Public News


Truck Fatalities Rose in 2010

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Transport Topics

Fatalities in U.S. highway accidents involving large trucks increased 8.7% in 2010, the first increase in four years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week.

A total of 3,675 people died in truck-related accidents in 2010, an increase of 295 from the 2009 total of 3,380, NHTSA said in its annual report.

In addition, the number of people injured in truck-related accidents rose to 19,000 in 2010, from 17,000 in 2009, a 12% increase.

At the same time, truck occupant fatalities increased by 6%, to 529 in 2010 from 499 in 2009.

“We’re still trying to figure out clearly what [caused] this uptick,” NHTSA Administrator Davie Strickland said at a Dec. 8 press conference where the report was unveiled.

American Trucking Associations said that in the 10-year period from 1999 to 2009, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes dropped by 35%, while injury crashes dropped by 48%... Continue reading.



Secretary Ray LaHood Announces - "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over"

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces
“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” Crackdown on Drunk Driving
New Research Shows Major Drop in Drunk Driving Fatalities in Many States

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today kicked off a nationwide crackdown on drunk driving coinciding with the 2011 winter holiday season. New data show drunk driving deaths declined in 2010 in many parts of the country. However, the data also show that fatalities from alcohol-impaired driving crashes continue to account for one in three deaths on American roadways each year.

“Safety is our focus year round at DOT. But this holiday season, we’re stepping up our efforts to get drunk drivers off our roads and reminding Americans ‘drive sober, or get pulled over,’” said Secretary LaHood. “We’re making gains in our fight against drunk driving, but we cannot and will not let up.”

New state-by-state data for 2010 released by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show a decline in drunk driving fatalities in 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Compared with 2009, California and Florida saw the largest reductions—with each declining by more than 100 fatalities last year.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have outlawed driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. Yet NHTSA data show that last year, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, including 415 during the second half of December alone.

The education and enforcement effort is the latest push in the Department’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign involving thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country. The winter holiday enforcement crackdown is supported by a $7 million national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over advertisement campaign that runs from December 16 through January 2. The ads, which first premiered this past summer, feature “invisible” law enforcement officers observing alcohol-impaired individuals and then apprehending them when they attempt to drive their vehicles. The ads are designed to raise awareness and support law enforcement activities in every state. They convey the message that law enforcement officers are vigilant in deterring drunk drivers.

“Thanks to the hard work of law enforcement and safety advocates and the incredible commitment of organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, we are making real progress in reducing drunk driving deaths,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “Our message to drivers is clear: if you decide to drink, find a safe and sober ride home or you will be pulled over.”

Secretary LaHood and NHTSA Administrator Strickland were joined for today’s announcement by Virginia law enforcement officials and Jan Withers, National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

“The data clearly show that while drunk driving remains the primary threat to American families on our roadways, we have a path to progress,” said Withers. "Increased enforcement efforts around the holidays are a vital part of MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®, which relies on proven drunk driving countermeasures to eliminate the leading cause of highway fatalities."

To view NHTSA's 2010 state-by-state data on impaired driving fatalities, click here.

To view the Department's "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" television ads, click here.

TCA's New Music Video - Highway Angel

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TCA has announced the availability of a new video aimed at improving the image of truck drivers. A link can be found at:

While we attended the presentation of the Trucking’s Top Rookie award at the Dallas Truck Show, Michael Darling, Gary Strube, Bruce Busada and Mike O’Connell met the artist, who performed the song during the presentation ceremony.

The trucking industry is dedicated to providing professional, safe, and courteous truck drivers. Because you share the road with truck drivers, you are in the best position to assist us in identifying those truck drivers who are truly Highway Angels.

Highway Angel recognition is awarded for a driver's "good deeds", ranging from simple acts of kindness, such as fixing a flat tire, to heroic life-saving efforts, such as pulling someone from a burning vehicle and administering CPR. When you know of, witness, or experience an exceptional act of kindness or courtesy by a truck driver, please take the time to fill out and submit this Highway Angel nomination form.

Not only will the truck drivers you nominate receive your recognition of superior performance, but TCA will also reward them as a Highway Angel by sending them a lapel pin, clothing patch and personalized certificate of appreciation. The drivers' companies will also receive a personalized certificate of recognition that they can hang in their terminals or offices for everyone to see.

In addition to special recognition by TCA and the driver's company, the Highway Angel program seeks to promote greater public recognition of Angels through the placement of articles in industry trade press.

