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OOIDA: Speed limiters constrain small businesses, would cause more crashes

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Ooida: speed limiters constrain small businesses, would cause more crashes
Speed limiters create dangerous driving conditions, including challenges navigating merges and running blockades (known as elephant races) that increase "road rage" among other drivers. Arbitrary speed limits make it difficult for truck drivers to switch lanes to accommodate merging traffic at entrance ramps – or to merge themselves, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said in a letter of opposition to the current speed limiter bill. (The Trucker: LYNDON FINNEY)

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — Mandating the use of speed limiters set at 65 mph takes control of a commercial motor vehicle out of the hands of the driver and unnecessarily constrains small businesses, the president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told two senators who have introduced legislation that require such devices in all CMVs to promote safety on America’s highways.

“There are countless scenarios where a driver’s expertise and discretion is needed to avoid an accident or other dangerous situations, but their abilities would be arbitrarily curtailed by speed limiters,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said in a July 11 letter to Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Chris Coons, D-Del. “Rather than mandating speed limiters, the most efficient and cost-effective means to promote safer roads is simply enforcing existing speed limits, which Congress authorized states to set based on their own unique factors. Additionally, Congress should consider measures that would actually improve safety, such as enhanced training that would help drivers understand how their rate of speed affects safety.”

The legislation, S.2033) in question is called the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act of 2019, named after Cullum Owings, who was killed by a speeding tractor-trailer during a trip back to college in Virginia after Thanksgiving in 2002.

Isakson spokeswoman Marie Gordon said making the bipartisan legislation was a top priority for him “and we’ll be working hard to demonstrate that this is a commonsense idea that will protect millions of America’s drivers.”

OOIDA says it represents the interests of owner-operators, small-business motor carriers, and professional truck drivers. It has more than 160,000 members located in all 50 states.

Spencer said the bill would not only fail to improve safety but would likely lead to more crashes involving CMVs.

“We are adamantly opposed to S. 2033 and any other federal mandate that would create a separate nationwide speed limit for CMVs,” Spencer wrote, noting that by establishing a one-size-fits-all federal mandate limiting CMVs to 65 mph, the legislation would create dangerous speed differentials between CMVs and other vehicles.

“Decades of highway research shows greater speed differentials increase interactions between truck drivers and other road users,” Spencer said. “Studies have consistently demonstrated that increasing interactions between vehicles directly increases the likelihood of crashes. Speed limiters also create dangerous driving conditions, including challenges navigating merges and running blockades (known as elephant races) that increase ‘road rage’ among other drivers. Arbitrary speed limits make it difficult for truck drivers to switch lanes to accommodate merging traffic at entrance ramps – or to merge themselves. Other drivers often react to these situations in aggressive and unpredictable ways, creating unnecessary hazards for themselves and our members.”

Spencer said speed limiting trucks also increases pressure and stress on professional drivers to complete their work.

“Truckers required to operate below the posted speed limit are forced to drive maximum hours to cover the same distance, which increases their fatigue and places even greater stress on them to comply with burdensome Hours of Service regulations,” he said. “Furthermore, our members who have used speed-limited trucks report feeling pressure to drive faster on roads where they would prefer to drive slower in order to keep their schedule.”

Speed limiting trucks also increases pressure and stress on professional drivers to complete their work, Spencer said, adding that truckers required to operate below the posted speed limit are forced to drive maximum hours to cover the same distance, which increases their fatigue and places even greater stress on them to comply with HOS.

“Furthermore, our members who have used speed-limited trucks report feeling pressure to drive faster on roads where they would prefer to drive slower in order to keep their schedule,” he said.

The two senators said another reason for introducing the legislation was to circumvent the Trump administration’s Department of Transportation, which has delayed any action on the proposed rule indefinitely as part of a sweeping retreat from regulations, which the president says slow the economy.

The rule, which didn’t propose a top speed but said the government had studied 60, 65 and 68 mph, has been at a standstill since it moved through the public comment stage in November of 2016 toward the end of the Obama administration. The next action on the rule is listed as “undetermined” on a federal website.

Spencer said even the proposed rule, a joint proposal by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pointed out that “this joint rulemaking could put owner-operators and small fleet owners…at a disadvantage in some circumstances.”

“One remaining competitive advantage for small trucking companies over their larger competitors is the lack of a need to speed limit trucks for fleet management purposes,” Spencer said. “Instead, small trucking businesses are able to operate at the speeds determined to be safe by state officials, which in many cases is above 65 mph. Indeed, FMCSA and NHTSA concluded that as a result of losing this advantage, ‘some of the affected owner-operators would work for trucking companies as independent contractors.’”

 

 

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The Nation

House endorses adopting California AB5 provisions at federal level

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U.s. house of representatives passes pro act; endorses adopting california ab5 law at federal level
Owner-operators and carriers are weary of California's AB5 morphing into federal law. Introduced as the PRO Act, the proposed legislation will have far-reaching impacts on all sectors of the trucking industry.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation similar to California’s AB5 law in that it requires employers to prove that independent contractors used in conducting business should not be classified as employees. The controversial California law, as applied to the trucking industry, is currently under an injunction imposed by a U.S. District Court judge that prohibits its enforcement. California-based carriers, the California Trucking Association (CTA) and owner-operators doing business in the state, as well as trucking organizations on national and state levels, have all publicly opposed AB5. The Trucker previously reported that industry leaders feared a law like AB5 would spread beyond California’s borders. With Congress considering the “Protecting the Right to Organize” (PRO) Act (HR 2474), those fears appear credible.

