NC Considers New Ban On Cell Phones For Drivers - TransTech

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Audrina Bigos

CHARLOTTE, NC- Distracted drivers are a big concern… especially when they're operating the biggest vehicles on the road.

Larry Hiott is an instructor at TransTech, a truck driving school in West Charlotte.

He says first-time students come in with bad habits.

"We're trying to wean people off cell phones because they are addictive..

almost as bad as some drugs and people rely on them too much," said Hiott.

The stakes are high for truck drivers.

"They only get one chance.  If they make a mistake with a tractor trailer.. it's usually a fatality,” said Hiott.

He tells his students they are 23 times more likely to get in a wreck while texting and six times more likely if they are just reaching for a cell phone.

When his students were asked if they use cell phones in their own cars, they were quick to raise their hands. But after this course, they may have to reconsider and make some changes to keep other drivers safe.

"Yeah that's a big difference. You got a lot of metal, a lot of weight… you gotta think about the stop and control.. the distance," said TransTech student, Rozell Washington.

TransTech says the new ban on talking could help emphasize its no cell phone rules already in place.

"Truckers shouldn't be on the cell phone because they do need to pay more attention to the road," said Washington.

They're not the only ones.

Other drivers support a possible ban.

"The reason I don't even talk on the phone that much is because I almost crashed doing it so it's more like a personal thing. Some people just are just not going to ever do it… some people just think it's fine," Joshua Byous, a South Charlotte resident.

Those drivers would face a hundred dollar fine if the bill passes.

Obituary - Ron Lee Geyer, 63

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Ron GeyerRon Lee Geyer, age 63, of Columbia City, IN and formerly of Florida passed away at 9:43 a.m. Saturday, March 26, 2011 at Parkview Whitley Hospital, Columbia City. Born on July 2, 1947 in Fort Wayne, he was the son of Raymond Evan and Eldora Marie (Bieberich) Geyer.

He graduated from Churubusco High School with the Class of 1965, International Business College, Fort Wayne, and Miami Dade Community College, Miami, FL. He worked at Geyer Willow Grass Sod Farm, Collins; he then drove truck for Dana Corporation, Inc.; and currently he was employed as a field recruiter for U.S. Express, Chattanooga, TN. He is a member of American Legion Post 90 and Elks Lodge for 25 years, both at Cape Coral, Florida.

Survivors include his sister, Myrna (Ralph) Bailey of Columbia City; best friend, David Johnson of Cape Coral, FL; 2 nieces, Diana (Kim) Hare and Lisa Peppler; 2 great nieces, Shelby and Kayli Hare. He was preceded in death by his parents.

Graveside service will be at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at Eel River Cemetery, rural Churubusco with Pastor Terry Zolman officiating. Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to DeMoney-Grimes Funeral, 600 Countryside Drive, Columbia City.

Memorials may be given in memory of Mr. Geyer to the Whitley County Humane Society. Envelopes will be available at the funeral home.

PHMSA Texting Ban Goes Into Effect March 30

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A new rule issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration expands FMCSA’s earlier rule prohibiting texting while operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle.

At the end of February, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a final rule that prohibits texting on electronic devices while transporting hazardous materials requiring placarding. PHMSA’s texting ban, which expands the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) earlier rule banning texting while driving a commercial motor vehicle, goes into effect next Wednesday (March 30, 2011).

The rule adds the following paragraph to Section 177.804, Compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, to the Hazardous Materials and Oil Transportation Regulations:

(b) Prohibition against texting. In accordance with Sec. 392.80 of the FMCSRs a person transporting a quantity of hazardous materials requiring placarding under 49 CFR part 172 or any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR part 73 may not engage in, allow, or require texting while driving.

More simply, all Hazmat carriers, even those who do not cross state lines, are now prohibited from texting while driving a commercial motor vehicle laden with hazardous materials.

FMCSA Texting Ban

FMCSA’s earlier texting ban — and the associated penalties — went into effect on October 27, 2010. The penalties outlined by FMCSA are tough. Under the Compliance, Safety Aucountablity (CSA) system, texting while driving carries a 10-point severity weight rating and counts against both the carrier and the driver. Drivers who violate the rule face fines of up to $2,750, while their employers may be fined up to $11,000. Texting behind the wheel has also been identified as a disqualifying offense for FMCSA-regulated drivers. PHMSA’s rule did not specifically address fines and penalties for hazmat carriers and drivers who break the agency’s texting ban.

Details of FMCSA’s prohibition against texting are outlined in the newly created Subpart H to 49 CFR part 392 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. This section explicitly states that drivers shall not engage in texting while driving and motor carriers shall not allow or require their drivers to engage in texting while driving.

