NTSB Recommends That Trucking Safety Should Be A Higher Priority

According to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), highway regulators have failed to act on more than 100 recommendations to improve truck safety at a time when fatalities have risen for the last four. In a news conference on January 13, 2015, the NTSB said that priorities must change in 2015, with more anti-collision technology, better limits on driver hours and tighter regulation of trucking companies with high accident rates,

The accidents that injured comedian Tracy Morgan in June and killed four members of a college softball team in September 2014 received a tremendous amount of media attention. They cast a new light on America’s 2 million truckers, who are involved in crashes that kill almost 4,000 people a year. The NTSB said it’s time for regulators to act on its more than 100 rec¬ommendations to improve trucking safety. “There’s a whole suite of technology that’s ready for prime time now that would reduce crashes,” Donald Karol, NTSB’s director of highway safety investigations, said in an interview. The NTSB is pushing the use of sensors to warn truck drivers when they’re about to strike someone from behind or to alert when a vehicle changes lanes.

The NTSB made the plea as it unveiled its “Most Wanted List” of transportation improvements for 2015. In addition to trucking, the NTSB also said more attention should be given to rail tank-car safety, airline pilot compliance, distracted driving, and drug and alcohol impairment. Christopher Hart, NTSB’s acting chairman, said at the press conference: “The Most Wanted List is our road map for 2015. These are safety improvements for which the time is ripe for action.”

The NTSB, which investigates transportation and pipeline accidents, has no regulatory authority. It uses its annual Most Wanted list to highlight areas most in need of improvement. While transportation has become safer in recent decades, the tens of thousands of deaths each year and hundreds of thousands of injuries indicate “we have a long way to go,” Hart said.

The number of people killed in large-truck crashes increased for the fourth straight time, to 3,964 people in 2013, which includes truckers, pedestrians and the occupants of vehicles that collided with the big rigs, the U.S. Transportation Department said last month. The number represents a 17 percent increase since 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). One issue is driver fatigue, according to the NTSB. In the crash that injured Morgan and killed fellow comedian James McNair, the driver of a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. truck hadn’t slept for at least 24 hours, according to a police complaint. The truck struck a van carrying Morgan from behind on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The safety board has recommended that trucking companies implement plans to better manage fatigue on the roads and to require screening for sleep disorders that may lead to drowsiness. Congress last year weakened regulations designed to reduce trucker fatigue. Lawmakers targeted a portion of a rule closing a loophole that kept some drivers from working 82 hours over eight days, according to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. That provision won’t be enforced for at least a year as regulators conduct research to see if it had an unintended effect of forcing more trucks onto the road during rush hours.
The NTSB has also found a pattern in truck crashes of poor safety enforcement, Karol said. The safety board wants regulatory agencies to impose tighter controls on trucking companies. An average of 20 percent of truck inspections find safety violations, he said.

Source: Claims Journal

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U.S. DOT Bans Use of Hand-Held Cell Phones for CMV Drivers

The FMCSA and the PHMSA issued a final rule restricting the use of hand-held mobile telephones by interstate commercial motor vehicle drives (CMV) and intrastate hazmat drivers.  The rule does not prohibit the use of hand-free devices. The final rule will take effect on January 2, 2012.

The rule prohibits CMV drivers from holding, dialing, or reaching for a hand-held cellular phone.  This includes all push-to-talk functions, but hands-free use of a cellular phone is allowed.  The ban does not prohibit or restrict the use of Citizen Band Radios, GPS, or fleet management systems.

Dialing

A driver is allowed to initiate, answer, or terminate a call by touching a single button on a mobile telephone or on a handset.  This action should not require the driver to take his or her eyes off the road.

Reaching

A driver is not permitted to reach for a cellular phone or hands-free device that is done in “an unacceptable and unsafe manner.” Examples of this behavior would be reaching for a cellular phone on the passenger seat, under the driver’s seat, or into the sleeper berth.  To be in compliance with the rule, a driver must have a cellular phone and/or hands-free device within “close proximity” to his or her person.

