As reports begin to roll in about the results of Roadcheck 2013, we are starting to hear more and more statistics designed to impress upon us the number of purportedly dangerous truck drivers taken off our public highways by the efforts of law enforcement. A closer examination of the statistics that are not being reported by the media is called for.

For those who do not know, Roadcheck is an annual program across the United States, Canada, and Mexico involving 72-hours straight of commercial truck inspections.  This year’s program was conducted June 4-6, 2013.
 
The Associated Press Reported that one of Maryland’s Roadcheck inspections led to 19 drivers (3% of all drivers inspected) being pulled off the road because they were not “qualified” to operate their respective commercial vehicles. The “enforcers” (their word, not mine), inspected a total of 525 commercial vehicles.  Ohio State Highway Patrol reportedly inspected 1566 vehicles statewide, of which 65 drivers (4%) and 363 vehicles were placed out of service. The five states with the most trucking accidents (California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania) have yet to report any statistics of their inspections. 
 
Currently, the United States has 3.5 million truck drivers who move 70% of all freight across the United States. There are an estimated 15 million trucks in the U.S., transporting those goods. The trucking industry has a revenue of over $250 billion (another source reported this to be $650 billion), annually, of which the trucking industry reimburses the U.S. government over $21 billion dollars to keep our road and highways in good condition and over $37 billion in federal and state highway-user taxes. For that privilege, they also boost our economy by paying for almost 54 billion gallons of gas. Even though commercial vehicles only comprise 12% of all vehicles, they paid 36% of all highway-user taxes in 2006.  Those taxes are paid in part by owner-operators, who comprise 1 in 9 of all truckers. Those men and women can expect to earn a mere $37,000 a year. Long-haul truckers can expect to spend a total of 31 days home with their family each year.  Moreover, jobs for truckers are expected to grow more than 20% in the next ten years, and many of those jobs are expected to go to members of our armed forces returning from abroad.  Indeed, more and more trucking companies are marketing themselves as “military-friendly” employers, offering many of the same benefits of military life (travel, camaraderie among fellow truckers, the willingness to serve a vital service to our country). 
 
In terms of safety, commercial trucks comprise only 2.4% of all car accidents, and trucks are actually three times less likely to be in an accident than a passenger car.  Of those accidents, only 16% are the fault of the truck driver—one reason organizations like OOIDA keeps suing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to correct their online safety statistics. 
 
While there can always be greater safety in the trucking industry, one must question the amount of money spent on such an endeavor, resulting in so few actual violators, percentage-wise. Instead of reporting the number of truckers taken off the roads, the media does the public a disservice by failing to report the increasingly high number of trucks and drivers that passed the inspections.

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Categories: Trucking Law

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Road Warriors and Heroes

Posted on March 6, 2012 01:53 by Noelle M. Natoli-Duffy

As I sat in church last weekend, my pastor began to speak on the lesson of “Looking for Holiness.” He asked us to look for signs in the acts of everyday heroes and sheroes, and then he told the following story. He was in the fast lane, on a Friday evening of a 3-day weekend, on the largest freeway in Southern California, when his car decided to simply stop running. As he sat there, waiting for his car service come (anything within the next 30-90 minutes, not including traffic), a big red truck pulled up behind him. The team drivers stopped traffic, came to his window, and offered to push his car across five lanes of heavy traffic to the safety of the emergency lane. He accepted their assistance but before he could thank them or even get their names, they continued on their way, likely trying to make up some time from the holiday traffic.

As an advocate for the trucking industry, I am often disheartened by the countless news articles and headlines disparaging truckers and the trucking industry in general. However, stories like this inspire me to share more good news of the trucking industry.  I have represented hundreds of trucking companies and their drivers and have found them to be some of the most down-to-earth, hardworking, and God-fearing men and women I have come across not only in my years of practice, but in my time on this planet. As we are rapidly approaching the end of the first quarter of this year, a year in which trucking companies have already reported their highest increase in freight in 13 years (or a 5.9% increase in freight according to the American Trucking Association), I would like to share some of the headlines featuring the good work truckers and trucking companies are doing across the nation, and beyond!

