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.
A recent study conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) found that speed-related, at-fault truck crashes dropped by 73 percent after mandatory speed limiter technology legislation took effect in Ontario, Canada.
Other findings of the study include:
- Post 2009, large truck drivers produced fewer at-fault speed collisions relative to all at-fault driver actions
- There is no evidence to suggest worse collision outcomes for large truck drivers post 2009
- The percentage of truck drivers that were struck from the rear stayed more-or-less the same from pre- to post-legislation (10.03 percent of total collisions 2006-2008 and 10.47 percent 2010-2012), whereas for other drivers the rate increased (18.6 percent 2006-2008 and 21.3 percent 2010-2012)
The year-long study dispelled opponents’ position that requiring large trucks to slow down would lead to rear-end crashes. The study further discounted the contention that speed limiters would cause truck drivers to adjust their driving habits to compensate for lost time resulting from slower driving.
The study found no evidence that speed limiters contributed to an increase in collisions involving truck drivers, including rear-end crashes.
In an attempt to keep insurance rate increases down, and possibly avoid cancellation, some trucking companies are implementing policies requiring truckers to use certain safety technology — such as onboard cameras and cellphone call/text blockers.
Onboard video cameras can capture risky driving and crash or road rage footage. Also, the video footage can be used in employee training and the employee review process. Overriding some drivers’ objections to being monitored by dashboard cameras for privacy and other reasons, the trucking companies noted that there are also benefits to such monitoring for the drivers. Video dashboard monitors can help a driver correct safety-related driving errors.
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.