The DOT Doctor’s Blog

November 6, 2014

State Legalization of Pot and Drug Testing at Work

With the midterm elections over, we have the addition of three states that have legalized marijuana.  DC, Oregon and Alaska have now joined the ranks of WA and CO to allow their residents to legally smoke and carry marijuana on their person.   CA is slated as the next state to have this question on their ballot.

What does this mean in the workplace?   CO Supreme Court is hearing a case regarding marijuana usage by a worker.   It’s outcome should set the guidelines for how companies may proceed regarding non-DOT drug testing.  CO has strict regulations that prohibit you from penalizing a worker in a random test found to have used marijuana unless they are in a safety sensitive function or the position has a bona fide occupational qualifications.  Pr-employment and reasonable suspicion is still allowed.  However, to fire an employee for marijuana usage, outside of these parameters, the worker basically has to be stoned or using on the job.   If CO has this rule in place, you can be sure that the other 4 states have similar regulations or protections for the workers as well.

DOT required drug and alcohol testing supersede these state regulations.  The concern is for companies who wish to implement an across the board testing program for all drivers or all workers.  In many cases, their hands are tied.  In an age where we are all pushing safety; this is quite the ironic twist.

Do you feel safe working next to a person who may be “stoned”?   Do you want to be on the highway with someone in a vehicle next to you who is impaired?   While that driver may be operating something under 26,000 lbs; it is still a vehicle in motion.   While placing someone in jail for having a joint on their person is not practical; neither is allowing someone under the influence to be operating machinery.

I am anxious to see the outcome of the CO case.  I know this is a hot topic with many different perspectives.   How do you think that the spread of legalization of marijuana will affect workplace safety in the long term?   Your comments are welcomed!

How have you made the roadways safer today?

October 23, 2014

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving goes beyond the vehicle class. It is an issue for all drivers but only CMV drivers, with these exceptions, are singled out and penalized. The train accident should not have happened. Following the driver’s “safety” patterns, or rather lack thereof, it was not the phone that caused the wreck but the driver’s habits. He does not pay merit to a train crossing and fudges on his med exams. It is likely this accident would have still occurred even if he had not been on the phone.

Cell phone usage, eating while driving, smoking with driving, laptop/iPad usage while driving and the 100 other things that can be on this list are all distractions.  How often do you see someone multitasking while behind the wheel?  They are applying makeup, shaving, having sex/performing sexual acts, changing clothes, reading a book and a myriad of other unthinkables while driving.  This is a culture and attitude change that needs to occur by all drivers to make our roadways safer.

CMV drivers, due to the larger vehicle and weight size, come into focus more quickly.   With D.O.T. regulations, we already have a means of governance over them so they are easier targets to point the finger upon.   CMV drivers do not need more regulations.  We need a nationwide attitude and accountability change for all drivers.   For all persons!

We have become litigious society that blames the other guy.   There is no personal responsibility taught any more.  It is always someone else’s fault.  People need to take responsibility for their own actions once again.  Drivers need to have real training behind the wheel and in the classroom before obtaining a license.  This is not just CMV drivers but everyone that possess the privilege to drive.  Non-CMV drivers need to be schooled and educated on how to conduct themselves around a CMV.   CMV drivers need to take pride in their profession and return to the Kings (and Queens) of the road that they once were.  We all need to stop trying to doing 100 things at once and concentrate one doing one thing to the best of our ability at a time.  This is how to make our roadways safer.  This how to end so called ADD and other distraction aliments.   We must again learn to concentrate instead of having the mindset and brain power of a gold fish.

Trucking companies are going to communicate with their drivers.  If it is not via cell phone, then it will be via onboard devices (texting alert) or radio.  Business people on the road are going to do the same.  Our society have moved into this “must be connected at all times” state.  The only way this will stop is if the phone manufactures place a block in the phones that render them unusable if in a moving vehicle.   Doubtful they will as this shall cost them money.

Drivers who are concerned for safety can download apps like ‘I’m Driving’.  This app informs your caller, automatically, that you cannot be reached at present due to being behind the wheel.   Some of my drivers use to use this app or a similar one.  While aggravating to the party trying to reach them; it is a welcome call to safety.  The driver who chooses this route, is a driver focused on safety.   To use this app effectively, it is a matter of learning to check the phone regularly when you stop for messages and missed calls.  Instead of killing hours behind the wheel “yacking”; you make safe, direct calls during a stop.  It is all about changing the mindset from frivolous to safety.

We do not need more regulations to achieve this goal.  We need education.  We need people who want to be safe.   Ask yourself, “What are you doing today to improve roadway safety?”  You don’t have to be a CMV driver to make a difference.

