Rules of the Road
CVSA executive director Stephen Keppler on HOS, safety enforcement and teens in cars
By Mindy Long
When it comes to keeping America’s highways safe, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) is on the front lines. Members represent state police, highway patrols, departments of transportation, and public utility and service commissions, as well as several hundred associate members. Those groups work to establish effective safety standards and achieve consistency in the way inspections are conducted and rules enforced across the country. Road King spoke with CVSA executive director Stephen Keppler to talk about safety and enforcement in the year ahead.
Q Under federal law, motor carriers that have demonstrated serious noncompliance with the hours-of-service rules will be subject to mandatory installation of electronic onboard recorders (EOBR) in 2012. How is CVSA preparing for that requirement?
A We are just beginning to evaluate FMCSA’s regulatory proposal, released in December, that would revise hours-of-service (HOS) requirements for commercial truck drivers. As we do that we will work with our membership to put together constructive comments on this since there are several pieces that will impact enforcement. A final rule is expected later this year. We are also awaiting FMCSA’s action related to the next rule on EOBRs and how they treat supporting documents in conjunction with that rulemaking. We continue to believe that an across-the-board EOBR mandate will help increase compliance with hours-of-service regulations and as a result have a positive impact on safety.
Q Late last year, you announced that during CVSA’s Operation Safe Driver campaign, law enforcement officers found that passenger car drivers are speeding at alarming rates around commercial vehicles. Can you tell us more about what you found?
A Law enforcement officers who pulled over nearly 53,000 commercial and passenger vehicle drivers during our campaign found that passenger car drivers are speeding at rates six times that of commercial vehicle drivers. What this tells us is that we have a big job ahead of us in educating the motoring public — whether they drive a passenger car or a CMV — and alerting offenders that their poor driving behaviors result in lives lost.
Q What were the most common violations you saw during the campaign?
A The top five violations and citations issued to both commercial and non-commercial vehicle drivers were for speeding, failing to use a safety belt, failure to obey traffic control devices, following too close and improper lane changes. There is an abundance of research linking these specific behaviors to an increase in crash risk for all drivers.
Q What are the main issues CVSA will tackle this year?
A There are several key legislative, regulatory and policy issues that are on our agenda for 2011: Implementation of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program (CSA), commercial driver hours of service, electronic onboard recorders for Hours of Service, distracted driving and reauthorization of the Department of Transportation’s programs, which in itself has a number of pieces to it in terms of CVSA’s priorities such as truck size and weight. All of these issues also have some measure of impact on not just our members in the United States, but also in Canada and Mexico. Each of these issues has significant impacts on enforcement, as well as resources, training and technology.
Q What do you see as your top challenge in 2011?
A One of our major concerns is funding for state motor carrier safety and enforcement programs. While we have seen success in the last several years in terms of declining fatalities in large truck and bus crashes, states face major fiscal constraints for the foreseeable future, and maintaining the level of effort to keep driving the numbers down will be a challenge. CSA holds great promise in helping to keep our focus on where it is most needed in terms of identifying and taking action on high-risk operators and ultimately reducing crashes while at the same time optimizing resource allocation for enforcement activities. However, in order for it to remain effective it needs a strong and viable roadside inspection program since it is so data-driven.
Q What is CVSA doing to teach young drivers about trucks and safety?
A Due to a large number of large truck crashes involving teen drivers, CVSA, in conjunction with the FMCSA, Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Arizona Trucking Association developed the Teens and Trucks Program. It is designed to be incorporated into driver education programs as well as individual seminars, or by meeting with groups of young drivers. It was developed specifically for younger drivers through focus groups, training and assistance from driver education teachers and trainers. We have gotten enthusiastic feedback from the two largest driver education associations in the nation and directly from students and their trainers.