Anyone who follows these blogs knows, in no uncertain terms, my position on distracted driving. Distracted driving is, in my opinion, the drunk driving of the 21st century. Those of us old enough to remember the carnage of the 70’s and 80’s know it took a full court press to force states to pass open container laws, lower the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level for DUI, etc. Prior to that time society just accepted the annual toll of killed and injured in alcohol related crashes. How many of us thought, “There but for the grace of God goes I.” with respect to DUI arrests?
Distracted driving has been shown in study after study to be every bit as debilitating as drunk driving. Distracted drivers show delayed recognition, reaction and response times akin to those exhibited by drivers with a BAC of .08.
Distracted driving, as we all know, isn’t limited to texting… which is by far the worst because drivers take their eyes off the road for extended periods of time. Nor is it a matter of just looking down to dial or even holding the phone both of which affect the drivers ability to safely control the vehicle.
Distracted driving is born of the mistaken idea that we can multi-task. Other than involuntary functions like breathing the human body and particularly the human brain can not multi-task. The brain does not multi-task… it switches back and forth between tasks. If the brain gets involved in a conversation requiring deep thought and concentration… it no longer scans mirrors or monitors traffic and hazards.
Distracted driving can occur with an intense conversation between occupants in the same vehicle. It is the conversation… not the device… that causes the distraction. The most frightening part of the debate on distracted driving to date is the sheer number of drivers I talk to who a) recognize the signs of distracted driving in others but b) insist they are some how immune to the affects.
The NTSB is right on with its recommendation and the FMCSA should act immediately to implement it. No one should be driving distracted and, like drunk driving in the late 20th century it will be a difficult genie to put back in the bottle. But the difficulty of the task should not deter us. We can get a handle on it and drivers of 80,000 lb. tractor trailers, professional drivers committed to safety, is the most logical place to start.
I commend the NTSB and call upon the FMCSA to act quickly to issue a NPRM.
In the interim I challenge every motor carrier in the United States to implement a no cell phone policy. We owe our drivers and the motoring public no less.
Written By: Kevin Mullen, Director- Safety, Human Resources and Recruiting
In late 2010, the FMCSA proposed new hours-of-service (HOS) rules and the process is slowly proceeding in Washington with input from industry groups and highway safety advocates. The new rule would impose a limit of 13 hours on duty within the current driving window of 14 hours. A reduction of actual driving hours from 11 to 10 is also being considered. These cuts are part of yet another attempt to decrease the truck driver accidents caused by fatigued driving.
Another measure being taken to stop tired driving is electronic on-board recorders. The EOBRs document a driver's HOS instead of log books commonly known as "cheat sheets." Some companies already have electronic systems implemented because they ensure efficient scheduling of vehicle and driver operations. The FMCSA is confident that mandatory electronic tracking would prevent HOS violations and reduce semi crashes. Because of how many truck related crashes are fatal, it is vital to prevent fatigued driving in the supply chain management industry.
“The U.S. Senate is pushing legislation that would give more power to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration”. The FMCSA is being given more power because of the publicity truck crashes are getting. If the new legislation passes, the FMCSA would get the power to revoke a trucking company's registration due to safety violations, even if the company assumes a different business name and re-registers for business; which has been a major problem among commercial bus companies.
The American Transportation Research Institute recently released the results to its latest survey concerning truckers and the CSA. The survey showed that 4,555 truck drivers have a poor understanding of the government’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program. Out of all the truckers who participated in the survey not one answered all 14 questions right. In fact, participants scored an average of 5.71 out of 14, or 41 percent. It is clear drivers need to be educated on the new CSA program and how it will affect their jobs and their industry.
Reports say the results have initially caused more job security concerns. Nearly two-thirds of drivers are somewhat or extremely concerned that they will lose their jobs as a result of CSA. TheTrucker.com recommends enhanced driver knowledge and support through multiple training and education sessions, as well as other sources of familiarization. Getloaded.com went more in depth to say that attitudes were neutral for drivers who had no training, somewhat negative for drivers with one training session and somewhat positive for drivers with multiple sessions. In other words, drivers who received more than one training session from their employer were the only group who had a positive perspective on the program.
Based on this study, drivers’ ability to better understand, appreciate and correctly follow CSA begins with employer education. Ed Crowell, Georgia Motor Trucking Association President and CEO, commented “ATRI’s study clearly points out that motor carriers, state trucking associations and FMCSA collectively need to do more to educate drivers about CSA and what it does and doesn’t mean for their jobs.”
A breakdown of the results can be found here and a copy of the survey can be obtained at the ATRI website.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has launched their newly redesigned website - www.ProtectYourMove.gov. The site has many resources to help consumers protect themselves from fraudulent interstate household goods moving companies. It also includes a user-friendly database that allows users to look up interstate moving companies by state or by name. Visitors to the site can also review both the consumer complaint history as well as the company's on-road safety performance records. The re-vamped website is a great way to ensure consumer safety and let them know exactly who and what they’re dealing with.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said “If you are planning an interstate move, your first stop should be the ProtectYourMove website. You can avoid rogue movers by following the important advice provided on the FMCSA website.” More than 40 million Americans entrust their household goods to moving companies every year. While the majority of movers are reputable, consumers need to be aware of how to avoid those who are not.