Source Story:  http://cdllife.com/2014/top-trucking-news/ntsb-recommends-fmcsa-place-stricter-restrictions-hand-held-devices

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October 13, 2014

Fitness Determination for US Trucking Fleets

What saddens me is what I experience when working with my smaller clients. They have some clients with small and even tiny fleets (usually under 50 trucks and some very tiny – <10 trucks). Many are localized and/or generally operate a vehicle that is not subject to roadside inspections. These fleets have little to no interaction with DOT inspectors. As such, they rarely have enough inspections to rank in any category. Yet we see these New Entry companies being shut down before they even get off the ground. Why? Because they had 2 inspections and one was “bad” thus placing them in a percentile above the 35% limit for OOS. This triggers an audit and/or it is New Entry review time and they fail due to their scores or rather lack of scores and evidence that are compliant.

I recall when the New Entry audit was a training process instead of a punitive process. Now with auto fail; the doors are closed for 60 days. A small company like this has no course of recoupment. In 60 days, their accounts will be gone to their competitors. Yes, they need to know how to comply with DOT regulations. Totally in agreement here. Either make these companies pass a test, like our Canadian neighbors do, prior to obtaining their DOT number or return to the training process. Up the audit to 6 months instead of 18 months but don’t close their doors unless they are egregious violators. We need to give small business a chance. I realize we also need to protect highway safety but we need to score a balance. We cannot allow one bad inspection from an untrained, non typical CMV driver to cost a business owner their livelihood.

I have worked with 3 clients in the past 2 months that fall into this category. Ironically, 2 of them, in opposite parts of the country, are being shut down for the same violation. They failed to connect a breakaway cable or it had come loose during transit. These are pickup truck operators, not CMV drivers for the norm. They come under scrutiny when they attach to a trailer, on rare occasions. As such a DOT number is required. Often, transport driving is the last of their qualifications. These are generally service professionals (e.g. technicians) that drive this vehicle as a means of transport to their job site. These are not commercial drivers per se. They are everyday folks that happen to be in a vehicle that occasionally become classified as a CMV due to it being used while they are generating revenue performing their skilled tasks (i.e. other than truck driving).

We all know that DOT regulations are geared towards the OTR company and the CDL driving professional. All other drivers try to fit into these rules and often with much difficulty. Yes, there are exemptions but they do not always fit either. It is this one size fits all mentality that causes non traditional use of CMVs such issues. It may also be these uses that skew the numbers. Perhaps they need a category all their own with rule sets that better apply to their application. This would allow peer group comparison against true peers and not just via size of fleet. I realize that mileage weighs into the algorithm but these non-traditional fleet (i.e. non trucking companies) need their own group(s). It would benefit fleets running locally or regionally to be thus categorized as well. Bottom-line, we need to move from this one size fits all mentality into real world scenarios. This is especially true when a person’s entire business is at risk.

I look forward to seeing the outcome of this new rating proposal. Perhaps it will address some of these issues. Perhaps it will not. We need more “real people” involved in these processes and not just bureaucrats or those industry representatives that have risen so far from their humble beginnings as to forget what it takes to be a small business start up. As your own stats read the other week; most companies with DOT numbers are not the trucking giants but the small business person. Is it not time we have rules and regulations that can relate to both distinct groups?

Reference: http://www.ccjdigital.com/notice-of-new-fitness-determination-rule-in-front-office-fmcsa-safety-chief-says/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_content=10-13-2014&utm_campaign=CCJ&ust_id=bcb56a0182

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April 21, 2010

RoadCheck 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — dotdoctor @ 10:29 am
Tags: , , , ,

It’s annual. It’s no surprise. But what week is it this year?

CVSA sets Roadcheck for June 8-10
By CCJ Staff
Published April, 21 2010

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has scheduled its annual Roadcheck event for June 8-10. CVSA scheduled the event to eliminate scheduling problems during the weekend following Memorial Day, May 24.

Roadcheck is a 72-hour event in which an estimated 10,000 inspectors set up more than 1,000 checkpoints on highways across North America to monitor truck safety compliance.

Last year, the vehicle compliance rate of 80.4 percent was the highest since 1996, CVSA said. The driver compliance rate of 95.7 percent was the highest ever.

Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/cvsa-sets-roadcheck-for-june-8-10

June 18, 2009

New GVW Proposed at 97k

Might the Obama administration be minded to look favourably on a mooted increase in US GVW?
This report suggests that upping maximum GVW to 97000 lbs (43998 kg) on six axles from the current 80,000 lbs (36287 kg) on five could reduce US diesel consumption by an annual three billion gallons, and take 32.6 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere at the same time.

The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2009 or HR 1799 is legislation that supports the increase in GVW on heavy trucks. The trucks must have 6 axles with a triaxle group supporting 51,000 lbs. Axle weights would increase by 2,000 each for this GVW. Weights are only applicable on interstate roadways. This comes with a tax hike in highway usages taxes to $800.

