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Obese Truck Drivers More Likely to Crash in First Two Years

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By Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the Nov. 12 print edition of Transport Topics.

Obese Truck Drivers More Likely to Crash in First Two Years on the Job, Study Says

Severely obese truck drivers are significantly more likely than their peers to be involved in preventable crashes in their first two years on the job, University of Minnesota researchers said in a study published this month.

Researchers looked at more than 700 drivers who were hired by truckload carrier Schneider National Inc., Green Bay, Wis., in 2006 and found that drivers with a body mass index of 35 or higher were 54% more likely to get into crashes than the average of all the drivers, according to the study published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.

BMI is a factor of a person’s weight and height, and 35 or higher is categorized as “severely” obese.

“We think it’s a real finding: the severely obese do have a higher risk of accidents that we care about,” Stephen Burks, a University of Minnesota, Morris, professor of economics who led the research, told Transport Topics.

When Burks’ team isolated the most severe crashes, they found that the most obese drivers were still about 50% more likely to be involved in the crashes, Burks said. But the team did not have enough data to make a statistically significant conclusion for the worst crashes, he said.

However, because the data show that minor crashes indicate a risk for more serious ones, Burks said, it is safe to conclude that obese drivers are more at risk of serious crashes.

“About 95% of all accidents are not a great managerial, public-policy concern, except when they tell you about more serious accidents,” he said. The research considered only preventable crashes, Burks said.

He speculated that obstructive sleep apnea is likely to blame for the increased crash risk.

“That’s probably 75% of it,” he said.

Sleep apnea causes sufferers to stop breathing for some periods of time while they sleep, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. That decreases the amount of oxygen that goes to the brain, which can cause people to be less alert or attentive and to fall asleep unexpectedly during the day.

Obesity is one of the top risk factors for sleep apnea, Burks said. His team is researching the potential link between sleep apnea and crash risk, but it has not published any findings on that yet.
Recognizing the risks associated with the condition, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans to recommend that obese commercial drivers be screened for OSA — and treated if they have it — before being allowed to drive (10-15, p. 5). FMCSA would ask that medical professionals screen all drivers with a BMI of 35 or higher, Elaine Papp, head of the agency’s office of medical programs, said last month.

American Trucking Associations has requested that FMCSA issue a formal regulation concerning sleep apnea instead of the guidance it plans to issue late this year or early in 2013. The regulation process would allow for more formal input than guidance, ATA Chairman Michael Card said. ATA officials were not available to comment on Burks’ research.

For Schneider National, the obesity research reinforced what the carrier had already believed.

 “Historically, as many motor carriers focused on driver wellness, it was primarily motivated by the expectation that improved health and wellness would reduce health care costs,” said Don Osterberg, Schneider’s senior vice president of safety. “The part that was always unknown is: Is there any correlation between obesity and crash risk? I think this study validated that, yes indeed, there is.”

Carriers have usually focused on driver health to reduce costs from both health care and missed work days, Osterberg said. But Burks’ research shows that obesity can risk a carrier’s safety and cost the company money from crash involvement.

“As we think about investing in wellness programs, we can now look at it more broadly, not just to reduce health care costs, to reduce injuries, to reduce worker’s comp costs, but also to improve overall fleet safety,” he said.

Schneider National has been proactive in driver health during the past decade and has found that a combination of health screening and face-to-face meetings with health counselors is most effective at fighting obesity, Osterberg said.

The truckload carrier has also tested obese drivers for OSA since 2004 and treated the ones who have the condition, he said. “Today, we have over 2,200 of our drivers who are being treated for that condition,” he said.

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Shuster: Would Consider Hike in Fuel Taxes, Highway Tolling

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This story appears in the Nov. 12 print edition of Transport Topics.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who is expected to take over as chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that everything from higher fuel taxes to tolling is on the table when it comes to making the Highway Trust Fund solvent.

Shuster announced last week that he is seeking the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairmanship. He said the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund must be a “priority.”

“I want to look across the spectrum, look at tolling, look at the other various ways, public-private partnerships and, certainly, you have to look at the gas tax, the user fee, certainly, all those things have to be looked at,” Shuster told reporters Nov. 8.