As the program continues to focus on improving the public's image of truck driving as a profession, and providing a program that recognizes drivers and helps individual drivers feel better about themselves and their professions, companies use this program as a source of increasing morale and self image among their driving force. The Angel program has become part of their recruitment and retention programs.


ODAPC's Random Testing Rates Have Been Updated

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ODAPC's web site has been updated to reflect the CY 2012 random drug and alcohol testing rates within the transportation industries.

Please note the 2012 annual random testing rates will remain the same as the 2011 rates.

The following chart outlines the annual minimum drug and alcohol random testing rates established within DOT Agencies and the USCG for 2012:

DOT Agency
2012 Random Drug Testing Rate
2012 Random Alcohol Testing Rate
Federal Aviation Administration



Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration



Federal Railroad Administration



Federal Transit Administration



Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration



United States
Coast Guard
[USCG] (now with the Dept. of Homeland Security)



NOTE: Employers (and C/TPAs) subject to more than one DOT Agency drug and alcohol testing rule may continue to combine covered employees into a single random selection pool. However, companies (and C/TPAs) doing so must test at or above the highest minimum annual random testing rates established by the DOT Agencies under whose jurisdiction they fall. For example, an employer having both FMCSA- and FRA-covered employees in one pool must test, as a minimum rate, 50% for drugs and 10% for alcohol. PHMSA- and USCG-regulated employees should not to be placed in DOT random alcohol testing pools. Contact the appropriate DOT Agency for additional clarification.

[Please note that USCG covered employees may be combined with DOT covered employees in drug testing pools even though the USCG is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.]


Brokers Say DOT Agencies Fail to Share Data

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By Rip Watson, Senior Reporter
Transport Topics

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

A lack of information-sharing between two Department of Transportation agencies with safety responsibilities is jeopardizing the safety of hazardous materials shipments, the head of the freight brokers’ trade association said.

The reportedly error-plagued Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration carrier registration database and the fleet record-keeping system of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration aren’t connected electronically, said Robert Voltmann, president of the Transportation Intermediaries Association.

Voltmann said users can’t rely on PHMSA’s data, which shippers and brokers need to check because they’re legally required to use hazardous materials carriers certified by that agency.
“In spite of all the national security concern about securing supply lines, hazardous materials are moving through neighborhoods, and the agency [DOT] doesn’t know who they have given licenses to and whether that data is accurate or current,” Voltmann told Transport Topics. “Industry is made to guess on its own.”

PHMSA spokeswoman Patricia Klinger in a Dec. 1 statement acknowledged that the agency’s publicly available hazardous material information “is not real-time data but rather a cumulative data report from the previous month.”

In a joint statement, the two agencies told TT that “although not publicly available at this time, PHMSA and FMCSA developed and utilize a joint registration validation process,” describing that effort as “an invaluable first step into data integration providing an efficient method for sharing information,.”

A recent FMCSA action to shut down Gunthers Transport, Hanover, Md., illustrates the situation. FMCSA shut down Gunthers on Nov. 8 because it posed an “imminent hazard” after repeated violations. Yet PHMSA still listed a valid hazardous materials registration for Gunthers on its website as late as Nov. 30.

“There is a disconnect,” said Annette Sandberg, currently the principal at TransSafe Consulting and FMCSA’s administrator from 2003 until 2006. “There are issues of the databases not talking to each other, and there is no data checking. FMCSA has the issue of how to accurately determine who is a [registered] hazardous materials carrier.

PHMSA doesn’t require a DOT [identification] number or an MC [FMCSA motor carrier] number when a carrier registers,” added Sandberg, who said inadequate funding was causing the problem. “It would help to make the database easier to search if it contained that information.”
The absence of a requirement to include those numbers makes PHMSA’s data “useless,” said Voltmann, whose group asked that agency to require that information. “FMCSA wants to put the hazardous materials information into its database, but they don’t know who [carriers] are, so they have to guess.”

If DOT or MC numbers are missing from PHMSA’s database, it’s impossible to know if the carrier actually has operating authority when brokers do computer data searches, said Jeffrey Tucker, CEO of Tucker Co. Worldwide, which offers brokerage services.

In other cases, Tucker added, computer searches can’t properly process available carrier data that is supposed to contain only numbers because it has letters as well.

He claimed that as much as 40% of PHMSA entries are inaccurate or incomplete.

