Editorial - Improving Truck Safety Without A Single, Additional Regulation

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by Dave Osiecki
Senior Vice President for Policy & Regulatory Affairs
The American Trucking Associations

Most have heard the outcome of MAP-21, the latest highway law, for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  FMCSA has said repeatedly that MAP-21 requires it to complete 29 new safety regulations within 27 months.   FMCSA will be challenged to complete them within that timeframe.  And, no matter when they do, the trucking industry will be challenged to comply with another set of new safety rules.  What if I told you, though, that truck safety could be significantly improved without a single, additional regulation, but rather with a single change to the longstanding Federal-State Inspection program known as MCSAP (the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program commonly referred to by its acronym)?  Allow me to briefly describe how this is possible.  

Before doing so, let’s start with a simple quiz.  Assume for a minute you were fortunate enough to inherit a whopping $3.5 million from a wealthy Uncle…let’s call him Charlie.  In learning this great news, you also discover that old Uncle Charlie had this fortune in two investments with the same investment firm--$3.0 million in an investment with a 1% guaranteed rate of return; and $500,000 in an investment with a 3% guaranteed rate of return.  Other than questioning your generous Uncle’s investment IQ, what would you do with these investments?  The answer’s simple, right?  You’d quickly move the $3.0 million into the 3% guaranteed investment to maximize your return.  If not, you may want to stop reading here.  And, yes, I realize some of you are saying you’d find a different investment in order to find a guaranteed 6 or 7% return, and a small portion of you are saying ‘let’s go to Vegas baby.” But humor me and read on…

So what does this quiz have to do with more truck safety without more regulations?  A great deal, because the numbers I chose above (3.0 million and 500,000, and the 3 to 1 difference in the rate of return), are the 2012 numbers from the MCSAP program.  Under MCSAP in 2012, FMCSA funded the 50 States to perform a total of about 3.0 million Roadside Inspections of trucks and drivers, and further funded the States to conduct about 500,000 Traffic Enforcement stops of truck drivers operating unsafely (e.g., speeding, unsafe lane change, etc.) which then triggered some type of limited inspection of either the driver’s paperwork or the truck.  So, in 2012, the number of FMCSA-funded Roadside Inspections far outpaced the number of Traffic Enforcement stops.

Yet, FMCSA’s own analysis published in April 2011 (and recently updated in April 2013) on the safety effectiveness of these two MCSAP enforcement interventions (Roadside Inspections and Traffic Enforcement stops coupled with a limited inspection) demonstrates that the benefits (i.e., the rate of return) are 3 to 1 in favor of Traffic Enforcement stops coupled with a limited inspection (called simply “Traffic Enforcement” for the remainder of this piece).  In other words, according to FMCSA, Traffic Enforcement prevents about three times more truck crashes (and saves 3 times more lives) than do Roadside Inspections (as measured on a per 1,000 interventions basis).

So, let’s go back to the Uncle Charlie scenario for a moment.  If you inherited the MCSAP program and discovered it was investing in 3.0 million Roadside Inspections with a guaranteed safety return of 1%, and 500,000 Traffic Enforcement stops with a guaranteed safety return of 3%, what would you do?  Pretty simple, right?  

Take a look at the following data from the Intervention Effectiveness table contained FMCSA’s 2011 data-driven analysis[1]

Benefits Associated with Various Activities

Total Benefits


Benefits per


Interventions U.S.

Crashes Avoided-Roadside Inspection



Crashes Avoided-Traffic Enforcement





(TE to RI ratio is 3.60 to 1)

Injuries Avoided-Roadside Inspection



Injuries Avoided-Traffic Enforcement





(TE to RI ratio is 3.61 to 1)

Lives Saved-Roadside Inspection



Lives Saved-Traffic Enforcement





(TE to RI ratio is 3.57 to 1)

(TE to RI ratios in table above were added by ATA)

The high water mark for MCSAP Traffic Enforcement interventions was in 2006 at 900,000.  That number dropped by more than 43% to only 510,000 in 2012, in favor of more Roadside Inspections (which went from 2.3 million in 2006 to just over 3 million in 2012).[2]   This leads to a reasonable question—why is FMCSA investing MCSAP dollars in a manner that, by its own data-driven analysis (conducted under the Government Performance & Results Act requirements for “resource allocation” purposes), is far less effective at truck crash prevention than it could be?   

