How long will FMCSA Keep CSA Scores from Public View?

The FMCSA recently wasted little time in getting rid of Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores from public view after President Obama signed the Highway Transportation Bill into law earlier this month.

“As of Dec. 4, 2015, pursuant to the FAST Act of 2015, much of the information previously available on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) website related to property carrier’s compliance and safety performance will no longer be displayed publicly,” FMCSA said in a statement.

This also applies to information provided to the public through the QCMobile app.

Why the Privacy

The new law requires the FMCSA to now keep the scores private (carriers would have access to their own data) until the agency completes the corrective action plan requirement as listed in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

“While the agency is not prohibited from displaying all of the data, no information will be available for property carriers while appropriate changes are made,” read a statement on FMCSA’s website.

The FAST Act requires that the FMCSA commission a DOT Transportation Research Board to study the accuracy of CSA’s Safety Measurement System in identifying high-risk carriers and predicting future crash risk and severity.

What this Means

State and federal law enforcement personnel, as well as insurers, brokers, freight-forwarders, etc. cannot presently:

  • View safety performance information compared to other motor carriers
  • See whether past safety problems have gotten better or worse
  • Determine which motor carriers who are candidates for intervention

Why this is a Bad Thing

For years, trucking industry groups have argued that FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, and Accountability scores don’t accurately reflect a carrier’s accident risk. However, we disagree.  We believe that this new piece of legislation gives trucking companies who act reckless on the highways an extended opportunity to ignore safety regulations.

Not only that, but making CSA scores private also:

  • Threatens the safety of every person in the USA of driving age
  • Hurts good trucking companies who abide by the rules
  • Makes it harder for load brokers or shippers to select safe trucking companies to haul their property loads

What Needs to Happen

Violation information should be made public again, just not the CSA scores that show a motor carrier’s relative ranking compared to other carriers of similar size and type. It is the hope of the safety advocacy community that violation information access is restored in the first quarter of 2016. This information should also remain available through FOIA requests, although it is not yet certain how FOIA requests will be impacted.

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FMCSA Proposes New Rule for Determining Safety Fitness of Motor Carriers

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced a rulemaking proposal designed to enhance the agency’s ability to identify non-compliant motor carriers.

What it is

The Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) would update FMCSA’s safety fitness rating methodology by integrating on-road safety data from inspections, along with the results of carrier investigations and crash reports, to determine a motor carrier’s overall safety fitness on a monthly basis.

“Ensuring that motor carriers are operating safely on our nation’s roadways is one of our highest priorities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Using all available information to achieve more timely assessments will allow us to better identify unsafe companies and get them off the road.”

How it will help

The proposed rule will help to make the roadways safer in a variety of ways:

  • It will help the agency focus on carriers with a higher crash risk
  • Carriers identified as unfit to operate will be removed from the roadways until they improve.

The proposed SFD rule would replace the current three-tier federal rating system of “satisfactory–conditional–unsatisfactory” for federally regulated commercial motor carriers (in place since 1982) with a single determination of “unfit,” which would require the carrier to either improve its operations or cease operations.

Once in place, the SFD rule will permit FMCSA to assess the safety fitness of approximately 75,000 companies a month. By comparison, the agency is only able to investigate 15,000 motor carriers annually – with less than half of those companies receiving a safety rating.

How “bad” motor carriers are identified

The proposed methodology would determine when a carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles in or affecting interstate commerce based on:

  • the carrier’s performance in relation to a fixed failure threshold established in the rule for five of the agency’s Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs)
  • investigation results
  • or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.

When assessing roadside inspection data results, the proposal uses a minimum of 11 inspections with violations in a single BASIC within a 24-month period before a motor carrier could be eligible to be identified as “unfit.” If a carrier’s individual performance meets or exceeds the failure standards in the rule, it would then fail that BASIC. The failure standard will be fixed by the rule. A carrier’s status in relation to that fixed measure would not be affected by other carriers’ performance.

Failure of a BASIC based on either crash data or compliance with drug and alcohol requirements would only occur following a comprehensive investigation.

FMCSA estimates that under this proposal, less than 300 motor carriers each year would be proposed as “unfit” solely as a result of on-road safety violations. Further, the agency’s analysis has shown that the carriers identified through this on-road safety data have crash rates of almost four times the national average.

Comments sought

The FMCSA is encouraging the public to review the NPRM and to submit comments and evidentiary materials to the docket following its publication in the Federal Register. The public comment period will be open for 60 days. To learn more, click here.

 

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FMCSA Reduces Drug Testing Rate by 25 Percent

Last month, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration announced it will lower the 2016 minimum random drug testing rate for commercial drivers’ license holders to 25% from 50% annually. The new rule took effect on January 1st of this year.

