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Highway Angel Lindsay to Perform at Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting

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Standing Tall” – The U S Capitol Christmas tree AND our American soldiers. To hear the winning song go to http://bit.ly/11kQK9k and scroll down.

For Immediate Release
November 30, 2012
Contact: Michael Nellenbach, Director of Communications
(703) 838-1950 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

TCA Highway Angel Spokesperson Lindsay Lawler to Perform

December 4th at Lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree
Lawler wrote the theme song for 2012 tree project

Alexandria, Va. – The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) is pleased to announce that its official Highway Angel spokesperson, country music singer Lindsay Lawler, will perform December 4th at the lighting ceremony of the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree. She will also sing at three associated receptions, including one for Congressional representatives.

The 2012 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is a 73-ft. Engelmann Spruce that was harvested near Meeker, Colo., in early November. For 23 days, it traveled to towns and cities across the U.S. on a custom-decorated, Mack Pinnacle truck driven by former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. TCA and several industry partners sponsored stops in Dallas and Nashville, both of which included performances by Lawler. She also sang at the initial kickoff celebration in Colorado.

Lawler became involved with the tree when she wrote a song that was chosen as the project’s official theme for 2012. Beating out nearly 300 competitors, “Standing Tall” describes the tree’s journey across America and its symbolism as a “light in the dark for us all.” The lyrics also praise those who fight for freedom so that Americans can continue to live the American Dream. To listen to the song, visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree’s Web site at http://bit.ly/11kQK9k.

According to Lawler, “I was thrilled to write the winning song, one that speaks to the importance of the People’s Tree. It’s a beautiful symbol of unity for our nation. The fact that the tree has traveled from Colorado to Washington by truck makes this project even more important to me, because I love being affiliated with the trucking industry through TCA. I am proud to say a truck was the vehicle that delivered this wonderful tree to the people of the United States.”

Chris Burruss, president of the Truckload Carriers Association, and Deborah Sparks, TCA’s vice president of development, plan to escort Lawler to the tree lighting ceremony and her other performances. “We’re very proud that our Highway Angel spokesperson is playing such an important role in a nationwide celebration,” said Burruss. “When it comes to showing the general public a positive side of trucking, Lindsay is a terrific role model.”

The 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree continues a hallowed American tradition that originated nearly 50 years ago. The tree lighting ceremony takes place at 5:00 p.m. on December 4th. Afterward, visitors can view “The People’s Tree” nightly from dusk to 11 p.m. throughout the holiday season. For more details, visit http://capitolchristmastree2012.org.

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Mileage Rises, Prices Decline for Used Trucks, Analyst Says

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By Seth Clevenger, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the Nov. 26 print edition of Transport Topics.

Used heavy-duty truck prices softened in October at the same time the average mileage of used tractors climbed to an all-time high, ACT Research said last week.

October was the second straight month that used truck prices declined from the corresponding month a year earlier, said ACT Vice President Steve Tam. Prior to September, prices had increased year-over-year for 30 consecutive months, he said.

The average price of a used Class 8 truck sold by retailers, wholesalers and auctioneers declined to $38,496 in October, down 3.5% from $39,874 in September, and 7.3% from $41,522 in October 2011, according to ACT’s preliminary figures.

The average mileage of a used truck sold in October was 570,570, “the highest we’ve seen since we started collecting used truck data,” said Tam, who described the rise in mileage as the main driver of the pricing decline. Average mileage was up from 559,901 in September and 533,166 in October 2011, he said.

“The used truck buyer is buying the remaining life in that truck, so if there’s less remaining life, he’s not going to pay as much for it, all other things being equal,” Tam said.

Despite the recent downturn, the average used truck price for the first 10 months of 2012 was $42,250, up 9% from the same timeframe last year.

Although new truck buyers have been holding on to their equipment for extended cycles, there are signs that they may begin to ramp up replacement, Tam said.

“The preliminary net-order numbers for October were very strong, so that suggests that it’s time to get the replacement ball rolling,” he said.

Truck makers received 23,200 new Class 8 orders in October, the highest total since January, ACT reported earlier this month (11-12, p. 1).

Tam said he wasn’t sure if October’s figure was the high-water mark for average mileage, “but we’ve got to be fairly close.”

American Truck Dealers did not yet have pricing data for October, but said the average retail price of a used Class 8 sleeper in September was $48,740, down from $49,627 in August and $49,049 in September 2011. ATD is a division of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Chris Visser, senior analyst for ATD/NADA, said the pricing of used 2010 and 2011 models has depreciated the most.

