At ease when they please?

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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported continued progress in 2006 regarding the accuracy and timeliness of safety-related data. The percentage of FMCSA-reported crashes that were matched to a carrier rose to 93 percent from 88 percent in 2005. The percentage
of inspections matched to a carrier increased to 98 percent from 97 percent. FMCSA also said that 89 percent of crashes were reported in 90 days, up from 81 percent in 2005; and 87 percent of inspections were reported in 21 days, also up from 81 percent.

Members of an Idaho Senate committee voted unanimously to kill legislation that would have made the state’s speed limit uniform for trucks and cars. S 1075 would have sped up heavy trucks, which currently face a 65 mph speed limit, to 70 mph, while slowing cars 5
mph from their current 75 mph limit. Thirty-nine states already have the same highway speeds for cars and trucks.

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, in association with Zurich Services Corp. and Interactive Driving Systems, has developed “Virtual Risk Manager – Airbrakes,” an online airbrake training program that uses multimedia technology and targets drivers, mechanics and safety enforcement officers. A March 2006 government study found brake deficiencies are a factor in nearly 30 percent of all serious truck crashes involving a fatality or injury. For more information, go to this site.

Commercial truck drivers need greater flexibility within federal driver work and rest rules to allow them to select sleep times and duration based on individual need, according to a study released in March by the American Trucking Associations and sleep research firm Circadian International.

ATA and Circadian evaluated whether features of the current hours-of-service rules are meeting their intended purpose of improving driver sleep, alertness and safety. One such provision is the sleeper-berth rule, which requires drivers to split sleeper-berth rest segments into two periods, one of which must be eight hours. Studying compliant and noncompliant driving scenarios, 11 sleep researchers and 67 professional truck drivers found that allowing drivers to select sleep times and lengths to suit their individual needs maximized sleep opportunities, facilitating better alertness.

“We found a clear consensus in favor of increased flexibility between leading sleep scientists who have studied driver fatigue, and truck drivers who use sleeper berths on a regular basis,” says Dr. Martin Moore-Ede, chief executive officer of Stoneham, Mass.-based Circadian International. “These are the two groups probably most qualified to judge the impact of the current HOS split-sleep and 14-hour clock rules on driver alertness and safety.”

ATA in large part supports the HOS rules implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2004, but believes the rules should provide greater flexibility for both solo and team drivers who utilize sleeper berths. “Motor carriers for decades have safely utilized the flexible sleeper-berth provisions to assure their drivers obtain needed rest,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO. “Flexibility in the splitting of sleep periods mitigates fatigue and affords inherent protections that are critical for the safety of our drivers and the motoring public.”

Highway Watch unveils Web-based training
The American Trucking Associations’ Highway Watch program says it has enhanced its Internet-based training module for surface transportation professionals wishing to receive the program’s anti-terrorism and safety training. The Web-based delivery is designed to make it easier for truck drivers and other surface transportation professionals to receive training. The system also provides a temporary registration receipt for Georgia-based drivers who need to show proof of training in order to secure a Georgia commercial driver’s license, as per state law.

The Web-based system integrates elements from all of the currently available Highway Watch training modes, including audio, video and classroom instruction; the training also provides transcripts for hearing-impaired professionals. Trainees are required to watch the entire program, and questions are asked throughout the viewing to ensure that the trainee fully grasps the content. The program can be accessed at Highway Watch’swebsite; those wishing to take the training must register and provide current contact and employment information.

Preventable or not: Cuts like a jackknife
It was an early April afternoon when ominous, fast-moving clouds began to unleash a steady downpour upon Interstate 65 as doubles driver John Doe zipped along at the posted speed limit of 70, thoughtfully chewing some cold, hard yet residually tasty fries, left over from a bountiful Steak Sandwich Supreme he recently devoured at the Haul-In Truck Plaza near Cullman. “That’s strange,” Doe mused. “The wind’s starting to howl like a wolf with his tail caught under my steer tire!”

Dutifully cautious during severely inclement weather, Doe immediately reduced his speed to a semi-lethargic 65 mph. The rain was coming down in waves and drummed loudly on the roof of Doe’s cab, making it hard to concentrate on the chatter from his CB radio about the storm. He reached down for the volume knob as his rig was buffeted roughly by another gust of wind.

Doe suddenly sensed that something was very, very wrong