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.
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.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has withdrawn its November 28, 2014 advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) increasing financial responsibility for motor carriers, freight forwarders, and brokers. FMCSA is authorized to establish minimum levels of financial responsibility for motor carriers at or above the minimum levels set by Congress.
The 2014 ANPRM arose from a study ordered by Congress in response to the increasing costs of truck-related crashes. In April of 2014, FMCSA reported to Congress that current financial responsibility minimums for the commercial motor vehicle industry were inadequate to meet the costs of some crashes. Congress considered raising the insurance minimum for general freight from $750,000 to $1 million, but decided to have FMCSA prepare an analysis that could become the basis for changes in the standard. The last minimum adjustment was in 1985, which set the current standard of $750,000 for general freight, $5 million for the most dangerous hazmat freight and $1 million for other hazmat freight.
Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) has proposed a bill to ban big rigs on Route 29 in Trenton. As reported by the Trenton Times/NJ.com, trucks weighing more than 13 tons will no longer allowed on Rt. 29 in Trenton, with the exception of trucks making local deliveries within three miles. Trucks over 13 tons would be banned from traveling on Route 29 from I-95 in Ewing to Route 129 in Hamilton.
The Senate Transportation Committee voted 5-0 for the bill. It now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
A 2002 traffic regulation already prohibits trucks weighing more than 13 tons from the section of Route 29 at issue — but the new bill would make it permanent. Traffic regulations are subject to change by the Department of Transportation.
Turner said that portion of Route 29 is a heavily traveled route that goes through residential and commercial areas in Trenton. She noted that trucks often carry hazardous materials that may be dangerous to other motorists and the surrounding neighborhoods.
While driving, you may occasionally notice protruding spike-like lug nut covers on the wheels of tractor-trailers. While usually made of plastic, these spikes may also be made of aluminum or metal. One hazard is that these spikes may extend out too far from the outer edge of the rim of the wheel and come into contact with other vehicles, including motorcyclists and bicyclists, or even pedestrians.
As I previously discussed in a prior blog post, nearly half of bicyclists and one quarter of pedestrians who are killed by a large truck first impact the side of the truck. It is easy to see the increased danger of side impacts if the bicyclist, motorcyclist, or pedestrian makes contact with a wheel’s spikes.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has withdrawn a proposed rule revising its method for determining the safety fitness of motor carriers. The notice of proposed rulemaking, issued on Jan. 21, 2016, set forth a new methodology for evaluating whether a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles. The new methodology would have determined when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles in or affecting interstate commerce based on the carrier’s on-road safety data; an investigation; or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.
FMCSA’s proposal sought to replace its current three safety fitness ratings — “satisfactory,” “conditional,” and “unsatisfactory” — with just one rating, “unfit.” However, that idea was challenged by some industry groups, including the National School Transportation Association (NSTA). The NSTA stated that the current safety fitness rating system aligns well with the safety culture within the school transportation industry. NSTA raised concerns that the proposed new system would leave a safe carrier unrated, offering limited guidance on the safety record of the carrier and causing potential confusion among carriers, law enforcement, and the public.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that in 2015, 3,852 people died in crashes involving large trucks. Sixteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants; 69 percent were passenger vehicle occupants; and 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is continuing its campaign to prevent crashes by improving commercial truck safety. It recently issued a modification rule to allow voluntary placement of safety devices in the windshield area of cars and commercial vehicles. These safety systems are reputed to decrease driver errors and protect those on the road from catastrophic crashes and injuries. The FMCA has the authority to “regulate drivers, motor carriers, and vehicle equipment,” including regulatory power over commercial vehicle safety.