STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION, ON RELEASE OF DRAFT HOUSE FY 18 THUD APPROPRIATIONS BILL

In 2015, 4,067 people were killed in large truck crashes in the United States

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRUCK SAFETY COALITION, ON RELEASE OF DRAFT HOUSE FY 18 THUD APPROPRIATIONS BILL

ARLINGTON, VA (July 11, 2017) – The Truck Safety Coalition is vehemently opposed to a provision included in the recently released draft House Fiscal Year 2018 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill that would pre-empt certain state laws governing truckers’ meal and rest breaks, effectively barring states from applying rules that exceed federal standards for truck driver pay and rest. The language would essentially dock the pay of truck drivers by attacking state laws that protect their pay during bathroom or lunch breaks, or when performing necessary activities like loading or unloading a truck.

As it is written, this provision has potentially far-reaching consequences that would not only strip a state of its ability to impose safety rules that go beyond federal standards, but would also prevent that state from permitting a pay structure other than mileage pay. Given that states can set their own speed limits, which relate to safety, as well as their own minimum wage laws, which relate to how employees are paid, this provision is not just out of place in a Federal appropriations bill, it is out of place as part of a Federal law that respects state rights and the 10th amendment.

To make matters even worse, the same people who claim this language will “get rid of patchwork of state laws,” are using the same bill to allow North Dakota to raise the truck weight limit to 129,000-lbs on it Interstate roads, even though the Federal weight limit for trucks is 80,000-lbs. The authors of this bill cannot reconcile the federalist nature of preventing a state from going above and beyond a federal minimum relating to meal and rest breaks, and then claim that one should be allowed to permit heavier trucks on its Interstate roads, which are paid for with federal tax dollars. It is evident that the lawmakers who wrote this legislation are more concerned with satisfying select interest groups. Opposing meal and rest breaks for truck drivers as well as supporting heavier trucks is neither pro-safety nor pro-truck driver.  

Enacting this provision would also invalidate a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned a lower court’s decision and stated that motor carriers are not exempt from California state law. The California law in question requires all workers to be compensated for all hours worked at the agreed upon minimum rate. It also mandates employers to give employees a 30-minute meal period within the first five hours of work, a second 30-minute meal period when their workday exceeds ten hours, and a 10-minute rest period every four hours. As a result of the Circuit Court’s decision to uphold this California law, many truck drivers have joined together to file class action lawsuits for back pay, with their intent being to require their employers to create an environment that ensures drivers can take their breaks without feeling discouraged or fearing retaliation.

Clearly, there is a need for these truck drivers to take action to change their work environment and upend the culture of coercion. USA TODAY recently published an in-depth investigative report about the maltreatment of port truck drivers in California, who work grueling schedules and are paid incredibly low wages. The report details how “trucking companies force drivers to work against their will – up to 20 hours a day – by threatening to take their trucks and keep the money they paid toward buying them,” and how “bosses create a culture of fear by firing drivers, suspending them without pay or reassigning them the lowest-paying routes.” Despite these revelations, this provision to take away meal and rest breaks indicates that its authors, as well as those who support its inclusion in this appropriations bill, care more about special interests than they do about truck drivers or truck safety.

Link to USA TODAY Article: https://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/news/rigged-retail-giants-enable-trucker-exploitation/  

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Supply Chain Liability

TSC adamantly opposes efforts to limit shipper and broker responsibility/liability. Safety cannot be accomplished until the entire supply chain is accountable.  In recent efforts on behalf of shippers and brokers, legislation has been introduced that would set a standard for shippers and brokers at such a low threshold that it would actually serve to reduce safety accountability. The three actions required are so easily attained that many high-risk and chameleon carriers would qualify under this set of criteria.

Shippers and brokers who seek to limit their responsibility to merely ensuring that a carrier is registered with and (if applicable) authorized to operate as a motor carrier or household goods motor carrier by FMCSA; has the minimum insurance coverage required by federal regulation; and does not have an “unsatisfactory” safety rating issued by FMCSA, in force at the time of the verification, are not using all of the tools and data at their disposal to make an informed hiring determination.  If shippers and brokers are permitted to do the bare minimum of due diligence in their hiring practices, safety will be reduced and a race to the bottom will ensue.  The entire supply chain, including shippers and brokers, must be held accountable in order to elevate safety in the industry.

