DOT targets rural road deaths

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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced that $8 million in grant funds are available to states for projects to upgrade driver licensing information systems to make them compatible with the new modernized Commercial Driver’s License Information System. Grant funds may be used for personnel, computer hardware and software, publications, testing, training and quality control. For more information, visit the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance at and search CFDA
No. 20.238.

Two different bills that either would have eliminated or decreased speed limit differentials on Illinois’ rural interstate highways both were defeated in committee on identical votes of 5-6.

Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Board recommended, subject to provincial cabinet approval, an increase in the speed limit from 100 km/h (62 mph) to 110 km/h (68 mph) on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Winnipeg and on most of Highway 75, which runs between Winnipeg and the U.S. border. The Manitoba Trucking Association opposed the plan, citing higher fuel usage and a potential increase in the number
and severity of traffic accidents.

Ruan Transport Corp. honored driver Wayne Blubaugh with the Ruan Million Mile Safety Award.
The achievement recognized his two million miles and 22 years of accident-free driving for the Des Moines, Iowa-based carrier.

The Department of Transportation on Feb. 29 announced a new national strategy that it says will bring new focus, including resources and new technology, to reducing deaths on the nation’s rural roads. “We want to put the brakes on rural road fatalities,” Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said. “This is a challenge that we have the experience, the ability and the resources to address. We can make our rural roads safer, we can do it now, and we can do it without reinventing the wheel.”

DOT says its Rural Safety Initiative will help states and communities develop ways to eliminate the risks drivers face on America’s rural roads, while highlighting available solutions and resources. The new endeavor addresses five key goals: safer drivers, better roads, smarter roads, better-trained emergency responders, and improved outreach and partnerships.

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About $287 million in existing and new funding is available to support the effort, said Peters, who has asked DOT Deputy Secretary Adm. Thomas Barrett to lead the effort to help state and local leaders get solutions implemented in rural areas faster. “Smarter, low-cost options are readily available and can be deployed quickly,” Barrett said. “By partnering with state and local leaders to integrate these safety strategies, we can change the trend and improve safety on our nation’s rural roads.”

Peters said that of the more than 3 million miles of rural roads in the country, almost 80 percent are owned and operated by local entities, which is why partnering with states and local governments is critical to the initiative. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials already has offered its support, she said.

“State transportation officials have set a goal of reducing highway fatalities by half over the next two decades,” said Pete Rahn, AASHTO president. “Improving rural highway safety is critical to saving those lives. We are pleased that the U.S. DOT is focusing both attention and resources on this issue, and we commend them for this initiative.”

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TCA honors fleets for safety
Bison takes top award for third year in a row

Bison Transport of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Stagecoach Cartage & Distribution of El Paso, Texas, were named the top winners of the Truckload Carrier Association’s 33rd annual National Fleet Safety Awards, presented during TCA’s Annual Convention at The Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. The two grand prize winners were selected from among 18 division winners in the National Fleet Safety Division Awards announced in January. Bison won in the category for truckload companies with a total annual mileage of more than 25 million miles, and Stagecoach won the award for truckload companies with a total annual mileage of less than 25 million miles.

Regarding Stagecoach, TCA cited major investments in technology, allowing the carrier to track such factors as maximum truck speed, idle time, hard braking, lane departures and tire pressure. Stagecoach uses this information to identify drivers who need work on, for example, following other vehicles too closely. The carrier also watches speeding closely; drivers receive warnings for the first two speeding incidents and terminations for the third. Stagecoach also believes that a healthy driver has a much better chance of being a safe driver, so it invests considerable attention to wellness.

For Bison, receiving the grand prize is becoming old hat; 2007 marked its third consecutive year receiving the award. When it first won in 2005, the carrier had created a “You’re Safe With Me” campaign; this campaign continues today and has been expanded. A new feature of the 2007 campaign was the development of a Driver Risk Level Assessment, which applies point values for both positive and negative things, such as training a driver has taken, positive DriverCheck reports, moving or log violations, and preventable accidents. When the formula is calculated, it helps Bison identify a driver’s risk level and bring him to an acceptable level of risk before he might be involved in an accident.

TCA’s judging process began with the determination of the top companies in each of six mileage divisions; the division winners were selected based on accident frequency only. The top three winners in each division then were able to compete for the two grand prizes.

During the judging, some of the factors considered included safety program organization, employee driver/independent contractor selection procedures, training, supervision, accident investigation, inspection and maintenance of equipment, and outside activities such as general highway safety. All grand prize finalists were audited by independent auditors not affiliated with TCA or the carriers.

The following companies are the top divisional winners, based on low accident frequency per million miles, and are listed from first to third place:

* Division VI, 100+ Million Miles: Bison Transport; May Trucking Co., Salem, Ore.; Roehl Transport, Marshfield, Wis.;

* Division V, 50 Million-99.99 Million Miles: Groupe Robert, Rougemont, Québec; Carter Express, Anderson, Ind.; Koch Companies, Minneapolis;

* Division IV, 25 Million-49.99 Million Miles: MacKinnon Transport, Guelph, Ontario; Erb International, New Hamburg, Ontario; Metropolitan Trucking, Maywood, N.J.;

* Division III, 15 Million-24.99 Million Miles: D&D Sexton, Carthage, Mo.; Usher Transport, Louisville, Ky.; Stagecoach Cartage & Distribution;

* Division II, 5 Million-14.99 Million Miles: H.O. Bouchard, Hampden, Maine; Stallion Express, Beebe, Ark.; Lydall Transport, Glen Allen, Va.; and
* Division I, Under 5 Million Miles: StageLine Express, Coopersville, Mich.; Excargo Services, Houston; Rochester Cartage, Rochester, Minn.

Preventable or not: Doe’s hole-y night
Armed with a coupon offering “Buy one Mountain Burger and get another at 1/2 price,” John Doe stopped at the West Winds Truck Stop off Interstate 70 in Green River, Utah, and enjoyed a tasty dinner before climbing back behind the wheel of his tractor-trailer.

Later, after treating himself to a dessert of Spicy Ranch Doritos and an Amp Energy soda while traveling down a dark and lonely rural road, Doe decided to pull into the pitch black and semi-destroyed parking lot of a vacant, crumbling Finger Lickin’ Chicken restaurant. The idea was to take a much-needed break and catch up on his logkeeping before continuing the night’s run.

His paperwork completed, Doe stifled a yawn, dialed up a Toby Keith classic on his iPod and then backed the trailer, preparing to exit