Five facts every consumer should know to avoid being taken advantage of by a rogue mover are:
The website contains resources covering consumer rights and responsibilities for individuals hiring a moving company. Additional materials include tips for spotting rogue movers, checklists for consumers and information outlining all federal regulations and policies that govern interstate moves. For more info or to report unsafe and poor performing moving companies call the FMCSA's nationwide complaint hotline at 1-888-368-7238 (1-888 DOT-SAFT) or visit www.ProtectYourMove.gov
Earlier this month, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and other committee leaders outlined a $230 billion, six-year transportation authorization bill that would cut transportation spending by $76 billion. The current program was set to expire in September 2009, but was extended 7 times. This new bill will mark the end of the old program. The previous reauthorization bill was closer to $285 billion over just 5 years; the new bill is set to spending by about 33%.
The bill had to be restructured because there wasn’t enough funding to keep the old bill going much past 2013. With a reduction in gas use, the fund was projected to go broke if there was no increase in revenue. Since there is no increased gas tax in sight the best option was to just restructure the current program and cut spending. According to Sustainable City Network “The bill would consolidate 100 transportation-related programs into 30, and end programs such as transportation enhancements that have funded pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths in many cities, although the states would be allowed to spend funds on those programs if they wish.”
The bill has seen some resistance from Democrats who are pushing back with their own reauthorization bill. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) reiterated her intention to introduce a two-year bill maintaining current spending levels adjusted for inflation. Her plan will require $12 billion in additional revenues. The other main problem with the 33% reduction is job loss. Boxer released state-by-state job-loss: 490,627 highway construction jobs would be lost and close to 100,000 transit-related jobs would be gone as well.
For more information on how this new bill can affect carriers click link.
Area Transportation has announced the implementation of a new pay program wherein drivers with low CSA scores will see a boost in pay.
While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has not released any driver scores, Area Transportation has modified its proprietary software to mirror the CSA points and weighting system.
Kevin Mullen, Director- Safety and Recruiting said, “The FMCSA has invested a great deal of time and money in CSA in an effort to identify unsafe drivers and carriers. We believe the science behind CSA is valid and we would be silly not to use the program as a basis to identify and reward our safe drivers.”
Drivers applying to the flatbed carrier will also qualify for the pay boost based on the scoring of their Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) violations.
“We believe we’re the first carrier in the nation to use CSA scores as the basis to reward drivers for avoiding unsafe behaviors”, said Mullen.
“We intend to incentivize safe behaviors by rewarding drivers financially for not speeding and not getting violations on roadside inspections. ”Mullen went on to say.
“Under this program drivers will have an incentive to do their pre-trip inspections, get defects repaired and obey speed limits, etc. because several thousand dollars will potentially be on the line for those who do.” Drivers whose scores rise above pre-set thresholds will see the bonus decrease or lose it all together.
Drivers can modify their behaviors and earn the bonus percentage but they can also get too many points and lose all or part of it.
Safe, experienced flatbed drivers with recent metal-hauling (coils, etc.) experience are encouraged to apply by calling 800 332-0920 or filling out an on-line application at www.adslogistics.com
The Department of Transportation (DOT) reported earlier this week that it had seen dramatic declines in the amount of distracted drivers in Syracuse, NY and Hartford, Conn. The reduction is a result of two pilot projects that focus on increased law enforcement and high-profile public education campaigns such as distraction.gov that was started to combat distracted driving. Each was supported by $200,000 in federal funds and $100,000 from the state. The costs were attributed to the increased police presence and paid advertising and news media coverage; both very expensive, but effective ways of preventing distracted driving.
The pilot campaign slogan was “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” and was structured similarly to the highly-successful national seat belt campaign, “Click It or Ticket.” Over 4 periods of increased law enforcement the police forces in the two cities gave out almost 20,000 citations combined for driver violations involving talking or texting on cell phones while operating a vehicle. Cell phone use and texting behind the wheel have declined by one-third in Syracuse and by more than half in Hartford. “The success of these pilot programs clearly show that combining strong laws with strong enforcement can bring about a sea change in public attitudes and behavior,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. He continued, “We applaud the work of the men and women of the Syracuse and Hartford police forces, and call on state legislatures, law enforcement and safety advocates across the nation to follow their lead.”
The next step is for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to implement a three-part formula: tough laws, strong enforcement, and ongoing public awareness; statewide. For tips on preventing distracted driving visit the FMCSA website and help keep our roads safe.
A poll from the Mineta Transportation Institute showed that under certain circumstances, Americans were for a new tax on gas. The poll, “What Do Americans Think About Federal Transportation Tax Options? Results from Year 2 of a National Survey”, is a national random-digit-dial public opinion survey that asked 1,516 respondents if they would support various tax options for raising federal transportation revenues. The problem is with the current gas tax and with the increasing number of fuel efficient cars on the road; the government isn’t generating enough revenue to keep roads in good condition. A new tax would be centered on public opinion and would seek to end the lack of revenue issue.