None of the criteria specified reflect on the current safety performance of a carrier. If safety is removed from the hiring decision, as it would with these pathetically low standards, it would lead to low-cost, unsafe carriers being selected, exposing the public to physical and financial risk. With low insurance coverage for the carrier and liability protections for whoever made the carrier selection, damage costs will go uncovered and the taxpayer will have to pick up the costs.

As to what data should be allowed in a civil action, it is for a judge to determine what is relevant to a case. Otherwise, the proposed changes would result in families and other affected parties (local city or county) not having access to critical information, and therefore adversely impacting their access to justice.

Safety Concerns:

Safety should be the focus for the entire supply chain and effort to limit supply chain liability would take safety out of the equation for the decision making process.

§  We should be elevating standards for carrier selection, not lowering them. This was the purpose of many of the MAP-21 provisions, which included amended financial security requirements for property brokers and created new requirements for freight forwarders by setting a minimum financial security of $75,000 and extended the bond requirement to freight forwarders. The language in the house bill is a huge step backwards.

§  Minimum levels of insurance for trucks and motor coaches have not been increased in over 35 years and are woefully insufficient. Bare minimum compliance should not be accepted as a standard of safety.

o   The minimum amounts set by Congress as the absolute floor are too low. They do not provide the intended underwriting supervision and protection for the public. 

o   The low original minimum amounts have provided less coverage for truck crash related damages as inflation, and especially medical care inflation has increased.

o   Truck size, weight, and speed have also increased during this time period, which can lead directly to increased crash severity (higher kinetic energy).

§  A satisfactory rating assigned at one point in time is just the bare minimum that allows a carrier to operate. A carrier or driver that has not yet been prohibited from driving cannot be assumed to uphold safe practices. Many ratings are 10 or 15 years old. It does mean that their background or recent performance based data should be ignored during the selection process. Shippers and brokers should be looking at and considering all information available to them in determining the safety of a carrier, rather than relying on criteria that does not reflect the safety of current operations.  A review of safety should include:

o   the last two years of violations that have a high correlation to crash risk, such as unsafe driving and hours of service data;

o   crash history including the number and severity of crashes;

o   carrier out of service rates for both vehicles  and drivers;

o   credit ratings and references;

o   safety audit results;

o   company safety and fatigue management plans.

 

 

Truck Driver Compensation

A large portion of the trucking industry is paid by the mile rather than by the hour. Truck drivers work nearly twice the hours in a normal workweek, for less pay than similar industries. As a result of their pay structure and because they are not paid for all hours worked, there is an incentive to drive longer and faster in order to increase their earnings. Paying truck drivers for every hour worked will promote safer trucking by removing incentives to dangerous driving behaviors.

Truck Driver Health and Safety and Compensation Structures

Truck driving is dangerous for truck drivers as well as the driving public. Truck driving is consistently listed in the top 10 most dangerous jobs, and constantly ranks among the deadliest jobs. Due to the nature of the job and exposure to diesel exhaust, whole body vibration, excessive noise, constant shift changes, and roadway dangers, some studies estimate that truck driving can shorten a person’s life by more than ten years.  Additionally, truck drivers face a high health risk for: personal injury, high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, cancer, liver, kidney, bowl and bladder issues, sleep abnormalities and hearing loss, among other diseases and physical injuries.

Truck drivers are being pushed beyond the limits of human endurance. The demands of the job, force truck drivers to spend up to 70 hours a week behind the wheel, and then work additional hours, for less pay than similar industries. As a result of their pay structure, being paid by the mile or the job rather than by the hour, they are incentivized to drive longer and faster in order to make more money at the expense of their own personal safety, as well as everyone with whom they share the roads.

The current regulation does not sufficiently protect these drivers, who should be afforded the same respect as other workers, work reasonable hours, and be permitted to have sleep patterns that are in accord with normal human needs. Given these factors, it should not come as a surprise that the poor working conditions and low pay perpetuate the extremely high rate of truck driver turnover, which is above 90 percent.

