Bill would put new monitoring on USPS trucking contractors | I-17 closures, detour info

Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, May 7, 2024:

Bill requiring accident reporting from USPS contractors passes U.S. House

A bill that would require the United States Postal Service to increase its oversight of trucking contractors passed in the U.S. House last week.

The bipartisan bill, dubbed the Mail Traffic Deaths Reporting Act, would require USPS to collect, track, and publicly report information related to deaths and injuries resulting from traffic crashes involving vehicles transporting mail. It was introduced by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia) and co-sponsored by Rep. James Comer (R-Kentucky).

According to a press release from Connolly, over the last three years at least 79 people have been killed in crashes involving trucks contracted by the Postal Service. The Wall Street Journal has also reported that USPS did not track and report serious crashes involving its trucking contractors.

“For too long, the Postal Service has taken an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to truck safety,” Connolly added. “This legislation is about saving lives and protecting families on our nation’s roads. I am thrilled we’ve taken this big step toward getting it to the President’s desk, and I want to thank Chairman Comer for his continued partnership on that front.”

In May 2023, Connolly urged the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the safety of freight contract trucking practices at the Postal Service. The OIG released a report in response to Connolly’s request, which found that the Postal Service doesn’t have a written policy requiring the tracking of trucking contractor accidents and fatalities.

The OIG’s No. 1 recommendation was that USPS establish a method for tracking contractor accident and fatality data and establish corresponding written policies and procedures for such a tracking system.

The Mail Traffic Deaths Reporting Act would codify that recommendation by requiring the tracking and reporting of serious crashes and fatalities related to the transport of U.S. postal mail.

Under terms of the legislation, crash reports submitted to USPS would be required to include detailed information describing, at a minimum, the crash -- including the date, time, location, nature of the crash -- information identifying the contractor, number of injuries, fatalities, and any contributing factors to the crash.

Partner Insights
Information to advance your business from industry suppliers
The ALL NEW Rand Tablet
Presented by Rand McNally

USPS would also be required to maintain an updated internal database that includes information related to injuries and deaths from crashes involving vehicles transporting mail, as well as release an annual public report summarizing fatal and injury crash data.

Contractors who don’t report crashes within the deadlines outlined by the bill would be subject to “appropriate penalties,” including fines, suspension of contracts or termination of contracts.

Notably, the federal government already collects much of the information the bill would require contractors to report for Department of Transportation-recordable crashes (those involving a tow from the scene, an injury, or a fatality). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's CSA Safety Measurement contains a public record for such crashes incurred over the last two years for every interstate authorized trucking company in the nation, in fact. 

Rep. Connolly's office said USPS didn't know how many contract carrier accidents involved serious injuries or fatalities because it didn't track that information, even though it is often publicly available. The bill, his office said, would ensure USPS better oversees its contractors.

[Related: ELDs and highway safety: Crashes, injuries, fatalities up post-mandate]

FMCSA extends Key Bridge emergency declaration

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Tuesday extended the emergency declaration that was issued in the aftermath of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore.

The declaration was first issued by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on March 26, the day of the collapse. Due to FMCSA regulations, emergency declarations from state governors can only be effective for 14 days. As such, FMCSA extended the declaration on April 4 through May 8. Now, the agency is extending the declaration for another month, through June 8.

As reported, the extension applies to operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts related to the collapse of the bridge and partial closure of the Port of Baltimore. Direct assistance does not include transportation related to long-term rehabilitation of damaged physical infrastructure or routine commercial deliveries, after the initial threat to life and property has passed, FMCSA noted, or mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration.

[Related: Port of Baltimore reopening timeline proposed]

Direct assistance includes:

  • Transportation related to the immediate restoration of essential services at the Port of Baltimore.
  • Transportation of commodities re-routed due to the disruptions to vessel traffic into the port, subject to the restrictions and conditions set forth in the extension.
  • Transportation of fuel (gasoline, ethanol, propane, natural gas, and heating oil) from Maryland’s Curtis Bay terminal (within the Baltimore Marine Terminal area) for delivery to the following locations within Maryland: Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Cecil County, Frederick County, Harford County, Howard County, Queen Anne’s County, and Washington County.

Carriers and drivers transporting equipment and supplies related to immediate repairs to the roadways and navigable waterways adjacent to the Port of Baltimore and transportation related to the removal of wreckage and debris from the navigable waterways providing access to the Port of Baltimore are granted emergency relief from the maximum driving time regs is 49 CFR Part 395.3. 

Drivers transporting re-routed commodities are allowed up to two additional hours on their daily maximum driving time, along with drivers transporting fuel in the areas specified above.

The full declaration can be found here.

“FMCSA intends to continually review the status of the emergency, including the status of the partial closure of the Port of Baltimore and adjacent navigable waterways and the relief granted under this Extension of Emergency Declaration,” the agency said. “As necessary, FMCSA may take action to modify this Extension of Emergency Declaration, including modification of the transportations and commodities covered by the Emergency Declaration, and to extend or terminate the Emergency Declaration if conditions warrant.”

[Related: FMCSA explains the HOS waivers around Baltimore's bridge collapse]

I-17 closures planned for this weekend

Drivers hauling on southbound Interstate 17 in the north Phoenix and Anthem, Arizona, areas should plan for a closure of the freeway this coming weekend (May 10-13) as a pavement improvement project begins in the area.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said the I-17 pavement project between State Route 74 and Happy Valley Road will require several closures and weeknight lane restrictions in the coming months.

The first closure is scheduled for I-17 SB between SR 74/Carefree Highway and Loop 303 from 10 p.m. Friday, May 10, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 13. Southbound I-17 on-ramps at Daisy Mountain Drive and Pioneer Road also will be closed. 

The primary detour for the closure is for traffic to travel west on SR 74 to southbound Lake Pleasant Parkway and eastbound Loop 303 to access I-17.

ADOT will provide additional information in the coming days about future closures along either north- or southbound I-17 in areas north of Happy Valley Road. 

Crews on the I-17 project will initially remove a top layer of older, worn asphalt pavement before beginning work to smooth the remaining concrete surface.

Showcase your workhorse
Add a photo of your rig to our Reader Rigs collection to share it with your peers and the world. Tell us the story behind the truck and your business to help build its story.
Submit Your Rig
Reader Rig Submission