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DOT OIG outlines challenges facing FMCSA to reduce number of fatalities

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The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation said in 2020 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration must address the growing increase in truck and bus-related fatalities such as the fatality that occurred in this accident that occurred in July on Interstate 15 near Victorville, California, in July.  (Associated Press: JAMES QUIGG/The Daily Press)

WASHINGTON — To enhance the safety of the nation’s roadways, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration must address the increase in fatalities involving large trucks and buses.

So says the report on the Department of Transportation’s Fiscal Year 2020 top management challenges published October 23 by the DOT’s Office of Inspector General.

The report noted that fatalities have consistently risen in recent years — from 4,455 in 2013 to 4,949 in 2018, an 11 percent increase.

“Enhanced enforcement and data analysis are important tools for improving the safety performance of commercial motor carriers and their drivers and vehicles,” the report said.

To begin to reverse the trend, the OIG made three specific recommendations:

  • Ensuring commercial drivers are qualified to operate large trucks and buses
  • Prioritizing motor carriers for interventions
  • Estimating the impact of driver detention on the motor carrier industry

The OIG admitted that because of the volume of drivers and differences in states’ commercial driver’s license (CDL) programs, FMCSA faced challenges in ensuring both drivers and states comply with federal requirements.

In particular, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 requires states to exchange information on commercial drivers through a nationwide information system, and established penalties, including CDL disqualification, for serious traffic violations.

“Yet weaknesses in timely information sharing have led to unqualified drivers remaining on roads,” the OIG said.

The report cited an example where a driver with a Massachusetts CDL was recently arrested in Connecticut for operating under the influence and six weeks later, he was involved in a fatal crash in New Hampshire.

The violation in Connecticut should have resulted in disqualification of the driver’s CDL.

An internal review conducted by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) revealed that RMV officials did not timely review notifications of numerous out-of-state violations. Furthermore, a flaw in RMV’s electronic registry system inappropriately “kicked out” some notifications from other states. RMV has since issued suspensions of over 2,000 CDLs after reviewing its backlog.

The report also called on FMCSA to take action to ensure that commercial drivers maintain valid medical certificates noting that since August 2014, OIG investigations of the medical certification process have resulted in eight indictments and six convictions related to fraud.

The OIG called prioritizing motor carriers for interventions an ongoing challenge for FMCSA

FMCSA uses a data-driven safety compliance and enforcement program called the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program. FMCSA commissioned the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to study the CSA program and developed a corrective action plan to address NAS’s recommendations, but the OIG said a recent audit on FMCSA’s corrective action plan found that the agency had addressed some, but not all, of the NAS recommendations.

“For example, NAS recommended that FMCSA develop an Item Response Theory (IRT) model over the next 2 years, and if it performs well in identifying motor carriers for intervention, to use the model to replace SMS,” the OIG said. “To address this recommendation, FMCSA has developed and tested IRT to gauge its suitability for prioritizing motor carrier safety interventions and plans to decide whether it will adopt IRT by September 2020.”

Further, the OIG said FMCSA’s corrective action plan lacked implementation details to address NAS recommendations on improving the transparency of the agency’s data and also lacked details on improving its assessment of motor carrier safety rankings, such as the use of percentile rankings and relative and absolute measures to support decisions regarding which carriers receive safety alerts. FMCSA plans to address these areas once it decides whether to adopt IRT to prioritize carrier safety interventions, the OIG said.

As for detention, the OIG said FMCSA’s efforts to improve commercial vehicle safety also depend on obtaining an accurate understanding of the role of driver detention within the industry. Specifically, to reduce driver fatigue and fatigue-related crashes, FMCSA’s Hours of Service regulations limit the number of hours a driver can work. Drivers who experience excessive delays at shipping and receiving facilities may violate HOS regulations or drive unsafely because of fatigue or the desire to recover lost income, increasing the risk of crashes that result in fatalities, injuries, and financial costs.

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 directed FMCSA to issue regulations that cover the collection of data on delays experienced by commercial vehicle operators before the loading and unloading of their vehicles. However, in 2018, the OIG said it reported that accurate industrywide data on driver detention do not exist. These data are not available because most industry stakeholders only measure time spent at shippers’ and receivers’ facilities beyond the limit established in shipping contracts. Available electronic data cannot readily discern detention time from legitimate loading and unloading tasks, and are unavailable for a large segment of the industry, the OIG said.

