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?”

Fast-Fax - Year End Review 2011

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DOT Safety Regulation Update Fast-Fax™
Week of December 9, 2011
Foley Services Your Single Source for DOT Compliance


HOS Proposal Finally Hits the Federal Register

Safety advocates and big industry associations started weighing in on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new Hours of Service (HOS) proposal shortly after the preview copy appeared on the agency’s website on December 23.

DOT Issues Railroad Crossing NPRM

Two DOT agencies propose changes to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs)and Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) that would prohibit a motor vehicle driver from entering onto a highway-rail grade crossing unless there is sufficient space to clear the crossing without stopping.


New Cargo Insurance Requirements Begin March 21

FMCSA eliminates the minimum cargo insurance requirements for most for-hire common carriers of property and freight forwarders. Household goods carriers and household goods freight forwarders are still on the hook.


GAO Report Reveals Price, Future of CSA

A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed how much CSA has cost the taxpayer and what FMCSA has in store for the future of the program.

Settlement Agreement Results in CSA Changes

As part of a settlement agreement with three trucking associations, FMCSA made some changes to the CSA system.


PHMSA Texting Ban Begins

PHMSA issued a final rule that prohibits texting on electronic devices while transporting hazardous materials requiring placarding.

PHMSA Final Rule Enhances Enforcement Authority

PHMSA’s new enforcement and inspection procedures Final Rule enhances, but does not change, the current inspection procedures.


FMCSA Establishes Minimum Standards for CLPs

After more than 20 years of proposals, FMCSA published a Final Rule establishing a minimum standard that States must adhere to when issuing Commercial Learner’s Permits (CLPs).

FMCSA Reopens Hours-of- Service Comment Period

The agency will only consider comments on four driver fatigue-related documents it added to the public docket.

NY Congressman Reintroduces ‘Jason’s Law’.

Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) reintroduced “Jason’s Law,” a bill aimed at increasing safe truck parking facilities across the country.

FMCSA Delays Intermodal Equipment Rules

FMCSA announced that it would delay the new rules governing Intermodal Equipment. The new implementation date is June 30, 2012.


Are Safety Rating Appeals Extensions History?

After a deadly accident involving a carrier appealing an unsatisfactory safety rating, DOT head Ray LaHood calls for an end to appeals extensions for unsafe bus companies.

FMCSA Punts on Medical Certificate Filing Rule

FMCSA issues a proposed rule effectively delaying an overhaul to the medical certificate filing regulations that has been on the books since 2008. Drivers and motor carriers will be required to keep paper copies of the medical certificate until at least 2014.


FMCSA Proposal Eliminates Confusion on Schedule I Drug Use by CMV Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed changes designed to clear up “perceived” inconsistencies regarding Schedule I drug use by CMV drivers. The bottom line is that the use of Schedule I drugs by CMV drivers is never permitted. The agency also plans to eliminate incorrect use of the term “actual knowledge” and harmonize Part 382 refusal-to-test provisions with Part 40 requirements.

DOT Proves Its Point

The Department of Transportation claimed a significant victory in its war against distracted driving as pilot programs in Hartford and Syracuse were hailed as overwhelming successes.

FMCSA Releases Draft Strategic Plan

FMCSA released a draft of its latest strategic plan in July, giving the industry a glimpse at the future of safety regulations. Expect increased CMV safety regulations in 2012.


CAFE Standards Applied to Trucks for First Time

Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards have been applied to heavy-duty vehicles for the first time. Starting in 2014 new trucks will have to be much more fuel efficient.

FMCSA Swings the Ax to Old Regulations

The Obama Administration is waging war against regulations deemed harmful to small businesses; every agency is taking the axe to out dated or harmful regulations and FMCSA was no exception.


NLRB Rulemaking Causes Stir Trucking Industry

The new rules require that employers post information about the right to unionize along side other mandatory postings (such as disability and minimum wage laws).

NTSB Recommends Banning All Cell Phones in Trucks

The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent government body, made its recommendations to FMCSA and to the states earlier this week.


The Rise of the Tolls

With budgets over burdened, taxes at record lows and a nationwide infrastructure crisis only just getting started, States and Municipalities are looking to tolls to raise revenues.

Full Steam Ahead on Cross Border Program

Despite strenuous objections from the industry and from Congress, FMCSA is pushing on with the Cross Border Trucking Project with Mexico.


Motor Carriers Improving Safety

FMCSA has released figures that show that the number of fatal crashes decreased by almost a third between 2007 and 2009.

DOT Marks 20 Years of Drug Testing

The DOT marked twenty years since it was mandated by Congress to begin drug and alcohol testing of transportation workers.


FMCSA and PHMSA Ban Handheld Cellphones

In a widely predicted move, FMCSA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a joint Final Rule on Wednesday, November 23 banning the use of a handheld cellphone while operating a CMV.

Editor: Roxanne Swidrak, Vice President, Operations • 1-800-253-5506 • • Vol. 111, No. 716 • © Foley Carrier Services, LLC. 2011

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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.