Preventable or not: Getting off-track

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A federal grand jury has indicted three trucking companies – Nijjar Brothers Trucking, Madera, Calif.; NB Trucking, Madera; and Semper Truck Lines, Fresno, Calif. – on charges related to falsification of drivers’ logs, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General announced. The indictment also includes 19 truck drivers working for those companies.

Ore-Cal Livestock, Merrill, Ore., reached a settlement of charges related to hours-of-service regulations that includes five years’ probation and a $1.077 million fine. The bulk of the fine – $1 million – is to be paid to the California Highway Patrol over a five-year period and will be used for combating hours-of-service violations. Another $50,000 will go to the U.S. Department of Transportation for reimbursement of investigation costs.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has amended its definition of a “special purpose vehicle” in its standards for underride guards for trailers and semitrailers to reduce risks to vehicles that impact the rear end of a trailer or semitrailer. NHTSA recognized that compliance was not practicable for a small number of vehicles due to the presence of work-performing equipment mounted on the rear. For more, visit this site and search Docket No. 19523.

DOT has proposed a new system of records under the Privacy Act of 1974 to collect statistics on commercial motor carriers, primarily the household goods moving industry. FMCSA will use this data to target motor carriers with high levels of complaint.

December had been a busy month for John Doe, both on and off the highway, but the hectic holiday season now was winding down. Rejuvenated by a New Year’s weekend of hunting and poker, Doe happily returned to the road with a tanker load of milk in tow. The weather was pleasant, and Doe was enjoying his favorite sports talk show. The topic of discussion was the possibility of an Eagles-Steelers Super Bowl, which Eagles fan Doe wanted to see.

The lack of traffic on the divided highway gave Doe an even bigger reason to smile. There would be nothing but asphalt and five hours of quiet time between him and his destination – or so he assumed. But traffic got heavier as the day wore on, and congestion had grown particularly thick as Doe approached a railroad crossing (the gate was raised) which preceded the intersection with State Road 87, where he had to turn left. Doe’s tractor-trailer was moving at a snail’s pace in the inside lane, inches from the bumper of the car ahead. Doe started fuming at the unknown traffic planner who had timed the stoplight so poorly – he had already been stuck at the intersection for at least three minutes.

Then the signal quickly turned red again, thereby stranding the posterior of Doe’s trailer astride the tracks. Fearful of being nailed by a train, Doe jacked his rig off the tracks and into an access break in the divided highway, where he waited for the light to change. To alert the driver ahead to his close proximity (nearly touching the car’s left rear door), Doe tapped his horn, but the teenage driver had her stereo blasting and was too busy drumming along on her steering wheel to a new CD. When the light changed, the automobile driver hit the gas and … Wham! … maneuvered her rear door into contact with the edge of Doe’s bumper!

Doe was upset when the safety director slapped him with a preventable-accident warning letter. Doe felt that the teenage driver’s reckless inattention was totally to blame. Asked to resolve the dispute, the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee upheld the “preventable” ruling. Instead of tailgating, Doe should have hung back until there was enough room to cross the tracks without incident, the committee ruled.