The compensation structure for truck drivers, in which drivers are paid by the job or by the mile, incentivizes drivers to drive long and fast in order to make a living. Truck drivers are not paid for time spent in detention, in traffic, or time spent attending to maintenance repairs. In short, to repeat a well know truck driving slogan “only turning wheels are earning wheels.”

Congress should mandate a study of what would need to be done to address the exemption to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) including consideration of making piecemeal pay illegal and eliminating the overtime exemption. The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments.

The Truck Safety Coalition supports efforts to improve working conditions of truck drivers, including increasing the availability of rest areas, adding detention time pay, and ensuring health and wellness education.

 

Statement on Release of Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Final Rule

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN,

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF TRUCK SAFETY COALITION

ON RELEASE OF DRUG AND ALCOHOL CLEARINGHOUSE FINAL RULE

ARLINGTON, VA (December 2, 2016) – After years of unnecessary delays, we are pleased that Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration today published a final rule to establish the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. This rule will greatly enhance safety on our roads as employers will be able to access information regarding the testing history of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers applying for jobs and identify drivers who have previously violated alcohol and drug tests.

CMV drivers who have violated drug and alcohol testing currently pose a major threat to everyone on the road, but under the longtime system of self-reporting many employers were unable to access this information to avoid hiring problem drivers. The establishment of this new drug and alcohol clearinghouse that requires employers to check current and prospective employees will be a significant step forward for safety.

Truck Safety Coalition volunteers have first-hand experience with the deadly outcomes that result from truck drivers operating under the influence of drugs and alcohol.  Too often, a history of repeated drug and alcohol violations is not unearthed until a catastrophic crash occurs and a comprehensive investigation ensues.  This will no longer be the case as employers in the industry can now preemptively promote safety by identifying and not hiring dangerous drivers.

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Statement on Selection of Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation

The Truck Safety Coalition, a partnership of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), looks forwards to working with Secretary-Designate of Transportation, Elaine Chao, and President-Elect Donald Trump on behalf of our volunteers who have lost loved ones in truck crashes to improve overall truck safety in the United States. Our volunteers know first-hand the devastating consequences of preventable truck crashes and have transcended their own losses and injuries to advocate for truck safety improvements to benefit all who drive on our roads.

A focus on safety is crucial given the troubling trends in truck safety. Truck crashes have skyrocketed by 45 percent between 2009 and 2015 and the injuries they cause rose at an even faster rate in that same period, climbing by a staggering 57 percent. Unfortunately, there are also more and more families like the ones who volunteer with our organization, who have an empty seat at their tables, as the number of people killed in truck crashes continues to grow. In fact, this past year marked the first time since 2008 that the number of truck crash deaths exceeded 4,000.

We wish Ms. Chao success on becoming our nation’s next top transportation official and offer our insight, experience, and assistance to her as she navigates the challenging issues in trucking that pertain to drivers, the vehicles, the industry as a whole, and the people with whom truck drivers share the road.

 

Letter from NC Truck Safety Advocates to Secretary Foxx on Hours of Service

November 9, 2016

The Honorable Anthony Foxx Secretary,

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave., SE Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary Foxx:

We appreciate your verbal commitment to improving safety of our roads and vehicles throughout your tenure as Secretary of Transportation. In public meetings and congressional hearings, you have consistently said that far too many people are killed despite decades of safety advances. We completely agree with that statement. Yet, it will be your actions that truly make the difference in decreasing the deaths and injuries that have left families like ours devastated and incomplete. We urge you to stand with us and oppose any provisions in the Omnibus Appropriations bill that will weaken the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations by overturning the Obama rule and increasing truck drivers’ weekly working and driving hours from 70 to 82 and eliminating their required “weekend” off. It is imperative that the Administration continues the position relayed in the May 16, 2016, Statement of Administration Policy on how changes to the HOS rules “have the potential to undercut public safety.” Now is the time when the rubber hits the road, and we need your leadership to ensure the safety of truck drivers and all motorists on our roads and highways.