While Tucker criticized PHMSA, he praised FMCSA, saying “their data is very good.” Its value results from daily updates with changes such as fleets that lost insurance or operating authority.
TIA officials met with Ryan Posten, senior director at PHMSA, in late October to express its concerns, Voltmann said, but the trade group hasn’t received any response. It’s also been rebuffed in efforts to access databases other than PHMSA’s system, which is known as Regis11Excel.

Carriers also recognize the issue.

“FMCSA and PHMSA don’t have the time or resources to focus on what they would like to do, which includes a top-notch information system,” said John Conley, president of the National Tank Truck Carriers Conference. “We really have no idea of how many companies that should be registered there are not.”

Conley said the agencies are instead “wasting their time and resources on politically motivated nonsense,” such as a proposal to ban flammable liquids from tank trailer wetlines during transport.
“The need for reliable data throughout the Department of Transportation is even more important with CSA,” Conley said, referring to the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program that evaluates fleet safety.

Because of the data gap, Tucker added, FMCSA is forced to add weight in its CSA scoring system to hazardous materials violations. However, that increased emphasis means that carriers with such violations are penalized more heavily, Tucker added.

Conley offered some advice to brokers and shippers.

“If shippers or brokers are having a problem getting information from the Department of Transportation regarding who is a registered hazardous materials carrier, I suggest they are talking to the wrong people,” Conley said. “It is the responsibility of the shipper or broker to get this information from the carrier.”

Tucker responded that shippers and brokers often obtain hazardous materials data from carriers for their regular, or core, carriers.   “But brokers and shippers still need smaller [carriers] for the remaining 10% or so of their business,” Tucker said. “They want to be able to rely on that data.
“The world we live in relies on quick data access,” he observed. “From a logical standpoint wouldn’t you think that FMCSA and PHMSA databases would talk to each other?”


Lowest Level Of Annual Traffic Fatalities In More Than Six Decades

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NHTSA 21-11
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Contact: Karen Aldana
Tel: 202-366-9550

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces
Lowest Level Of Annual Traffic Fatalities In More Than Six Decades

Updated 2010 FARS data includes new measure of ‘distraction-affected’ fatalities; national attitude survey offers additional insight into problem of distracted driving.

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced updated 2010 fatality and injury data showing that highway deaths fell to 32,885 for the year, the lowest level since 1949. The record-breaking decline in traffic fatalities occurred even as American drivers traveled nearly 46 billion more miles during the year, an increase of 1.6 percent over the 2009 level.

“While we have more work to do to continue to protect American motorists, these numbers show we’re making historic progress when it comes to improving safety on our nation’s roadways,” said Secretary LaHood. “Thanks to the tireless work of our safety agencies and partner organizations over the past few decades, to save lives and reduce injuries, we’re saving lives, reducing injuries, and building the foundation for what we hope will be even greater success in the future.”

The updated information released by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today indicates 2010 also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010, down from 1.15 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009. Other key statistics include:

  • Fatalities declined in most categories in 2010, including for occupants of passenger cars and light trucks (including SUVs, minivans and pickups).
  • Deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped 4.9 percent in 2010, taking 10,228 lives compared to 10,759 in 2009.
  • Fatalities rose among pedestrians, motorcycle riders, and large truck occupants.

New Measure of Fatalities Related to Distracted Driving

NHTSA also unveiled a new measure of fatalities related to distracted driving today, called “distraction-affected crashes.” Introduced for 2010 as part of a broader effort by the agency to refine its data collection to get better information about the role of distraction in crashes, the new measure is designed to focus more narrowly on crashes in which a driver was most likely to have been distracted. While NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) previously recorded a broad range of potential distractions, such as careless driving and cell phone present in the vehicle, the new measure focuses on distractions that are most likely to affect crash involvement, such as distraction by dialing a cellular phone or texting and distraction by an outside person/event.  New data released today by NHTSA using its refined methodology show an estimated 3,092 fatalities in distraction-affected crashes in 2010.

The NHTSA effort to refine distraction data is similar to a step taken with alcohol information in FARS data for 2006. Prior to 2006, FARS reported “alcohol-related crashes,” which was defined as crashes in which a driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist had a blood alcohol level of .01 or higher. In an effort to focus on crashes in which alcohol was most likely to be a causative factor, NHTSA introduced the new measure, “alcohol-impaired driving crashes,” with a more narrow definition including only those crashes in which a driver or motorcycle rider had a blood alcohol level of .08 or above, the legal limit in every state.