In theory, the idea is a good one but let us examine this a bit closer. Our infrastructure is suffering collapses now under the 80k rule. In the present economy, there are no or limited funds for fixing and repairing what is in place yet alone replacing our bridges and overpasses to accomodate this extra weight. Longer trucks and extra axles may be the norm in MI but they do not work on the east coast in all that congestion. Not that I support Unions, but they opposed doubles and triples claiming it “stole a driver’s work” and their opinions are not very different on these new proposed monsters.

This new weight limit will not reduce congestion as some law makers lead you to believe. Trucks are not the only factor in congestion. Mainly the problem is all the 4-wheelers especially at rush hours. If states would make a left hand lane or two just for trucks that are looking to do nothing but pass through their city and restrict those 2 left lanes to just trucks; that would help solve congestion. It never made sense to me why trucks were restricted to right lanes where there is constant merging of 4-wheelers and motorcycles causing the trucker to constantly be on the brakes. Trucks generally want through a city unlike 4 wheelers who are looking to go or come from work, shopping and other errands. Many cities came up with HOV lanes to help the “long distance” commuter. Why not do the same for the trucker?

Trucks already pay too much in taxes. A rise in the Highway Usage Tax is not justified. It is just another excuse to tax the trucker for the benefit of all motorists.

If the weight is only raised for interstates; how will the load be delivered? Are we going to implement the NY Tollway rule? You can pull highway doubles but only to the exit then the units are broken apart or off loaded. Five axle units find it hard enough to maneuver on the coasts and in town delivery areas. Triaxles and 6 axle vehicles will find it even more difficult if not impossible to maneuver those small streets of Philly or Fairfax. NYC – forget it! Moreover, the state roads and city streets will not support the weight.

Do we have cross docking facilities created at interstate exits for local drivers to deliver the goods? Now that would be a reasonable idea IF, and this is a big IF, companies could “play” that well together. Let the big rig roll the highway while the straight trucks and local drivers load the city work and carry it to/from the cross docking facilities. It would be a new trucking horizon. The city drivers could do as NYC suggests and deliver in the off hours reducing congestion. Road drivers could stick to the highways. Everyone would have a job and get a piece of the pie. Road drivers no longer would have to contend with driving back streets trying to find their delivery or pick up location. Local drivers, familiar with the area, would handle those aspects. It would be safer and easier for all. IF companies would share the pie in this fashion.

Supporters such as the Univ. of MI Transportation Research Institute claims their research shows that these heavier and longer trucks “would yield significant improvement in fuel consumption, cost, congestion, distribution efficiency and driver availability”. I have to question this since my experience with 25 years in the industry showed me that the move to 53ft trucks yielded lighter loads filled with bulk goods like toilet paper. Occasionally you were able to add the 2 extra end pallets but then the driver generally had to be concerned for bridge and axle weights. Why not make the adjustments there instead of this large GVW increase? Maybe area increases like in MI where they haul products that are conducive to this increase and already have the multi-axle vehicle on the roadways. Even their state roads accomodate the 90K GVW allowed during the “season”.

Personally, I fell this increase should be handled on a state level where states can supplement their state highways to handle any GVW increase they allow. States that handle product transports, which are generally under a 500 mile radius, of a nature to require this need should handle this internally. Coal, rock and cement haulers could benefit from the increase as would the specialized/permitted hauler. These products are naturally heavy as well as localized. The general freight hauler would not.

Are manufactures going to build better brake systems to accomodate this additional load? To work properly, this would not be just a trailer issue but a full rig issue that is spec’d to pull these heavier and longer trailers. Trucks already take longer to stop than smaller vehicles. Stopping an additional 17k on a downgrade requires better mechanics and driver considerations. Think Eagle Pass, Eisenhower, Donner, Cabbage or Grapevine. The proposed governor to limit top speed at manufacturing is not the answer here. I do not think it is the answer to anything unless you are going to do the same to ALL vehicles else you are just creating another road hazard like Swift and Schneider trucks already do on the highways due to their inability to maintain highway speed.

Are bridge lengths and overall truck lengths going to be increased as well? It is already ridiculous to allow a 53 ft, 57 ft or 62 ft trailer and still require it to meet the bridge laws of a 48ft. Imposing those restraints is what defeats the purpose of the longer trailer. Yes, the roads cannot accomodate the longer pin to wheel which brings me back to point 1. Who will pay to change all the roads if this increase is passed? How long will it take? What will the trucks do in the mean time that will try to run under the new laws without an adequate infrastructure? Less us not even discuss vehicles that will be involved in border crossings?????

COMMENTS WELCOMED! Voice your opinion to your Congressman or local Motor Truck Association.

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