HireRight’s second quarterly podcast is focused on Trucking Industry Safety Issues. Rob Abbott, Vice President of Safety Policy for the American Trucking Associations will discuss the following four issues:
- Compliance Safety and Accountability (CSA)
- Electronic Logging Devices
- Entry Level Driver Training
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HireRight & ATA Quarterly Podcast
By Rob Abbott, VP of Safety Policy for the ATA
So first, let’s talk about Hours-of-Service. As many of you may remember, Senator Collins’ amendment to last years’ appropriation bill did two things. It suspended the restrictions on use of the restart provisions that were in place since July 2013. You may recall those restrictions were that a restart had to include two night time periods of 1:00 to 5:00 a.m. and could only be used once a week. The other provision in the bill required that FMCSA conduct a study of the impact and benefits of the restrictions. That study is currently underway; FMCSA began their data collection at the end of April. They are currently following 232 drivers across the country and they are looking at a number of things. These items include safety critical events such as crashes and near misses through the use of video event recorders that are on the trucks, they are measuring health and longevity effects, and the impact of driver fatigue by having the driver wear activegraph devices which are like a watch that you wear that measures whether or not you are moving or asleep or awake. They are also doing what we call psychomotor vigilance testing which is a reactionary test that someone can take on a smartphone. So this data collection should be done by the end of September and as such we expect the results to be reported to Congress by November or December of this year.
Meanwhile, the American Transportation Research Institute did their own analysis on hours-of-service using log and GPS data. They found that as a result of the restart restrictions that were imposed on July 2013 there was a shift of truck traffic to daytime from nighttime and to weekday from weekends and this is a risk because it is times when we have greater traffic and vehicle interaction which increases the risk of crashes. And in fact, ATRI found that the changes in the rule increased certain type of crashes – injury and tow-away crashes. Also, the Government Accountability Office has been doing research on hours-of-service and their research is two-fold. They’re looking at FMCSA’s last restart study to evaluate whether or not the findings were valid and whether or not the methodology was sound. But of interest, they’re also looking at the cost benefit assumptions that were used to justify the rule originally. The assumptions about the safety benefits that would result and the impacts to society and the economy and so what GAO will do will determine whether or not those projections did ever materialize.
So the big question is what’s next. Existing law, the Collin’s amendment, calls for the suspensions to end and the restrictions to resume automatically upon completion and submission of the study results. Regardless of what those results are and that’s problematic because if the results of the study show that they restrictions are not beneficial it would be illogical to re-impose the restrictions. So, new legislations being sought by ATA, would allow FMCSA to reinstitute the restrictions only if the studies show that the rules resulted in an improvement in all categories being studied: safety, fatigue, health, etc. Currently we’re in a bit of a wait and see mode, the legislation will be moving forward this summer on the improvements to the needs to reinstate those restrictions. And then we’ll have to wait for the GAO study and the FMCSA studies to be released to fully understand the next steps and the likelihood of the restart restrictions being re-imposed later this year.
The second issue I want to talk about is CSA and I think we all acknowledge that there are many positive aspects of CSA. Certainly it has caused people to have a greater focus and emphasis on safety. However, CSA has also come with many criticisms and concerns about CSA and its data collections and methodology. You may recall in early 2014, the Government Accountability Office pointed out that due to some of these data and methodology insufficiency problems, that CSA was capable of producing unreliable and inaccurate results for individual motor carriers. Surprisingly the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced their intentions to assign Safety Fitness Determinations or Safety Ratings to motor carriers, so they’re going to pursue a rule making to do that later this year. For this reason, ATA supports legislation, specifically a bill that was introduced by Congressmen Barletta earlier this year, which would require a couple of things. First of all, it would require FMSCA to make specific improvements to CSA to render scores accurate and reliable. It would also require the agency to take the scores offline until that happens. We’ll also likely support legislation that we expect Senator Thune will soon introduce that will be very similar and perhaps more robust.
Also of interest, on CSA, is that, FMSCA is expected to propose this summer a number of changes to the CSA methodology. First is that with respect to the HAZMAT basic, they’re going to change how carriers are compared. Right now all carriers are compared to each other on the HAZMAT Basic but in the future they are going to propose that bulk carriers be compared to bulk carriers and non-bulk vs. non-bulk carriers. They also might propose that the HAZMAT Basic scores be made public. Currently they are not public because of concerns about the relationship between scores and crash risks. FMCSA may also propose to change some of the intervention thresholds in certain categories. For instance, in some categories where the relationship to crash risk is weak, they might raise the intervention threshold and those where the relationship is stronger, they might lower them. And finally, they are going to make a change to the mileage utilization factor that’s used to calculate fleet scores in the unsafe driving basic and the crash indicator. This will be especially beneficial for fleets that have above average asset utilization.
The third issue I want to talk about today is the electronic logging devices. Early last year, FMCSA issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking that was a follow up on their previous proposal which would require that all fleets and all drivers currently using paper logs adopt electronic logging devices to monitor their hours of service compliance. FMSCA is expected to issue this final rule or mandate this fall. They say in September though we realistically expect it will be somewhere more along the lines of November or December.
What that rule will say is that all fleets currently using paper logs will have to adopt and use the devices within 2 years thereafter; so approximately by the end of 2017. Fleets using existing devices that don’t meet whatever the new standards are, once they’re published, will be able to use those devices for an additional 2 years during a grandfather period. So that will through the end of, for instance, 2019. So there is the potential that some existing equipment could become obsolete if it can’t be brought up to spec with the new standards. However the likelihood is that for devices made recently, within the last few years that they’ll be able to be made consistent with the new standards with something as simple as a software upgrade. We’re certainly hopeful of that. So we’re watching this rule making very carefully to ensure that the grandfather provision is fair and that the agency doesn’t, through this rulemaking, somehow penalize early adopters of the technology.
The final issue I wanted to chat about today was entry level driver training, which you may have read a lot about that in the trade press; FMSCA recently completed a set of meetings with its entry level driver training advisory committee. This was a group of stake holders that had been tasked with developing recommendations for a proposed rule on minimum entry level driver training standards. This is through a process called negotiated rule making. Now that the committee has completed its work and a set of consensus recommendations have been made, FMCSA will issue a proposed rule sometime this fall and the industry and others will have the opportunity to comment on it and the agency will consider those comments before issuing a final rule sometime thereafter. So those are the big safety issues affecting the trucking industry.
Thanks for listening and thanks again for joining us for the ATA HireRight quarterly podcast.
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