FMCSA shuts down bus operator

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Department of Transportation announced the 2008 random drug and alcohol testing rates for the various modes of transportation. The rates for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will remain at 50 percent for drugs, and 10 percent for alcohol. For more information, including how to look up employees’ previous testing records, go to www.dot.gov/ost/dapc/rates.html.

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance in late December launched its Saved by the Belt Award Program to recognize commercial motor vehicle drivers who have buckled up and whose lives were saved or injuries significantly reduced as a result of wearing a safety belt. For information, go to www.cvsa.org.

Roadside Medical Clinics (www.roadsidemed.com) announced plans for a coast-to-coast network of medical facilities at Pilot Travel Centers. The Alpharetta, Ga.-based company says its first clinics were scheduled to open in January at Pilot locations in Cartersville, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. The company plans to open 16 more in 2008 and 20 in 2009.

DistTech Inc., a provider of dedicated and common carriage for liquid bulk commodities, was
honored by the Ohio Trucking Association for outstanding achievement in highway safety. With only one recordable accident for the more than 5.8 million miles driven by its fleet in Ohio, Newbury-based DistTech earned the honor in the Large Division (5,000,001-10,000,000 miles) for 2006.

Dallas-based Tornado Bus Co., which was involved in a fatal crash in Arkansas in November, was declared an “imminent hazard” by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and ordered to cease commercial operations immediately. The order was served by FMCSA officials on Dec. 21.

“Based upon your present state of unacceptable safety compliance and your failure to adequately establish safety management systems and oversee your drivers’ duty status and hours of service, your motor carrier operation poses an ‘imminent hazard’ to public safety,” the FMCSA document states. The order is “binding upon Tornado and each of its officers, directors, successors and assigns.”

On Nov. 25, a Tornado bus struck a pickup truck and a tractor-trailer near Earle, Ark., killing three bus passengers and the driver of the pickup. An initial review of the Tornado driver’s records of duty by FMCSA investigators revealed that the driver had exceeded the maximum hours of service allowed and had falsely listed the presence of a co-driver when none existed. As a result of the crash, FMCSA on Nov. 26 initiated a compliance review at the company’s Dallas headquarters.

Since 2001, Tornado Bus Co. Inc. has been the subject of four compliance reviews, which resulted in fines totaling $57,680 for violating hours-of-service requirements and falsifying driver duty records, according to FMCSA. In addition, the company since 2001 has been fined on four separate occasions totaling $5,410 for driver hours-of-service violations discovered during routine roadside inspections, FMCSA says.

“Despite the imposition of these penalties, Tornado’s method of operation remained unchanged,” the FMCSA document states. “The immediate and severe hazard to safety stems from Tornado’s egregious indifference to the hours-of-service requirements.”

FMCSA’s investigation of the crash and the company’s federally required safety compliance records is continuing.


Traffic control standards strengthened
New rules for highway signs and pavement markings developed in response to a bus crash in Atlanta last March are among the changes in the notice of proposed amendments for the next edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the Federal Highway Administration announced. Some have pointed to confusing pavement markings and highway signs as possible contributing factors in the crash that claimed the lives of seven and injured 29 when a bus drove off an overpass.

The changes to MUTCD – the national standard for highway signs, traffic signals, pavement markings and all other traffic control devices – include requirements that states use higher-performing reflective material on all signs and that public agencies adopt maintenance methods to ensure signs can be read from greater distances. The MUTCD is available online at https://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/.


Preventable or not: A not-so-slick move for Doe
If John Doe had his way, he’d still be lounging in his favorite corner booth at Cousin Ruth’s Truck Stop on the outskirts of Denver, sipping his favorite energy soda and munching another helping of triple-pepper cheese nachos. Alas, Doe had a load to deliver, so here he was, at high noon, maintaining a white-knuckled death grip on the steering wheel of his tractor-trailer as he crept along ice-covered Bronco Boulevard at 20 mph, intently scanning the road ahead.

Thanks to extremely nasty driving conditions, Bronco Boulevard was virtually devoid of other travelers – except for a Diaper Daddy straight truck that was approaching Bronco Boulevard at the next intersection. Since the other driver also seemed to be moving at a careful pace, Doe wasn’t concerned.

Suddenly, however, it became painfully apparent that the Diaper Daddy driver’s attempt to obey his stop sign was futile. The truck slid effortlessly into the middle of the intersection, and stopped dead! Doe, thinking that he still had time to stop, lightly applied his brakes, but he realized in horror that his rig also had the traction of an ice skate. In fact, it seemed to skid forever on the slick surface, straight into the side of