Driver and Motor Carrier Penalties

CMV drivers who are convicted of a hand-held cell violation twice within a three year period will be disqualified for 60 days.  If convicted of a third violation within three years the driver will be disqualified for 120 days.  They will also be subject to federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.  Motor carriers that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle face a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 per violation.

Employer Liability

The rule states that “no motor carrier shall allow or require its drivers to use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving a CMV.” In the preamble, FMCSA interprets the regulatory language to mean that motor carriers are responsible for the actions of its drivers, regardless of whether or not such actions are sanctioned by the motor carrier, FMCSA will hold employers accountable if the employee was doing his or her job, carrying out company business, or otherwise acting on employer’s behalf when a violation occurs.

State Requirement

States are required to adopt the regulations within three years of enactment.  Once states adopt the federal regulatory language, the rule will become applicable to intrastate non-hazmat CMV drivers.

Exemptions

The proposal also allows hand-held cell phone use by drivers for emergency purposes and contacting law enforcement.

 

For more information concerning the new CMV Driver laws, contact Boyd B. Newton PC, an expert CMV Accident Attorney in Atlanta.

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U.S. DOT Announces New Hours of Service Rule

U.S. DOT’s Press Release

Washington –  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced a final rule that employs the latest research in driver fatigue to make sure truck drivers can get the rest they need to operate safely when on the road.  The new rule by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revises the hours-of-service (HOS) safety requirements for commercial truck drivers.

“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “The final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and saves lives.  Truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely.”

As part of the HOS rulemaking process, FMCSA held six public listening sessions across the country and encouraged safety advocates, drivers, truck company owners, law enforcement and the public to share their input on HOS requirements.  The listening sessions were live webcast on the FMCSA Website, allowing a broad cross-section of individuals to participate in the development of this safety-critical rule.

“This final rule is the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach effort in our agency’s history,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro.  “With robust input from all areas of the trucking community, coupled with the latest scientific research, we carefully crafted a rule acknowledging that when truckers are rested, alert and focused on safety, it makes our roadways safer.”

FMCSA’s new HOS final rule reduces by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week.  Under the old rule, truck drivers could work on average up to 82 hours within a seven-day period.  The new HOS final rule limits a driver’s work week to 70 hours.

In addition, truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes.  Drivers
can take the 30-moinute break whenever they need rest during the eight-hour window.

The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit.  FMCSA will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time.

The rule requires truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights’ rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most – from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.  This rest requirement is part of the rule’s “34-hour restart” provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.  The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period.

Companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense.  Trucking
companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hours of driving time limit by three or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

Commercial truck drivers and companies must comply with the HOS final rule by July 1, 2013.  The rule is being sent to the Federal
Register today and is currently available on FMCSA’s Website at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gove/HOSFinalRule.

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Sour Grapes from Trucking Associations Over New Safety Regulations

Trucking Associations across the country are not happy with new safety rules. The American Trucking Associations contend that the new rules governing hours-of-service will do nothing to improve highway safety.

ATA President and CEO Bill Graves complained that the “announcement of a new rule on the hours-of-service is completely unsurprising. What is surprising and new to us is that for the first time in the agency’s history, FMCSA has chosen to eschew a stream of positive safety data and cave in to a vocal anti-truck minority and issue a rule that will have no positive impact on safety.” Mr. Graves continued his rant by saying, “From the beginning of this process in October 2009, the agency set itself on a course to
fix a rule that’s not only not broken, but by all objective accounts is working to improve highway safety. Unfortunately, along the way, FMSCA twisted data and, as part of this final rule, is using unjustified casual estimates to justify unnecessary changes.”

