Kenneth J. Allen & Associates - Injury Attorneys
Illinois and Indiana Personal Injury Lawyers and Attorneys Trial and Civil Litigation Law Firm.
Passion. Commitment. Excellence.
Those three words best describe the driving forces behind Kenneth J. Allen & Associates. Our firm is devoted exclusively to the practice of Accident and Injury Law, and exclusively to the people - not corporations - seriously hurt or killed in incidents as varied as on-the-job accidents, semi-truck crashes, injuries from a defective product, or loss of life because of a doctor's medical malpractice.
As the only multi-state law firm in Valparaiso Indiana, Merrillville Indiana, Indianapolis Indiana, Northwest Indiana, Chicagoland, Joliet Illinois, Tinley Park Illinois, Chicago Illinois accepting serious injury and wrongful death cases, exclusively, Kenneth J. Allen & Associates is experienced and knowledgeable in the details and procedures that can make or break a case.
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TRUCKING INDUSTRY CHALLENGES FMCSA CSA RULES BEFORE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE: CSA REGS HURT, DON’T HELP SAY TRUCKING REPS. AGAIN.
The fight is far from over regarding federal regulation of commercial truck drivers working on the job with things like the new rules on Hours of Service. Around two weeks ago, on September 13, 2012, various trucking experts appeared before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit in Washington, D.C. to report to Congressional lawmakers about new studies that have been done on federal regulations on trucking and how some of those regulations actually harm rather than help.
Here’s the briefing memo for the Subcommittee if you’re interested in reading the Congressional Sub-committee’s synopsis of things. What is being challenged, with research studies to support the position, is that the Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) Program instituted by the federal government is failing to do what it is supposed to do — find the truck drivers on the road who are at the highest risk of crashing their big rigs or semis or 18 wheelers and causing accidents, and wrecks, and serious injuries and deaths.
We’ve monitored the CSA Program for awhile now. The CSA Program was tested in a handful of states; by this time last year, CSA had been implemented across the country; and for a very, very long time the trucking industry has not been happy with CSA and has challenged it in various ways – including threating lawsuits.
This time, they are arguing to Congress that what the CSA regulations are doing is ignoring fault and looking just at the number of crashes a particular company has experienced. One example given during Congressional testimony was that rear-end collisions, where a trucker is hit in his Big Rig Semi Truck while setting sit, is counted by the FMCSA exactly the same as if the truck were involved in a highway crash going at high speed.
They argue that the system is flawed and unfair and that small business owners are the ones who are being hurt the most by this — and that while FMCSA has been reporting they are studying the matter, they have been studying things for three going on four years now, and without result.
Appearing before Congress on behalf of the trucking industry was FedEx’s Vice President of Safety and Maintenance, Scott Mugno, as well as representatives from Gentry Trailways, C.H. Robinson, and Colonial Freight Systems, Inc. Also giving testimony was Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association,along with representatives of the Texas Department of Public Safety and RoadSafe America.
Scott Mugno also issued a press release, speaking not only for his company but as representative of the American Trucking Association, which heralds itself as “largest national trade association for the trucking industry.” From that release, Mugno stated that:
“…while ATA has been supportive of the objective of CSA, to reduce commercial motor vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities, since the program’s inception. However, ATA has significant concerns with the program in its current form….FMCSA must acknowledge that CSA scores are often not a reliable predictor of future crash risk. Second, the agency must confirm that CSA’s highest priority should be to focus on the least safe carriers. And finally…FMCSA must establish a specific plan to develop and implement the changes necessary to ensure that the system functions as intended.”
September 13, 2012 2:35 PM
Washington, DC – A Congressional hearing today focused on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) truck and bus safety program, and ensuring the program most accurately reflects safety ratings of motor carriers.
The Highways and Transit Subcommittee, chaired by U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), received testimony from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), the trucking and bus industry, law enforcement officials, and safety advocates on FMCSA’s new motor carrier safety enforcement and compliance program – the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, or CSA – and issues related to its implementation.
The following is Chairman Duncan’s statement from today’s hearing:
“I think everyone will agree that decreasing fatalities and injuries resulting from truck and bus crashes is the most important goal the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is charged with. With this goal in mind, FMCSA implemented CSA in December of 2010.
“CSA was designed to maximize the Agency’s resources by compiling carrier violations from inspections and crash reports in order to determine the future crash risk of a truck or bus company. This data is used to create a type of safety profile for truck and bus companies so consumers can make educated choices when selecting companies.
“However, on July 16th of last year I spoke to a group that is a member of the Alliance for Safe, Efficient, and Competitive Truck Transportation (ASECTT) who raised concerns related to the methodology used in CSA, specifically in the Safety Measurement System or SMS.
