FMCSA focusing on drivers, agency’s safety director says

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Trucking safety is affected by the economy, the environment and society, according to Terry Shelton, acting chief safety director of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Shelton – speaking Tuesday, June 30, at the 2009 CCJ Symposium at the Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham, Ala. – told attendees that economic recovery, livability, sustainability and safety are the four priorities stressed by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and that the U.S. Department of Transportation is playing a large part in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA); of the $787 billion total investment, $48.1 billion is dedicated to transportation, with $27.5 billion of that going to highways.

Regarding safety, highway fatalities declined 9 percent between 2007 and 2008, Shelton said; specific numbers for commercial fleets during that timeframe aren’t available yet. Shelton said safety belt use by drivers is up, proving that its outreach programs are working, a considerable feat considering there are 700,000 fleets registered by FMCSA, with 40,000 to 50,000 new registrations annually and about 90 percent of those having 10 or fewer trucks.

Shelton also pointed out other highlights of FMCSA’s driver focus in 2009:

  • Outreach – promoting safety initiatives.
  • Enforcement – specifically, the Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks Program, where a law enforcement officer rides with a truck driver in the cab and calls ahead when he witnesses aggressive driving by another car or truck.
  • Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 – A redesign of FMCSA’s enforcement program, which places emphasis on safety data from inspections. The Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories target seven categories, up from four. A 30-month operational model test began in February 2008 in four states – Colorado, Georgia, Missouri and New Jersey – with two more added this past spring: Montana and Minnesota. “It revolves around the data, and you must check the data,” said Shelton, referring to FMCSA’s new Compass system for improving data quality and accessibility.
  • Rulemakings – The CSA 2010 rulemaking is expected by the end of the year. FMCSA also is working on final rules for electronic onboard recorders, the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, commercial driver’s license learner’s permits, entry-level driver training and the Unified Registration System.
  • Research – The Drowsy Driver Warning System Field Operational Test is a naturalistic data collection study, and the Defensive Driving Tips for CMV Drivers synthesizes literature on defensive driving safety and uses the Large Truck Crash Causation Study critical reason framework. The DriveCam Pilot Test places on a truck’s windshield two cameras, which show the driver’s face and a forward view; two fleets are participating. The CMV Driver Distraction Study characterized 20,000 safety-critical events in naturalistic driving data to assess the frequency and percentage of different types of distractions.
  • Technology – Various technologies FMCSA is researching to determine effectiveness and return on investment include forward-collision warning systems, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning systems, roll stability systems, Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety Systems (which employ lateral drift, lane change/merge and forward collision), SmartPark, the Technology Corridor and Intellidrive.
  • Data programs – Among things “in the hopper” at FMCSA are the Employer Notification Service, Pre-Employment Screening Program and the Drug & Alcohol Database.
  • The 2009 CCJ Symposium is sponsored by ACS Expedited Solutions, Comdata, FuelSurchargeIndex.org, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Navistar Inc., PeopLease Corp., PeopleNet, Roadranger, Shell Lubricants, TravelCenters of America and Whiting Systems Inc.