Preventable or not?

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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing to allow use of automatic hydraulic inertia brake systems – known as surge brakes – on trailers operated in interstate commerce. The intent of the rulemaking is to adopt performance-based brake system requirements to allow use of surge brakes on certain combinations of vehicles based upon engineering test data. For more information, visit this site and search Docket No. 21323.

Missouri Department of Transportation, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are participating in a pilot project to use state investigators to conduct security reviews of motor carriers at the same time they review carriers’ safety programs. Investigators will offer advice to help companies correct possible security problems and will report assessments to the Transportation Security Administration as well as the state homeland security office and law enforcement as needed.

Swift Transportation Co. received a satisfactory safety rating, effective Oct. 7, resolving its litigation with FMCSA over a proposed conditional rating in 2003. Litigation over civil penalties totaling $87,000 that were assessed in connection with audits in 2001 and 2003 is not affected by the action.

Dart Transit recently purchased a mobile truck-driving simulator from the Texas Motor Transportation Association. The simulator, housed at the company’s Dallas operating center, also would be available to other carriers or companies with private fleets for safety training.

It’s a good thing John Doe had his driver logs in good shape, because that’s exactly what the roadside inspector wanted to see when Doe – and all his other big rig-driving good buddies – was pulled over at a checkpoint. Doe knew that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had established a “soft enforcement” period for everyone to adjust to the revised rules, but he still made sure he was in complete compliance. After all, he’d had enough trouble with his company’s safety inspector, and he didn’t need any more grief from the home office.

Because of the checkpoint, Doe was running a little behind, and he was concerned about being on time for his delivery of automobile parts to the regional AutoWorld distribution facility. But little did Doe realize that a far bigger delay was down the road. About an hour later, he arrived at the three-lane, traffic-signal-controlled left-turn exit for the industrial park, where he and two other cars – stopped on both sides of his rig – waited for the green light.

When it appeared, both cars sped off immediately, while Doe hesitated for a second – checking both West Coast mirrors for hazards – before he accelerated his straight rig. WHAM! Without warning, the car on the left side – a new 2006 Dodge Charger driven by local hotshot lawyer Shy Sterling – had switched from the left lane to the center lane occupied by Doe’s rig and, at full throttle, had lost control and smacked into the luckless tractor’s left front wheel during an attempt to pass.

Doe – fully expecting the preventable-accident warning letter he received from his safety director – contested the ruling, and the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Accident Review Committee was asked to resolve the conflict. NSC ruled in Doe’s favor, noting that he’d checked his mirrors and could not have anticipated Sterling’s wild lane change or loss of control.

Schneider embraces simulators
Following a pilot test that reduced accidents and dropouts, Schneider National over the next two years will move to a simulation-based driver training program across its entire fleet. The Green Bay, Wis.-based truckload giant has selected Salt Lake City-based MPRI to provide motion-capable simulators at its driver training academies throughout the United States and Canada.

“Using motion-based simulation technology allows us to train drivers for those situations that cannot safely be replicated under our current training methods,” said Don Osterberg, Schneider’s vice president of safety and training. Simulations may be customized for climate and facilities likely to be experienced in a specific region.

Foster named top safety director
Rick Foster, Wal-Mart Transportation’s director of fleet safety, has been named 2005 Safety Director of the Year by the American Trucking Associations. The award is presented annually to the motor carrier safety executive whose professional qualifications, safety programs and achievements are considered outstanding. Foster is responsible for the safety and regulatory compliance of more than 11,000 fleet associates, including 7,904 drivers. ATA cited Wal-Mart Transportation’s annual defensive driving program and milestone awards and various incentive programs.

ATA recognizes 3 fleets for safety
Con-Way Western Express, A. Duie Pyle Companies and Ace Doran Hauling & Rigging Co. received the American Trucking Associations President’s Trophy as winners of the 2005 National Truck Safety Contest in the large, mid-size and small fleet categories, respectively. The award, sponsored by Great West Casualty Co., is presented to the companies judged to have the best overall safety programs and records of safety initiatives among contest entries.