Under a long-standing provision in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, FMCSA can choose to lower the minimum annual percentage rates for random testing to 25% percent when the industry violation rate for random drug tests is less than 1.0% for two consecutive years.

The Background

In accordance with 49 CFR 382.403, each calendar year FMCSA requires selected motor carriers participating in a special survey that required them to submit their DOT drug and alcohol testing program results.

The survey requires motor carriers to provide information to the Agency on the number of random tests conducted and the corresponding positive rates.

For the 2013 survey, notices were sent out to 3,251 randomly selected motor carriers primarily via email and U.S. mail for those motor carriers with invalid or no email addresses.

The Results

The estimated positive random controlled substance test rate in 2013 was 0.7percent. The 95 percent confidence interval for this estimate ranged from 0.6-0.8 percent.

For 2011 and 2012, the estimated positive usage rate for drugs was estimated to be 0.9 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

For calendar year 2015, in order to ensure reliability of the data, the FMCSA Administrator made the decision to maintain the annual testing percentage rate at 50 percent and sought additional information related to drivers’ positive test rates.

Following a third consecutive calendar year of data reporting the positive rate below 1.0 percent, FMCSA announced that the random controlled substances annual percentage testing rate would change from 50 percent to 25 percent.

The Impact

According to the FMCSA, this updated change will result in an estimated $50 million in annual savings to motor carriers by requiring that fewer drivers be tested. Carriers can continue to test at a higher rate if they so choose. The impact on safety is unknown.

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18-Wheeler Crashes into South Carolina Burger King

According to North Augusta, South Carolina Public Safety Officers, an 18-wheeler crashed into a local Burger King as restaurant employees were preparing to serve breakfast to customers recently. Fortunately, no one was injured during the crash.

Authorities say the trucker, Kenneth Sanderson, 68, was traveling on Knox Avenue in North Augusta when he lost control of his 18-wheeler.

The truck reportedly went through an intersection, knocked down trees, and sideswiped the restaurant’s sign before crashing into the side of the restaurant.

Sanderson was reportedly taken to a nearby hospital for a medical evaluation but he’s expected to make a full recover. The estimated cost in damage to the restaurant is still unknown at this time.

Police say the driver will not be charged but did not elaborate further.

“It’s an unfortunate incident but no charges will be filed,” North Augusta Lt. Tim Thornton told a local media outlet. “Sanderson simply lost control of the vehicle.”

Police said the restaurant had not yet opened when the accident occurred. There were a few employees in the back preparing food when the crash took place.

“It’s extremely fortunate that no one was seriously injured,” Thornton told the media. “We’re just very thankful everyone’s OK.”

The Burger King will be closed for business until further notice.

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What’s next for the Wal-Mart driver indicted in the Tracy Morgan crash?

Tracy Morgan

Pictured: Tracy Morgan (Via Wikimedia Commons)

The Wal-mart trucker involved in last year’s deadly crash on the New Jersey Turnpike that severely injured SNL alumni and comedian Tracy Morgan has been indicted on criminal charges.

The driver, Kevin Roper, has been charged with aggravated manslaughter, vehicular homicide as well as eight counts of aggravated assault.

In early-June 2014, authorities say he crashed his 18-wheeler into Morgan’s limo fan, killing his friend and fellow comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair. The crash left Morgan in a coma for two week, and he also suffered multiple broken bones and serious brain injury.

Trucker’s Attorney: “My client’s rights have been compromised.”

Roper’s attorney, David Jay Glassman, recently told CNN that the prosecutor in the case has corrupted his client’s right to due process and doubts that the indictment will stand.

The prosecutor “ran out of opportunities to corrupt the defendant’s right to due process and finally elected to present the matter to the grand jury which surprisingly after over a year of continuous negative publicity, returned an indictment,” Glassman stated.

Morgan and some of the others who were injured reached a settlement with Wal-Mart in May, although terms have not been made public.

NTSB Investigation Results

Federal investigators found that the injuries to Morgan and other passengers were made worse by their failure to wear seat belts. The board faulted Morgan and other passengers for also adjusting headrests.

An NTSB investigation concluded in August that Roper hadn’t slept in the 28 hours before the crash, a finding Roper’s attorney has disputed.

The report also determined that Glassman’s client failed to slow down immediately before the crash despite posted warning signs on the turnpike.

What’s Next

Roper’s attorney recently told The Associated Press he will ask a judge in Middlesex County, New Jersey to dismiss the case because his client is unable to get a fair trial because of negative publicity surrounding Morgan’s federal lawsuit against Wal-Mart.

If convicted, Roper can face up to 30 years for the aggravated manslaughter charge alone, while a death-by-auto charge carries a five-to-10-year prison sentence. Each assault-by-auto charge is punishable by up to 18 months in prison.

