In April, Eugene A. Conti, Jr., assistant DOT secretary for policy, told the Senate Commerce Committee that the FHWA was seeking $50 million in the next federal budget to support the safety action efforts promulgated by the fed's new truck safety czar, Julie Cirillo. The Office of Motor Carriers & Highway Safety calls the Safety Action Plan they released on March 12 a "turning point" and an opportunity for OMCHS to review what they are doing, reprioritize and change how they've been doing their job.
Less than a month after receiving a copy of the plan, OOIDA President Jim Johnston submitted review comments to OMCHS. While the association supports many of the safety initiatives, Johnston urged OMCHS to re-think some critical areas.
The initiatives described in the plan include a tougher stance and penalties to bring motor carriers into compliance or put them out of business. In the section devoted to drivers and other highway users, OMCHS describes various programs, technologies and research that they hope will reduce injuries and fatalities linked to driver fatigue and behavior. The plan also deals with vehicles/cargo and describes actions and technologies through targeted roadside inspections and new regulations. The section on highways deals with identifying and reducing crashes. Other special initiatives are related to border crossings.
On behalf of OOIDA members and professional truckdrivers, Johnston targeted a handful of contentious issues. In regard to roadside inspections, Johnston says while a program is necessary, OOIDA disagrees with the primary focus being placed on roadside inspections and vehicle defects.
"Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in CMV inspection programs," he says, "when, in fact, if every truck on the road were totally defect-free, the absolute best result we could hope for would be less than a 5 percent improvement in accident rates."
OOIDA urged OMCHS to place more priority on establishing and funding accident investigation teams.
"We must specifically identify the major causes of accidents, and then focus our resources on addressing those major accident causation factors," says Johnston, "unless we do this, we will only continue down the path of dumping more and more money into non-productive efforts which return little if any improvements in highway safety."
Johnston made specific suggestions on how a trucker's safety hotline must work to be effective and fired shots at states whose enforcement officials practice policies that actually impair highway safety. Those states with insufficient rest areas and imposed time limits on rest areas should be denied federal funding, he says, along with those states who conduct inspections on the shoulder and whose scale houses are guilty of lining up trucks onto the highway.
OOIDA believes strongly that any out-of-service criteria should be codified in the federal motor carrier regulations. "The criteria predominantly used today are created by a private organization," Johnston says. "To add insult to injury, they are copyrighted and sold for a fee by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance."
One aspect of the OMCHS Safety Action Plan that particularly irks OOIDA is the absence of plans for entry-level driver training.
"Currently, there are no requirements that a person have any training before obtaining his CDL," says Johnston, who also queried the agency regarding FHWA's statement that new motor carriers have higher crash rates and are less compliant with safety regulations. OOIDA believes the problem is with new drivers and not necessarily new motor carriers. "There is nothing inherent to getting one's operating authority that somehow transforms a once safe owner-operator into an unsafe new motor carrier," he says.
MONEY OWED TO OOIDA MEMBERS
TJS Brokerage & Co., Inc. of Philadelphia, PA, has acknowledged owing money, in varying amounts, to several OOIDA members. To date, TJS has not forwarded payment, despite repeated requests by individuals, OOIDA's business services department, and, in some cases, the association's legal counsel. Specifically, the following members allege that TJS owes them the following amounts:
H-M Trucking– $750 for a load hauled on July 2, 1998. OOIDA's business services department contacted Gary Krinick at TJS on Oct. 23, 1998. OOIDA's legal counsel sent a demand letter to TJS on Feb. 23, 1999. As of May 12, 1999, no response had been received.
Longbeard Express– $900 for a load hauled on Sept. 8, 1998. OOIDA's business services department contacted Gary Krinick at TJS on Dec. 30, 1998. OOIDA's legal counsel sent a demand letter to TJS on Feb. 23, 1999. As of May 12, 1999, no response had been received.
Southern Flier– $2,450 for a load hauled on Oct. 6, 1998. OOIDA's business services department contacted Gary Krinick at TJS on Dec. 9, 1998. OOIDA's legal counsel sent a demand letter to TJS on Feb. 23, 1999. As of May 12, 1999, no response had been received.
Catco Leasing, Inc.– $850 for a load hauled on March 14, 1998. OOIDA's business services department contacted Gary Krinick at TJS on March 2, 1999.
As a continuing service to its members, OOIDA occasionally provides information related to brokers and carriers that have a history of late payment or nonpayment for loads hauled by OOIDA members. Payment may have been made between editorial deadline and actual publication. Facts related to possible legitimate deductions have been included where known, but where the carrier or broker does not provide such facts, OOIDA cannot be held responsible for lack of such information.
SOUTH DAKOTA TROOPERS WILL BE PACKING PORTABLE SCALES
Earlier this year, South Dakota passed a law that calls for a 50 percent increase on penalties for overweight trucks, effective July 1. State highway patrol Capt. Myron Rau says the state will be using 60 additional scales, toted in their patrol cars by troopers.
TWO SENATORS STEP OUT WITH TOLL RELIEF
The Interstate Tolls Relief Act of 1999, a.k.a. the Hollings-McCain bill, would prevent new Interstate tolls and restrict other tolling authorities for major bridges and tunnels. The bill, S. 947, was introduced by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and would undo the provision of last year's transportation bill (TEA-21) that allowed for as many as three states to apply for a pilot program to toll existing interstates. It does not prevent states from tolling non-interstate highways or affect tolls on highways already in place.
NEW HOUSE BILL RENEWS TRUCK WEIGHT TUSSLE
Reps. Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Merrill Cook (R-UT) introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives May 4 that would allow states to increase the maximum truck weight to 97,000 lbs. with the addition of a sixth axle. As expected, the bill was immediately heralded by some (National Private Truck Council and the American Trucking Associations) and denounced by others, (Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, which includes OOIDA).