Texting Defined

To help clarify FMCSA’s rule, two key definitions were added to 49 CFR Part 390.5.
First, the two-part definition of texting:

(1) Texting means manually entering alphanumeric text, or reading text from an electronic device. This action includes, but is not limited to, short message service, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a World Wide Web page, or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or electronic text entry for present or future communication.

(2) Texting does not include:

  • Reading, selecting, or entering a telephone number, an extension number, or voicemail retrieval codes and commands into an electronic device for the purpose of initiating or receiving a phone call or using voice commands to initiate or receive a telephone call;
  • Inputting, selecting or reading information on a global positioning system or navigation system; or
  • Using a device capable of performing multiple functions (e.g. fleet management systems, dispatching devices, smart phones, citizens band radios, music players, etc.) for a purpose that is not otherwise prohibited in part 392.

To further clarify, FMCSA added the following definition of electronic device: Electronic device includes, but is not limited to, a cellular telephone; personal digital assistant; pager; computer; or any other device used to input, write, send, receive, or read text.

What Should Carriers Do to Ensure Compliance?

If they haven’t already, carriers are encouraged to review the texting ban regulations with their drivers as soon as possible. This is also a good time to review your driver safety policy to be sure that the section on distracted driving/cell phone use mirrors the DOT’s texting ban.

In addition to the top CSA severity weight and hefty fines, texting while driving is a disqualifying offense for repeat offenders. A driver who is convicted of violating the texting ban twice in a three-year period is disqualified for 60 days. Three or more violations in a three-year period, and the driver is benched for 120 days.

Transportation Ticker

NYSDOT Targets Unsafe Carriers. In the wake of two deadly crashes earlier this month, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is cracking down on unsafe buses operating in the state. NYSDOT recently conducted a safety inspection blitz that resulted with dozens of buses and drivers being pulled from the road.

A total of 164 buses were inspected at 13 checkpoints throughout the state. In a released statement, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said the inspections proved that many of the drivers and vehicles “had no business” being on the road. Cuomo urged all carriers to heed the warning, get into compliance and abide by the law.

In total, 41 drivers and/or buses were placed out-of-service for serious violations during the recent roadside inspections. Even more buses and drivers were cited for minor vehicle infractions
and moving violations.

Editor: Roxanne Swidrak, Vice President, Operations • 1-800-253-5506 • • Vol. 111, No. 679 • © Foley Carrier Services, LLC. 2011

Professional Truck Driver Institute Honors Carl Spatocco with Lee J. Crittenden Memorial Award

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Recipient is devoted to advancing commercial truck driver training

Carl Spatocco

San Diego, Calif. - The Professional Truck Driver Institute, Inc. (PTDI), an organization whose mission is to raise the quality of truck driver training courses by establishing and promoting minimum training standards, and by certifying courses that meet those standards, has awarded its 13th annual Lee J. Crittenden Memorial Award to Carl Spatocco, regional vice president of Education Affiliates/All-State Career School, Lester, Pa. The ceremony was held March 15, 2011, during the Truckload Carriers Association's (TCA) Annual Convention at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel & Convention Center in San Diego, Calif.

The award, sponsored by Delmar, Cengage Learning, is given to a person who exemplifies the overall mission of the Professional Truck Driver Institute, Inc., of which Lee Crittenden was a staunch supporter until his death in April 1998.  "Delmar is proud to sponsor this prestigious award and is proud to partner with PTDI in recognizing Mr. Spatocco", said Kristen Davis, Director of Transportation Industry Solutions at Delmar, Cengage Learning.  "It is people like him that make working in this industry so rewarding."

Spatocco has extensive experience in the commercial driver training segment of the transportation industry. His background includes managing multiple accredited commercial driver training schools for 25 years. Since 2003, he has served on PTDI's Board of Directors, Standards Review Committee, and Certification Commission. He has been a Board member of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) for seven years, including holding the positions of treasurer, chairman and past chairman. Spatocco is currently vice chairman of the Commercial Driver Training Foundation and has served on numerous industry advisory boards and committees for the American Trucking Associations, TCA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. He also sits on the Board of the Pennsylvania Association of Private School Administrators and is a former Board member of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce.

According to David Money, CDS, CDT, chairman of PTDI's Certification Commission and technical director-transportation for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Loss Control Advisory Services Group, "Carl applies a consistent, insightful, analytical approach to reviewing schools and policies for PTDI course certification; utilizes his significant knowledge not only of the transportation industry, but the business of training to benefit PTDI; and is unflappable in his commitment to detail."

Through his involvement with CVTA, Spatocco helped to create an instructor development program that has proven to be highly beneficial to PTDI. "One of PTDI's core standards is instructor development, so we were fortunate that we could make the program available to schools. A number of [schools are] now using it to help ensure the quality of their instructors," said Virginia DeRoze, former program director for PTDI and the 2002 recipient of the Lee J. Crittenden Memorial Award.