ATA Chairman Dan England, Chairman of C.R. England, complained “Even with an uptick in truck-involved fatalities in 2010, since the current rules went into effect in 2004, fatalities have fallen 29.9%, even as overall miles traveled for trucks has risen by tens of billions of miles. ”

“By forcing through these changes FMCSA has created a situation that will ultimately please no one, with the likely exception of organized labor,” England whined.  “Both the trucking industry and consumers will suffer the impact of reduced productivity and higher costs.  Also, groups that have historically been critical of the current hours of service rules won’t be happy since they will
have once again failed to obtain an unjustified reduction in allowable daily driving time.  Further, it is entirely possible that these changes may actually increase truck-involved crashes by forcing trucks to have more interaction with passenger vehicles and increasing the risk to all drivers.”

Bill Graves further lamented, “This rule will put more truck traffic onto the roadways during morning rush hour, frustrate other motorists and increase the risk of crashes…By mandating drivers include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. as part of a
‘restart’ period, FMCSA is assuring that every day as America is commuting to work, thousands of truck drivers will be joining them, creating additional and unnecessary congestion and putting motorists and those professional drivers at greater risk.  The largest percentage of truck-involved crash occur between 6 a.m. and noon, so this change is not only effectively destroys the provision of the current rule most cited by professional drivers as beneficial, but it will put more trucks on the road during the statistically riskiest time of the day.”

For more information visit Boyd B. Newton PC,  one of Atlanta’s Best Attorneys.

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Commercial Truck Safety Report

Highway crashes involving large commercial trucks and buses are a nationwide problem.  In 2009, over 3,600 persons in this country died as a result of crashes involving commercial trucks.  Until recently the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and its state partners tracked the safety of motor carriers by conducting record audits of a small percentage of carriers.  In 2004, the FMSCSA began its compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA) program.  This pilot program is intended to identify and evaluate carriers and drivers posing high safety risks.  The FMSCA focuses on three key CSA program oversight activities to evaluate carriers.

The FMSCA expected to install the CSA program by late 2010.  One of the main tools the FMSCA will use to evaluate carriers and drivers is the new Safety Measurement System (SMS) which will use more roadside inspections and other data to identify and suspend  at-risk carriers and drivers.

Almost a year after the anticipated completion date, the GAO report found the new safety measurement system (SMS) program still cannot be used to remove unsafe carriers from the road because the program has not completed the rule-making needed to do so.  Furthermore, the report found that the other safety measure intended to be implemented could not be used because the technology needed to implement the program will not be completed until 2012.

Because the FMCSA has not provided comprehensive information to Congress,   the federal government can say it lacks the information needed to make decisions based upon the FMCSA pilot program initiated back in 2004. To read the full GAO report, go to http://www.goa.gov/products/gao-11-858.

Boyd B. Newton is an experienced commercial truck wreck attorney in the Atlanta area.  For more information, please visit http://www.injurylawyerofatlanta.com.

 

 

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Jury Awards Family $3 Million in Tired Trucker Accident in Florida

A federal jury has awarded $3 million to the family of a 33-year old man who killed in 2009 on Interstate 95 in Flagler County, Florida.  The verdict was returned in U.S. District Court by the jury in the death of Julio Rentas Jr.  The case involved a collision between two commercial tractor-trailers.  Betty Ann Tucker, a driver for Williamston Distributors, was merging her truck onto the interstate from the emergency lane when she failed to yield the right of way.  That caused Rentas, driving a tandem tractor trailer, to hit the back of Ms. Tucker’s truck.

Ms. Tucker said she had pulled of the road to check a light in her cab, then accelerated down the emergency lane to re-enter the right lane.  According to her testimony in court, she saw lights approaching, but believed they were far away.  Testimony was presented to the jury that Ms. Tucker had been on duty for about 19 hours prior to the accident, in violation of the 14-hour “Hour of Service” Rule of the Florida Motor Carrier Safety Act.

Do you have questions concerning commercial trucking accidents?  Boyd B. Newton, a prominent Atlanta Truck Wreck Attorney, can help.  Contact us at 404-593-2630 or visit us online at http://www.injurylawyerofatlanta.com/legal-services/truck-accident-lawyer-atlanta.

