Articles Posted in Trucking technology

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Trucking safety practices over the past year and a half have been impacted by adoption of the Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) program.

The CSA has three components that measure safety performance, evaluating high-risk behaviors and crafting appropriate interventions.

For commercial motor carriers, the standards significantly alter how truckers and companies operate and maintain their vehicles and deal with federal compliance. Some of the changes include:

– CSA replaces the old SafeStat system with the Safety Measurement System (SMS). Under the SMS, safety fitness determinations are issued monthly; factors such as driver fitness, unsafe driving practices, vehicle maintenance, crash history and cargo loading or securing impact this monthly evaluation.

– Companies are required to modify their “on-duty” hours and maintain comprehensive electronic travel logs.

– Trucking companies that do not pass monthly safety evaluations are subject to earlier safety interventions, including:

– Early warning letters

– Targeted roadside inspections

– Focused compliance reviews Continue reading →

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For many years, interstate truck drivers have referred to the driver logs required by federal law as “comic books.” Falsification of logs has been so common that many drivers kept two sets of logs, one for their own use and another to show to inspectors. As a trucking accident trial attorney, I have spent many hours ferreting out the misrepresentations, using loading dock tickets, fuel receipts, etc., to recreate an honest timeline. Once, when I established in deposition that a log was a complete bundle of lies, and that the trucker had been driving 20 of the previous 24 hours before he ran over a family and killed their son, the truck driver broke down and cried.

Though the technology has long been available, the trucking industry has been slow to accept a requirement of electronic on board recorders, replacing easily falsified paper logs with electronic ones. The current FMCSA rule, which will go into effect June 4, 2012, says that carriers that violate hours of service rules 10 percent of the time, based on single compliance review, must use electronic onboard recorders to track driver hours. It will affect only 5,700 of 500,000 interstate carriers.

Now, however, there is growing acceptance among trucking industry groups of the idea of electronic driver logs. The Truckload Carriers Association, American Trucking Associations, National Private Truck Council, and . National Tank Truck Carriers, and all recently announced support for federal laws and regulations that would require trucking companies to use electronic logging devices to monitor driver hours-of-service. The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association still opposes mandatory electronic logs.

Of course, the devil is often in the details. As long as there is an economic motivation to cheat, there will be those who find a way to do so. As electronic logging systems become more common, those of us whose job it is to look behind the surface to determine the truth will be required to become more sophisticated about detection of falsified electronic records.
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Driver fatigue is one of the more common causes of large truck crashes. There is no test for fatigue, but when we dig back into the driver’s itinerary it can be deduced.

Every few months we see another technological approach to dealing with driver fatigue. The latest is an app for Apple iPhones and iPads. The company selling the Anti Sleep Pilot App constantly calculates fatigue level, maintains a driver’s alertness, and alarms the driver when it’s time to take a preventative driving break.

Here’s what the company claims:

The app is easily configured; users get started by creating a baseline profile the first time they use the app by completing a short risk assessment test. Factors include age, sex, number of hours worked per week, etc.; a total of 12 questions are evaluated to create a personal risk profile. Before each drive, the app helps the driver determine his or her current fatigue status. During the drive, the app automatically calculates the drivers fatigue level by combining information from the risk profile, his or her status before the trip, and drive data such as time of day and cumulative drive time, which is automatically registered by the iPhone or iPad.

The progression of the user’s fatigue level is displayed on the iPhone screen and a series of light and sound tests are used to break the monotony of driving and maintain the driver’s alertness by engaging in touch taps on the iPhone or iPad screen. The Anti Sleep Pilot App records the reaction time, which is also used as one of the 26 input factors in the calculation of the driver’s fatigue level. Ultimately the app sounds an alarm, alerting the driver to take a preventive rest break when they are about to reach a critical driving-fatigue level, offering the potential to prevent accidents and save thousands of lives each year.

The Anti Sleep Pilot App has a graphical driver fatigue dashboard that displays driving distance, average driving speed, and the progression of the driver’s fatigue level. The application is also integrated with Google Maps, which continuously gives the drivers an overview of their driving range before their next break.

I haven’t tested it, but for $20, iPhone and iPad users who spend long hours behind the wheel may want to give it a shot.
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Because driver fatigue is one of the most pervasive safety issues in interstate trucking, trucking safety regulations for many years have included rules on how many hours a driver may drive and be on duty. In almost every serious trucking accident, the accuracy of paper driver logs becomes an issue. As a trucking safety trial attorney in Georgia, I have exerted a great deal of effort over the years investigating other records to determine the truth which does not always match those logs.