Personally, Spatocco is described as a leader and mentor who has consistently demonstrated innovation, resourcefulness and dedication to student success. "He never misses an opportunity to discuss the benefits of 'doing it right' with individuals outside of the training arena, or those involved with training. ... Many students have benefited from Carl's dedication to driver training and for them, we thank him," said Chuck Wirth, CVTA's representative to the PTDI Board and one of the individuals who nominated Spatocco for the award.

The presentation of the annual Lee J. Crittenden award will keep Crittenden's memory alive and serve as inspiration to others who get involved with truck driver issues. Crittenden helped many important industry activities get their start. He was passionate about promoting a positive image of the nation's professional truck drivers, and was largely responsible for the creation of America's Road Team. He also initiated a scholarship program for drivers who participate in the National Truck Driving Championships. His greatest industry achievement is largely believed to be his part in founding the Professional Truck Driver Institute, where he served on the board of directors and also as the finance chairman during the Institute's infancy. Crittenden worked for CitiCapital, the company that was instrumental in creating this award along with the Truckload Carriers Association.

Judge places California's global warming program on hold

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A San Francisco superior court judge has put California's sweeping plan to curb greenhouse gas pollution on hold, saying the state did not adequately evaluate alternatives to its cap-and-trade program.

In a 35-page decision, Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith said the Air Resources Board had failed to consider public comments on the proposed measures before adopting the plan, which affects a broad swath of the state's economy.

In particular, the judge noted, officials gave short shrift to analyzing a carbon fee, or carbon tax, devoting a “scant two paragraphs to this important alternative” to a market-based trading system in their December 2008 plan.

The air board said it would appeal the judge's decision, which was filed late Friday and released Monday.

The potential setback in California, the first state to enact a broad global warming law, comes amid heightened nationwide controversy over how to curb the gases that trap heat in Earth's atmosphere, and change climates.

A greenhouse gas bill passed the U.S. House last year, but failed... Continue to read more...

Tragedies Underscore New Reality of the CSA Era

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Two bus accidents in the last week have highlighted just what CSA means for motor carriers in the information age: Violations are no longer a private matter; they are now public, sometimes very public.

It is almost inconceivable that anyone missed the tragedy that occurred in the Bronx in the early hours of March 12. Since then, the headlines have been filled with gory details about the accident in which a bus flipped on its side and was sheared almost in two by a roadside sign. Every newspaper, website and cable-news pundit has remarked on the 15 people who lost their lives. All three major networks have dedicated time from their evening news to discuss the accident (even more impressive considering the earthquake and subsequent nuclear accident in Japan).

It is enough to remember that early one morning 15 people died. It is enough to remember that another crash involving a bus occurred three days later just across the border in New Jersey and that another two people (including the driver) were killed there.

However, the accidents also underscored a new reality for motor carriers. In the CSA era, your flaws are out there for everyone to see. Anyone, from journalists to shippers and insurers and other carriers can see your scores and a detailed look at all of your violations.

Violations Are Not Forgotten

In the past, unless they caused a serious or fatal accident, most violations were, for all intents and purposes, forgotten about soon after they were highlighted.

Sure, there were punishments. Fines, out-of-service orders, compliance reviews; these all existed long before CSA of course. Only a limited number of violations were published and with scant few details. Now they are available in exacting detail for anyone to see.

A Demonstration

The accident in the Bronx involved a motor carrier known as World Wide Travel (DBA World Wide Tours). The accident in New Jersey involved a carrier known as Super Luxury Tours. Neither of these carriers are clients of Foley Carrier Services — we have no access to their company information other than what we pulled from the newspapers. Yet here are their public BASICs:

Open to All

In reality, we would not have needed to have their full name or address to get this information. The CSA site allows users to enter only a partial or similar name to find a carrier. Anyone — including people who have no experience in our industry — can search the site and start parsing through a carrier’s safety history. Case in point: The New York Post which dedicated several articles to discussing the safety scores and percentages of both World Wide Tours and Super Luxury Tours this week.

Compliance is Not an Option

Of course, compliance has never been an option. And it should be said that many, if not most, carriers are dedicated to obeying the regulations and fixing issues if and when they arise. These two tragedies, however, underscore exactly why carriers must maintain or increase their compliance efforts.

If we — and reporters from The New York Post — are able to look at a carrier in this much detail, it is obvious that shippers, insurers and other carriers can as well. These people, not FMCSA audits, are the real threat to carriers from CSA. It won’t be long before the carriers with problems begin to be shunned by the industry and the power players look to other, safer places to take their business.

Editor: Roxanne Swidrak, Vice President, Operations • 1-800-253-5506 • • Vol. 111, No. 678 • © Foley Carrier Services, LLC. 2011