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State DOT officials call for greater emphasis on safety

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State dot officials call for greater emphasis on safety
Roger Millar, at podium, secretary of the Washington DOT, said more data-driven processes are needed to provide information for targeted investments. Millar is shown, from left, George McAuley, PennDOT;  Julie Lorenz, Kansas DOT; and Mike Tooley, Montana DOT. (Courtesy: AASHTO JOURNAL)

PARK CITY, Utah — A greater emphasis needs to be placed on safety by state departments of transportation, according to a panel discussion held at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2019 spring meeting here.

Mike Tooley, director of the Montana Department of Transportation, moderated the panel discussion and noted that, “safety needs to be our most important job, because, if you can’t survive the trip, transportation becomes a quality of life and public health issue.”

According to a report in the Journal, AASHTO’s official publication, Tooley, recently named chairman of AASHTO’s Committee on Safety and a 28-year veteran of the Montana State Highway Patrol, said “we need to have more conversations and change the culture not only in our departments but with the people behind the wheel [of motor vehicles]. The person behind the wheel needs to adopt a culture of safety; we can’t engineer our way out of this. The whole goal is to move to zero fatalities because no other number is acceptable.”

Julie Lorenz, secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation, echoed Tooley’s point, noting that “we do not have the same urgency for safety in the public sector as there is in the private sector.”

She stressed that state DOTs “have to push safety every single day; that will inform everything I do as long as I have this job.”

Shawn Wilson, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and recently appointed chair of AASHTO’s Agency Administration Managing Committee, said more than 700 people were killed in fatal crashes on his state’s roads in 2018, generating $8.6 billion a year in crash-related spending.

“The key thing is, who are the people involved in these crashes? Many, we are finding out, are tourists,” Wilson said. “We are also finding drugged driving is a big issue, with opioids and marijuana, as well as distracted driving. We’ve also seen an alarming uptick in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities – they’re up 20 percent – so we’re trying to be more progressive with the adoption of national standards to protect those users.”

He added, however, that funding is an issue. “We’re only spending $60 million to $70 million a year on safety. And I like to say we have a wheelbarrow full of needs for transportation but only a thimbleful of funds,” Wilson said “So we need to make better decisions with that funding so we can save more lives and reduce deaths on our system.”

Yet Jay Norris, director of safety at the Tennessee Department of Transportation, emphasized that overcoming such challenges is what state DOTs do best. “We’ve dealt with flooding, tornadoes, wildfires; we can deal with this,” he said. “Our people are our most important resource.”

To that end, Ed Hassinger, deputy director and chief engineer of the Missouri Department of Transportation, noted that a “realignment of values and mission statements” is one tactic his agency is employing to “deal” with the safety issue.

“Safety, service, and stability is now our mantra,” he said. “We are realigning the things we’re doing around safety. For example, we used to allocate our safety funds based on the number of crashes that occurred on particular roadways. Now we’re allocating them based on fatalities and rate our [transportation] projects on how well they can contribute to reduced fatalities. We’re putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to safety.”

George McAuley, deputy secretary of highway administration for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the new chair of the steering committee guiding the AASHTO Innovation Initiative, added that 94 percent of all motor vehicle crashes have a “human behavior component,” according to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And one way of reducing if not eliminating that as a safety issue is the broad deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles or CAVs.

“CAVs offer a huge opportunity to reduce [fatality] numbers,” he explained. “I don’t know how that future trends out, but the advantage is that human behavior factors go away as a factor if CAVs are deployed widely over the next decade. So by 2030 and 2040 we could witness a huge decline in [traffic] fatalities. It’s not that far out – in 10 years I think we’ll see quite a bit of [CAV] volume. So we need to make sure our infrastructure is aligned and ready for it.”

Roger Millar, secretary of the Washington Department of Transportation, noted that most state DOTs won’t have enough money to do everything they need to do when it comes to safety improvements. “Thus we’ll need more data-driven processes that will provide a basis for regional administrators and others to make targeted investments with the resources we have,” he said.

Millar emphasized that “this needs to become a real focus” for state DOTs for “as we encourage more people to walk and ride bicycles to be healthier, we don’t want them to be killed doing it. Roughly 40 percent of the trips people take go less than five miles. But they take the vast majority of those trips in cars because it is the only way to do it safely. So we need to change our design standards from ones highly-oriented around passenger vehicle mobility to personal mobility; ones not focusing on the mobility ‘containers’ we use to move around.”

He also noted that “this can be a very polarizing conversation, so we need to bring data and safety perspective to it. We need to recognize effective designs can provide optimal safety performance. And we’re really interested in ‘mobility on demand’ or ‘mobility as a service’ as they’ll help us bring more tools to the transportation game.”

 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Christian standard

    June 4, 2019 at 12:26 am

    As they say all of this non sense, they continue to raise the speed limits on highways exceeding 80 mph. Hmmmm, common sense much?

    What a waste of our tax dollars for these yahoo talking heads. Fricking mouth breathers!

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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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