Safety

PHMSA seeks ban on handheld phones

Proposal could affect nearly 1,500 intrastate carriers

Five months after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a proposed rule to prohibit commercial truck and bus drivers from using handheld cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has followed suit with a similar proposal for intrastate drivers operating motor vehicles containing a quantity of hazardous materials requiring placarding or any quantity of a select agent or toxin.

PHMSA says it developed the latest Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to expand the limitations to intrastate hazmat commerce and that about 1,490 intrastate motor carriers could be affected by the rulemaking. The agency says the NPRM would reduce distracted driving-related crashes, fatalities and injuries involving CMV drivers.

Comments on PHMSA’s NPRM are due by June 29. To comment, go to www.regulations.gov; the docket number is PHMSA–2010–0227.



FMCSA tightens CDL testing rules

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a final rule amending the commercial driver’s license knowledge and skills testing standards and establishing new minimum federal standards for states to issue a commercial learner’s permit. FMCSA said the final rule will enhance safety by ensuring that only qualified drivers are allowed to operate commercial motor vehicles.

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FMCSA said the final rule will enhance safety by ensuring that only qualified drivers are allowed to operate CMVs.

 The final rule requires that a CLP holder meet virtually the same requirements as those for a CDL holder, meaning that a driver holding a CLP will be subject to the same driver disqualification penalties that apply to a CDL holder. The rule also specifically prohibits a motor carrier from using a driver who does not hold a current and appropriate CLP or CDL to operate a commercial motor vehicle and from using a driver to operate a vehicle in violation of the restrictions on the CLP or CDL.

“These measures will help us to better identify and swiftly weed out unsafe and irresponsible operators,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro.

Successful completion of a knowledge test, currently a prerequisite for the CDL, now will be required before issuance of the CLP. In addition, the final rule requires that each applicant obtain a CLP and hold it for a minimum of 14 days before applying for a CDL.



IN BRIEF

* North Dakota and Indiana became the 31st and 32nd states to ban texting while driving. Violators in North Dakota face a $100 fine, while violators in Indiana face a maximum fine of $500. In addition, Indiana will prohibit cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18.

* The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Jack Van Steenburg has been appointed assistant administrator and chief safety officer of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Prior to his appointment, Van Steenburg was director of FMCSA’s Enforcement and Compliance Division, where he led all enforcement programs.

* FMCSA data released last month shows 78 percent of commercial truck and bus drivers wore safety belts while operating behind the wheel in 2010 compared to 74 percent in 2009. According to FMCSA’s Safety Belt Usage by Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Survey, the number of commercial drivers that are wearing safety belts has increased by 14 percent since 2007. The 2010 survey observed 26,830 commercial drivers operating medium- to heavy-duty trucks and buses at 998 roadside sites nationwide.

* The National Private Truck Council recognized the following fleet members that experienced the lowest ratio of accidents per million miles for the past year: CVS Transportation, Milliken & Co., Webster Industries Inc., Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Hittman Transport Services Inc., Jerico Services Inc., Moen Inc., ADM Trucking Inc., Frito-Lay Inc., Kraft Foods Inc., Orgill Inc., Marzetti Co. and Targa Transport.



Preventable or Not

Good ol’ boy ruins Doe’s day

At 6:30 a.m., fortified by a cup of coffee, John Doe halted his northbound tractor-trailer at a red light within the city limits of Goshdang, Miss. The sun was shining, the road straight ahead was dry and devoid of traffic, and only the songs of birds could be heard – Wait a minute! – until Doe detected the sounds of increasingly loud country music. Glancing at the lane to his right, Doe witnessed the high-decibel arrival of an elderly and battered Ford pickup truck.

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Realizing the roadway was soon to become a single lane, John Doe still was unable to avoid colliding with a pickup truck whose driver didn’t want to get stuck behind his 18-wheeler. Was this a preventable accident?

Replete with a rear-window gun rack and a good-ol’-boy driver wearing a John Deere cap, the pickup also stopped at the red traffic signal, maintaining a high idle. A moment later, the light changed to green. Accelerating to 5 mph, Doe saw that the roadway was soon to become a single lane – his lane, he thought. In turn, the pickup’s driver, aware that the right lane was ending, decided he didn’t want to get stuck behind a slow 18-wheeler.

Accordingly, the pickup accelerated heavily, wildly pulled in front of Doe’s tractor and – WHAM!!! – caused $800 damage to the tractor’s right front fender and $500 damage to the pickup’s left rear fender. The long arm of the law quickly arrived and cited the pickup’s driver for an unsafe lane change.

Shortly thereafter, Doe’s safety director wrote him a warning letter for a preventable accident. The judgment was upheld by the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee. NSC ruled that Doe should have expected the pickup to try and get ahead of him, and he should have watched his mirrors in case he needed to yield quickly.



CVSA recommends radioactive cargo technologies

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance is recommending that the U.S. Department of Energy choose the most reliable and promising technologies for future use and pay special attention to shipment security and tracking. CVSA presented the findings of its report titled “Safety and Security Technologies for Radioactive Material Shipments” last month at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management’s National Transportation Stakeholders Forum in Denver. Specific technologies that currently are available and that CVSA recommends are RFID, GPS, biometrics, seals and locks.

The report recommends DOE involve the regional state government groups in the overall process; pay special attention to shipment security and tracking; make a special effort to involve stakeholders from states who currently do en route inspections due to state laws or policies; upgrade Transcom to report in real time the dose rate measurements of the package; and follow the progress of the Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program Project report studying electronic shipping papers.