FMCSA data estimated that driver detention increases the likelihood of truck crashes involving fatalities, significant injuries or vehicle towing.

“We estimated that a 15-minute increase in average dwell time—the total time spent by a truck at a facility — increases the average expected crash rate by 6.2 percent. We also estimated that detention is associated with reductions in annual earnings of $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion for for-hire commercial motor vehicle drivers in the truckload sector,” the report said.

Without accurate and representative data, FMCSA faces challenges in accurately describing how the diverse trucking industry experiences driver detention, the report concluded.

 

 

 

 

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The Nation

Lamb, SBTC plans to introduce legislation to stop enforcement of ELD mandate

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The proposed bill the Small Business in Transportation Coalition is planning to have introduced in the House would require the Secretary of Transportation to immediately cease enforcement of the ELD mandate. (The Trucker file photo)

WASHINGTON — James Lamb is taking his fight against electronic logging devices right back to where the current mandate for ELDs was birthed.

The head of the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) said Wednesday he plans to have introduced in the House the “Suspension of Electronic Logging Device Mandate to Protect Americans Working in Interstate Commerce Act” which would suspend the current ELD mandate.

The electronic devices were mandated by Congress as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century transportation bill passed in 2012.

Lamb said he would name sponsors of the bill when it is formally introduced.

He said he hopes to have an identical version of the bill introduced in the Senate.

The bill would direct the Secretary of Transportation to:

  • Immediately cease enforcement of the ELD rule promulgated at 49 CFR 395.8 (a)
  • Require carriers to revert back to paper record of duty status logs
  • Study the unintended consequences and effects of ELDs on operators of commercial motor vehicles
  • Determine whether commercial motor vehicle operators have experienced adverse psychological effects that have induced reckless speeding and have caused an increase in large-truck occupant fatalities since implementation of the ELD rule in December 2017.

Meanwhile, the SBTC has asked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to delay the December 16 deadline for carriers using Automatic On Board Recording Devices to switch to ELDs.

In addition, Lamb and his organization, which reportedly has 15,000 members, are currently circulating an online petition to get the federal government to immediately suspend the ELD rule.

As of Wednesday, some 32,000 trucking stakeholders had signed the petition, which Lamb plans to present to the White House. He hopes to get 100,000 signatures by November 29.

The bill and the petition are only the latest efforts in Lamb’s fight against ELDs.

The first effort came when in February 2018 Lamb and the SBTC filed an application for an exemption from the ELD rule for carriers with fewer than 50 employees.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration denied the petition in July of this year and in late October, the SBTC filed an application for reconsideration of the denial.

The FMCSA immediately published a notice in the Federal Register seeking comments on the reconsideration application.

When Lamb filed the original exemption application, the FMCSA said it received over 1,900 comment, most in favor of the exemption.

Among other things, in the proposed legislation, Lamb says:

  • The ELD mandate must “must “ensure that… the responsibilities imposed on operators of commercial motor vehicles do not impair their ability to operate the vehicles safely…”
  • In 2018, the first full year the new ELD rule was in effect for the trucking industry to enforce commercial motor vehicle operators’ compliance with hours of service regulations, a total of 885 large truck occupants perished in crashes last year. That number marks the most since 1988. (The fatality total included all large trucks, which the federal government defines as trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more; most Class 8 trucks such as tractor-trailers carry a GVWR of 33,001 pounds or more).
  • The number of speeding violations issued to U.S. truck drivers increased 7.8 percent in 2018, climbing to 146,945 violations, according to FMCSA data. The number of violations issued to truckers for driving 15 mph or more above limits rose 10.3 percent last year.

The bill would require the Secretary of Transportation to do a study to determine if a correlation exists between the implementation of the ELD rule in December 2017 and the rise in truck speeding incidents and large truck occupant fatalities in 2018.

Talk about electronic logging devices goes back to at least 2000 when the newly-created FMCSA first attempted to reform Hours of Service regulations to mandate the use of electronic tracking devices. This attempt to mandate HOS tracking with an ELD device was shot down by a 2004 court order.

 

 

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The Nation

James Lamb issues last call for truckers to sign ELD suspension petition

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The SBTC's Electronic Loggin Device Suspension Petition has gather 32,000 signatures toward the goal of 100,000. (The Trucker file photo)

WASHINGTON — Small Business in Transportation Coalition Executive Director James Lamb Tuesday called for a final push over the next week to increase the number of signatures on an Electronic Logging Device Suspension Petition.