With truck crashes having skyrocketed by 44 percent between 2009 and 2014 (the last available year of complete data), weakening any truck safety rule or law should not even be considered. The attack on truck driver HOS rules on Capitol Hill will undue rules that were issued by the U.S. DOT after consideration of 21,000 formal docket comments submitted from drivers, carriers, state law enforcement, safety advocates and trucking industry associations; six public listening sessions and an online Q&A forum; review of 80 sources of scientific research and data; a Regulatory Impact Analysis of nearly 50 scientific sources; 10 years of rulemaking; and, three successful lawsuits. Moreover, the anti-Obama HOS rule provision has not been subject to any public scrutiny, committee hearings, or adequate safety review, and this substantive policy overhaul is not based on any sound scientific research, independent expert analysis, or objective peer review.

If this anti-safety measure is enacted, it will result in more overtired and overworked truck drivers driving alongside our loved ones, which will inevitably lead to more crashes, injuries, and fatalities. As you know, driver fatigue is a well-documented and widespread problem in the trucking industry. In fact, the Department of Transportation’s own data shows that more than six out of ten truck drivers have driven while fatigued, and nearly half have admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel. Clearly, the solution to this pervasive problem is not to add more driving and working time, but rather to consider ways to address and prevent fatigue.

As the President’s top transportation advisor, you have the unique ability to demonstrate your commitment to safety and stop this attempt to weaken HOS regulations by recommending that the President continue to oppose and veto any spending bill that includes language seeking to increase the number of truck driver working and driving hours. We hope we can count on you to ensure that this Administration vocally opposes and does not sign into law any bill that will degrade highway safety in any way.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Tierney

Kernersville, NC

Board Member, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH)

Daughter of James Mooney

Killed in a truck crash 9/20/83

 

Jackie Novak

Edneyville, NC

Volunteer, Truck Safety Coalition

Mother of Charles “Chuck” Novak

Killed in a truck crash 10/24/10

 

 

Omnibus-HOS Letter to Secretary Foxx-Nov 2016

STATEMENT OF JOHN LANNEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF TRUCK SAFETY COALITION ON NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING FOR HEAVY VEHICLE SPEED LIMITERS

Arlington, VA (August 26, 2016) – After ten years since a petition for rulemaking was filed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) just released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiter rule. TSC supports a rule that extends the set speed requirement to all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds that are already equipped with a speed limiting device, and that requires the speed limiters to be set at 65 miles per hour. Unfortunately, this proposed rule fails to outline either of these requirements.

As TSC has stated before, this technology has been built into most truck’s engine control module (ECM) since the 1990s. The agencies reaffirmed this in the NPRM. Nevertheless, they have chosen, so far, to only apply this rule to new trucks, while asking for comment “on whether to require that the speed limiting devices in these older CMVs be set to a speed not greater than a maximum specified set speed.” It is unreasonable that in the ten years since the petition was filed and after acknowledging in their NPRM that ECMs “have been installed in most heavy trucks since 1999,” that NHTSA and FMCSA were unable to propose a rule that extended to older CMVs with this technology already installed.

Furthermore, it is discouraging that after all of these years the agencies were unable to decide upon a speed limit, 60 mph, 65 mph, or 68 mph. That is a range of eight miles per hour. This may seem like a minimal difference in speed, but as the agencies note in their NPRM – this can have a huge effect on the impact force during a crash: “As speed increases, so does the amount of kinetic energy a vehicle has.” So how can the agencies note that a difference of five miles per hour can greatly enhance the kinetic energy of a vehicle, while considering setting speed limiters at 60 mph or 68 mph? The fact of the matter is that the agencies should have selected a speed to set the limiters before publishing the NPRM so that the public could have commented on their choice; asking for comments on all three options should have been asked when the petition was granted back in 2011.

We hope between now and the publication of this rule, NHTSA and FMCSA remember that their primary goals are to promote safety, and will implement a commonsense, life-saving rule.

