Preventable or not: The right turn?


Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in August finalized without any changes its interim regulations (49 CFR part 381) establishing procedures for requesting and reviewing waivers and exemptions from federal motor carrier safety regulations and commercial driver’s license requirements and for proposing and managing pilot programs. For a copy of the rule, visit and search Docket No. 4145.

FMCSA postponed until Jan. 31, 2005, the compliance date for its rule prohibiting states from issuing, renewing, transferring or upgrading commercial driver’s licenses with hazardous materials endorsements unless the Transportation Security Administration has determined that the applicant does not pose a security risk warranting denial of the hazardous materials endorsement. The new compliance date coincides with TSA’s effective date for fingerprint-based background checks on CDL holders seeking or renewing hazmat endorsements.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration is requesting comments on a proposed new voluntary protection program (VPP) for construction to provide employers and employees an opportunity to participate in and obtain the benefits of OSHA’s premiere recognition program. Under a VPP, employers must provide exemplary worker protection by establishing effective safety and health management systems. Comments on the proposal, which was published in the Aug. 31 Federal Register, are due Nov. 1.

John Doe’s day was going well. There were no trucks ahead of him when he arrived for his 6 a.m. pickup – a load of cheese at Parcheesi’s Dairy in Greenvale. Plus, Parcheesi’s freight handlers had unexpectedly decided to load his trailer immediately rather than take their usual 45-minute coffee break.

Although Doe usually dreaded deliveries to grocers, his spirits were high as he exited the freeway en route to his first stop, the regional distribution center for Safe-Public Food Stores. Doe slowly rolled his rig down the exit ramp to a red traffic signal, where he stopped.

Traffic on the four-lane boulevard he was entering was light, so Doe decided to avail himself of his legal right to make a right turn on red. His view of oncoming traffic was good and restricted only slightly by a small road sign. So Doe started to make his turn, but he slowed briefly during his turn at the point where the road sign obstructed his view.

Blam! Doe’s mood deflated at the familiar sound. He could see nothing in his mirrors, which was no real surprise. Doe climbed down from his cab and walked briskly to the back of his trailer, hoping for an older vehicle with little damage.

No such luck. It was an almost-new Cadillac Escalade SUV, sporting a 345-hp V8 if Doe’s memory served. Fortunately, the driver was unhurt, but the entire front end was badly crinkled. At least this was a clear case of a driver following too closely, Doe thought.

So Doe was shocked when his safety director slapped him with a warning letter, arguing that Doe should have waited for a green light before making his turn. Asked to resolve the issue, the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee ruled in Doe’s favor.

The committee concluded that under the conductions described, making a right turn on red was a safe action. A slight hesitation – as opposed to an abrupt stop – to double-check for traffic before completing the turn was prudent.