Now, after years of controversy, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing a new rule requiring Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBR).

A proposed rule published published Feb. 1 that would require motor carriers that are required to maintain Records of Duty Status for Hours of Service (HOS) recordkeeping would have to use EOBRs to monitor their drivers’ compliance.

FMCSA’s proposal includes supporting documents these carriers would still be required to obtain and keep, as required by section 113(a) of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act, but it would remove requirements to retain supporting documents to verify driving time. It would require all carriers to systematically monitor their drivers’ compliance with HOS requirements, with three years from the effective date of the final rule to comply.

The agency is accepting comments until April 4, 2011. FMCSA had issued a rule on April 5, 2010, that mandated EOBR use by June 4, 2012, by motor carriers found during a compliance review to have a 10 percent violation rate for any HOS regulation. This new rule expands that requirement, with three possible options:

Option 1 would require EOBRs for all drivers required to use paper logs.

Option 2 expands Option 1 to include all passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicles subject to the s and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations shipments of bulk hazardous material, regardless whether the drivers use paper logs or are exempted from doing so.

Option 3 would include all commercial motor vehicle operations subject to the hours of service requirements.

While this is generally a step in the right direction, I’m cynical enough to note that even electronic systems are potentially subject to manipulation and cheating, though the human overrides required to cheat will require more sophistication than merely lying on a paper log, often referred to as a “comic book.” If maintenance of supporting documentation is no longer required, it will become vastly more difficult to check the accuracy of electronic records that may be subject to sophisticated cheating.

Those of us who inquire into the truth underlying hours of service reports will also have to become more sophisticated about discovery of electronically stored information in the trucking industry. That will likely require more experts and more expense.
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As a trucking accident trial attorney in Georgia, half of my work seems to be ferreting out the facts that the other side wants to conceal. For years much of the challenge has been in attempting to prove driver fatigue by piercing the fog of deception in paper driver logs that are referred to in the industry as “comic books.” Often we are able to find enough time stamped receipts, loading dock tickets, etc., to prove the truth despite the obfuscation.

In recent years we have seen halting progress toward use of Electronic On-Board Recorders in the trucking industry. While still subject to manipulation, EOBR records are at least harder to fake.

Now, however, two Senators backed by giant trucking companies have proposed legislation that would allow use of EOBR information only if it’s good for the trucking company defendant, and keep it hidden if it helps the folks who are injured or killed by the trucking company.

Senators Mark Pryor (D-Ar) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tn) recently introduced the Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act (S. 3884), which is an attempt by the trucking industry to hide evidence of fatigue in any truck driver involved in a wreck.

Of course, campaign contributions — and now the unregulated flow of anonymous corporate cash — count for more in Washington that the interests of members of the public who don’t yet know that they will be maimed or killed on the roads.

The bill, if passed, would allow the information contained in Electric On Board Recorders (EOBRS) to be used only by the owner. If the information helped the trucking company, they could use it. If it showed that the truck driver was fatigued, the company would be allowed to conceal its existence. Thus, people injured due to the trucking company’s practice of allowing fatigued drivers on the road would be denied access to the information needed to prove that aspect of the case.

Five giants of the trucking industry — JB Hunt Transportation, Knight Transportation, Maverick Transportation, US Express, and Schneider National — have formed a coalition they’re calling “The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security” to back the bill. They benefit financially from EOBR as a management tool, will benefit financially by revealig the data if it helps them in a case, and will benefit financially by burying the truth if it shows that their fatigued drivers injured or killed another person on the road.

Kudos to my friend, Morgan Adams in Chattanooga, for calling this to my attention.
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As a trucking accident trial attorney based in Atlanta, Georgia, I try to keep up with trucking safety issues at the national level. The latest development was a statement last week by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration director Ann Ferro at a U.S. Senate subcommittee. Some of the high points include:

Core priorities of FMCSA are to:
1. Raise the safety bar to enter the industry;
2. Require operators to maintain high safety standards to remain 3. Remove high-risk operators from our roads and highways.

CSA 2010 is to be implemented by end of 2010.
This Comprehensive Safety Analysis program is intended to measure seven key behaviors that are linked to trucking crash risk:
1.Unsafe Driving 2. Fatigued Driving 3. Driver Fitness which includes licensing and medical compliance standards 4. Crash History 5. Vehicle Maintenance 6. Improper Loading and Cargo 7. Controlled Substances – Drugs and Alcohol
New Entrant Safety Assurance Program
focuses on 16 safety regulations for which a violation by a new entrant carrier would result in an automatic failure of the safety audit. Any new entrant that fails the safety audit must submit a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) in order to continue to operate in interstate commerce. FMCSA also closely monitors the new entrant during the initial 18-month period of operation and, if certain violations are discovered during a roadside inspection, the new entrant will be subject to an expedited action to correct the identified safety deficiencies.