Shuster would replace current chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), whose term is limited by House rules.

 “I believe there’s going to be some large-scale negotiations taking place, not only in the lame duck but then into the next year,” Shuster said. “And they’ll be dealing with some of these significant [issues], not just trust fund issues but tax reform, the fiscal cliff, what we’re going to be doing with debt ceiling,” he said.

“So there’s going to be a lot of big negotiations; the grand bargain may occur,” he said, speaking two days after presidential and congressional elections that left the political landscape fundamentally unchanged from last year, when House Republicans could not agree on funding for transportation spending.

Shuster is currently chairman of the House transportation subcommittee on railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials.

The political status quo in Washington remains unaltered from 2011, with President Obama reelected, Republicans controlling the House and Democrats controlling the Senate.

Some faces at the bargaining table will be different, however. Election results and party rules for Republicans mean some representatives and senators give up leadership posts.

There may also be a new Transportation Secretary. Ray LaHood said last year he would not serve a second term, although he recently hinted he might change his mind. His office did not respond to requests about his plans.
Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) must surrender his chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit because of term limits.

At press time for Transport Topics at least eight House elections were still undecided but the Transportation Committee will undergo change, said Mary Phillips, senior vice president in charge of legislative affairs for American Trucking Associations.

“Eight members we know are not returning due to being defeated, retiring or running for other offices,” Phillips said.

And because Republicans lost some House seats, they “probably won’t have a seven-seat majority” on the transportation committee, Phillips said.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, also is term-limited.
On the Senate side, there will be changes on the Commerce and Environment and Public Works committees, with the retirement of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) from Commerce and departure of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) from EPW.

“Inhofe is term-limited and [Sen. David] Vitter [R-La.] is next in line,” Phillips said.

Inhofe is credited with helping produce the bipartisan transportation reauthorization bill passed this summer, after House Republicans were unable to agree on a bill of their own.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is expected to be the top Republican on the commerce panel, Phillips said.

On the Democratic side, those in transportation policymaking are unlikely to change. The party does not have term limits.

The new transportation law, known as MAP 21, expires in September 2014, meaning the new Congress will have to produce a new bill.

Although post-election cabinet and committee changes are important to trucking, the immediate concern following the re-election of Obama is the economy, said ATA spokesman Sean McNally.

 “On the legislative side the voters have returned a slightly less Republican House and a slightly more Democratic Senate, so, we hope those two groups could get together and address not just transportation issues . . . but some of the other issues important to the general business community and to the economy,” McNally said.

The “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax extension and automatic budget cuts set to take effect at the end of 2012, “can have serious ramifications for the economy and . . . that would have serious ramifications for trucking,” McNally said.

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Sets Team to Help Get Trucks to Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it has set up an “interstate petroleum transport team” to ensure the fastest and most efficient movement of fuel to regions hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.

The team will serve as a single point of contact for states, the trucking industry, and agencies to assist in the removal of barriers to the quick delivery of fuel, FMCSA said.

Hurricane Sandy battered the Eastern Seaboard last week, with most of the damage centered in New York and New Jersey.

FMCSA has already issued an eastern regional emergency declaration that temporarily lifts hours-of-service and other regulations to assist truckers providing direct emergency relief, including transporting generators and fuel.

The team “will help get fuel delivered to states and communities recovering from Hurricane Sandy even faster and more efficiently than before, by streamlining multiple state regulations for trucks,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“The president has asked us to ensure fuel moves as quickly as possible, and we are answering that call, starting with a hotline number that will give trucks, states and others a one-stop solution to ensure the swift delivery of relief goods,” he said in a statement.

The team has launched a hotline number, 800-832-5660, to help address individual registration, certification, tax, or other barriers to the flow of fuel transportation to affected states.

Trucks bringing fuel to the affected region in the Northeast must follow different state regulations. The team will coordinate information on a variety of waivers to ensure each state coordinates key regulatory issues that should be addressed to assist the flow of petroleum products to affected states, including:

• Drivers’ hours-of-service;
• Size and weight rules;
• Low-sulfur diesel fuel waivers;
• Toll waivers;
• Vehicle registration waivers (International Registration Plan); and
• Fuel tax waivers (International Fuel Tax Authority).