Our Thoughts

We disagree with Glassman’s attempt to dismiss the case due to the “negative publicity” it’s received and its “high-profile nature.” A judge and jury will view this case no differently than any other criminal case—no matter who the key players are involved, celebrity or not. At the end of the day, the evidence will speak for itself. If, in fact, the prosecution can prove Roper hadn’t slept in 28 hours and was also speeding, he should be held criminally responsible and face the consequences.

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FMCSA to Create Voluntary Drug Form for Commercial Drivers

Federal trucking regulators are asking for public comment on a plan to create a voluntary driver medication form to help make America’s roadways safer. According to a recent Federal Register announcement, the FMCSA hopes to accomplish the following with this CMV Driver Medication Form:

  1. Assist medical examiners in determining if a truck driver is medically qualified to drive under 49 CFR 391.41
  2. Ensure that there are no disqualifying medical conditions or underlying medical conditions that could adversely affect a trucker’s safe driving ability or cause incapacitation constituting a risk to the public.
  3. Ensure that there are no prescribed medications that could adversely affect a trucker’s safe driving ability or cause incapacitation and pose a risk to other drivers on the road.

The Reason for the Form

The primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.

In October 2014, a medical review board presented medication recommendations to the FMCSA following an earlier report on Schedule II Opioids and Stimulants & CMV Crash Risk and Driver Performance.

According to the FMCSA, because there is moderate evidence to support the contention that the licit use of opioids increases the risk of motor vehicle crashes and impacts indirect measures of driver performance negatively, it was recommended that agency develop a standardized medication questionnaire to assist the certified ME (medical examiner) when reviewing prescription medications that have been disclosed during the history and physical examination for CMV driver certification.

The Information the Form Asks

Two advisory groups recommended to FMCSA that the standardized CMV driver medication questionnaire be voluntary for truck drivers and include such following information:

  1. All medications taken by the driver
  2. Medical conditions of the driver
  3. Name and date of birth of the driver

The 391.41 CMV Driver Medication Form will be available on the FMCSA web site.

Our Thoughts

In order for this form to be effective, commercial drivers must obviously be willing to fill it out. Personally, we think it should be mandatory. In the meantime, it is our hope that trucking companies nationwide will do the right thing by participating. Doing so not only protects the public, but it can also greatly lower a trucking company’s chance for accidents, fines and legal repercussion down the road.

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Trucking Industry Becomes More “Uber-like”

Most people think of Uber as an alternative taxi service. However, the trucking industry is quickly jumping on board the Uber bandwagon as competitors seek to capitalize on technology that matches carriers and shippers faster and at lower costs.

The U.S. trucking industry has relied on third-party brokers or travel agents to connect truckers with customers for quite some time. Nearly 70% of all the freight tonnage moved in the U.S. goes on trucks, according to the American Trucking Association.

Trucker-On-Demand Apps

Now, startups are working towards making an impact on the supply chain industry with trucking on-demand. Below are just some of the companies that are making “trucker-on-demand” now easier than ever before.

  1. Convoy The Seattle-based trucking company offers an on-demand service that arranges regional and local shipping deliveries, without the customary telephone calls and price haggling by third-party brokers, according to The Seattle Times.
  2. Transfix Barnes & Nobles, Samsung and J.Crew are just a few of the companies experimenting with this new technology. Its app delivers 24/7 visibility and automatic ETA notifications across platforms and devices. According to the company’s website, its automated system reduces costs, and it passes those saving directly to the customer.
  3. Cargo Chief This new technology startup offers customers easy access to more than 500,000 trucks. According to its site, the company manually verifies each carriers’ authority, safety and insurance before each shipment. Customers can instantly locate their shipment on its interactive map 24/7.
  4. Cargomatic This company is focused on maximizing utilization and efficiency in the local shipping industry. The platform is designed to ensure that no truck drives anywhere empty and that a business that needs a load delivered can piggyback on a load already in transit, thereby getting its goods delivered more cheaply than hiring a truck to make a separate run.

Some Challenges Ahead

While trucking startups are making big improvements to the supply chain industry, there are still barriers that need to be addressed. According to the Supply Chain Digest, “most shippers, at least the larger ones, rely on networks of “core carriers” that move the vast majority of their freight, turning to spot markets only when their usual carriers can’t cover a load.” If the larger shippers had to choose, they would prefer the drivers who are more familiar with their policies of cosignee, rather than a different driver every time.

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FMCSA: Minnesota Truck Driver Falsified Documents, Declared an Imminent Hazard

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has declared Minnesota-licensed truck driver John Ray Carpenter to be an imminent hazard to public safety and has ordered him not to operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate or intrastate commerce.

According to the FMCSA, an investigation revealed that Carpenter, a commercial driver’s license holder, is medically unqualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Carpenter was served the federal order on Nov. 6, 2015.