 ·         The organization Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) is working to eliminate human trafficking. The stated goal of the organization is, “to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking and travel plaza industry to combat domestic sex trafficking.”

 ·         The Women in Trucking (WIT) association is promoting diversity through their partnership with the Transportation Marketing & Sales Association who will now include a category in their Annual Compass Awards for the awareness of minorities and women in the transportation industry.

 ·         Steve Towers, of ACME Haulage in Los Angeles, California made news by pledging funds to help a British boy, Theo Bishop, fly to the United States for surgery to treat his cerebral palsy. Towers also promised to reach out to other trucking companies to help the youth.

 ·         Due to the advocacy of a truck driver’s widow, Sarah VanWasshnova, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers’ Association the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s highway bill will include a study for crashworthiness standards in truck cabs. Ms. VanWasshnova’s husband, a 30-year truck driver, died from blunt force trauma when he hit the steering column in a collision. 

 ·         Advocacy by OOIDA and a second truck driver’s widow, Sandy Hardendorf, helped the writing of Jason’s Law when her husband was shot while parked at a gas station. House of Representatives Bill 1803 proposed funding for additional, safe truck parking on our nation’s highways.

 ·         J.B. Hunt Transport Services announced that it is once again raising its quarterly dividend to common shareholders.

 ·         The Trucking Conditions Index reached 7.0 in December indicating an overall improvement in the trucking climate for the coming year.

 ·         Toronto-based, Trucks for Change Network announced the launch of MOVEmatrix, a new program which allows charities to partner with trucking companies to transport goods and other donations.

 ·         In December, Trucker Charity Inc. raised over $7,000 for needy trucking families in time for Christmas. The charitable organization has raised over $37,000 and helped 59 families over the past four years.

 And last, but not least,

 ·         In January, Port Arthur, Texas Sherriff’s Officers credited an unknown commercial truck driver with saving the lives of countless individuals in a 50-vehicle pile-up on Highway 73. The driver saw the accident ahead, stopped, activated his four-ways, and alerted all the other truck drivers by CB to “go ahead and shut it down.” According to the officer, “That’s the only thing that stopped this from being a true tragedy.” If anyone knows the identity of this driver, please give him a big “thank you.”

Good news of the trucking industry’s efforts, such as these makes me proud to represent this industry.  Keep up the good work and thanks again to all the anonymous drivers helping people one by one each day on the highway, you truly make a difference.

 

 

 

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As my pastor said in Church this past Sunday, "What are we waiting for?"  In other words, don’t wait until doomsday to get your house in order.  If you aren't in compliance with CSA now, take advantage of the winter slowdown to get there. Take 1 step this week to move towards compliance before you get hit. Here are few easy ways to save your company from racking up points. (All citations below to Code of Federal Regulations.)


Pull your drivers’ personnel files and double check everything is up to date:
  • Medical certificate not up to date – 1 point (391.41(b)(3))
  • No double-triple endorsement on the CDL – 3 points (383.93)
  • Operating without a valid CDL -- 3 points (383.23(a)(2))
  • Allowing driver to operate with a suspended or revoked CDL – 6 points (383.37(a))
  • Allowing driver under 21 years of ago drive interstate – 6 points (391.11(b)(1))
Hold a safety meeting and remind drivers about necessary details about their log books including:
  • Failure to sign the log book – 2 points (395.8(d)(5))
  • Failure to retain prior 7 days of log book – 5 points (395.8)
  • Hours of service violations – 7 points (various)
  • Failure to list motor carrier name in log – 2 points (395.8(f)(6))
Remind drivers that safety is priority one: 
  • Failure to wear seatbelt – 1 point (393.16)
  • Allowing an unauthorized passenger aboard – 1 point (392.60)
  • Smoking within 25 feet of a HM (hazardous material) vehicle – 1 point (397.13)
As you can see, some of these are heavily weighted, but so easy to prevent. Take the time now to protect your companies, your drivers, and yourself from a potential doomsday.