“Some of these concerns arise from the fact that 40% of the 500,000 active truck and bus companies generate a score in at least one of the seven SMS categories, also called BASICs. The number of companies that generate a score in all BASICs is unknown. A comprehensive understanding of a carrier’s safety is difficult to achieve with this lack of data.
“In addition, not all states report every violation to FMCSA, so the SMS methodology is only as good as the data flowing into the system.
“These data problems present a significant challenge for small trucking companies which make up the majority of commercial motor vehicles. Since many of these small companies generate little to no data into the SMS, their scores can fluctuate dramatically and the small companies that generate no score are misconceived as unsafe.
“Questions have also been raised over the relationship of some violations and whether they are indicators of future crash risk. Scores generated in certain BASICs may not have a correlation to future crash risk and may inadvertently focus FMCSA’s enforcement measures on the wrong carriers.
“Shippers and brokers are also left wondering how to evaluate the safety fitness of carriers with a score in only one BASIC or no score at all. Recent court rulings have established ‘duty of reasonable care’ requirements that brokers and shippers must meet when hiring a carrier in order to avoid negligent hiring lawsuits. Brokers and shippers are now in the position of determining whether a carrier is sufficiently safe to hire based on incomplete or misleading scores.
“The intentions behind CSA are good, but it is not a perfect system. We are holding this hearing today to identify where we can improve CSA and how we can reduce fatalities and injuries while keeping the engine of our economy moving.
“I hope this hearing will help Members of Congress and interested parties better understand these concerns and generate proposals to make CSA a more effective tool.”
The NWI Times investigates how the trucking industry impacts the local area, and in the latest series of NWI Times reports, written by Marc Chase and published on May 12, 2012, entitled “Industrial colossus: Region heavy truck companies generate millions in revenue,” the investigation delves into how important the trucking industry is to the local economy.
According to the NWI Times report, the northwest region of the State of Indiana receivesapproximately $3.2 billion in sales revenue from trucking (including freight hauling and logistics and its relationship between big semi / big rigs; railways; air and water freight) as well as the benefit of tens of thousands of jobs being built to generate that revenue each year.
Which is something to think about as we all drive the Northwest Indiana roads with these huge tractor-trailer, semi trucks. These heavy monsters are carrying loads of all sorts of cargo, including lots of product from local steel mills as well as weighty materials for construction and building.
As you drive along a local interstate and think about how powerful these big rigs are driving alongside sedans, SUVs, and minivans, you’re right. Those big trucks are often carrying very heavy cargo, not boxes of Styrofoam pellets or cartons of stuffed animals.
Which means that we must all be very aware of the dangers of collisions between big rig semi trucks and any other vehicle. People often die in these sorts of accidents, unfortunately: the inequality of the weights between the vehicles alone can count for some fatalities.
For more information, see our earlier posts dealing with trucking accidents including:
- American Trucking Association Continues Fight Against New Hours of Service (HOS) Rule With March 2012 Filing in Federal Court. Big Surprise.
- Distracted Driving Guidelines Proposed to Car Manufacturers by Department of Transportation: Safety That Some Drivers May Not Like
- New NHTSA Study Shows Increase in Deaths Caused by Big Rig, Semi, Tractor-Trailer Truck Crashes on Our Highways
NEW PATENTED SOFTWARE TO STOP TRUCK DRIVERS FROM VIOLATING FED RULES AGAINST TALKING OR TEXTING ON CELLPHONES: WILL IT WORK?
With the new federal regulations going into effect in 2012 that are fighting against distracted driving of commercial vehicles, it makes sense that products would be developed to help enforce those new federal requirements.
And from a legal take on things, it’s something to help the trucking industry meet its legal duty to keep everyone as safe as possible on the roads that are shared with the huge, heavy big rigs, semis, and tractor trailers that are rolling along at very high speeds.
For example, there are new federal regulations that make it illegal for a commercial truck driver (be it a bus, big rig, delivery van, semi, tractor trailer or other big truck) to use a cell phone with their hands to either talk or text.
No phone should be held by a truck driver moving his vehicle down the road, bottom line.
For more details on these federal regulations, check out our earlier posts and read the Final Rule for Drivers of CMVs: Restricting the Use of Cellular Phones, 49 CFR Parts 177, 383, 384, 390, 391, and 392.
This week, a company named ZoomSafer announced its FleetSafer(R) Mobile safe driving software, proclaming it to be the company’s patented software that offers trucking companies the only distracted driving product that can make sure that drivers are in compliance with the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) guidelines on hand-held mobile phone use while driving a commercial vehicle.
Will This Keep Truck Drivers From Using Their Cell Phones? The New FleetSafer Mobile with SafeDial(TM)
What they are offering is software that goes onto the truck driver’s smartphone. This new FleetSafer Mobile software will then stop any calls from going out or coming into the phone as well as blocking texts and emails (in or out) as long as the truck is being driven.