On Oct. 22, 2015, while driving a company truck in Crystal Bay Township, Minn., Carpenter reportedly suffered a medical problem, which caused his vehicle to cross into oncoming traffic, collide into a passenger vehicle, and fatally injure the driver.

Following the crash, Carpenter revealed to federal and state investigators that he had experienced approximately six previous episodes involving medical problems while driving, some of which also resulted in crashes.

In the past four months, investigators also found multiple violations by Carpenter of federal hours-of-service regulations, which are designed to prevent fatigued driving. On the day prior to the fatal crash in October, investigators found evidence that Carpenter had falsified his records of duty status.

Violating an imminent hazard out-of-service order by a CDL holder may result in civil penalties of up to $2,500 and disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for not less than 180 days for a first offense. A second offense may result in civil penalties of up to $5,000 and disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for not less than two years. Failure to comply with the provisions of the imminent hazard out-of-service order may also result in criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Lawsuit Alleges Truck Driver Speeding and Distracted, Causing Wreck that Killed Family of Four

A Navy corpsman whose wife and three children were killed on the Buckman Bridge in Jacksonville, Florida is now suing the trucker and multiple other companies, blaming them for the tragedy that changed his life forever.

Shortly after the crash in March 2015, Dexter Culclager, who remained vigilant through the heartache, took to Facebook, posting the following message about the deadly accident to friends and family in Arkansas.

“I am being strong as I can for everyone in the family and I’m working as fast as I can to bring them home to you guys,” stated Culclager.

Authorities say Culclager’s wife and three children were killed when their SUV that had broken down on the bridge was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer. Yakel Culclager, 36, and her three children — 18-year-old Tre’Quis Woods-Sims, 17-year-old Tradesia Woods-Sims and 6-year-old Trevieon Woods-Franklin all burned to death.

Fast forward eight months later, and Culclager has now filed a wrongful death lawsuit against, Judson Humphries, the trucker who authorities say hit his family. This lawsuit alleges more than a dozen different counts that lead up to the deadly crash, including that Humphries wasn’t even qualified to drive the truck.

“Anybody would want justice served and that’s all I am seeking — just to know why it happened and how it happened and what could have been done to prevent it,” Culclager told First Coast News. “Safety is key in daily living, especially on the roadways. … You have to be undivided in your attention and safe on the road. You can’t let distractions get the best of you.”

The preliminary Highway Patrol report states that Humphries “failed to slow” and operated the truck in a “careless or negligent manner.” Records show Humphries was distracted before his big rig slammed into the SUV, causing it to eventually burst into flames, killing the family inside.

“Instead of looking 15 seconds ahead and driving safely as a reasonable professional tractor-trailer driver would, Humphries chose to drive his semi while distracted, on cruise control and in a dangerous, reckless and unsafe manner,” the lawsuit states.

Humphries was not properly licensed to drive the tractor trailer after testing positive for a controlled substance, the report said. In lieu of charges, he’s be cited for a non-criminal traffic violation.

Along with Humphries and his company, Hobit Express, the lawsuit also sues Sunteck Transport Group, Sunteck Transport Co., General Motors and North Florida Lubes.

The lawsuit is expected to be heard in court in mid-2016.

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Georgia Trucker Falsifies Medical Records, Ordered to Stop Driving after Wreck

A Georgia trucker driver has been ordered to shut down after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration declared him to be an imminent hazard to public safety. The driver has been identified as Matthew Jason Boozer. Authorities have demanded that he not operate any commercial vehicle in interstate commerce.

According to an FMCSA, an investigation recently uncovered that Boozer is medically unqualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle on the roadways and that he had falsified the medical history section of a recent truck driving job application to conceal a disqualifying medical diagnosis.

On July 6, 2015, while driving a commercial vehicle on Georgia State Route 11, Boozer reportedly suffered a medical problem, resulting in his truck crossing both lanes of traffic and crashing through a fence before colliding into a parked vehicle.

Following the crash, Boozer was sent by his employer to a physician who declared him to be medically unqualified; Boozer then fired from his job as a truck driver.

Officials then say that just one day after the accident, Boozer, filled out another truck driving application for a different employer and falsified the medical history section to conceal the medical disqualification issued the previous day, which referenced a 2011 disqualifying medical diagnosis.

Authorities say that Boozer was then hired on the basis of his fraudulent job application and drove trucks for his new employer through September 17, 2015 when his employer became aware of his July 6, 2015 crash and his disqualifying medical condition.

According to the FMCSA, violating an imminent hazard out-of-service order by a CDL holder may result in civil penalties of up to $2,500 and disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for not less than 180 days for a first offense. A second offense could result in civil penalties of up to $5,000 and disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for not less than two years. Criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office are also a possibility.

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