Cracking down

Julie Anna Cirillo is the program manager, Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety, FHWA. She has held a variety of technical and management positions within FHWA during her 30-plus-year career. The following are edited excerpts of an interview with Washington Editor Larry Kahaner.What is your philosophy on truck safety?I have a three-pronged approach, which was put into effect by my predecessor

Julie Anna Cirillo is the program manager, Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety, FHWA. She has held a variety of technical and management positions within FHWA during her 30-plus-year career. The following are edited excerpts of an interview with Washington Editor Larry Kahaner.

What is your philosophy on truck safety?

I have a three-pronged approach, which was put into effect by my predecessor and which I am continuing. It includes targeted enforcement of carriers with poor safety records, educational outreach and partnership to industry and safety interest groups, and the use of technology to enhance safety performance of carriers and drivers.

What changes have you implemented since taking office in January?

The most substantive change is that we've asked safety inspectors to focus their attention on enforcement, with activities in the other two areas being picked up by managers in the field and staff and managers at headquarters. In April, we told the state directors to increase the number of compliance reviews and increase fines, although our goal is not to collect fines but to get compliance. We've informed field personnel that we're going to clean up the backlog of cases, and that we're not going to negotiate settlements except in extraordinary cases. I have told state directors that they will be held accountable for results.

What has been the response from inspectors?

They are pleased to do more work, and I'm in the process of moving people from headquarters to the field so we can do more inspections. They're enforcement people and they want to do enforcement. In the past we had to document a pattern of poor safety behavior; now we can put a carrier out of business based on one violation. Inspectors will more readily see the benefit of their work.

Is there a morale problem in your agency as indicated by the Inspector General's report?

It's not a major problem but, yes, there are morale issues. It stems from the fact that we never really communicated to the front-line enforcement folks what they were supposed to do. They never understood that we are a safety agency whose primary tool is enforcement. The distinction was made in their heads that you're either a safety agency or an enforcement agency. I think they're buying into the new message now.

How do you feel about having a separate agency devoted to truck safety?

I think it's counterproductive to safety. Our culture has always been to divide and solve the problem. But in this case it's wrong and doesn't resolve the problem. You end up looking at pieces instead of the whole safety issue. How do you optimize your dollars if everyone is looking at a separate piece? If someone wants to establish a separate entity for highway safety, they would be better off forming a surface transportation administration with safety as a major component, instead of separate agencies for motor carriers, railroads, etc.

How do you feel about black boxes?

Technology that helps to do things like manage hours of service, monitor brakes, and so on, is a good idea, reasonably available, and somewhat inevitable. It offers economic advantages but safety comes along for the ride, and the safety benefits are of great interest to me.

But I don't think black boxes to record crash data, like those in airplanes, are a good idea. There are too many crashes; who's going to handle all that data? The only thing it tells you is the operation of the truck prior to the crash. There are so many other things important to accident reconstruction, including the environment, traffic, and what was happening downstream. None of that is captured.

What can our readers expect from you in coming months?

My goal is to improve safety, and I recognize that we need to work together. I want the trucking industry to understand the regulations and comply, but if carriers insist on operating in an unsafe manner we will put them out of service. We're public servants and our customers demand a safe driving environment.

DOT has announced new regulations for cargo-tank operations that will help reduce the risk of an unintentional release during unloading, assure prompt detection and control of an unintentional release, and make the regulatory requirements easier to understand and follow. The new regulations, which were developed through a negotiated rulemaking, became effective July 1.

The rules apply to cargo tanks used to transport and deliver liquefied compressed gases such as liquefied petroleum gas and anhydrous ammonia. The regulations include:

*Rigorous new inspection, maintenance, and testing requirements for cargo-tank discharge systems.

*New requirements for monitoring unloading operations of certain liquefied compressed gases to take account of unique operating characteristics while assuring that the person attending the unloading operation can quickly determine if an unintentional release occurs.

*New requirements for state-of-the-art emergency discharge control equipment on cargo-tank motor vehicles.

