Safety in the new year

A belated Happy New Year to everyone. By now our resolutions are weeks behind us, and most safety people have begun the year with a renewed dedication to their craft

A belated Happy New Year to everyone. By now our resolutions are weeks behind us, and most safety people have begun the year with a renewed dedication to their craft. The saying out with the old, in with the new comes to mind as many think of ways to improve their safety numbers and focus drivers on the safety issues at hand, all while waiting to see what the new year will bring to the world of safety.

As we contemplate what 2010 holds for the motor carrier industry in general, this old-new theme continues to appear in my thoughts. The new year promises to introduce several elements on the regulatory front as our friends at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) welcome Anne Ferro to the hot seat as the administrator, a politically appointed position that has remained vacant since John Hill left with the Bush Administration. The agency is sure to focus on a slew of rulemakings to find ways for fleets to reduce accidents.

While on the subject of accident reduction, the agency is reporting 4,190 fatal truck crashes in 2007, the lowest reported number since 1993. Oddly enough, the news that the current hours-of-service (HOS) regulations will be completely rewritten came on the heels of the announcement of this historic low. At this point, with grand ideas of rewriting history, the agency will once again begin the lengthy process of developing safety regulations to impose on an industry that has already performed at a level not seen in decades, so this might be a situation in which change does not yield much of an improvement.

Coinciding with the new HOS regulations will be the appearance of two more expected rulemakings, one on electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) and another on supporting documents. A recent policy change by FMCSA allowing electronic records to be examined in a compliance review has been a catalyst in moving these regulations forward. Out with the old, in with the new will certainly produce benefits in these areas as EOBRs make the compliance review process more streamlined than ever before.

This long-standing adage can apply to other new ventures being pressed into action to improve fleet safety this year. CSA 2010 replaces the antiquated SafeStat, and a new driver pre-employment screening program will replace the current process of relying on other carriers to provide driving histories. CSA 2010 promises to be a better way to measure a motor carrier's safety management practices and to help all carriers and drivers improve their safety performance. As carriers become more exposed to what CSA 2010 has to offer, they will come to realize that a definite learning curve exists as they adjust to the new safety measurement system. The driver pre-employment screening program is often viewed as a precursor to the elimination of the driver motor vehicle record, or MVR, which carriers have historically relied upon when reviewing the history of their drivers.

As you can see, the maxim of out with the old, in with the new may be time-tested and well worn, but in the modern trucking industry, it is certainly still prevalent. With today's technological advances, the trucking industry appears ready to retire various dated programs and policies and replace them with newer, more technologically sound initiatives to achieve the industry's common goal — reducing accidents on our nation's highways.


David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn., responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to Mr. Heller at [email protected].

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