 

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A National Look at the Monetary Costs of Fatal Automobile Collisions

In 2005, motor vehicle crash deaths resulted in $41 billion in lost work and medical expenses. In the United States, over 30,000 people are killed in crashes each year.  A new data analysis by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined the costs of crash deaths by each state and found that half of all costs were found in ten states.

According to the CDC, the ten states with the highest medical and work loss costs are: California ($4.16 billion), Texas ($3.50 billion), Florida ($3.16 billion), Georgia ($1.55 billion), Pennsylvania ($1.52 billion), North Carolina ($1.50 billion), New York ($1.33 billion), Illinois ($1.32 billion), Ohio ($1.23 billion), and Tennessee ($1.15 billion).  The costs for each state and CDC’s recommendations for saving lives and money are available at www.CDC.gov.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a wreck and need an Atlanta Auto Accident Attorney , check us out at http://www.injurylawyerofatlanta.com.

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Tractor Rollovers Are a Serious Problem

Tractor rollovers are an incredibly dangerous problem. However, rollover protective structures (ROPS) can significantly reduce the number of deaths and injuries from tractor rollovers. Since tractors are generally very sturdy vehicles, they can last for many, many years. A large number of older tractors are still in use and do not include rollover protective structures. In the mid-1980s, rollover protective structures became standard. For years many manufacturers made rollover protective structures optional. As a result, many purchasers would not elect to purchase the rollover protection. The purchaser would be required to sign a ROPS acknowledgement so the manufacturer could defend itself from any future claim. Unfortunately, these tractors are still on the road.

If a tractor has the rollover protective structure and the driver has fastened his seatbelt, the rate of death and severe injury to the driver drops significantly.

Without the rollover protection structure, the odds of escaping a tractor upset without injury are poor. In the case of a backwards tip, the tractor hood may hit the ground in less than one and a half seconds after the front wheels begin to rise. The truck driver then has less than three quarters of a second to take preventative action. Often it is too late to take preventative action by the time the driver realizes what is happening.

Often rear axle torque causes rear upsets. Usually, when the driver releases the clutch, the axle rotates and the tractor moves forward. However, if the axle rotation is restrained in some manner, the twisting force of the axle may lift the front wheels off the ground, rotating the tractor backwards around the rear axle. If it’s easier for the engine to lift the front tractor wheels than to move the tractor forward, the tractor will flip over backwards. Frequently, rear rollovers occur when the driver tries to move heavy objects. Attaching a chain or cable higher on the rear of the tractor rear can increase the likelihood of the tractor flipping over backwards. The best practice is to hitch heavy loads to the draw bar only. The dangers of hitching above the draw bar are not understood by many people. Drivers should always use a tractor with a rollover protective structure and seatbelt when pulling heavy loads.

Tractors experience side rollovers more often than flipping over backwards. Fortunately, side rollovers are less likely to result in severe injury or death. Side rollovers happen when the center of gravity moves outside of the tractor’s stability base, which is determined by the width of the tractors back wheels and the type of front wheel chassis support. The following are some examples of things that can be done to prevent side rollovers:

· if possible, avoid crossing steep slopes;

· before driving at transport speeds, lock brake pedals together;

· set the wheel tread at its widest setting suitable for the job the driver is doing;

· drive slowly when turning and in slippery conditions; and

· operate the front end loader carefully and maintain the bucket as low as possible.

Even with these precautions, rollovers can happen. Thus, the best way to prevent injury or death from tractor rollover is to employ a rollover protective structure and use the seatbelt. For side rollovers, ROPS will usually limit the tractor to a ninety degree roll. If you would like more information on this subject, contact Boyd Newton, an Atlanta Truck Wreck Attorney.

