Safety – March 2004

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Research and Special Programs Administration revised the exemption application process under the hazardous materials regulations to require certain applicants to certify compliance with provisions of the Safe Explosives Act. The rule also reaffirms requirements established in an interim rule that motor carriers comply with applicable licensing requirements for drivers. For more information, visit this site and search Docket No. 14982.

ATA’s Safety and Loss Prevention Management Council and Great West Casualty Co. are inviting entries in the 2004 ATA Truck and Industrial Safety Contests. Awards will be presented at the council’s annual national conference in Minneapolis in September. Entry forms are available in PDF format at this site. The contest deadline is April 16.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration added two new resources to its website. MyOSHA is a tool to create personalized links to OSHA online resources. Quick Start is a step-by-step guide to identifying major OSHA requirements and guidance materials.

North American Transportation Management Institute recently added a seminar on motor carrier security management to its 2004 program schedule. Seven seminars are slated for locations throughout the United States in March, April and May. For more information, visit this site.

John Doe braked gently as he approached his delivery point, the fleet’s local terminal, on a rainy night with roads slightly slick. He was happy to have arrived with his rig in one piece on a night when the rain made visibility a challenge even with the new wipers the maintenance shop had just installed.

His elation turned to disappointment as he made the turn into the facility and saw two trucks waiting for door assignments. He pulled out of the way of incoming traffic to wait for his turn to back in.

Five minutes later, another driver from his company pulled into the yard. The new employee had only minimal road experience and an overrated sense of his own parking skills.

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Confronted with a choice between circling around the building and parking very close to Doe’s rig to avoid blocking a traffic lane, the driver chose the latter. Doe was driving an older COE without a peeper window. He cursed the other driver from inside his cab as he realized this driver had probably parked less than 6 inches away on his right side, barely missing him. The other driver’s nose was just behind that of Doe’s tractor, too, making it even harder to estimate his exact location. Doe, daunted by the prospect of walking around in a downpour, chose to sit tight and use his mirrors carefully.

Twenty minutes later, Doe got the go-ahead from the foreman, depressed his parking brake buttons, slipped her into low and came gently up on the clutch. Crawling forward very slowly, watching in his mirrors, he still heard a scraping sound emanating from a tiny contact point between his bumper and the other driver’s fender. He applied the brake, jumped from the cab and as the rain poured down his face, loudly berated the other driver for causing the accident.

Because Doe was the moving party when the scrape occurred, he received a warning letter stating the accident was preventable. Incensed, Doe contested the ruling, asking the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee to serve as referee.

NSC noted that Doe could have gotten out of his vehicle to check the clearances between him and his fellow driver and could even have asked the other party to direct him from the ground. Doe had stated the other vehicle was obviously parked too close. That, especially, convinced them Doe could have prevented the accident.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will create a program to inspect the equipment used to move intermodal containers, and the agency will hold equipment owners responsible for problems. The move is a reversal of sorts for the agency, which has inspected the chassis of intermodal carriers but has held the operators instead of the owners of such equipment responsible for defects. In fact, early this year, FMCSA said it could not craft a rule “that would resolve the maintenance responsibility disputes between equipment providers and motor carriers, and be supported with sufficient safety data to prove its necessity and subsequently its effectiveness.”

But soon after that announcement, the FMCSA announced it would begin an intermodal container chassis inspection program. “It will be modeled on the compliance review program already in place for the nation’s trucking community,” the agency said Jan. 26. The new program will require equipment providers to get a USDOT number and display it on their chassis. FMCSA will use the same penalty and enforcement system that it uses in compliance reviews and will issue out-of-service orders and revoke USDOT numbers.

Two federal bills were introduced last year to deal with the intermodal issue. Both are pending in committees. The American Trucking Associations has been pushing for owner accountability for several years. “We’re pleased the FMCSA is moving forward,” said ATA President Bill Graves. “This can be a big step toward assuring that intermodal chassis put on the road meet critical federal safety requirements.”
– Jill Dunn