*A two-year period for technology development and testing has been established. After two years, newly manufactured cargo-tank motor vehicles must be equipped with the appropriate emergency discharge control equipment. Cargo tank motor vehicles that are already in service must be retrofitted over a five-year period.

The final rule was published in the May 24 Federal Register.

Tax-cut proposals are as numerous as gnats this summer in Washington. Trucking interests are pushing for a speedup in restoring meal deductions to 80% of actual expense for workers covered by hours-of-service regulations.

Bills introduced by Rep. Mac Collins (R-Ga.) and Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) would move the percentage from the current 55% to 80% in 2000, instead of waiting until 2008 as under current law. Other bills would give self-employed workers an immediate full deduction for health insurance, another provision that phases in gradually under current law.

Putting some bite behind their bark, federal officials have sentenced two trucking company officials to time in federal prison, a lengthy probation, and maximum fines for violating hours-of-service regulations. Tougher enforcement has been a centerpiece of the government's plan to improve highway safety.

In the first demonstration of this get-tough policy, Charles Georgoulakos Jr. and his brother, James Georgoulakos, owners of C&J Trucking Co., Londonderry, N.H., were sentenced to four months in prison for violating federal truck safety regulations.

Each defendant was ordered to serve four months in a federal prison followed by eight months in home confinement and one year on supervised release. C&J Trucking was placed on two years' probation and fined $25,000, the maximum amount allowable under law.

The Dept. of Energy has published an interim final rule that makes biodiesel blends a compliance option under the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Fleets covered by the law can use biodiesel to meet up to half of the acquisition requirements for alternative-fuel vehicles.

Truck and trailer dealer operations recently received a pledge of increased financial support from Associates First Capital Corp. According to Associates, the $2-billion commitment includes floorplan financing for new and used trucks and trailers, receivables factoring, construction loans, vehicle fleet funding, unsecured lines of credit, and parts inventory financing.

Roadway Express has purchased over 700 new tractors to expand its fleet. Delivery of the trucks, all Volvo VNM42T models, will be completed by August. Specs include Cummins N14 370-hp. engines, Eaton Fuller RT-14609A transmissions, Spicer Life drivelines, Meritor front and rear axles, Goodyear G357/G328 tires, and Meritor WABCO 4-channel ABS.

Steven Chojnacky, maintenance technician for Boise-based Trebar Kenworth, has been named Technician of the Year by The Maintenance Council and the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). He achieved the highest national rating on the 1998 ASE master heavy-duty truck certification test.

* Steve Keate was named to the position of president of Navistar's Truck Group.

*Isuzu Motors America has appointed Hiroo Majima president.

*Gregory T. Swienton has been elected president and COO of Ryder System.

*Bill Rose was appointed president of Phillips & Temro Industries.

*Consolidated Freightways named Gary J. Murphy vp-national sales. Martin W. Larson, who was named director of E-commerce and marketing technology, will head a new customer-focused marketing technology division.

*Jeff Talaga has become director of Neway Anchlorlok International's truck suspension strategic business unit, and Phil Reynolds was promoted to western regional sales manager for aftermarket activities. Jim Muntean is appointed product manager, brake strategic business unit.

*Scott H. Kress joined Mack Trucks as vp-business development and industry relations.

*AMI Leasing appointed Patrick Gallagher to the position of vp-sales for the truck division. Richard Bertrand Jr. was appointed vp of the company's new fleet management services division.

*Richard Davis joined Seats Inc. as vp-sales.

*Castrol Heavy Duty Lubricants promoted Steve Hutchinson to vp-sales and marketing, Kevin Fitzgerald to director of marketing, and Bruce Hyatt to director of fleet sales and marketing.

*Simpson Industries has named George Thomas president and COO.

*Allison Transmission named Richard L. McKinnon general director of operations for its newest facility in the Baltimore area.

*Mark Margeson was appointed vp of Henkel Lubricant Technologies, a division of Henkel Corp.'s Chemicals Group.

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