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Statement on Announcement of Notice of Proposed Speed Limiter Rule

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Requiring Setting of Speed Limiters in Large Trucks to be Released;

TSC Encourages Agency to Apply Regulation to All Large Trucks

Arlington, VA (August 18, 2016): The Truck Safety Coalition, a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), is pleased that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) promulgated a Proposed Rule requiring speed limiters to be set on large trucks. This standard equipment, which is built into the truck’s engine control module, has actually been manufactured in large trucks since the early 1990s. While requiring speed limiters will advance truck safety and prevent needless truck crash injuries and fatalities, if the agency decides to only apply the rule to new trucks, it will greatly blunt the potential safety benefits.

John Lannen, Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition, explained the importance of this rule applying to all large trucks rather than just newer units: “According to findings from the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, more than one out of five large truck crashes were coded as ‘traveling too fast for conditions.’ By capping the speed at which large trucks can travel, this will not only reduce the occurrences of truck crashes, but will also greatly reduce the risk of death or injury by decreasing the impact of the collision.”

“Additionally, the safety benefits of speed limiters have not just been studied, but have also been realized by companies that equipped their trucks with this life-saving technology,” Lannen continued. “One company found that their non-speed limited vehicles were involved in over 40 percent of potentially severe crashes, despite only constituting 17 percent of their fleet. In Ontario, Canada, there was a 24 percent reduction in truck crashes within one year of mandating speed limiters to be set at 65mph. And when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) studied speed limiters, the agency determined that trucks equipped with speed limiters were nearly 50 percent less likely to be involved in a crash. Clearly this regulation will produce safety benefits, but the extent of those benefits can only be maximized by applying this rule to as many large trucks as possible.”

Lannen, concluded, “While we welcome this safety advancement, we find it necessary to point out that this rule took far too long to be published. The petition to initiate the rulemaking was filed in September of 2006. After a decade and almost 30 delays, it is clear that there is a problem with the rulemaking process. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of this broken system are the thousands of unnecessary speeding-related truck crashes that have occurred between then and now. We look forward to the United States catching up to other leading countries on the implementation of speed limiters, and will continue working to ensure that rather than following, the United States will lead on other safety advancements in trucking, in particular – automatic emergency braking.”

Healthcare Costs to Employees, Industry Benefits Focus of Final FMCSA/FRA Listening Session

truck FMCSA sleep apnea

The final public listening session in Los Angeles, Calif, on the proposed guidelines for obstructive sleep apnea focused on the benefits for the commercial transportation industry as well as the impact on employee healthcare costs.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) held the final of three public listening sessions in Los Angeles, Calif, on May 25, 2016 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites. According to the FMCSA, the listening sessions were intended to solicit information from the public on the prevalence of moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) among individuals occupying safety sensitive positions in highway and rail transportation, its potential consequences for safety, and the potential costs and benefits of possible regulatory actions. The listening session in Los Angeles provided interested parties the opportunity to share their views on this topic along with any relevant studies and data.

A Voice for the Public

The Los Angeles session included a panel of members from both the FMCSA and FRA to represent each organization and interact with attendees. The panel included: Mark A. Patterson, executive officer for safety operations for the FRA; Shannon L. Watson, senior advisor, policy and program development, FMCSA; Matthew L. Navarrete, trial attorney for the FRA; Larry W. Minor, associate administrator, office of policy, for the FMCSA; BJ Arseneau, DO, chief medical officer for the FRA; and Gina Pervall, MD, chairman of the medical review board for the FMCSA.

Only a few members of the public attended the Los Angeles session in person. Three attendees total made public comments (two commented in the morning session, and one commented during the afternoon session). The event was live broadcast online, and the public could also comment online during the event. Both the morning and afternoon sessions ended early because all attendees who wished to publicly comment were finished speaking.

The first of the three attendees who addressed the panel was Kevin Walgenbach, vice president of compliance & regulatory affairs for the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA). Walgenbach, who says the NRMCA represents more than 2,000 companies and 125,000 employees, said he believes the current regulatory framework is sufficient and he is opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach to OSA testing and screening because of the drivers’ unique needs. Walgenbach also said the proposed rules may impact the ability to recruit new drivers. Also, in his estimation, the 2012 enforced recommendations caused a number of issues in the commercial trucking industry, such as unnecessary costs and false diagnoses, and he supports a comprehensive pilot study before the rules are finalized.