“I think the market has finally put a bit of a ceiling on the newer model years as to what people are willing to pay,” Visser said. “The price just got high enough where people are either making the jump to new or deciding to live with an older tractor.”

ACT said the sellers it surveys sold 1,563 trucks in October on a same dealer basis. That total was up from 1,238 in September, but down from 1,766 in October 2011.

Year-to-date, those dealers have sold 15,434 used trucks in 2012, down from 18,065 in the same timeframe last year, ACT said.

Used truck dealers are still having a hard time moving 2008 and 2009 models, said Rick Clark, president of the Used Truck Association.

“Most people are looking at ’07s and ’10s,” he said. “Inventory hasn’t really flipped, and I don’t think dealers are writing them down, overall.”
 
Clark, who also is vice president of National Truck Protection, Cranford, N.J., said the mileage is “way up” on his customers’ trucks.

“We’re putting warranties on ’07s with 800,000 or 900,000 miles,” he said. “We see a spike in that, and it’s rare to see them in the 400,000s and 500,000s.”

Clark said he expects to see higher warranty sales, which mirror used truck sales, in areas where equipment was damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

“Once everyone gets their insurance taken care of, I would expect within the next couple weeks we’ll have a pretty large [sales] spike in the Northeast,” he said.

Louis Pinheiro, a salesman at the Arrow Truck Sales dealership in Elizabeth, N.J., said its used truck lot was spared by Sandy, and customer traffic jumped following the storm.

“Most of the guys who are coming into our store have flooded trucks,” he said. “It seems to be moving pretty quickly with the insurance adjusters getting to the trucks and telling these guys if it’s total loss or not.”

Chris Visser, senior analyst for ATD/NADA, said the pricing of used 2010 and 2011 models has depreciated the most.

“I think the market has finally put a bit of a ceiling on the newer model years as to what people are willing to pay,” Visser said. “The price just got high enough where people are either making the jump to new or deciding to live with an older tractor.”

ACT said the sellers it surveys sold 1,563 trucks in October on a same dealer basis. That total was up from 1,238 in September, but down from 1,766 in October 2011.

Year-to-date, those dealers have sold 15,434 used trucks in 2012, down from 18,065 in the same timeframe last year, ACT said.

Used truck dealers are still having a hard time moving 2008 and 2009 models, said Rick Clark, president of the Used Truck Association.

“Most people are looking at ’07s and ’10s,” he said. “Inventory hasn’t really flipped, and I don’t think dealers are writing them down, overall.”

Clark, who also is vice president of National Truck Protection, Cranford, N.J., said the mileage is “way up” on his customers’ trucks.

“We’re putting warranties on ’07s with 800,000 or 900,000 miles,” he said. “We see a spike in that, and it’s rare to see them in the 400,000s and 500,000s.”

Clark said he expects to see higher warranty sales, which mirror used truck sales, in areas where equipment was damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

“Once everyone gets their insurance taken care of, I would expect within the next couple weeks we’ll have a pretty large [sales] spike in the Northeast,” he said.

Louis Pinheiro, a salesman at the Arrow Truck Sales dealership in Elizabeth, N.J., said its used truck lot was spared by Sandy, and customer traffic jumped following the storm.

“Most of the guys who are coming into our store have flooded trucks,” he said. “It seems to be moving pretty quickly with the insurance adjusters getting to the trucks and telling these guys if it’s total loss or not.”

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ATA’s Summit on Natural Gas to Focus on Alt-Fuels for Fleets

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By Jonathan S. Reiskin, Associate News Editor
This story appears in the Nov. 26 print edition of Transport Topics.

American Trucking Associations this week will convene a two-day, public conference on the industry’s use of natural gas, a development that several executives said may significantly alter U.S. trucking operations by displacing much of the diesel fuel the industry burns.

The sold-out ATA Summit on Natural Gas in Trucking will run Nov. 28-30 in Arlington, Va., and has attracted more than 500 attendees, more than twice the number the trucking federation originally thought would attend.

The 11 sessions draw together executives from trucking, truck and engine manufacturing, truck stops, natural-gas producers and vehicle maintenance. There will also be representatives from the U.S. Energy Department, an environmental advocacy group and several policy groups, and two members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
 
 “This is a cutting-edge symposium,” said ATA Chairman Michael Card. “ATA is very concerned about the environment, engine exhaust and reducing our carbon footprint.”

