The New York Times on Issuing a Long Overdue Rule for Entry Level Truck Driver Training

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

The New York Times on Issuing a Long Overdue Rule for Entry Level Truck Driver Training

On October 4, 2014, The New York Times published an editorial in support of ending the delays in issuing the long overdue “common-sense training standards for truck drivers.”

The editorial cites the large number of deaths that involve large trucks, approximately 4,000 people each year, for the urgency of issuing a rule for truck driver training.

A disproportionate number of highway fatalities involve large trucks, yet current federal standards are grievously lax. To get a commercial license to operate a big rig, drivers are only required to receive 10 hours of classroom lectures, pass a written test and take a brief road test. While some also receive hours of supervised behind-the-wheel training, many do not.

Last month, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, along with Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, filed a lawsuit in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Court to order Department of Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, to issue minimum entry-level training requirements. If the lawsuit is successful, rulemaking should occur within 60 days of the Court’s order and a final rule should occur 120 days thereafter. Although, as the editorial states,

It should not require a court order to persuade Mr. Foxx to do what should have been done more than 20 years ago.

Read Our Letter to Secretary Foxx in Response to the Motor Carrier Industry’s Letter Regarding FMCSA’s CSA Program

Dear Secretary Foxx:

On behalf of the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), the thousands of families who have lost loved ones, and the tens of thousands more who have been injured each year in truck crashes, we are writing in response to the August 22, 2014, letter sent to you from members of the motor carrier industry regarding the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. In this letter members of the trucking industry request that the Department, “remove motor property and passenger carriers’ CSA Safety Measurement System scores from public view.” Our organizations and volunteers strongly oppose this request to hide lifesaving safety data from the public. The safety-focused culture engendered by CSA greatly relies on the accountability it produces by making its data publicly available. We urge you to protect the current system and ensure that the CSA Safety Measurement System scores are not removed from public view.

In 2010, the FMCSA replaced their SafeStat Program with the CSA program that includes the Safety Management System (SMS). From the beginning, SMS and CSA were rolled out with the understanding that they would undergo improvements and modifications, and FMCSA has followed this plan. FMCSA has made changes to the SMS system to reflect stakeholder concerns and suggestions. The most recent changes occurred in July 2014, when FMCSA announced a package of enhancements to the SMS website resulting “from feedback solicited from motor carriers, law enforcement personnel, industry representatives and other stakeholders who were given an opportunity to critique various website enhancement proposals.”[1] As changes continue to be considered and made to hone the CSA Program, it is essential that CSA retains the ability to efficiently analyze data for timely intervention, that it is cost effective given FMCSA’s limited resources, that it remains fair to truck crash victims and their surviving family and friends by retaining the current Crash Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) system of including all crashes regardless of fault, and that it includes public access to carrier safety data.

In 2006, the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) was formed to provide advice and recommendations to the FMCSA Administrator on motor carrier safety programs and motor carrier safety regulations. As you know, MCSAC is composed of motor carrier industry stakeholders including industry representatives, law enforcement, family members of truck crash victims, and safety organizations. In MCSAC meetings, when CSA benefits have been discussed, committee members noted that the system “is dispensing more data and giving the agency the ability to reach more carriers without a dramatic increase in resources” and inspiring “the start of a cultural change in the industry by forcing carriers to focus on the details of safety management.”[2] A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on CSA supports this assertion. The report identifies that industry stakeholders have found “that CSA’s greater reach and provision of data have helped raise the profile of safety issues across the industry. According to industry stakeholders, carriers are now more engaged and more frequently consulting with law enforcement for safety briefings.”[3]

Moreover, independent analysis indicates that MCSAC and other industry stakeholders’ assessment is accurate and that the CSA Program is a significant improvement over the prior system. Several key points from FMCSA’s own evaluation include:

  • CSA is effectively monitoring the industry with an interventions model that demonstrates an overall 35 percent increase in the number of carriers reached per Safety Investigator;[4]
  • From the CSA rollout in December 2010 until the end of 2011, violations per roadside inspection declined by eight percent and driver violations per inspection declined by 12 percent;[5] and,
  • Compliance improved while being less intrusive and time-consuming for all motor carriers (both large and small).[6]

These results show the most significant improvement in violation rates in the last 10 years. The advances achieved with the CSA program are necessary and long overdue and should not be modified in ways that will hinder their effectiveness. As with a previous attempt by the motor carrier industry to pressure FMCSA to hide and remove safety data (from the CSA Crash BASIC), removing data from public view will serve to reduce, rather than promote, safety.

The GAO report agrees with CSA’s “data-driven, risk-based approach.”[7] The GAO believes that the CSA “holds promise and can help FMCSA effectively identify carriers exhibiting compliance or safety issues—such as violations or involvement in crashes.”[8] Additionally, the report confirms FMCSA’s claim that the CSA program has helped the agency contact or investigate more motor carrier companies and that it is an improvement over the previous SafeStat system.[9]  Although the GAO did include recommendations to improve CSA in its report, they were issued to help CSA to become a sharper, more useful tool. The GAO never recommended or suggested the removal of the SMS scores from the CSA website.

