DOT safety initiatives hard to track

The Dept. of Transportation has implemented several key initiatives since May that have resulted in more compliance reviews, tripling the number of safety inspectors, reducing case backlog by two-thirds, and doubling the average cost of fines.Although DOT's goal is to slice in half over 10 years the number of traffic fatalities, it's uncertain whether or not these initiatives have been effective because

The Dept. of Transportation has implemented several key initiatives since May that have resulted in more compliance reviews, tripling the number of safety inspectors, reducing case backlog by two-thirds, and doubling the average cost of fines.

Although DOT's goal is to slice in half over 10 years the number of traffic fatalities, it's uncertain whether or not these initiatives have been effective because DOT does not have an accurate way of measuring crashes in real time or shortly after the incident. The most up-to-date data are for 1998, during which 5,374 fatalities involving large trucks occurred. This was down slightly from 5,398 in 1997.

Transportation Sec. Rodney Slater promises to continue the safety initiatives and provide funding for the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks program that will, among other benefits, help improve safety reporting by making it timely and more accurate.

DOT says the number of compliance reviews has increased substantially since this year's first quarter. Compliance reviews reached 2,770, an average of 692.5 monthly, during the period May through August. Only 1,745 reviews, or 436.3 per month, were performed from January through April.

By the end of September, 40 safety inspectors were to have been deployed on the Mexico-U.S. border, an increase of 13 people. The backlog of enforcement cases has been reduced by two-thirds. The average fine has increased from $1,600 during the first two quarters of the year to $3,200 from May through September.

FHWA has reiterated its position that it does not intend to propose retrofitting of underride guards on older trailers. However, the agency has put carriers on notice that on new trailers the devices must be properly maintained and in working condition. FHWA officials noted that there is insufficient accident, cost, and research to support retrofitting requirements for older trailers and that it's virtually impossible to get such information. Trailers and semi-trailers built on or after January 26, 1998, must be equipped with underride guards.

Despite the Administration's interest in completing NAFTA's open-border policies, President Clinton vowed to keep the Mexico-U.S. border closed to unsafe trucks and unqualified drivers from Mexico. Speaking at an October dinner honoring Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, Clinton said that NAFTA would remain in abeyance until safety standards for Mexican trucks and drivers were on par with those in the U.S.

In a related matter, the House of Representatives voted 415-5 for an amendment to the highway safety bill that would fine Mexican firms a maximum of $25,000 if their trucks leave the currently restricted border zones.

* Detroit Diesel Corp. appointed Charles G. McClure president and CEO.

* Eiji Ishizu has been named president of Hino Diesel Trucks (U.S.A.). Gary Brown becomes national dealer development manager and Matt Strong becomes national marketing manager.

AlliedSignal Truck Brake Systems Co. has named Mohsen Sohi president and Laurie Breininger vp-marketing & sales.

Bill McKenzie has been promoted to the position of president of Baldwin Filters. Hans Alpsteg has been named vp-sales & marketing; Jay Hussey, vp-branded sale; and Alan Bricker, director of marketing.

* Meritor Automotive has elected Thomas Gosnell president of its aftermarket business and a senior vp of the company. Jerry Rush is named senior director, public affairs, and Lin Cummins becomes vp of communications.

* Andrew Shadoian has been appointed vp-sales and marketing for the commercial, industrial, government, agriculture and recreation business units of SPX Service Solutions.

* Haldex Brake Systems has named John McKinley vp-worldwide sales, marketing, and product planning for the company's newly established global team.

* Glen Rittgers has been named vp-sales & marketing for OTR Express.

* Jim McConnell has been promoted to manager, national fleet sales for Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America.

* Gary Nichols becomes national manager of fleet sales for Continental General Tire's Commercial Div. Mike Barker is named national manager of marketing.

* Mack Trucks announced that Denis J. Leblond has been named executive vp-manufacturing.

* Tom Nelson has joined Horton Inc. as vp-manufacturing.

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