Line One
Short Takes

FL report — truckers most prone to injuries: A Florida state study says truckers are most prone to workplace injuries in the state. Drivers suffered from 6,536 injuries or illnesses in 2001. That’s 8.4 percent of all 77,758 injuries and illnesses recorded in Florida during the year. Truckers suffered from 50 percent more injuries and illnesses than the next leading worker category — stock handlers and baggers. The data was released by the Florida Department of Financial Services. Back injuries were the most common complaint, with 19,241 workers, or 24.7 percent of the total, reporting back problems. Most workers, 22 percent, blamed overextension in lifting as the principal cause for their injuries. Another 21.1 percent said they were injured from a fall, while 14.4 percent said they were struck by an object.

HOS court challenge: Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Parents Against Tired Truckers are challenging new hours-of-service regulations in a petition filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. They want to overturn the HOS regulation, due to take effect Jan. 4, arguing it will lead to more deaths. The new rule permits a 14-hour workday with up to 11 hours of consecutive driving. Previously, truckers could drive no more than 10 consecutive hours.

Diesel dilemma: Owner-operators are breathing a tad easier thanks to a 30-cent per gallon drop in fuel prices from their record-setting highs this past March. But some say that may be short lived, according to the Oil Price Information Service. Why? Demand for gasoline is high, and refineries are running at peak capacity, unable to keep pace with growing consumption. And even with the steady flow of imports, refiners are maximizing gasoline output, which could deter diesel production.

NHTSA says truck fatalities drop: According to figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in July, the trucking industry recorded its best highway safety improvement in nearly a decade as the number of truck-involved crash fatalities dropped below 5,000 for the first time since 1995. The 2002 toll of 4,897 fatalities marks a 4.2 percent decline from the 2001 figure. The drop in truck-related highway deaths came as overall traffic fatalities in the U.S. increased from 42,196 in 2001 to 42,815 in 2002. Alcohol-related deaths, motorcycles fatalities and young driver deaths each showed an increase.

A butler in every dashboard: In the near future, IBM says, drivers will be able to dictate and send e-mails, get spoken directions to a restaurant, even play “Name That Tune” with an onboard computer, which also will be able to read lips. “We’re talking about a butler in the dashboard who would look after you, take care of your every need,” Mahesh Viswanathan, an IBM researcher, said. The key is speech recognition — getting the computer to understand the driver’s instructions without errors. Such technology has advanced in recent years, and in quiet surroundings, most humans can be understood almost perfectly by a computer.

Smart intersections: Federal officials are testing “intelligent intersection” technology to prevent traffic accidents by, among other things, warning drivers they’re about to run a red light or hit a truck. A test intersection is located at the FHWA’s Highway Research Center in McLean, VA. Future products include rear-end collision avoidance systems and roadway departure gear. Products in use include automated collision notification, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning systems, as well as rear-end collision warning systems for trucks.

Border security needs work, GAO says: The GAO recently found the federal departments of State, Homeland Security and Justice should share information in a more effective manner. A June 2003 report found the visa revocation process was not being used aggressively to alert homeland security and law enforcement that individuals who entered the country before their visas were revoked might be security risks. Revocation information was not being shared between state and appropriate immigration and law-enforcement officials. “These weaknesses diminish the effectiveness of the visa process in keeping potential terrorists out of the United Sates,” GAO said.

Honor truckers, eh: The Canadian trucking industry plans to celebrate National Trucking Week Sept. 6-12, 2003. The event each year spotlights the important contributions made by the 400,000 Canadian men and women who keep the country’s freight moving. The week also serves as a platform for the trucking industry to deliver road-sharing information to other road users.

Boutique fuel island: In July, California truckers protested possible action by the California Air Resources Board to approve an alternative diesel fuel formulation. Truckers would prefer a single national fuel standard to open up supply and equalize prices among the states. Diesel prices in California are typically the highest in the nation. The protest took place simultaneously in Sacramento, Fresno, Oakland and Long Beach. A California-only standard will result in even higher fuel costs and more California freight being moved out of state and out of country, opponents said. Meanwhile, the state EPA says more than half of California’s current smog-forming emissions originate from gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles.

—by Dick Larsen, senior editor

Dick Larsen can be reached at