“We also need our country to be more energy self-sufficient, and this has the potential to help America’s energy security,” said Card, who is also president of Combined Transport Inc., Central Point, Ore.

“We couldn’t be happier with the quality of the speakers we have attracted,” said ATA President Bill Graves.

“We’ve moved past the question of whether natural gas is viable as a fuel for trucking. It certainly is, but now we have to go fleet by fleet and look at the details,” Graves said.

In talking to fleet executives during the year, Graves said he has seen carriers fit into three groups: those that are already very involved with CNG or LNG — compressed or liquefied natural gas — and have already generated results; those that are seriously inclined toward using natural gas but aren’t entirely sold; and those that are pessimistic and far from being sold.

There will be information in this summit that is relevant for people in all three camps,” Graves said.

Among fleets with a demonstrated interest, Ryder System said Nov. 15 that it now owns 215 CNG tractors and 35 powered by LNG. Collectively, the vehicles have racked up more than 6 million miles, displacing 923,000 gallons of diesel that would have been burned last year and this year.

Ryder, based in Miami, ranks No. 10 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers and works in full-service truck leasing and dedicated contract carriage.
Ryder Vice President Scott Perry will speak at the summit about maintenance and shop considerations, along with executives from Navistar Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and supermarket chain Giant Eagle Inc.

If the use of natural gas spreads, it will be particularly important for truck stops.

“There’s a lot of discussion about this among truck stop operators. This could be the next big fuel,” said Lisa Mullings, president of Natso Inc., a trade group representing truck stop operators.
Mullings said many members of her industry have changed significantly in their attitude toward natural gas over the past 12 months.

“More and more of them are starting to put in natural gas. There’s a lot less uncertainty about this than there was a year ago,” she said.

Graves will moderate a panel discussion early in the program featuring top executives from three of the largest truck stop chains: Jimmy Haslam, CEO of Pilot Flying J; Tom O’Brien, CEO of TravelCenters of America; and Frank Love, president of Love’s Travel Stops.

All major North American heavy-duty truck and engine makers plan to send a representative to the panel moderated by Transport Topics Publisher and Editorial Director Howard Abramson. Executives from Freightliner Trucks, Kenworth Trucks, Navistar and Volvo Group will talk about their approaches to natural-gas power.

Joining them will be representatives from the three companies that currently make or adapt engines to run on natural gas: Cummins Inc., Westport Innovations and a joint venture of the two companies, Cummins-Westport.

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New Members Appointed to ATRI Research Advisory Committee

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Arlington, VA – The Board of Directors of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) recently appointed 17 new members to its Research Advisory Committee (RAC).  The RAC is charged with annually identifying the trucking industry’s top research needs.  RAC members represent a diverse group of industry stakeholders including motor carriers, industry suppliers, academics, government, driver groups and law enforcement.  The new members, along with 16 reappointed members, will serve a two-year term starting January 2013. 

The ATRI Board also appointed Steve L. Niswander, Vice President of Safety, Policy and Regulatory Relations for Groendyke Transport in Enid, Oklahoma as Chairman of the Research Advisory Committee.  Niswander has been a member of the RAC since 2009 and he will serve as Chairman of the 2013-2014 RAC. He will be responsible for leading the group’s identification, review and prioritization of the industry’s research agenda. 

Newly appointment members of the ATRI Research Advisory Committee:

Duane Acklie

Chairman

Crete Carrier Corporation

Chris McLoughlin

Cargo Risk Manager

C.H. Robinson

Kirk Altrichter

Vice President, Maintenance

Gordon Trucking, Inc.

Robert Moseley, Jr.

Transportation Group Lead

Smith Moore Leatherwood

Andrew Boyle

Executive Vice President

Boyle Transportation

Scott Mugno

Vice President, Safety and Maintenance

FedEx Ground

Michael Conyngham

Director of Research

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Vidya Mysore

Manager, Systems Traffic Modeling

Florida Department of Transportation

John Freeman

Vice President Sales

Pilot Travel Centers

Richard Plewacki

Partner

Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Arnoff

Matt Hart

Executive Director

Illinois Trucking Association

Webb Shaw

Vice President, Editorial Resources

J.J. Keller & Associates

Sanford Hodes

Senior Vice President and

Deputy General Counsel

Ryder System, Inc.

Frank Southworth

Principal Research Scientist

Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Keith Klingenberg

Senior Vice President, Logistics Practice Group Leader

Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA

Keith Tuttle

President

Motor Carrier Services, Inc.