Working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Defense Logistics Agency, FMCSA said it has helped connect fuel distributors with companies that have fuel pump trucks.

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Fleets Tally Storm Damage, Strive to Resume Deliveries

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By Michele Fuetsch, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the Nov. 5 print edition of Transport Topics.

The trucking industry in the Northeast was scrambling last week in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to assess the damage to fleet facilities and roadways and to determine which customers were ready to accept deliveries.

The storm, which slammed ashore in southern New Jersey Oct. 29, devastated the shoreline there and swamped lower Manhattan under an enormous tidal surge, killed more than 80 residents around the region and brought transportation services in some areas to a standstill for several days.

Numerous rail, subway and motor vehicle tunnels connecting Manhattan to New Jersey and other parts of New York City were still flooded late last week, as Transport Topics went to press.

Meanwhile, economists said the rebuilding efforts from the destruction will likely provide some segments of the trucking industry a boost in demand in coming months.

Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, summed up the situation for TT: “Nobody can get to work. You can’t move around here.”

Roads that were not clogged with debris or filled with downed power lines were seeing excessive traffic in many areas, including New York City.

With the exception of some limited emergency fuel deliveries, the Port of New York and New Jersey remained closed as of Nov. 1 because of heavy damage, adding to the economic woes in the area.

In Moonachie, N.J., just south of the intersection of interstates 95 and 80, a UPS Freight facility was flooded.

“Moonachie is under water; we cannot get in or out,” said UPS Inc. spokesman Chris Bartlett. “From a service perspective, we’re able to work around that with other surrounding centers but, because New Jersey’s been so badly hit, there’s just not much activity there.”

Likewise, the three UPS facilities in New York were operating at 25% capacity because customers, damaged and without power, were not open, he said.

FedEx Corp. said a critical issue was navigating impassable roads and finding customers who could receive shipments.

“Some folks just may not be either home or their business is not open, but we will try to make deliveries the best as we can, in areas that are inaccessible because of . . . downed power lines, transit closures, flooding or storm debris,” said FedEx spokesman Scott Fiedler.

With so little public transit operating in New York City, “Our major challenge is getting people into our locations to man vehicles and sort,” he said.

Tom Connery, chief operating officer for the Shevell Group, headquartered in Elizabeth, N.J., said deliveries were being delayed because “most of the customers are not ready to take it.”

“The other problem is our ability to get around on local roads,” Connery said. “In New Jersey, there’s just so many trees and power lines on the ground. There were railroad cars that came up onto the turnpike, they floated up there with the tidal surge.”

Shevell owns New England Motor Freight, Eastern Freight Ways and Carrier Industries. Connery said Shevell moved its fleet to higher ground before the storm and has generators to power its headquarters.

Although it is located near the port, Shevell cannot do any business there yet because of the storm damage.

“We have a number of customers that have containers that right now we simply can’t pick up,” Connery said.

Con-way Freight said that more than 40 service centers were initially affected by the storm in 11 states because the carrier moved employees and equipment, said Gary Frantz, director of corporate communications for parent Con-way Inc.

By late in the day on Oct. 30, all but two — one each in New Jersey and Long Island — were up and running, Con-way said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Toth. “And if you look at the ramifications — particularly our port being closed, the largest port on the East Coast — 200,000-something people have their jobs related to that port.”

Admiral Kevin Cook, deputy commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area, said during a call with reporters and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Oct. 31 that officials still were assessing the damage at the port and did not know when it would reopen.

In an effort to start the recovery process moving, the federal government released $29 million in emergency funding as of Nov. 1 for highway infrastructure. The funding included states from Rhode Island to North Carolina.

The government also eased hours-of-service rules and other regulations for truckers hauling storm-related emergency supplies.

The rebuilding efforts — from roads and bridges to houses and boardwalks by the beach — will mean an uptick in business, said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

“Specifically, flatbed carriers typically see a strong boost in construction freight related to rebuilding,” he said. “We fully expect fleets to see an increase in activity in the coming weeks and months during the cleanup and rebuilding phases,” he said.