The answer is more complicated than shifting from one ‘investment’ to the other as in the Uncle Charlie scenario.  The answer lies in a common challenge facing many federal programs.  They quickly develop a sincere, well-meaning constituency which becomes vested in the program as it was originally developed.  The longer the program goes on, the more vested the constituency becomes, and the more difficult it is to change.  This is the case even when it becomes clear that data-driven change would result in better outcomes.  In this case, the better outcome is greater truck and highway safety through more effective allocation of resources.  That is, more Traffic Enforcement activity aimed at unsafe drivers, which will also generate data to target motor carriers who facilitate or encourage unsafe behavior.

I am a strong advocate for MCSAP.  It’s been a success story, and has made a positive contribution to driver and truck safety since it began almost 30 years ago.  I am also a strong advocate for bringing data-driven change to MCSAP to bring more balance to the interventions in order to make it a far more effective program for the benefit of professional drivers, the industry, the motoring public, and highway safety.  And, this positive safety change can be accomplished without a single, additional regulation.

[1] See Table 5 in FMCSA’s April 2011 “Intervention Effectiveness” report at



Technology Can Boost Driver Retention Through Improved Training, Exec Says

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By Seth Clevenger

This story appears in the May 27 print edition of Transport Topics.

PRINCETON, N.J. — Existing driver training programs can be improved through management software and give carriers an edge in cutting turnover rates, the director of driver training at Maverick Transportation said.

Maverick’s Curt Valkovic said his company has improved retention among driver students after fine-tuning its training program through a partnership with EBE Technologies Inc.

Valkovic said the software company crafted a tool that enables him to monitor the work of students and instructors. It also allows him to more easily manage the curriculum for students with varying levels of experience and those who are learning how to transport different types of freight such as glass or goods requiring temperature control... Continue reading.


APSCUs's 2013 Employer of the Year Awarded to Werner Enterprises

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The Employer of the Year award has been awarded to Werner Enterprises. The company will be honored at the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU)’s Annual Convention in Orlando, FL.

APSCU’s Employer of the Year Award honors an employer who demonstrates an active, long-standing relationship with private sector post-secondary institutions and their students.

Werner Enterprises, Inc. was founded in 1956 and is a premier transportation and logistics company and is among the five largest truckload carriers in the United States, with a diversified portfolio of transportation services. Werner has worked closely with the New England Tractor Trailer Training School (NETTTS) for over 20 years, and view NETTTS as a critical supplier of future drivers.

In the past five years, they have hired over 800 graduates into their Newly Licensed Truck Driver Training. Werner also offers up to $6,000 in tuition reimbursement. Werner has been an essential partner to NETTTS by visiting on a bi-monthly basis and participating in career fairs, as well as reporting back to NETTTS on the progress of their students.

“We are pleased to honor Werner Enterprises with APSCU’s Employer of the Year award,” said Steve Gunderson, president and chief executive officer of APSCU.  “This is a great example of how our schools work with employers to ensure they are developing the best curriculum for their students to succeed.”

Werner’s Derek Leathers on the Industry Outlook

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Slowly but steadily, freight demand is growing, says Derek Leathers, president and COO of truckload carrier Werner Enterprises. More demand is good, he says, but the risk is that it brings the truckload industry closer to an imbalance that could disrupt distribution.

Leathers, speaking at the ALK Transportation Technology Summit in Princeton, N.J., Wednesday, said that the supply-demand equilibrium has been tightening in recent months but not enough to expose how close the balance is.

We’re at the point where small variances in the supply chain can make a big difference, Leathers said.

For instance, the demand for beverages and snacks for Memorial Day could bounce up against demand for yard tools that has been delayed by cool April weather, he said. That may explain why Werner is seeing strong increases in its measurements of pending near-term demand.

It’s a situation that’s been created by a long-term downward trend in truckload capacity. Industry capacity is down 9.6% since the first period of 2008, and 17.6% since the fourth period of 2006, he said.