Michael Kray

Principal Planner

Atlanta Regional Commission

 

 

ATRI is the trucking industry’s 501(c)(3) not-for-profit research organization.  It is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation’s essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system.

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OSHA Urges Hurricane Recovery Workers to Protect Themselves

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US Labor Department’s OSHA urges hurricane recovery workers to protect themselves against hazards

BOSTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is urging workers and members of the public engaged in Hurricane Sandy cleanup and recovery efforts in New York, New Jersey and the New England states to be aware of the hazards they might encounter and the steps they should take to protect themselves.

“Storm recovery workers are working around the clock to clean up areas impacted by the storm,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s New York regional administrator. “We want to make sure that workers are aware of the hazards involved in cleanup work and take the necessary precautions to prevent serious injuries.”

OSHA field staff members are providing safety assistance, technical support, and information and training to those involved in the recovery efforts. For more information about unsafe work situations, workers and the general public can contact OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

For more information about protecting workers during Hurricane Sandy recovery, visit http://www.osha.gov/sandy/index.html. This comprehensive website offers fact sheets, concise “quick cards,” frequently asked questions, safety and health guides, and additional information in English and Spanish.

Cleanup work can involve restoring electricity, communications, and water and sewer services; demolition activities; removal of floodwater from structures; entry into flooded areas; cleaning up debris; tree trimming; structural, roadway, bridge, dam and levee repair; use of cranes, aerial lifts and other heavy equipment; hazardous waste operations; and emergency response activities.

Inherent hazards may include downed electrical wires, carbon monoxide and electrical hazards from portable generators, fall and “struck-by” hazards from tree trimming or working at heights, being caught in unprotected excavations or confined spaces, burns, lacerations, musculoskeletal injuries, being struck by traffic or heavy equipment, and drowning from being caught in moving water or while removing water from flooded structures.

Protective measures include evaluating the work area for all hazards; assuming all power lines are live; using the right personal protective equipment (hard hats, shoes, reflective vests, safety glasses); conducting exposure monitoring where there are chemical hazards; following safe tree cutting procedures to prevent trees from falling on workers; and using fall protection and proper ladder safety when working at heights.

For additional information on grants, cleanup efforts and recovery resources, visit the Labor Department’s Hurricane Recovery Assistance Web page, which is being continuously updated at http://www.dol.gov/opa/hurricane-recovery.htm. Also, a checklist of activities to be undertaken before, during and after a hurricane is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency at http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information about the agency, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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Freight Shipments Rose 0.2% in September from August

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BTS Releases Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI); Freight Shipments Rose 0.2% in September from August

The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 0.2 percent in September from August, rising after a one-month decline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) released today. The September 2012 index level (109.2) was 15.8 percent above the April 2009 low during the recession.

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments in September measured by the Freight TSI (109.2) dropped 4.2 percent below the all-time high level of 114.0 in December 2011. BTS’ TSI records began in 1990.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments by mode of transportation in tons and ton-miles, which are combined into one index. The index measures the output of the for-hire freight transportation industry and consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight.

Analysis: The Freight TSI in September 2012 continued a pattern of little change since January as some other indicators showed an uptick in economic growth. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 2.0 percent in the third quarter, up from 1.3 percent growth in the second quarter (though below 4.1 percent in fourth quarter of 2011), according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Employment grew by 0.6 percent in September. Almost all freight modes experienced some increase in September, but rail freight showed a significant decline.

Trend: Since peaking in December 2011 (114.0) at the highest level in the 22-year history of the Freight TSI series, the index has remained in a narrow band during the nine months of 2012. It reached a high of 110.6 in February and a low of 109.0 in August. After dipping to 94.3 in April 2009 during the recession, freight shipments increased in 27 of the last 41 months, rising 15.8 percent during that period.

Index highs and lows: Freight shipments in September 2012 (109.2) were 15.8 percent higher than the recent low in April 2009 during the recession (94.3). In April 2009, freight shipments were at their lowest level since June 1997 (92.3). The September 2012 level is down 4.2 percent from the historic peak reached in December 2011 (114.0).

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New FMCSA Initiative - Driver Medical Card Validation

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and its State partners will be conducting random verifications of driver Medical Examiner's Certificates (MEC) during enforcement activities. The purpose of these validations is to obtain verbal confirmation that the medical examination was conducted and the information on the Medical Examination Certificate is accurate. It is not to evaluate the driver's medical fitness to operate a CMV.