“Dry-van carriers will likely see a boost in freight from retailers replenishing store shelves that were depleted in the days before the hurricane, but of course these fleets saw a lull in freight in the midAtlantic and Northeast during the last few days,” Costello said.

Deutsche Bank Equity Research Group of North America said its survey of trucking firms in the storm’s aftermath indicated “that it represents a potential positive for the transports.”
But that positive comes after an economic loss in the range of $30 billion to $50 billion, according to IHS Global Insight.

Shevell’s Connery noted how much was lost because of the storm.

“For a two-day period we did about 60% of our normal revenue,” he said.

Connery said the Eastern Freight Ways division runs flatbeds that should see an increase in business, and items like generators and home goods supplies were “already entering our system.”

The problems caused by Sandy were not limited to rain and wind.

In West Virginia, the storm brought extremely heavy snow that blanketed the northeastern part of the state.

“I think everybody’s still assessing,” said Janet Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Trucking Association. “Now the one thing we are worried about is flooding.”

This story appears in the Nov. 5 print edition of Transport Topics.

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DOT Releases Update to Its Strategic Research Plan

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The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has released Transforming Transportation through Connectivity: ITS Strategic Research Plan, 2010-2014 (Progress Update, 2012).
 
This report is an update to the 2010 ITS Strategic Research Plan, which established a research agenda to prepare the next generation of intelligent transportation system (ITS) technologies for widespread deployment throughout the nation. Research and development efforts have advanced notably over the last two and a half years in areas such as connected vehicle research; short-term intermodal research; ITS exploratory research; and ITS cross-cutting support. Documenting this halfway point offers an important resource for broad stakeholder review of program results and research progress.

This report describes the status of the research for achieving a connected vehicle environment; delivering the next generation of ITS technologies to the marketplace; and advancing transportation safety, mobility, and environmental performance. The report covers each research program funded by the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO). For each program, the report includes an updated research plan in addition to Snapshots of Progress-descriptions of the research results, critical research insights and lessons learned, and next steps.

An important change to the original report is the inclusion of the Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Program, a new initiative focused on demonstrating the safety benefits of prototype vehicle-to-vehicle applications and technologies based on a new 5.9 gigahertz communication protocol. Other highlights include: a more detailed Policy research section; the introduction of dynamic mobility applications, connected vehicle road weather applications, and transformative environment concepts; a revision to the systems engineering section to introduce the concept of a core system; details on research for producing human factors guidelines; new efforts for international harmonization; and a comprehensive outreach to media that has produced a list of prominent news stories to create public awareness about connected vehicle research.

Click here to download the full report (PDF).

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FMCSA's Pre-Employment Screening Program

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FMCSA Improves Safety, Cuts Red Tape, Protects Driver Privacy with Pre-Employment Screening Program

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has introduced an expanded version of its Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP), making it easier for more motor carrier companies, with the driver's consent, to access PSP records. A PSP record includes three years of crash history and five years of roadside inspection history for a commercial driver.PSP is now available to eligible intrastate motor carriers and companies directly involved in the pre-employment screening and hiring of commercial drivers. The program expansion means important driver safety data is now more easily available to companies that are responsible for hiring the drivers that get behind the wheel of many large trucks and buses. FMCSA has also launched an iPhone application for PSP. Account holders can now securely access a PSP dashboard on an iPhone or iPad, and easily review a PSP record in a mobile-friendly format. The application is available for free download by searching 'DOT PSP' in the Apple iTunes store. For details on the Pre-Employment Screening Program visit http://www.psp.fmcsa.dot.gov.

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Member Alert - 11.1.2012

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We received the following alert from Jerry Thurman, Oklahoma Truck Driving School.

There is a gentleman named Steve Brand, Circle B Transport going to schools in the mid-west, he has a partner hitting schools in the South East. The con is he promises the graduates a $5,000 signing bonus $2,500 up front and then $2,500 after 90 days to help pay for the tuition. They never receive the bonus. He has no jobs.

According to Jerry he is targeting female graduates and does have a website set up but there is no longer a Circle B Transport Company in business. Jerry is working with police and wanted to share with the membership. Hopefully they will shut it down soon.
 
Please tell your graduates to be very cautious.