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

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

 

 

Share

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.

 

 

 

Share

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.

Share