Preventable or not: No sunny day for Doe

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Roadcheck 2005, a three-day truck and bus inspection effort throughout North America held in June, produced a record 60,562 inspections for the annual event. In the United States, the vehicle out-of-service rate dropped from 25 percent last year to 23.3 percent, while the driver OOS rate dropped from 5.3 percent to 4.7 percent. Brake-related problems accounted for 55.3 percent of all vehicle OOS violations.

The 2005 International Truck & Bus Safety & Security Symposium is scheduled for Nov. 14-16 in Alexandria, Va. The meeting will examine research and policy on drivers, fleet management, technology, safety enforcement and security. For more information on the event, hosted by the National Safety Council and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, visit this site.

American Pyrotechnics Association on behalf of its members received an exemption allowing fireworks personnel operating CMVs in conjunction with staging fireworks shows celebrating Independence Day to exclude off-duty and sleeper berth time of any length in calculating the daily 14-hour rule. The exemption expires July 7, 2006.

ESRA Consulting Corp. has developed an automated testing system that it says can test automobile and commercial vehicle drivers for vision, knowledge and driving skills related to transportation license tests. The system, aimed at thwarting memorization of tests without understanding material, is intended for use by driver’s license bureaus and similar agencies.

On an overcast, muggy morning in South Florida, trucker John Doe was southbound on Interstate 95, daydreaming about what it would be like to retire in the Sunshine State one day. “Aw, forget it,” Doe sighed as he spied a billboard for a new subdivision, with starting prices that might make Donald Trump think twice. “They get way too many hurricanes down here anyway. I’m going to spend my golden years doing what I’ve always done – driving around and seeing the country. But I won’t have to pull over when my hours are up, and that danged dispatcher won’t be calling me every five minutes.”

With Doe comfortably settled on his future plans, he redirected his attention to the present and turned off I-95 at State Road 520, heading east toward Cocoa Beach to deliver his load of suntan lotion, T-shirts and other vacation necessities to the Ron Jon Surf Shop Megamart. Doe’s pleasant, scenic drive suddenly was interrupted when he spied a bright orange van starting to back out of an alley on the right.

As Doe’s rig approached, the van – driven by Bambi Brandy and owned by the local Hooters restaurant – came to a halt before entering the highway. So, logically assuming that Brandy had seen him, Doe continued on his way. Without warning, Brandy – who actually had stopped briefly to check her hair in the rearview mirror – hastily decided to back out of the alley. Doe instantly leaned on his horn and swerved left … WHAMMO! Brandy’s van had accelerated smack into the right rear side of Doe’s trailer.

Doe quickly forgave the attractive Hooters employee, but Doe’s safety director wasn’t nearly as merciful with him when he slapped Doe with a preventable-accident warning letter. Doe wasted little time contesting the warning, and the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Accident Review Committee was called upon to render a final decision. The NSC panel immediately sided with Doe, noting that he could not possibly have anticipated, or avoided, Brandy’s last-second backup.

Two states target cars to reduce truck crashes

Michigan and Washington have launched programs to reduce truck crashes, but these efforts target four-wheelers.

The Michigan State Police Motor Carrier Division announced it would conduct several “Border to Border” enforcement operations on major freeways after an increase in truck crashes in 2004. Officers will focus on driver behavior including speeding, improper lane use, following too closely, seat belt use, drug and alcohol use, driver fatigue and proper driver’s licenses. Michigan is participating in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study; federal officials have not released the final report yet, but preliminary data indicate that drivers are up to 10 times more likely to cause truck crashes than either vehicles or environments. Annette Sandberg, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, has asked state enforcement officers to focus on driver factors in truck-car crashes.

Washington is continuing its “Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks” pilot program to reduce truck-car collisions weekdays 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 19-30. Two interstate highway corridors were selected for intense, high-visibility enforcement and two others as controls: The north corridor is Interstate 5 from the Starbird Road interchange in Skagit County north to Chuckanut Drive, just south of Bellingham in Whatcom County; the south corridor starts at the Scott Lake interchange on I-5 in Thurston County and ends at the State Road 512 interchange in Pierce County. Local and state police will provide enforcement: A trooper will ride in a decoy truck to report violations to officers in patrol cars, and the State Patrol Aviation Unit will work the corridors on enforcement days. State officials also are conducting a media campaign to raise four-wheeler awareness about allowing sufficient room when passing or cutting in front of trucks. Congress provided funding to the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for this project in 2004. n