The petition calls on President Donald J. Trump to direct the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to act on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) findings and immediately suspend ELDs until unintended consequences can be studied to decide if the rule is ripe for repeal.

The petition can be accessed here.

Lamb said the NHTSA findings and unintended consequences revolve around recently-released statistics showing an increase in the number of fatalities involving large trucks.

The petition currently has 32,000 signatures.

Lamb set a goal of 100,000 signatures by November 29.

“We believe these data prove the ELD mandate took us ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire,’” Lamb said. Immediately, numerous trucking groups including “Black Smoke Matters” and “Trucker Nation” joined the SBTC’s efforts, he added.

Lamb said the new data show that in 2018, the first full year the new ELD rule was in effect for the trucking industry to enforce commercial motor vehicle operators’ compliance with Hours of Service regulations, an average of more than two occupants of large trucks died daily.

“This is the highest number of such deaths since 1988, making this statistic a 30-year high,” Lamb said. “We believe ELDs have caused drivers anxiety to such levels that many now recklessly speed to beat the clock. These data show the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was wrong that ELDs would save 26 lives per year.”

NHTSA defines large trucks as trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more.

Lamb also claimed many ELDs routinely malfunction and are unreliable.

“Case in point: the recent major crash of Omnitracs,” he said. “This poses public safety concerns if drivers have not been properly trained on how to use paper logs as a backup. and sheer chaos could result.”

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The Nation

Carriers on losing end as cargo thefts show upward trend; electronics most targeted product

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SensiGuard report indicated cargo thefts were up over Q2 2019 and Q3 2018, with electronics being the most often targeted product.

Sensitech United Technologies, a company specializing in supply chain integrity and visibility, has released its 2019 third quarter report on Cargo Theft based on data tracked by SensiGuard, a division of the firm dedicated to cargo security. The latest statistics do not include information truck carriers will find positive.

Cargo Theft Overview

In Q3 of 2019, a total of 165 nationwide cargo thefts were placed in the SensiGuard database, and the report notes that this figure will likely rise as late reports are received. The data shows monthly distribution of thefts as being 46 in July, 67 in August, and 52 in September with an average loss per incident of $155,709. The total thefts and average value represent increases over Q2 data by 13% and 31%, respectively. Compared to the same quarter in 2018, volume increased by 3% while value was down 8%.

Theft by Product

Of the 165 thefts reported, electronics were the target of the most thieves (22%), moving the product up two spots from the Q2 2019 report. The average value of electronics stolen per incident came in at $331,443, bolstered by single-incident thefts in California and Kentucky exceeding $1 million. Rounding out the top three product types stolen are Home and Garden (19%) and Food and Drinks (14%). It should be noted that Food and Drinks do not include Alcohol, which at 2% represents the lowest of any category tracked. Alcohol thefts were down 47% from Q2 2019 figures and 88% from Q3 2018. Clothing and Shoes thefts continued an increasing trend (33% over Q2), as did Home and Garden (35% over Q2).

Theft by State/Location

California reports the highest percentage of thefts among the states (26% of nationwide total), substantially increasing its lead over Texas (10%), the widening gap largely attributed to rush shipments from China ahead of tariffs. The quantity of container freight combined with limited security resources is reported as a major factor influencing California’s ranking. Following Texas, Georgia came in third place in incidents reported (9%), followed by Florida (<9%), and a three-way tie for fifth place between New Jersey, Illinois, and Tennessee (6%). In terms of the physical location of incidents, Unsecured Parking remains the most likely target (74%), followed by Warehouses (15%) and Secured Parking (11%).

Event Type

The most prevalent method of theft continues to be at the Full Truckload level (56%), with the average truckload cargo value of $166,787. This data is a decrease from Q2 2019 and Q3 2018 figures. Pilferage had set a record for five consecutive quarters; however, in Q3 2019 it fell 1%. The value of products stolen by Pilferage also decreased 29% below Q2 2019 data. Facility Thefts were up 59% over Q2 2019, although the average value attributed to this location ($189,800) decreased. Fictitious Pickup of products increased over previous quarters and represented 5% of total thefts.

In the report’s concluding statements, SensiGuard suggested that any decreases in the number of incidents of value per incident do not necessarily represent trends. “…The organized cargo thief is still shifting tactics to evade capture…” the report noted. Likewise, the report stated, “High value or low security will not be the only determining factors in theft risk to cargo as thieves will adjust to increased risk and modify their efforts accordingly.”

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