Truckload companies are not positioned to dramatically expand their fleets any time soon. Even replacing aging trucks is a problem, Leathers said.

The fleet now averages 6.6 years in age, compared to a normal age of 5.5. Leathers said the cost of rejuvenation would be $54 billion over two years.

“Where will the money come from?” Leathers asked. Interest rates are low but banks are not willing to lend.

The solution will involve making the most of in-house productivity with new technology tools to manage freight, and using other modes to move freight where it makes sense, he said.

Technology is not a solution by itself, he added.

“You need the proper blend between technology and human interaction,” he said. “If you have a broken process or broken strategy, all the technology in the world ain’t gonna fix that, it’s just going to make it very efficiently wrong.”

The fleets that survive will be the ones that can offset rate increases with innovation, he said.

“The secret sauce is to find a way to move less loads. You need to have the optimization and collaboration that is required to thread the needle to get the rate you need while respecting the customer’s need to lower costs.”

Intermodal opportunities will be another key to success, he said.

“We are in midst of a renaissance in intermodal.”

The opportunity is limited by the nature of rail versus freight: 77% of all freight moves by truck in ways that are not competitive with rails, and 15% of rail freight is not competitive with trucks.

But 5% of trucking could go by rail, and 3% of rail freight could go on the highway.

“Our job as logistics providers is to look every day for increased opportunities to save our customers money and one of the lowest hanging fruits is in that small sliver to maximize the conversion opportunity.”

That means putting the best intermodal freight on rail.

“We must continuously look for the best combined efforts of all modes. It’s where technology can make a difference,” he said.

“Absent that, we will have a freight capacity tightness that will be a net negative for the economy.”

Leathers also said that “nearshoring” to Mexico is growing rapidly, referring to manufacturing work that is being relocated from Asia to Mexico.

Manufacturers are not shutting down their Asian plants but are moving their incremental growth back to Mexico, in part to balance fuel costs.

Leathers is not optimistic about the possibility of improving trucking productivity by increasing sizes and weights.

He would like to see a change that allows 88,000-pound, 5-axle trucks, rather than current legislation that would allow states to permit 97,000-pound, 6-axle units.

The 88,000-pound trucks can stop as well as the current 80,000-pound standard, and the industry would not have to buy new trailers and axles.

He also would like for states to be able to establish regional corridors where certain types of operations could run heavier vehicles.

“(But) there’s very little chance of success,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Leathers is not pleased with the way federal safety regulations are being implemented. 

“Hours of service, CSA…regardless of how clearly you demonstrate how the regulation has missed the mark, it takes too long to fix.”

One problem with the HOS rule is that mandatory electronic logging is not yet in place, so there’s no way to ensure that the rules are being obeyed.

“We missed the mark on this one,” he said. “We need to focus on electronic logs to ensure that we are compliant.”

CSA brought the driver to the table, a good thing, but it is flawed by a lack of correlation between scores and safety performance. Under CSA, 329,000 carriers have been inspected but only 89,134 have enough inspections to generate a Safety Management System score, he said.


FMCSA Unveils More Medical Examiner Rule Changes

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has unveiled a second round of changes to the Medical Examiner rule. In a request for comments, the Agency revealed a plan to require same day reporting of medical results to the Federal government.

FMCSA — already shaking up the industry by restricting Medi­cal Examiner status to a select few — has now proposed that driver medical results be report­ed to the Federal government. Under proposed new rules, Medical Examiners would be re­quired to send in the results of a DOT physical on the same day that it was performed.

To provide for the complicated logistics of this, FMCSA would create a new electronic report­ing system for doctors to use. FMCSA has also released a new Medical Examination Report Form for use during a DOT Physi­cal.

In a move that carriers may be pleased by, FMCSA has said that if this system is put in place, they would stop the requirement for a driver to provide a Medical Certificate to his or her employ­er and State Licencing Authority. The state would be able to look up the driver in an online regis­try.

Same Day Reporting

Under the proposed rule, a driver would visit a doctor (reg­istered on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners) and undergo a standard DOT Physical. The doctor would then be required to send the results of all the physicals done in a day to FMCSA via the online system.

