Preventable or not: Too slow for comfort?

American Trucking Associations has named three motor carriers as winners of its 2004 National Truck Safety Contest. The companies – representing large, mid-size and small fleets – are FedEx Ground, Moon Township, Pa.; Central Freight Lines, Waco, Texas; and Sinclair Trucking Company, Salt Lake City. The contest recognizes fleets with the best records of safe operation and the best programs to promote safety.

More than 240,000 brakes were inspected this year during Operation Air Brake. During the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance event in September, there was an increase in the number of vehicles placed out of service over the 2003 September event, both for brake adjustment (from 11.0 to 11.4 percent) and brake component (from 7.5 to 8.8 percent) violations. For detailed inspection results, go to

Instructional Technologies Inc. will provide its Tread-1 computer-based driver training program to Chesterton, Ind.-based Priority Transportation and its staff of more than 900 drivers at five terminals. Priority Transportation also is using Tread-1 to train non-driving employees on the challenges and risks that drivers face daily. The carrier will require that non-driving employees take courses on trip planning, space management, speed management and winter driving.

John Christner Trucking has started a 2-cent-per-mile quarterly safety and compliance performance bonus. The carrier operates 650-plus company and owner-operator units transporting temperature-controlled products.

John Doe was in a good mood because his meticulously maintained – and well-polished – rig had breezed through a roadside safety inspection. It must have been obvious to the commercial vehicle enforcement team at the weigh station that Doe and his carrier took great care in ensuring the equipment met all regulatory requirements. After a brief listen for air leaks and a quick glance for missing or dangling brake parts, the inspector waved Doe past. He need not have worried, but it’s always stressful when you face the potential of a full-scale inspection. Unfortunately, that would not be the most stressful event of the day.

At around noon on this crystal clear day, Doe stopped at a traffic light on the road to Clarksville, where he would deliver his load of dog food at a distribution center. This was one of Doe’s favorite runs because it strictly was drop-and-hook. There would be no repeat of last week’s seven-hour wait in Iowa. Doe already had hinted pretty strongly to his driver manager that he wouldn’t stand for another one of those loads. At least Doe knew that the shipper would pay dearly in detention charges and that, unlike years past, he would get some compensation for his time.

There were vehicles stopped at the light on both sides of Doe’s rig. When the light turned green, both cars raced off. Doe hesitated for a moment while he checked both West Coast mirrors for hazards, and then he began to accelerate.

Bam! Without warning, a sports car had switched from the left lane to the center lane occupied by John’s rig. At full throttle, the driver had lost control and smacked into the tractor’s left front wheel during an attempt to pass.

Any accident is unpleasant, but at least Doe was comforted that this was a clear case when he couldn’t do anything to prevent the crash. But that’s not how his safety director saw the situation. Doe was floored when he received the preventable-accident warning letter, and he asked that the crash be reviewed by the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee.

For committee members, it was an easy call. They found in Doe’s favor, noting that he had checked his mirrors and could not have anticipated the car’s wild lane change or loss of control.

Con-Way joins Highway Watch companywide
Con-Way Transportation Services is participating companywide in the Highway Watch program, a national safety and security program administered by the American Trucking Associations under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The company has committed to putting Highway Watch training materials into the hands of more than 13,000 drivers and to encouraging voluntary participation in the program.

Highway Watch uses the skills and experience of America’s transportation workers to help protect America’s critical highway transportation infrastructure and prevent terrorists from using large vehicles or hazardous cargo as weapons.

In March 2004, ATA entered into a $19.3 million cooperative agreement with Homeland Security to expand Highway Watch, and an additional $21 million is earmarked for 2005.

Transportation professionals are welcome to join Highway Watch by calling the national toll-free number at (866) 821-3444.

DistTech tests driver fatigue monitor
Distribution Technologies is testing a driver fatigue monitor with its fleet drivers based at the company’s terminal in Neville Island, Pa. DistTech has installed the monitor, marketed by Pittsburgh-based Attention Technology, in eight of the carrier’s vehicles.

The monitor, which mounts on the dashboard to the right of the steering wheel, has a compact video-based sensor that detects slow eyelid closure associated with drowsiness and sounds an alarm.

DistTech is evaluating the monitor based on driver feedback and acceptance. “If the monitor helps to prevent even one accident, it’s invaluable to us and our drivers,” says John Hazenfield, DistTech’s senior vice president/CIO.