“The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association at this time is opposed to any new regulation mandating sleep apnea screenings. The current regulatory framework already exists to address sleep disorders among commercial motor vehicle drivers. A more pointed examination of certified medical examiners and their practices related sleep disorder determinations for drivers may yield better results aimed at increased safety on our nation’s roads,” said Walgenbach. “With this fishing expedition on sleep apnea it is clear that the agencies have not taken seriously concerns relating to limited medical coverage for sleep apnea or currently unemployed drivers looking to enter the workforce.” Walgenbach said until these issues are examined, any new rulemaking, in addition to the current regulatory framework, would be improper.

Tami Friedrich Trakh, a board member for Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and a member of the FMCSA Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, was the second speaker in the morning session and is a proponent of the suggested guidelines. In a statement to the panel, Trakh said she is surprised that there is strong resistance to OSA screening and treatment in the commercial transportation industry, adding that fatigue has been recognized as a major safety issue for more than 70 years. Trakh said OSA does have an effect on traffic accidents and ardently said that more must be done to prevent fatigued driving.

According to Trakh, a 2006 FMCSA study revealed that 65% of truck drives reported they often or sometimes felt drowsy while driving and nearly half admitted to falling asleep behind the while driving in the previous year. “Nearly 20 million Americans are affected by sleep apnea, but truck drivers are at a much greater risk for this health problem (some studies estimate that up to 50% of truck drivers are at risk compared to 5% of the general population.) There are solutions that are available, like a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, but they are of no use if the drivers are not using them,” Trakh said. “According to results from one study of sleep apnea, truck drivers who fail adhere to treatment for obstructive sleep apnea are five times more likely to get involved in a crash than a truck driver who is on treatment. These staggering statistics should give pause to those denying that this sleep disorder has an effect on crashes.”

Trakh said she looks forward to seeing a final rule that would require commercial motor vehicle drivers to be screened, tested, and treated for OSA.

In the afternoon session of the Los Angeles meeting, Dana Voien, president and CEO of SleepSafe Drivers, a provider of programs for sleep apnea and fatigue management to fleets and high-risk occupations, addressed the panel as a proponent of the proposed guidelines. Voien said the screening and treatment of OSA has benefits for the commercial transportation industry and having a uniform rule will help fleets as well as individuals drivers. Voien highlighted the importance of showing drivers in this industry that the proposed rules for screening and treatment will be a benefit and not an imposition, and studies have shown that the guidelines can protect drivers’ health and keep them on the job.

“We believe that a rule for sleep apnea will lead to dramatic reductions in both rail and truck related accidents, fatalities, and total expenses nationwide, helping those workers to lead longer and healthier lives and careers,” said Voien. “There have been numerous large and statistically significant studies done with truckers and rail workers specifically, all of which show a direct link between untreated sleep apnea and increased risk of crash (2.5 to 5x), plus a doubling of hospital costs, a doubled risk for heart attacks, a five-fold increase in strokes, a 70% increase in sick days and Workers Comp claims, and a 90% increased risk of forced early retirement due to health issues.”

Safety and Support for Drivers

According to Voien, testing and treatment done through Fatigue Management Programs (FMP) tailored for trucking and rail workers are documented to help drivers get tested and treated in 1 to 3 days, reduce accident rates, and deliver 96% to 98% treatment success. Voien said testing and treating through a comprehensive FMP should include a variety of components, including education, both in-lab polysomnography and home sleep tests as available options, and ongoing PAP compliance monitoring and support. “Drivers and rail workers must be assured they will be supported throughout the process, and over time through the FMP program. Bottom line, ‘We care about your health and safety,’” said Voien.

