Preventable or not: Blame it on black ice

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Office of Research and Technology published a tech brief discussing the relationship between job change rate and crash involvement. For a copy of the brief, visit this site.

FMCSA announced in the July 22 Federal Register its denial of 39 applications from individuals who requested an exemption from the federal diabetes standard applicable to interstate truck drivers and the reasons for the denials.

Iteris Inc. announced that it has developed retrofit kits for installation of its lane departure warning system on various models of Volvo, Peterbilt and Kenworth Class 8 trucks. The system already is available as an aftermarket installation on various International truck models and as a factory-installed option on Freightliner Class 8 trucks.

FleetRisk Advisors, a provider of risk-management services for the transportation industry, has obtained the license to use Circadian’s Circadian Alertness Simulator software to predict patterns of driver fatigue and alertness. Circadian is a consulting firm specializing in extended-hours operations.

Instructional Technologies Inc. will provide TREAD-1 Driver Training to USF Glen Moore’s 1,100 drivers. Drivers for the Carlisle, Pa.-based carrier will use ITI’s computer-based training at 12 USF Glen Moore terminals throughout the country.

It was a moonless, frigid midnight on the sleet-slick stretch of a rural two-lane North Dakota highway. An icy wind howled past the CB antenna vice-gripped to the West Coast mirror frame of John Doe’s long-nose conventional, twin-trailer rig.

Not too many nights ago, Doe watched one of his favorite movies, “Fargo,” on his portable DVD player. But even that film’s memorable scenes of bone-chilling Midwest winter didn’t prepare Doe for just how nasty a brutally cold evening near Canada can get. And his teeth-chattering discomfort was about to increase dramatically.

Doe had been so occupied with keeping his rig on the narrow, snowy stretch of road that he didn’t realize he was approaching a railroad overpass without any reduction in speed – a nearly fatal error. Black ice had caused another driver’s Chevy van to spin out and become stuck, partially blocking both lanes. Attempting to decelerate quickly from 55 mph and steer clear, Doe caused his rear trailer to overturn, jackknifed and then watched in horror as his lead trailer fell on top of the van.

At this point, the hood of Doe’s tractor was pointing skyward. The van’s driver, shaken but miraculously uninjured, materialized from the wreckage and graciously helped Doe out of the cab. Then, before Doe and the van driver had time to gather their frazzled wits, more headlights approached. An ill-fated passenger bus arrived on the accident scene, braked hard, slid and crashed into the landing gear of Doe’s overturned rear trailer. The windshield of the bus shattered, but no one was hurt.

Doe’s fleet safety director ruled the pileup preventable, and Doe contested the decision, blaming everything on the black ice. The National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee was asked to settle the dispute.

The committee upheld the safety director’s determination of the accident as preventable. Doe was going too fast for the wintry conditions, the committee ruled. If he hadn’t been outdriving his headlights, he would have been able to reduce his speed in plenty of time before arriving at the bridge, which he should have anticipated as being super-slick.

ATA faults OSHA’s inspection program
The American Trucking Associations has submitted comments critical of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Site Specific Targeting Inspection Enforcement Program. ATA says the initiative duplicates other federal safety programs and needs better methodology for gathering carrier data.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration statistics show that from 1992 to 2002, the number of large trucks in fatal crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled declined 12 percent. Large-truck crash injuries for that period per 100 million vehicle miles driven dropped 29 percent. OSHA, however, uses the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2002 Survey of Occupational Injuries, which uses different methodologies in calculating and categorizing injuries and illnesses. That survey rates trucking as the occupation with the second-highest injury and illness rates.

OSHA inspection selection is based on an industry or work site’s yearly lost workday injury and illness (LWDII), or days away, restricted or transferred (DART) rates. The BLS survey indicates most of these case rates are the result of “sprains or strains,” categorized by the BLS as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Workplaces with a higher rate of MSD are likely to also have a higher rate of days lost because of an injury and are often the target of a Site Specific Inspection.

“Comparing the trucking incidence rate against general industry’s rate is like comparing ‘apples to oranges,’ and it creates an unfavorable bias against the trucking industry,” the association wrote.

RSPA delays hazmat rule
Research and Special Programs Administration has delayed until Jan. 1, 2005, the effective date of an October 2003 rule clarifying the applicability of the hazardous materials regulations for loading, unloading and storage operations. The original effective date was Oct. 1, 2004. For more information, visit this site and search Docket No. 4952.