National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners rules later this year will establish minimum training and testing requirements for all healthcare professionals that issue medical certificates for interstate truck and bus drivers. (I’ve seen drivers who were cleared to return to service in a 10 minute checkup by a chiropractor after open heart surgery.)

Hours of Service. FMCSA is taking another look at the controversial hours of service rule.

Electronic On-Board Recorders will be required of an additional 5,700 motor carriers as a remedial measure. (The days of “comic book” driver logs may be numbered, but making the EOBR systems tamper-proof will be the next challenge.)

Distracted Driving. FMCSA has banned text messaging by drivers while operating a commercial motor vehicle. (It’s a step in the right direction.)

Drug & Alcohol Database. FMCSA is working on a database to keep up with drivers who fail drug and alcohol tests.

There’s more. I commend the entire statement to the interested reader.
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Truckers have a tough, dangerous job. While my trucking accident law practice in Atlanta, Georgia, is often focused on representing folks in smaller vehicles who are on the receiving end of highly unfavorable physics in collisions, I also represent some truckers.

Two news stories this week highlight one of the dangerous realities of trucking. The cabs of road tractors are not built with driver safety as a primary consideration.

A 26 year old truck driver in New Jersey was killed at Whitehall, NY, when his tractor trailer skidded, jack-knifed and rolled over. Virtually the same thing happened in another fatal truck rollover on the Maine Turnpike.

While many passenger cars today have strong internal frames equivalent to a roll cage, the roofs of most road tractors have little or no occupant protection design. There are at least a couple of possible factors in that, including the lack of occupant safety rules governing manufacturers and the desire of trucking companies to avoid any additional weight that is not directly related to moving freight. When a huge road tractor has a roof with the structural integrity of a soft drink can rolls over, the driver doesn’t have much of a chance.

I won’t speculate on how much of a factor it may be that many road tractors are chosen by employers for drivers on whose lives they purchase “dead peasant” life insurance, rather than by parents as vehicles in which to transport their children. There may not be a causal relationship there at all.
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I’m a trucking safety lawyer in Atlanta, not a futurist or a psychic. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and post my top five predictions for motor carrier safety in 2010.

1. Accident and fatality rates in interstate commercial trucking will continue to decline.

2. In addition to a ban on text messaging by truck drivers while in motion, FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) will require an interlock between truck cab communication systems and truck transmission, so that drivers must stop the truck before typing a response.

3. FMCSA will require Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBR) for all new commercial road tractors, and retrofitting of existing units within 3 to 5 years.

4. The FMCSA will require seat belts and safety glass in new motor coaches, and may require retrofitting of existing motor coaches with seat belts within 3 to 5 years.

5. FMCSA’s new Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA 2010) program will make truck drivers more conscious of the need to maintain their own health in order to maintain a Commercial Driver’s License, thereby gradually increasing demand for truck stop chains to begin offering healthy food and exercise facilities.
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A prominent highway safety organization, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, has petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to evaluate risks posed by drivers of commercial vehicles using electronic devices and to then issue regulations to limit such distractions.

Electronic distractions that cause concern include cell phones, text messaging, CB radios, email, on-board computers and navigation devices.

Recent studies have shown that driving while talking on a cell phone — even hands free — increases accident risk equivalent to driving with 0.08 blood alcohol, the threshold for DUI, and that texting while driving increases accident risk 23 times.
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Safety advocates, led by Stephen Owings, an Atlanta financial planner, are joined by the American Trucking Association in seeking rules requiring speed governors on interstate commercial trucks. They say the devices will save both lives and money.

Owings started Road Safe America after his son, Cullum, was killed on a Virginia interstate in 2002. Stuck in traffic, they were hit from behind by a big rig traveling on cruise control set at 7 mph over the speed limit. When I chaired the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute in 2005, Steve Owings was one of our speakers.

Opposing them is the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. It says mandatory speed governors are likely to lead to more collisions (when a driver needs extra horsepower for an emergency maneuver) and increase traffic congestion (when a speed-limited truck attempts to pass another.

Stay tuned to see how this plays out in the FMCSA rule-making process.
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