The next step in enhancing the SMS system is a revised safety fitness determination (SFD) that reaches significantly more carriers than the approximately 12,000 yearly SFDs that FMCSA is currently able to perform through onsite compliance reviews. The SFD will more effectively use FMCSA data and resources to identify unfit motor carriers by analyzing the CSA BASIC data and other performance data to determine a carrier’s level of safety, and will address many of the motor carrier industry’s concerns. Although FMCSA indicated in their August 2014 Significant Rulemakings Report that a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the SFD will be issued in February 2015, we urge FMCSA and DOT to expedite the release of the revised SFD NPRM.

We urge the Department to continue to preserve and improve the efficient and effective CSA program including its essential public access to data which has, in a relatively short time, already helped to elevate the safety culture within the trucking industry. As FMCSA improves the CSA program and expands its data collection and delivery of safety information, we encourage FMCSA to ensure that the results produce greater oversight for both large and small carriers.

Sincerely,

Ed Slattery Board Member, Parents Against Tired Truckers Member, Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee CSA Subcommittee (recently disbanded)

Tami Friedrich Trakh Board Member, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways Member, Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee CSA Subcommittee (recently disbanded)

John Lannen Executive Director, Truck Safety Coalition Member, Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee CSA Subcommittee (recently disbanded)


[1] “FMCSA Announces Enhancements to SMS Website.” Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Duane DeBruyne Office of Public Affairs FMCSA, 25 July 2014. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.

[2] “TopNews.” New Advisory Panel Broadens Access to CSA Planning. Trucking Info Publisher David Moniz, 27  Aug. 2012. Web. 26 Aug. 2014.

[3] United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Federal Motor Carrier Safety: Modifying the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program Would Improve the Ability to Identify High Risk Carriers, GAO-14-114, Feb. 2014, page 14.

[4] FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION BEFORE THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON SMALL BUSINESS, 112th Cong. (2012) (testimony of Wiliam A. Bronrott). Print.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Federal Motor Carrier Safety: Modifying the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program Would Improve the Ability to Identify High Risk Carriers, GAO-14-114, Feb. 2014, page 31.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., page 13.

Karth Family to Deliver Truck Safety Petition To U.S. DOT

Contact: Beth Weaver beth_weaver@verizon.net 301.814.4088

NORTH CAROLINA FAMILY MARKS ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF FATAL TRUCK CRASH THAT CLAIMED THE LIVES OF THEIR TWO TEENAGE DAUGHTERS

Karth Family To Deliver Truck Safety Petition To U.S. DOT

On Monday, May 5, Marianne and Jerry Karth and members of their family, will deliver their “AnnaLeah and Mary Stand Up for Truck Safety” petition to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington, D.C. The petition asks DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx to use his authority to immediately make truck safety improvements to issues that may have contributed to the loss of the Karth daughters AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13).  Photos of the Karth family and the petition delivery will be available at www.trucksafety.org.

The Karth petition, a grassroots effort which received over 11,000 signatures, asks the Secretary to make long overdue improvements to truck safety by immediately increasing the minimum insurance level to account for over 30 years of inflation without a single increase, releasing a rule for improved rear underride guard standards to protect car occupants in truck crashes, and releasing the final rule for electronic logging devices (ELDs) to reduce truck driver fatigue. The Karth family will meet with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator (FMCSA) Anne Ferro and National Highway Transportation Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) Acting Administrator David Friedman to deliver the petition and discuss truck safety issues.

“Advocating for these changes helps with the grief because it gives us an opportunity to make a difference,” said Marianne Karth. “There is some healing that goes with that, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. Fighting for these changes stirs up all those memories that we went through, but it gives us hope that other families won’t have to go through what we’ve been through.”

On May 4, 2013, as the Karth family drove to Texas to celebrate four graduations and a wedding, their car was hit from behind by a truck that was unable to stop in time for slowed traffic. The impact spun their car around and forced it backward and underneath a second truck’s trailer. Marianne and her son were in the front seats and survived the impact with injuries. AnnaLeah and Mary were in the back seats, which went underneath the trailer, and died as a result of catastrophic injuries.

On September 12, 2013, Marianne Karth joined Truck Safety Coalition members and safety advocates for a meeting with Secretary Foxx, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro and then NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. Secretary Foxx promised tangible progress within a short period of time on the truck safety issues discussed at the meeting. Administrator Strickland added that there would be a decision for underride guards on his desk by November 2013. To bring attention to these safety issues and honor the memories of their daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary, on the first anniversary of the crash the Karth family began a petition asking Secretary Foxx to fulfill his promise.

“We are asking Secretary Foxx to take three specific actions to implement tangible solutions which will bring immediate improvements in truck safety issues,” said Marianne Karth. “Unnecessary delays may have cost Mary and AnnaLeah their lives. How many more lives will be lost due to delay?”

The Truck Safety Coalition, www.trucksafety.org, is a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public, policymakers and media about truck safety issues.

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