 

 

 

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Standards for Underride Guards on Tractor-Trailers Should be Updated

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is petitioning the U.S. government for stronger underride guards that will remain in place during a crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is also requesting the federal government to mandate guards for more tractor trailers.  Recent crash tests by the Institute have shown that underride guards on tractor-trailers can fail in fairly low-speed crashes.  

Rear guards are the primary countermeasure for preventing underride injuries and deaths when an automobile collides into the rear of a tractor-trailer. Because the upper part of an automobile   occupant compartment usually crushes as the truck body intrudes into the vehicle safety cage, underride makes serious injury or death more likely.  In 2009, 70% of the 3,163 people who died in all tractor-trailer collisions were occupants of automobiles or other passenger vehicles.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s president, Adrian Lund, stated:

Cars’ front end structures are designed to manage a tremendous amount of crash energy in a way that minimizes injuries for their occupants.  Hitting the back of a large truck is a game changer.  You might be riding in a vehicle that earns tops marks in frontal crash tests, but if the truck’s underride guard fails – or isn’t there at all – your chances of walking away from even a relatively low-speed crash aren’t good.

The Institute has examined the underride collision problem for over 30 years, including mid-1970s collision tests which showed how then-current underride guards were not effective in preventing underride.  In the most recent study, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied examples from the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, a federal database of approximately 1,000 collisions in 2001-03, to identify collision patterns causing rear underride of heavy trucks and semi-trailers with and without guards.

Of the 115 collisions involving automobiles striking the back of a heavy trucks or semi-trailers, underride was a common outcome.  Approximately 22% of the collisions did not involve underride or included negligible underride.  Twenty three of the twenty eight cases in which a person in the passenger vehicle died involved severe or catastrophic underride damage, meaning the entire front end or more of the vehicle slid under the tractor trailer.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that approximately 423 people in automobiles die each year when their cars strike the rear of tractor trailers.  Regarding this issue, Adrian Lund stated:

Under current certification standards, the trailer, underride guard, bolts, and welding don’t have to be tested as a whole system. 


That’s a big part of the problem.  Some manufacturers do test guards on the trailer.  We think all guards should be evaluated this way.  At the least, all rear guards should be as strong as the best one we tested.  Another problem is that regulatory gaps allow many heavy trucks to forgo guards altogether.  When they are present on exempt trucks, guards don’t have to meet 1996 rules for strength or energy absorption.  Underride standards haven’t kep peace with improvements in passenger vehicles crashworthiness.  Absent regulation, there’s little incentive for manufacturers to improve underride countermeasures, so we hope NHTSA will move quickly on our petition.

If you need additional information on this matter contact Boyd Newton, an Atlanta Truck Wreck Attorney.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, March 1, 2011.

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Proposed Commercial Trucking Hours of Service Regulations Are Inadequate

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than 4,000 people are killed every year in collisions involving commercial trucks. Driver fatigue is a factor in 30% to 40% of these collisions according the National Transportation Safety Board. Research has demonstrated that the risk of a crash increases twofold after eight consecutive hours of driving. Driver fatigue is the primary contributing factor in truck driver deaths from crashes.  Driver fatigue puts not only the truck drivers at risk, but also other automobile drivers and passengers who share the road with commercial truck drivers.

The proposed rules for commercial truck drivers are inadequate to ensure an adequate level of rest needed to prevent driver fatigue.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has recommended a ten-hour driving time limit, but indicated they are open to maintaining the current 11-hour requirement.  The American Association for Justice submitted comments last month opposing the change.

The American Association of Justice is also opposed to FMCSA’s 34-hour restart period recommendation, which would permit truck drivers to forego the 60/70 hour duty limit.  This 34-hour restart period would not provide a truck driver with sufficient rest. The American Association of Justice recommends that the FMCSA require a 48-hour restart period to provide commercial truck drivers with better rest and recovery time after working long hours.

Boyd B. Newton PC is a prominent Atlanta truck wreck attorney.  To Learn more about his practice and credentials follow this link http://www.injurylawyerofatlanta.com.

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