The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) passed a new rule which requires truckers to install an electronic logging device (ELD) to record the number of hours they are on or off the road. These ELDs must be installed by April 1, 2018. Ahead of this deadline, the FMSCA granted agricultural truckers a second 90-day extension on ELD compliance.
A USA Today investigation has shown that port trucking companies frequently put out “hundreds of impaired drivers on the road” who are driving with little to no sleep. This is in clear violation of federal safety regulations, and puts thousands of fellow drivers at risk every day.
Technically, there is currently no accurate tracking system available to track commercial truck movements nationwide. USA Today instead worked with publicly available information to build a tracking system after the fact.
Two U.S. senators have introduced a bipartisan bill which aims to change and improve truck safety standards. The goal is to prevent the often deadly crashes which occur when a car slams under a tractor trailer in a collision. With the bill, trucks would be required to be equipped with underride guards.
These side guards are safety devices which cover the exposed space between the undercarriage of a tractor trailer and the road below. By equipping trucks with side guards, it will prevent cars from sliding under trucks in a collision and increasing the likelihood of an already dangerous crashing turning even deadlier.
Due in part to concerns about potential implementation of conflicting state rules governing automated and connected trucks, the American Trucking Association (ATA) recently endorsed its first comprehensive policy on automated trucks and related emerging technologies. The ATA’s new policy discusses safety, the respective roles of the federal and state governments, uniformity across state lines, infrastructure, and education.
Trucking companies are not always notified when a driver is arrested for drugs.
For example, recently, a truck driver was arrested after police found him unconscious in his rig. He admitted that he had used heroin. Because he was not in the cab with the keys in the ignition, he was not charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Although he was charged with disorderly conduct while intoxicated, the trucking company that employed him was not informed of the charge, nor was the state that issued his commercial driver’s license.
Ten days later, he renewed his CDL. A couple of weeks after that, he jackknifed his rig, after overdosing on heroin. Emergency workers used naloxone to revive him.
A USA Today Network investigation revealed that some port trucking companies have used legal loopholes, shell companies, and bankruptcies to escape judgments by labor court judges. The ongoing investigation reveals that some port trucking companies serving top retailers use such tactics to take advantage of drivers.
The investigation examined California labor commissioner and court cases filed by more than 1,100 port truck drivers. Of the almost 60 companies found to have violated the law, at least 12 have avoided the judgments against them by shifting assets into new business names. Some delayed paying and filed for bankruptcy protection or pressured drivers to accept settlements.
Is it a good idea for two 80,000-pound 18-wheelers to tailgate one another? Many states are considering that issue, due to the emergence of technology designed to make trucks safer, coupled with vehicle-to-vehicle communications. These technologies would allow two digitally-connected trucks to follow each other on the road at a closer distance because the electronically-linked trucks accelerate and brake together, bypassing the driver. This electronic pairing of tractor-trailers is called platooning.
Platooning Saves Fuel
Platooning can save money by reducing fuel costs due to “slipstreaming.” When two trucks pair up closely, the air flows more smoothly with less air drag. A truck in the slipstream of another tractor-trailer can save 10 percent on fuel. The truck in front will also burn about 5 percent less fuel. Buying diesel typically amounts to 20 percent of operating costs, which across the industry runs into billions of dollars.
Is Tractor-Trailer Platooning Legal?
A new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report found that truck safety technologies can prevent as many as 77,077 crashes, 23,275 injuries, and the loss of 500 lives per year. The report, Leveraging Large Truck Technology and Engineering to Realize Safety Gains, examined the safety benefits and costs of installing four advanced safety technologies in existing and new large trucks.
In 2015, large trucks were involved in more than 400,000 crashes that resulted in more than 4,000 deaths and 116,000 injuries.
AAA Report Illustrates Potential Impact of Individual Safety Technologies
AAA recommends that all large trucks – those already on the road as well as new trucks – be equipped with cost effective technologies that improve safety on the road.
On August 1, 2017, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will launch a demonstration program that that will enable motor carriers to dispute the determination of certain truck crashes as “preventable.”
The program is designed to aid motor carriers in improving Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores – if the agency reclassifies the cause of crashes that were previously deemed preventable.
Highway fatalities are climbing and the nation’s roads and bridges are deteriorating at a fast pace; nonetheless the trucking industry is again asking Congress to permit a new generation of heavier trucks. The higher weight limit is supported in part by the trucking industry and by shippers who would benefit from moving heavier loads.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2015,” 4,311 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2015, an eight-percent increase from 2014.
Truck driver fatigue, speeding, and the difficulty of stopping a heavy vehicle all contribute to the disproportionate involvement of trucks in crashes. Many fatal truck crashes involve rear-end collisions. These crashes are usually caused when trucks come up on stalled vehicles.