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The 7th Circuit recently struck down FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), Regulation 395.16 on grounds that it failed to address the issue of "harassment" of drivers. Regulation 395.16, which would have gone into effect June 2012, would have required motor carriers with a greater than 10% rate of noncompliance who are subject to a remedial directive to "install, use and maintain EOBRs [Electronic On-Board Recorders]" to record hours of service.  In bringing the action, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association argued that the Regulation impermissibly failed to address the potential for harassment of drivers through use of the device. The Court of Appeals agreed, determining that the regulation and the legal basis for it failed to address the issue of how the EOBR, capable of "contemporaneous transmission" of information would "guard against harassment."  Notably, the ATA (American Trucking Association) has expressed their support of the Regulation because of the correlation between accuracy in hours of service reporting and a decrease in accidents.  

The victory may be short-lived, however, due to FMCSA proposed regulation RIN2126-AB20, docket number FMCSA-2010-0167 which would require virtually all motor carriers to use an EOBR. RIN2126, if approved, would require all motor carriers currently required to maintain Records of Duty Status for Hours of Service recordkeeping . . . to use EOBRs to systematically and effectively monitor their drivers' compliance with HOS requirements." FMCSA actually extended the period for coments on this regulation from the original April 4, 2011 deadline to May 23, 2011 and there has been speculation the deadline was extended because of the afore-mentioned litigation.  Notably, RIN2126 has the same failings noted by the court with regard to the harassment issue, only addressing it in the Legal Basis section of the Rule where it states, "Section 9104 of the Truck and Bus Safety and Regulatory Reform Act (Pub. L. 100-690, November 18, 1988, 102 Stat. 4181, at 4529) also anticipates the Secretary promulgating 'a regulation about the use of monitoring devices on commercial motor vehicles to increase compliance by operators of the vehicles with hours of service regulations' and requires the Agency to ensure that any such device is not used to 'harass vehicle operators' (49 U.S.C. 31137(a))."

In this author’s view, the foregoing language hardly addresses the Court of Appeals’ concerns regarding harassment, but at the same time one wonders whether the “harassment” issue raised by OOIDA is really a technical argument to get around what would otherwise be viewed as a step forward in safety compliance for the trucking industry.  The real issue, in my mind, regardless of the size of your shop or whether you are a single owner-operator, is who will be paying for the purchase, installation, and maintenance of these EOBRs?  Moreover, how is the FMCSA going to manage the enforcement of such a regulation which would require drivers to “make it possible for authorized Federal, State, or local officials to immediately check the status of a driver's hours of service.”

While a number of large trucking companies showed profits this past quarter, drivers are being faced with worsening conditions and a dismal outlook as the price of gas keeps going up.  I am always in support of a regulation that will increase driver safety, but I have to question whether drivers will spend more time finding ways to get around this rule than they will actually spend complying with it.  Regulations like these need to be practical in order to be enforceable.

 

 

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Categories: Court of Appeals | Trucking Law

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New Plan for No-Fault Accidents?

Posted on July 20, 2011 03:20 by Noelle M. Natoli-Duffy

Upon reading a recent article on Truckinginfo.com in regards to potential, new no-fault regulations, my initial reaction to this was "great!" But then I kept reading. I disagree with the FMCSA's approach on correcting the scores by relying (almost) entirely on police reports. In my experience, most police officers have minimal training on accident investigation--nothing more than two weeks at the academy. If you think about it, police reports are not even admissible in court (at least in California--with a few minor exceptions), as inherently unreliable hearsay documents. Oftentimes, the officer's assessment of liability is based on incomplete statements from witnesses, misapplication of the law, and "guesstimations" on time, speeds, and distances (because they rarely take any measurements). I would like to see them try to correct these problems with something other than a quick band-aid that just makes the problem worse. I can just see it now...the next case I get will have a certified copy of the FMCSA score attached to the complaint with a cause of action for negligence per se.

 

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Here is an interesting article I came across. Although I consider myself an advocate for drivers, I have to say I disagree with the trucker who was interviewed here. Everyone wants to make a profit, but profits can't come before people, even in these hard economic times. Plus, from a litigation standpoint, I have to say that I have always found it beneficial to be able to argue that my driver "couldn't have been speeding" because of the regulator... what does everyone else think?

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