This would include physicals that were failed as well as pass­es. FMCSA would then send the information to the appropriate state.

Essentially, this would take the burden of providing a Medi­cal Examiner’s Certificate off of the driver and onto the doctor. FMCSA would thereby remove the ability of a driver to go to another doctor if they don’t pass the physical.

This is a sign of the level of part­nership that FMCSA is trying to build with the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. These doctors will have received training on the safety implica­tions of the physical and the im­portance of driver fitness.

Online Reporting System

In the Notice of Proposed Rule­making, FMCSA has estimated that that electronic reporting system would save states and drivers $10.1 million every year. Interestingly, however, they cit­ed only a vague improvement in roadway safety:

“Although the safety benefits of this rule are difficult to fully quantify, the agency believes that the fraud prevention in electronic transmission of [med­ical certificates] will continue to improve safety on public roads,” FMCSA said in the NPRM.

Medical Examiners

This is the second wave in changes to the Medical Exami­nation process, however, FMCSA is far from ready with the first round of changes. Under that plan, drivers would no longer be able to visit any doctor to receive a DOT Physical. Instead, they would have to visit doctors who have received additional training on commercial driver requirements and have passed an examination.

This will dramatically reduce the number of doctors available to perform physicals. FMCSA has said that it expects about 40,000 registered doctors by the May, 2014 implementation date. As of April of this year, however, only 800 doctors had taken part. Reg­istration has been open since summer of 2012.


Your comments are encouraged. This is your opportunity to make your voice heard. FMCSA does read all comments and responds to commonly cited complaints or concerns during the rulemak­ing process. You may submit comments identified by Docket Number FMCSA- 2012-0178 us­ing any of the following meth­ods:

  • Web:
  • Mail: Docket Management Fa­cility, U.S. Department of Trans­portation, 1200 New Jersey Av­enue SE., West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washing­ton, DC 20590-0001.
  • Hand Delivery or Courier: Same address, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. E.T., Monday through Fri­day, except Federal holidays.
  • Fax: 202-493-2251.

Trucking adds 11,700 jobs in April

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A month after the for-hire trucking industry cut a revised 6,300 payroll jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis it added back 11,700 jobs in April, according to preliminary estimates released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is the largest month-to-month increase since trucking added 12,700 jobs in February 2012.

Meanwhile, the overall national employment picture improved in April, especially considering upward revisions to March figures. The economy added 165,000 nonfarm jobs in April on top of a revised 138,000 added in March, according to the preliminary BLS figures. BLS had initially reported a gain of only 88,000 jobs in March. The national unemployment rate dipped to 7.5% — the lowest since December 2008. All of the net gains in jobs came from the service sector as the key goods-producing sectors were weak. Construction and mining shed 6,000 and 3,000 jobs, respectively, and manufacturing was flat.

Trucking payroll employment in April totaled 1.386 million jobs — up 45,300 jobs, or 3.4%, from April 2012. Trucking employment is up by 151,600 jobs, or 12.3%, from the bottom in March 2010, but it remains 67,800 jobs, or 4.7%, below the peak in January 2007.

The BLS numbers for trucking reflect all payroll employment in for-hire trucking, but they don’t include trucking-related jobs in other industries, such as a truck driver for a private fleet. Nor do the numbers reflect the total amount of hiring since they only reflect the number of employees paid during a specified payroll period during the month. Due to high turnover rates, the BLS estimates may overstate the number of job positions due to the methodology used in the agency’s Current Employment Survey.


Step Up and Be Counted as TAT Certified

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Have you been trained with materials from Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT)? Have you watched our training DVD? Are you equipped with the number for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (1-888-3737-888), so you can call and report what you know when you suspect a human trafficking situation?

In an effort to show the pro-active effort and enthusiastic response the trucking industry is making to fight human trafficking-and to demonstrate their leadership in this endeavor among all members of the transportation industry-TAT has created a place on our website for you to register as a "trucker against trafficking."

Whether you're a driver, a truck stop or travel plaza employee, a company or fleet owner, a manufacturing employee, an administrator, manager, trainer, policy maker-any member of the trucking industry whatsoever-please go to and click on the TAT Certified section on the home page.