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March 2016

Three perspectives on Motor Carrier safety


iStock 000005913775Medium 1Focusing on Driver Behavior is Key

Everything we do at the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) is connected to motor carrier safety, but our specific focus is on the North American roadside commercial motor vehicle (CMV) inspection program. We assist member jurisdictions with implementing a variety of CMV safety programs, such as roadside inspections conducted at check stops and weigh-ins throughout North America.

The biggest challenge in motor carrier safety we need to address is driver behavior. Looking at the statistics, the driver’s lapse of judgment, driving over hours, driving fatigued and distracted driving are some of the biggest issues in transportation safety.

We host annual programs to promote CMV safety. In June, we hold the International Roadcheck event, which is a 72-hour period of CMV checks performed by CVSA-certified local, state, provincial and federal inspectors in strategic locations throughout North America. The checks focus not only on mechanical safety and inspections, but also on driver evaluations such as looking at a driver’s hours of service, operating requirements and any signs of impairment.

In October, we host Operation Safe Driver Week, which focuses on both commercial and passenger vehicle traffic enforcement and compliance. It enforces safe driving habits such as safe lane changes, no speeding, no texting while driving, etc., and provides education about how passenger vehicles can safely share the road with CMVs.

We’re very supportive of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new requirement that electronic logging devices (ELDs) be in all commercial vehicles by 2017. We feel it’s going to greatly enhance safety because the electronic recording of hours is going to encourage drivers to follow hours-of-service limitations.

In the long term, there will be autonomous vehicles and trucks, and the driver will begin to play less and less of a factor in operating a CMV. Until then, however, there are a number of advancements in technology that assist in the safe operation of CMVs, such as the lane departure warning (LDW) systems or advanced emergency braking systems (AEBS), which alert the driver if he or she becomes distracted. With all of these enhancements in technology, we hope to see a reduction in injuries and fatalities on our roadways.

iStock 000005913775Medium 2Proposed Rules and Regulations Will Increase Safety

American Trucking Associations (ATA) is a safety first organization. As we discuss important industry issues, the first questions we always ask are: How does this impact safety, and is there an opportunity to make it safer?

The majority of all traffic accidents, regardless of whether a truck is involved or not, are the result of human error. Therefore, our top priority is to shift law enforcement’s focus to looking at driver behavior rather than simply roadside inspections.

We also have a number of other safety priorities for the year ahead. One is making sure the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, which is coming out this spring, is adequate and effective. The database will hold the drug and alcohol test results for drivers with CDLs. We’ll continue to push for an Employer Notification System (ENS) that will allow employers to discover driver violations sooner. There’s also the proposed federal entry-level driver training rule, requiring minimum training standards.

ATA communicates a message of safety with advocacy programs such as America’s Road Team and Share the Road. America’s Road Team is an outreach program of about 20 of the finest truck driver volunteers who help communicate the message of safe trucking. Share the Road teaches the public how to safely drive in proximity to a commercial truck or bus. Allowing people to sit in the cab of the “Share the Road” truck to see the “No-Zone,” or the large blind spots around commercial vehicles, helps them understand the danger areas around trucks and buses and how to avoid them.

The number of large trucks involved in crashes that result in a fatality or injury has decreased over the past 10 years, and I expect that trend to continue. The industry has embraced many recent regulations aimed at improving motor carrier safety. We’re expecting a proposed vehicle speed limiter rule, also known as a governor, to be published soon, which would cap commercial vehicles’ top speeds. I’m optimistic for the future and expect more good things to come from the industry.

iStock 000005913775Medium 3aSafety and Registration are Better Together

Motor carriers want to put the most qualified drivers behind the wheel. However, the combination of a growing demand for the transportation of goods and many drivers retiring or leaving the industry has caused a shortage of experienced commercial vehicle drivers. This is one of the most important issues in terms of motor carrier safety because better drivers mean safer roads.

In order to promote commercial vehicle safety, the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC), which regulates motor carriers in the state, began to require motor carriers applying for intrastate authority to attend a safety class. Instructors discuss intra- and interstate rules and regulations, hours of service, size and weight issues, etc. The Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) also offers safety compliance seminars throughout the state. These classes cover similar topics.

About 10 years ago, the Kansas DMV became a member of FMCSA’s Performance and Registration Information Systems Management (PRISM), which aims to target high-risk carriers. And in 2012, our legislature passed a bill that ended Kansas’ property tax on motor carriers in exchange for a registration fee to be applied to all commercial vehicles. By doing this we brought all intrastate vehicles into the International Registration Plan (IRP) system, and, as of Jan. 1, 2014, we now have one commercial vehicle registration system. We feel that tying safety and registration together helps to keep unsafe motor carriers off the road.

In Kansas, we value the opportunity to volunteer on committees and serve on task forces or working groups that promote motor carrier safety. I am on AAMVA’s Driver Standing Committee, and several other State of Kansas employees are members of AAMVA working groups. These meetings are great opportunities to learn from and share ideas with other jurisdictions about safety issues.

I think many changes are on the horizon for motor carrier safety with the technology that is available. IRP, Inc. organized a working group in which IRP board and jurisdiction members, IRP staff, AAMVA, CVSA and IFTA are researching electronic vehicle credentialing. If all carriers were scanned at the inspection stations, the ones that are operating on out-of-service and other suspension orders would not be able to bypass the inspection or a mobile reader. It will electronically alert law enforcement to the situation with the motor carrier, forcing the unsafe carriers to address their safety and registration issues, and allowing the safe motor carriers to stay on the road.