states -- Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. More states are expected to be added in the near future.

[Related: Drivewyze expands traffic alerts to Delaware]