“Even as we celebrate the incredible gains we’re making in reducing traffic fatalities, we recognize our responsibility to improve our understanding of the dangers that continue to threaten drivers and passengers,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “That’s why, under the leadership of Secretary LaHood, NHTSA is working to refine the way we collect data on distracted driving and laying the groundwork for additional research to capture real-world information on this risky behavior.”

While the explicit change in methodology means the new measure cannot be compared to the 5,474 “distraction-related” fatalities reported in 2009, other NHTSA data offer some indication that driver distraction continues to be a significant problem. The agency’s nationwide observational survey of drivers in traffic remains unchanged between 2009 and 2010, with 5 percent of drivers seen talking on handheld phones. In addition, given ongoing challenges in capturing the scope of the problem—including individuals’ reluctance to admit behavior, lack of witnesses, and in some cases the death of the driver—NHTSA believes the actual number of crashes that involve distracted driving could be higher.

National Attitude Survey on Distracted Driving

A new national NHTSA survey offers additional insights into how drivers behave when it comes to texting and cell phone use while behind the wheel and their perceptions of the safety risks of distracted driving. Survey respondents indicated they answer calls on most trips; they acknowledge few driving situations when they would not use the phone or text; and yet they feel unsafe when riding in vehicles in which the driver is texting and they support bans on texting and cell phone use. These findings provide further evidence that distracted driving is a complex problem that is both hard to measure and difficult to address given conflicting public attitudes and behaviors.

“The findings from our new attitude survey help us understand why some people continue to make bad decisions about driving distracted—but what’s clear from all of the information we have is that driver distraction continues to be a major problem,” said Administrator Strickland. “We need to maintain our focus on this issue through education, laws, enforcement, and vehicle design to help keep drivers’ attention on the road.”

Among the findings, more than three-quarters of drivers report that they are willing to answer calls on all, most, or some trips. Drivers also report that they rarely consider traffic situations when deciding when to use their phone.

While most drivers said they are willing to answer a call and many will send a text while driving, almost all of these same drivers reported that they would feel very unsafe as a passenger if their driver was sending or receiving text messages.   Over one-third report that they would feel very unsafe if their driver was using a handheld phone.

Continuing Data Refinement

NHTSA’s adoption of the new “distraction-affected crash” measure for the 2010 FARS data is one step in a continuing effort to focus in on driver distraction and separate it from other issues. As part of its commitment to reduce the problem of distracted driving, NHTSA will continue to look for improved data sources. While police reports of serious crashes are an important source, they are limited by the evidence available to the officer. As a result, the agency is working to optimize information from crash reports by improving reporting forms and officer training. In addition, NHTSA will analyze new data on driver distraction from a new naturalistic study in which about 2,000 cars will be fitted with cameras and other equipment that will record driver behavior over a period of two years. Researchers will be able to use these data to associate driver behaviors with crash involvement. Data from this study will be available in 2014.


ATA Welcomes New Chief Financial Officer

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American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves announced today the federation has hired Karla Hulett as the group's new chief financial officer.

"I'm incredibly pleased that we've been able to bring someone with Karla's extensive experience onboard to American Trucking Associations," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. "As we navigate this economic recovery, I can think of no one better suited to keep ATA's fiscal house in order through these challenging times."

Hulett comes to ATA with more than three decades of experience in tax and revenue administration, most recently with Accenture.

Prior to her time at Accenture, Hulett also worked in the private sector for Microsoft Corp. and Computer Sciences Corp., and served more than 20 years in the Kansas Department of Revenue, ultimately as secretary of the department under then-Gov. Bill Graves.

"I've very excited to join the ATA family," Hulett said. "In my career, I've had the chance to explore the challenges and opportunities of both the public and private sectors and now I'm eager to do the same in the not-for-profit sector.

"I'm confident that my experience as a financial administrator will serve ATA's members and professional staff well as the federation works to promote the industry's goals," she said. "Also, I look forward to working with former Gov. Graves again."

Hulett replaces Dave Bearfoot, who retired in January.



Truckers Risk Stiff Fines, Losing Their CDLs by Using Handhelds

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By Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the Dec. 5 print edition of Transport Topics.

Truck drivers will face fines of up to $2,750 for using handheld phones while driving and suspension or revocation of their commercial driver licenses for repeat offenses, under a regulation announced last month.