As widely discussed in trucking-industry circles, AB5 places the burden upon employers when classifying workers as employees or independent contractors. If a worker’s circumstances do not pass all components of a three-prong test, the individual is deemed an employee, a classification impacting company operations and the individual’s ability to choose working status. For this reason, many owner-operators who entered the business for its self-employment opportunities oppose AB5.

The federal PRO legislation incorporates the same tests imposed under AB5 and applies them nationwide. CTA contends that AB5 is prohibited under federal law, an argument with which the judge ruling in favor of the request for an injunction was noted as appearing to agree. With the injunction in place, the PRO Act could be considered a case of amending federal law for the purpose of allowing a state law to be enforceable.

The language in the federal act as included in Section 2(a)(2) defines an employee under the same terms as discussed in AB5. As with the California law, the sticking point relates to the (B) prong of the test. Under the (B) prong, a company cannot hire an independent contractor to perform tasks, inherent to the company’s business, which other employees already perform. A carrier in the business of moving freight and employing individuals who move freight could not hire an independent contractor to perform similar tasks.

Should PRO receive U.S. Senate approval, something political pundits doubt is possible, it would be passed to President Donald Trump to either sign into law or veto. Of the two, a veto seems most likely, as the administration has stated PRO “appears to cut and paste the core provisions of California’s controversial AB5, which severely restricts self-employment. AB5 is actively threatening the existence of both the franchise business sector and the gig economy in California. It would be a serious mistake for Congress to impose this flawed job-killing policy on the entire country.”

Truckers nationwide should remain in tune with further action on PRO. It may impact many careers.

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OKC police confirm security guard who shot truck driver at TA has died by suicide

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police lights stock photo
A security guard who discharged his weapon, shooting a truck driver during an altercation at an Oklahoma City TA Travel Center, has taken his own life.

OKLAHOMA CITY — A security guard who shot a truck driver earlier this month during an altercation with a truck driver in Oklahoma City has died by suicide.

Sgt. Brad Gilmore, assistant public-information officer with the Oklahoma City Police Department, confirmed that 45-year-old George Bischoff went to a local shooting range, Big Boys Guns, Ammo & Range, on Feb. 20 around 1:35 p.m. and took his own life with a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Bischoff had been questioned twice regarding an altercation that took place Feb. 14 around 4:30 a.m. in which he confronted a truck driver, 42-year-old Paul Sisk, at a TA Travel Center in Oklahoma City regarding a reserved parking space.

“Somewhere during that altercation, it became physical and the security guard fired one shot, hitting the truck driver,” Gilmore said. “The truck driver was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and has since been released.”

Gilmore said the security guard was initially questioned following the incident but at that time, Gilmore said, police had not yet had a chance to talk to the truck driver.

“The security guard was brought back in and questioned again, and we were in the process of discussing the case with the district attorney’s office; and on our end, charges had not been filed,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore could not confirm whether the gun used at the range was rented or owned by Bischoff, but he said local news outlets have reported that the gun was rented.  Gilmore said the incident remains under investigation.

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Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse identifies nearly 8,000 substance-abuse violations

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Fmcsa’s drug and alcohol clearinghouse identifies nearly 8,000 substance-abuse violations in first weeks of operation
FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse program is designed to improve road safety by identifying drivers who are barred from driving commercial vehicles due to drug violations. (iStock photo)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released data on Feb. 21 following the first weeks of operation of its Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. The information released showed the clearinghouse has detected and identified nearly 8,000 positive substance-abuse tests of commercial drivers since Jan. 6. The clearinghouse now has more than 650,000 registrants.

“We’ve seen encouraging results from the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, but there’s still work to do to ensure we identify more drivers who should not be behind the wheel. The clearinghouse is a positive step, and the Agency continues to work closely with industry, law enforcement, and our state partners to ensure its implementation is effective,” said Jim Mullen, FMCSA acting administrator.

The clearinghouse is aimed at improving road safety by providing FMCSA and employers with the necessary tools to identify drivers who have violated federal drug and alcohol testing program requirements and are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle. The goal of the clearinghouse is to ensure that such drivers receive the required evaluation and treatment before they have the opportunity to resume driving.

Those required to register for the clearinghouse include:

  • Employers of commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders, or their designated service agents, and medical review officers who report drug and alcohol program violations that occurred on or after Jan. 6, 2020;
  • Employers or their designated service agents who conduct required queries that inform them whether prospective or current employees have drug and alcohol program violations in their clearinghouse records. Employers must purchase a query plan before conducting queries in the clearinghouse – query plans must be purchased from the FMCSA clearinghouse website only;
  • Drivers who respond to employer consent requests or would like to view their clearinghouse record when applying for a job; and
  • Substance abuse professionals who report on the completion of driver initial assessments and driver eligibility for return-to-duty testing for violations committed on or after Jan. 6, 2020.

There is no cost for registration. Commercial drivers are not required to immediately register for the clearinghouse but will need to register to respond to an employer’s request for consent prior to a pre-employment query or other full query being conducted. In addition, employers must be registered during the first year of implementation to ensure they are able to conduct the required annual query on all employed drivers.

Combatting drug abuse has been a top priority of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Trump Administration. President Trump has brought attention to the nation’s opioid crisis by declaring it a nationwide public health emergency and has implemented critical federal initiatives to help reduce opioid abuse.

For information about FMCSA’s clearinghouse program, including user brochures and instructional aids with step-by-step registration instructions, visit clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov.

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