Americans were not all for the tax, but in certain instances a majority was for the conditional tax. For example, a gas tax increase of 10¢ per gallon to improve road maintenance was supported by 62% of respondents, whereas support levels dropped to just 24% if the revenues were to be used more generally to maintain and improve the transportation system. The conclusion from this would be that Americans like to see where their tax money is going so if they can see roads improving, they can stomach paying a higher tax. Also, at least 50% supported an increase of 10¢ per gallon with the revenues dedicated either to projects reducing accidents and improving safety or projects to “add more modern, technologically advanced systems.”
The 18 question survey found that the public was much more drawn to a sales tax than to either of the other two options. The other two taxes were a gas tax increase or a new mileage tax. However, with certain stipulations the support for the two alternate taxes increased. For example, instead of a flat rate mileage tax of 1¢ per mile and a 10¢ gas tax increase, a mileage tax varying by the vehicle’s pollution level increased support by 14 percentage points. For the gas tax, dedicating the tax proceeds to maintaining streets, roads, and highways increased support by 38 percentage points.
The results seem to point to one main result; the American public is willing to fork over the extra cash as long as they get to see exactly where the money goes. If the taxes are raised and no visible improvement is made to something of use to them (i.e. roads) then there will be outrage and a call for the tax to be lowered or directed at a different cause.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has again pushed back the deadline for the public to weigh in on the driver Hours-Of-Service (HOS) proposed rule making. The original deadline for public comment was March 8th; however 4 new studies have been added to the docket so the public is yet again allowed to voice their opinion. Comments can be made until the new deadline of June 8th. As a result of the later deadline, the FMCSA will not make their final ruling on July 26th, which was their original plan. The new date for the finalized ruling is tentatively scheduled for October 28th.
As stated above, 4 new HOS related studies will now be taken into account. The general results taken from the studies back up the FMCSA’s argument and tell a lot of information that was already known. For example, safety risk increases as work and driving time increases. This seems obvious, but the studies do go into a lot more detail. The studies seem to be added to the debate because the American Trucking Association (ATA) and others against the proposal were questioning the validity of the FMCSA’s research and data. Dave Osiecki, Senior Vice President of the American Trucking Association, really stressed the FMCSA to put facts and data first and not politics. The FMCSA was getting their facts from a study of 12 people conducted at an in-residence laboratory and released a few weeks before the agency’s proposal. The study recommended “validation of the study findings . . . in a real-world field study,” Osiecki said.
The four studies are:
These studies hope to stop the debate over the FMCSA’s supposedly poor data and get the proposal on track again. Until June 8th the debate is still on and the public is encouraged to comment on the matter. To submit your comments you can do any of the following:
- Online, go to www.regulations.gov. In the ‘‘Document Type’’ drop-down menu, select ‘‘Proposed Rules,’’ insert ‘‘FMCSA–2004–19608’’ in the ‘‘Keyword’’ box, and click ‘‘Search.’’ When the new screen appears, click on ‘‘Submit a Comment’’ in the ‘‘Actions’’column.
- Fax comments to (202) 493-2251.
- Mail comments to Docket Management Facility (M–30), U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12–140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590–0001.
- Hand deliver comments to the same address as the mailed comments between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except federal holidays. The telephone number is (202) 366–9329.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration PHMSA has proposed a restriction on the use of all cell phones by drivers operating a vehicle containing hazardous materials. If the materials either require placarding or contain any quantity of a select agent or toxin then the driver of the vehicle would be subject to the restrictions if the proposal goes through. This proposal comes at the heels of another similar proposal made by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration FMCSA in mid December. Each of these bans prohibits drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone. These actions all have comparable, negative effects on drivers.
The main problem with cell phone use is that it takes your eyes and your focus off the road. This is especially unsafe when the driver of the vehicle is transporting hazardous materials. Not only are the other cars and drivers at stake, but if the material makes its way into the environment other serious effects could come into play. The FMCSA said that distracted drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 out of every six seconds. A huge cause of distracted driving is cell phone use whether it’s texting, dialing, or even calling using a hands-free device. All types of cell phone use decrease the driver’s ability to properly control the vehicle. A study that came from Virginia Tech found that truckers were 23 times more likely to cause an accident while texting. Also, drivers are 3 times more likely to be in an accident while reaching for an object such as a phone. Drivers are 6 times more likely to be in a crash when dialing on a hand held cell phone. While operating such a dangerous vehicle these numbers are too high to be brushed aside.
Texting restrictions were adopted by FMCSA in November of last year. The restrictions have already been incorporated into the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) and applied to CMV motor carriers and drivers in interstate commerce. PHMSA and FMCSA representatives voiced concern that changes to the FMCSRs regarding distracted driving would not apply to motor carriers and drivers that transport covered hazardous materials in intrastate commerce. PHMSA says it developed the latest Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to expand the limits to intrastate hazmat commerce. An estimated 1,490 intrastate motor carriers could be affected by the rulemaking.