The regulation, which applies to interstate truck and bus drivers and all drivers of hazardous materials, follows an earlier regulation prohibiting texting for commercial drivers.

“When drivers of large trucks, buses and hazardous materials take their eyes off the road for even a few seconds, the outcome can be deadly,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement announcing the rule.

“I hope that this rule will save lives by helping commercial drivers stay laser-focused on safety at all times while behind the wheel.”

The ban will take effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which was scheduled for Dec. 2, after Transport Topics went to press. (Update: The rule will take effect Jan. 3.)

Employers who allow drivers to use handheld phones will face fines of up to $11,000 under the rule, which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed in December 2010. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration proposed the hazmat rule in April, and the joint final rule was announced Nov. 23.

“This final rule represents a giant leap for safety,” FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said in the statement. “It’s just too dangerous for drivers to use a handheld cellphone while operating a commercial vehicle.”

American Trucking Associations supports the final rule, President Bill Graves said.

“Studies have shown that actions like texting and dialing a phone can greatly increase crash risk, so taking steps to curb these behaviors holds great promise to improve highway safety,” he said in a statement.

The agencies said that studies of distracted driving do not clearly prove whether or not talking on a phone creates a risk. Instead, the agencies determined “that it is the action of taking one’s eyes off the forward roadway to reach for and dial a handheld mobile telephone . . . that has the greatest risk.”

For that reason, the rule also bans reaching for a phone that is out of reach and dialing a phone, but it does not ban hands-free use or using a single button to initiate, answer or end a call.

It also allows a driver to reach for a phone, “provided the device is within the driver’s reach while he or she is in the normal seated position, with the seat belt fastened.”

ATA, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and some other groups filed comments saying, in part, that the agencies did not clearly define “reaching” in their proposed rules, which also allowed reaching.

The definition in the rule is fair, said Abigail Potter, a safety research analyst with ATA. “If you’re reaching into the sleeper berth, that’s reckless driving,” she told TT.

A larger change the agencies made was to remove the proposed ban on phone use while idling. Commenters, including the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, objected to language that would have applied the rule to phone use “with or without the motor running.”

Instead, phone use is banned while operating on a highway, including when temporarily stopping on the road. It does not include stopping on the side of the road.

But while ATA had requested a change in the proposal that held employers liable for drivers’ phone use even if the employers had taken good faith steps to prevent it, the agencies made no such change.

“Our issue is that there’s nothing we can do. There’s nothing for us to prevent them,” said Potter.

ATA, along with other commenters, argued that there is little employers can do to prevent phone use beyond instituting company policies and training drivers.

“We don’t want to get into cellphone records and matching the cellphone records with the hours-of-service logs,” Potter said.

While FMCSA acknowledged the concern, it declared that “a motor carrier is responsible for the actions of its drivers.”

ATA is “looking into” further steps to change the employer liability, Potter said.

OOIDA blasted the final rule.“A handheld cellphone could certainly be a distraction for some, but it’s one of hundreds of possible distractions that confront drivers every day,” Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice president, said in a statement. “No matter how well-intentioned, the rule is an example of the government overreaching its authority and will most certainly create far more problems than it will ever resolve.”

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


Trucking Industry Shows Signs of Improvement

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From: Find a Trucking Job

With Americans expressing an overall attitude of pessimism regarding the U.S. economy, the consistent growth of the trucking industry as statistically expressed in the Truck Tonnage Index indicates that economic conditions are continuing to improve. Retail sales are directly gauged by the revenue generated by trucking companies as well as pallet and packaging services. As vital industries used to examine the condition of global commercial growth, the freight transportation and packaging sector provide economic analysts with information necessary to project future development in both the freight industry and the economy.

According to Bill Graves, CEO and president of American Trucking Associations "the economy will recover and when it does, trucking companies are going to be one of the ‘first in line’ beneficiaries." Graves continues to state that with over “400 million people needing a lot of good stuff...keep on truckin’ is not just a slogan, it’s an economic imperative.”

A few years ago when the economy had considered to "bottom out", every sector of the job market was hit with low sales and lay-offs. Now that the economy is improving, companies are encountering shortages of drivers as they are faced with growing demand but lack of trained drivers due to slow hiring practices beginning in 2009. With tonnage increasing by seven percent in 2010 and overall freight industry revenue rising as well.