“The FMCSA’s ban on hand-held use of mobile phones while driving is an important step forward in solving the serious issue of distracted driving, but the rule provides employers with no guidance on how to foster employee compliance,” said ZoomSafer CEO Matt Howard. “This latest enhancement to our FleetSafer Mobile safe driving software provides corporate fleet operators with a simple, affordable way to promote safe, legal and FMCSA-compliant use of mobile phones while driving.”
Step in the Right Direction But Not a Total Solution
Having commercial truck fleets require their truckers with smartphones to install this software on their smartphones sounds good. It’s definitely a step in the right direction to keep the roads safe. However, the software only applies to smartphones, not all cell phones. This isn’t going to halt all distracted phone use by truck drivers.
Pricings are rising and it’s hitting the trucking industry hard. Diesel fuel is costing more, and that’s an expense that can’t be cut. Tires are costing more, and every truck needs its rubber, even if it’s retreads. Of course, the trucking industry is nothing if not cost-aware, and one of the ways that many are arguing is an efficient way to fight rising prices is to have each truck carry more cargo. Less trucks on the road, overall.
In Canada, they are ready for test runs of the latest attempt to get the most bang from a big rig buck.
Starting soon in Canada’s Saskatchewan province, certain roadways have been okayed for HUGE trucks to roll on. These are dominoed fifty-three (53) foot tractor trailer trucks. Imagine a tractor trailer truck. Imagine adding on an extra trailer on its end. Now, add another one. Two big, long trailers being pulled by the single truck engine.
They are around TWO HUNDRED FEET LONG.
They can carry over 200,000 pounds of cargo.
Technically, these are called “triple LCVs” (“longer combination vehicles“) and Canada’s powers that be have okayed them to run between two cities, Regina and Saskatoon, in a route that extends 160 miles each way. This is just the testing phase — if these long snakes do okay on that 160 mile route, expect them to be approved to run on certain roadways throughout Canada.
And it won’t be long before these 200 feet long big rigs are rolling in the United States once Canada’s done all the guinea pig work. Trucking companies will argue efficiency, and safety concerns like AAA will have a big fight on their hands. Because big rigs are dangerous enough now, just think of the crashes that can happen with a 200,000 pound monster colliding with a standard size sedan(s).
FEDERAL TRUCKING INSPECTOR BUSTED FOR TAKING BRIBES: IS BRIBERY ONE WAY AROUND THE NEW TRUCKING INDUSTRY REGULATIONS?
James H. Wood was arrested last week for taking lots of money over the past two years from trucking companies who wanted him to look the other way as Mr. Wood did his job over in New York, as a truck safety supervisor for the the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Actually, Mr. Wood wasn’t just a worker bee: he was a supervisor for FMCSA in their Buffalo office (FMCSA being an agency within the Department of Transportation).
Now, James Wood is within another part of the federal system: he was arrested on federal felonies involving conspiracy and taking bribes by the New York branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after being investigated by both the FBI and the Inspector General for the Transportation Department. A formal complaint has been filed in the local federal court, delineating the charges against him.
Seems Mr. Wood took over $60,000 in the past two years from commercial trucking corporations in return for (1) letting the truckers know in advance about planned inspections of their big rigs, along with (2) letting his new pals in on “friendly audits,” that kept bad, dangerous trucks out on the roads as well as (3) instituting (presumably against his pals’ competitors) “complaint audits” against some companies. This was apparently all very easy for a FMCSA supervisor to do.
Now, here’s the question: how big is this investigation? Is Wood a bad apple or the first in a trend?
It is interesting that the FBI together with the investigative arm of the Department of Transportation are the two organizations involved here. That’s a lot of big manpower to ferret out one, single evildoer. This cooperative effort between the two agencies suggests that there’s more to this story than this one man. Would it surprise anyone that James Wood isn’t the only inspector who’s on the trucking industry payroll?
Things are heating up for trucking companies with the new regulations coming into play.
New federal regulations regarding the number of hours that a truck driver can be on the road (hours of service) are going into effect this year. Truckers must take 34 hours off between runs. Truck drivers will now have to complete their loading (or unloading) as well as getting from Point A to Point B within 13 hours, with a mandatory one-hour break. (Go here to read the FMCSA itemized list of HOS changes.)
This is all being done for safety reasons, of course. To make commercial trucking on the road safer for all of us — truckers and those who share the roads with them. However, it will cut into the profits of the trucking companies and they aren’t accepting these changes without a fight. Last week, for example, the president of the American Truckers Association wrote President Obama to challenge the effectiveness of the proposed regulations and litigation is predicted.
Maybe they’re doing other things, too — things that the FBI is going to share with all of us in the near future.