The FMCSA will take the following steps to validate the authenticity of MECs:

1. Contact the Medical Examiner's (ME) office at the telephone number indicated on the certificate;
2. Explain the inquiry's purpose and indicate that it is intended solely to confirm that the document presented by the driver matches the records maintained by the ME. Direct contact with the actual ME is not required - an authorized staff member may provide the requested information; and
3. Provide the driver's name and date of birth, the date of issuance of the MEC and any restrictions indicated thereon and request verbal confirmation of the information provided.

The FMCSA appreciates the MEs' cooperation in our effort to eliminate the use of fraudulent MECs and to keep medically unqualified drivers off our nation's highways.

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ATA’s Graves Says Trucking Faces Big Cleanup Job Following Storm

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Fuel Shipments to Utility Workers, First Responders Is Top Priority
 
The trucking industry is facing a big task in the Northeast following Hurricane Sandy, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said in a TV interview Thursday.

Graves told Fox Business News that trucks will need to restock grocery store shelves and cited reports of up to 15,000 damaged cars at the Port of Newark that will need to be disposed of and eventually replaced, adding work for auto carriers.

He said the flatbed sector would see “a whole lot of activity” with the construction materials that will be needed in the cleanup and rebuilding following last week’s storm, and said that trucking was moving fuel as quickly as possible into the affected region.

“We think we’re going to slog through some really slow economic times, and the storm in the Northeast is going to be a drain this quarter, but a lot of rebuilding is going to take place... that alone will perhaps add a little uptick in the next quarter,” he said.

 “We’re getting fuel to every place that we’re physically allowed to move,” Graves said, adding that the first needs were for utility and emergency first-responders.

“I think those needs are being met,” he said, adding that, in the meantime, it’s going to take a while to get fuel to filling stations, some of which don’t have power or are not accessible.

Asked about the general state of trucking, Graves said that “freight levels were pretty well flat” this year and that the economy was likely to remain relatively flat until the third quarter of next year before an uptick.

He also cited the trucking industry’s concerns about finding qualified truck drivers, in part because “it’s a really hard job” with extensive training required, and with new safety rules in place.

New Jersey, where Sandy did most of its damage, was hit by a nor’easter Wednesday that dumped snow on much of the state.

Click here to view the full interview. (Fox Business News website; appx. 4 mins.)

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DOT Announces Winner of Distracted Driving Design Challenge

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DOT 128-12
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Contact: Justin Nisly
Tel: (202) 366-4570

U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Winner of Distracted Driving Design Challenge

Winning “Text & Wreck” Icon Submitted by 14-Year-Old Hah’mari Watson of Sanford, Florida

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today unveiled the winning submission in the U.S Department of Transportation’s Distracted Driving Design Challenge. The “Text & Wreck” icon was designed by 14-year-old Hah’mari Watson of Sanford, Florida.

Download: “Text & Wreck” Icon

Created to raise awareness among young drivers about the dangers of texting and cell phone use behind the wheel, the Distracted Driving Design Challenge invited teens to create an original icon with an anti-distracted driving message that could be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social networking sites. The winning design was selected by Secretary LaHood and will be incorporated into USDOT’s distracted driving campaign on Distraction.gov.

 “The Department of Transportation is committed to helping young drivers get the message that texting and driving don’t mix,” said Secretary LaHood. “My congratulations go out to Hah'mari for her terrific design, and I hope her social media icon will serve as a helpful icebreaker for young drivers struggling to speak up to others about the dangers of distracted driving.”

Hah’mari Watson, a freshman at Seminole High School in Sanford, Florida, was inspired to create her icon because she and her family were involved in a minor car crash caused by a texting teen driver two years ago. While no one was seriously injured, the accident showed Hah’mari how quickly a momentary distraction could have serious consequences.

“I hope my design will help other young people realize just how dangerous it is to text and drive at the same time,” said Hah’mari Watson.

Secretary LaHood unveiled the winning icon while delivering the keynote address at the first ever Florida Distracted Driving Summit in Tampa, Florida. The event brought together federal, state, and local officials, law enforcement, traffic safety experts, physicians, and businesses focused on reducing distracted driving in the state.

In June, the Department released a “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving” that offers a comprehensive strategy to address the growing and dangerous practice of using handheld cell phones behind the wheel. The plan, which outlines concrete steps stakeholders around the country can take to reduce the risk posed by distracted driving, builds on the national momentum that Secretary LaHood and USDOT have led for the last three years.

To learn more about the U.S. Department of Transportation’s efforts to stop distracted driving, please visit www.Distraction.gov.

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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.