“Based on 20 years of leadership in transportation, I feel that publishing a regulation (using the same language from the last FMCSA rule publication) on sleep apnea is a positive and critically needed action,” Steven Garrish, MBA, CDS, senior vice president of business development/new ventures for SleepSafe Drivers, later said in response to a Sleep Review follow-up e-mail. “Much like the value that has been brought to the industry from required physicals, drug and alcohol screening and other vital measures; having a clear and thoughtful regulation on sleep apnea testing and treatment (as part of a comprehensive FMP) is the next logical step for improving safety and a higher quality of life for those who work so hard to support and protect our nation’s supply chain.”

Also via e-mail, D. Alan Lankford, PhD, FAASM, chief science officer at SleepSafe Drivers, said, “FMCSA/FRA are seeking input on how to craft the most effective and efficient regulation to address the potential safety risks associated with OSA. For this regulation to be successful, the potential impact to the industry must be acknowledged. In all cases, the goal should be protecting public safety and enhancing the industry professionals’ safety and well-being while keeping the freight/cargo moving.” (emphasis Lankford’s)

Though the in-person listening sessions are now over, the public still has until June 8 to comment on the proposed regulation online.

Cassandra Perez is associate editor for Sleep Review. CONTACT cperez@nullallied360.com

Truckers clash with regulators

Truck drivers are battling with the Obama administration over a long-delayed proposal related to drug and alcohol testing.

The Transportation Department is moving to establish a national database — also known as a clearinghouse — that would list truck drivers who have failed drug and alcohol tests. It would also list drivers who have refused to take them.

The administration and supporters of the proposal say the database would make it easier for employers to conduct background checks before they hire new drivers.

“Drivers who have previously violated drug and alcohol testing, and especially those who are repeat violators, pose a significant risk to the driving public,” the Truck Safety Coalition said in comments filed with the Transportation Department.

The department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sent the rule to the White House last month for final approval after a two-year delay.

Safety advocates, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, argue the database will help keep dangerous drivers off the road by closing a loophole that allows truck drivers who have been fired for substance abuse to continue operating commercial motor vehicles.

Trucking companies also support the rule, which could save them money by cutting back on crashes. Having a central database could also shield them from liability when accidents occur.

“Motor carriers support it, because they want to hire safe, qualified drivers, and they need full and complete histories of prospective drivers to do that,” said Rob Abbott, vice president of safety policy at the American Trucking Associations.

But truck drivers fear former employers could use the database to unfairly punish drivers.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which represents some 150,000 truck drivers, is concerned that trucking companies will use the threat of falsely
reported alcohol and drug tests to “punish or retaliate against drivers.”

“The report of a bad drug test can be the end of a driver’s employability,” the OOIDA told the Treasury Department.

The Transportation Department already requires truck drivers to report failed tests to their current and future employers, but safety advocates doubt that the “self-reporting” requirements are effective.

Without a national database to track the results, drivers who have been fired can find jobs with new employers. That could have “deadly consequences,” according to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

“Unless a history of drug and alcohol violations are voluntarily supplied, the employers lack adequate information to avoid hiring these dangerous drivers,” according to the Truck Safety Coalition.

In addition, not every company that employs a driver is notified when a driver fails a drug or alcohol test. Working for multiple trucking companies is common in the industry.

“In the interest of safety, the clearinghouse should immediately notify all of a driver’s employers when the driver is to be removed from a safety sensitive position,” the American Trucking Associations wrote.

“If such a process is not provided, employers will be forced to rely on the honesty of their employees to inform them of their non-compliance,” it added. “Yet, there is little to compel an employee in such circumstances to do so.”

Trucking companies and safety advocates are pushing the administration to strengthen the rule so that the database includes drivers who avoided being tested by admitting to substance abuse problems.

The American Trucking Associations argues that truck drivers who either admitted to or were observed by their employers using drugs or alcohol should also be included in the database.

But the truck drivers group says trucking companies often use the tests unfairly.

“One scheme motor carriers use is to require a driver to take a drug test at a date and time that is impossible for the driver to meet — whether due to the distance the driver must travel to the drug testing facility or the simultaneous work demands of the carrier,” the OOIDA wrote. 

“Another scheme is to tag a driver with a refusal after the driver is terminated or resigns from the motor carrier,” it added.

Link to Article: http://thehill.com/regulation/transportation/281796-truckers-clash-with-regulators