Turn Signals – Issue 76

Top officials at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported that too many truck drivers are dying in highway crashes, and these fatalities are increasing. There were 851 truck-driver deaths in 2017, an increase from 725 in 2016 and 665 in 2015. It is not known what the total truck miles traveled were during those years to properly understand how the years compare. Another troubling statistic is 38% of the truckers who died were not wearing seatbelts. Also, of particular concern to FMCSA is the increase of fatalities happening in highway construction zones. The agency says the top five driver factors in the fatal accidents have been speeding, distractions such as cell phone use, failure to yield right of way, impairment including fatigue, and careless driving.

The area includes Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Allentown, and major freight lanes along Interstates 76, 78, 81, 83, and 95. The culprit is the spotted lanternfly, a Southeast Asia species discovered first in 2014 and now spreading. It is highly destructive to hardwoods and various fruit trees. Carriers that pick up and deliver freight in the quarantine zone must have a manager take an online course from the state’s department of agriculture. The manager will then train the drivers, dispatchers, and other personnel on the required procedures and will obtain permits to be put onboard all trucks in the affected area. Drivers must also possess records of inspection activities, such as vehicle washes. Trucks driving through the area and not making freight stops do not have to register. Enforcement of the permit requirements by state officials will begin on May 1st.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance sent to the FMCSA administer a letter complaining that too many exemptions have been granted to carriers over the electronic logging device rules. The organization for highway enforcement officials says FMCSA has granted nearly 50 changes for various truckers using ELDs since 2015, and there were already dozens of other exemptions in place before then. The numerous exemptions cause confusion and extra training for inspectors. CVSA also complained about the recent changes to the personal conveyance rules, saying they lack “definitive language” and leave it up to the trooper to determine what is “reasonable”. The group urges FMCSA to give it a seat at the table when considering highway regulatory changes.

CVSA is also concerned FMCSA approved an electronic rearview camera system in place of the required two rearward facing mirrors. While there are clear safety benefits using the camera system, troopers would lose a key technique in evaluating a driver they are about to inspect. As they approach a truck, inspectors watch the driver via the outside mirror to monitor his behavior and assess if anything suspicious is going on.

Did you know….. Motor carriers have been extremely compliant in installing and using electronic logging devices. A year after ELDs became required in most interstate trucks, FMCSA reports less than 1% of 2.3 million truck inspections found no ELD being operated.

Published by Nicholas Wingerter and TRUCK SAFETY
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