Bob Costello, an ATA economist has remarked that "manufacturing output has been the primary reason why truck freight volumes are increasing more than GDP. The industrial sector should slow next year, but still grow more than GDP, which means truck tonnage can increase faster than GDP as well." This also means the job market will experience... Continue reading.



Executives Say HOS Cut Adds Costs, Aggravates Shortage of Drivers

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Click Here!

By Eric Miller, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the Dec. 5 print edition of Transport Topics.

WASHINGTON — A federal move to cut truck drivers’ working hours would be very costly and exacerbate a shortage of drivers, while putting more trucks on the road, a panel of industry executives told Congress last week.

Ed Nagle, CEO of Nagle Cos., a Toledo, Ohio-based refrigerated carrier, said two provisions of the proposed hours-of-service rule — one that calls for cutting driver hours to 10 from 11 and another modifying the 34-hour restart provision — would cut his company’s ability to generate revenues by 17%.

“For every truck, we need to generate $4,500 per week plus fuel to meet fixed overhead,” Nagle told members of the House government reform committee’s regulatory subcommittee on Nov. 30. “The cost per truck is $75 per hour currently. With the proposed change to 50 hours a week, our fixed cost becomes $90 per hour, with nothing more than the stroke of a pen.”

Glen Keysaw, executive director of transportation and logistics for Associated Food Stores Inc., Salt Lake City, said his company would pay 3% more for shipping if the hours proposal becomes final. That would trigger higher food prices for customers, he said.

Jesse David, senior vice president at Edgeworth Economics, Washington, told the committee that while the hours rule would likely reduce truck-related fatalities, it also would be costly.

The hours proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration leans toward cutting driving hours to 10 and modifying the 34-hour restart by requiring it to include two rest periods of at least six hours and mandating that they fall between midnight and 6 a.m. (1-3, p. 1).

The agency said it plans to announce its final hours rule by the end of the year.

Anne Ferro, FMCSA administrator, told the committee that reducing hours would cut fatigue-related crashes and that preliminary truck-involved fatality numbers show an uptick in 2010, “approaching 4,000.” Roughly 500 of those fatalities, or about 13%, were related to a fatigued driver, Ferro said.

Ferro said the agency estimates that the proposed 10-hour maximum would save 49 lives annually.

“Crash rates still remain at historic lows, which is a tremendous outcome — but not even close to being low enough,” Ferro said.

David Osiecki, American Trucking Associations senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs, declined comment on the new estimate of fatalities involving trucks, saying it was not final number.

“Fatigue is an issue,” Osiecki told Transport Topics. “But the size of the issue is not nearly what the government is saying.”

Truck driver fatigue is a complex issue and requires “far smarter solutions” than revising the hours rule, Osiecki said.

There were 3,380 truck-involved fatalities in 2009, according to FMCSA’s final statistical report. Fatal truck crashes have declined by more than 30% since 2007, Ferro said.

The 2010 preliminary truck fatality data cited by Ferro comes from FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System, which is fed by state law enforcement agencies, an FMCSA spokeswoman said.

Click Here!

“The initial 2010 data on fatal truck crashes indicate that the downward trend reversed in the second half of the year as the economy improved,” Ferro told the subcommittee. “Recent crash reports provide a painful reminder of the need to continue doing everything we can to improve truck safety.”

However, several Republican members of the committee questioned the validity of a new rule, when truck-related fatalities were at historic lows and the economy was still in a fragile state.

“It’s a solution in search of a problem,” said subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Jordan accused federal regulators of “playing games with numbers” and using “fuzzy math” to bolster their case for toughening the hours rule.

A safety advocate on the witness panel testified that, while cost is a consideration, fatigue is a major factor in truck crashes and that the proposed rule would save lives.

“Despite the decline in recent years, large truck fatalities still took a toll of 3,380 lives and caused 73,000 injuries in 2009,” Henry Jasny, vice president and general counsel of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, told the subcommittee.

Ferro also testified that in opposing changes to the current HOS regulations, the motor carrier industry has assumed that fatigue-related crashes, the target of the hours rule, have declined sharply, along with crashes as a whole.

“Many commercial drivers are still not getting enough rest and breaks under the current rule,” she said.

In a related development, FMCSA said last week it expects to complete work on the final HOS rule, which is currently being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, within 30 days.

At a news conference by rule supporters before the hearing, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), ranking member on the subcommittee and the son of a truck driver, said regulators and members of Congress should not worry about how much the rule will cost the industry.

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