A Four-Part Solution to Improve Highway Safety
Driver training standards are woefully lacking, especially considering the many on-the-road demands faced by commercial truck drivers and the hundreds of regulations they are responsible for following.
In order to obtain a Commercial Drivers License, truckers need only pass tests covering basic driving skills for proper vehicle operations, according to the nation's leading association representing independent truck drivers.
According to OOIDA, current Department of Transportation regulations do not include adequate training requirements for becoming a long-haul truck driver, despite a congressional requirement for such standards dating to the 1990s.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is trying to fix what it "the biggest safety gap in the trucking industry" — the lack of basic training standards for new drivers.
OOIDA says the first arm of a new initiative it has launched, "Truckers for Safety," will properly prepare the next generation of long-haul truckers as well as proactively address other major highway safety concerns.
"This churn results in more accidents, which in turn will lead to greater congestion, more fuel use, lost cargoes and greater inefficiency in our nation's freight transportation network," says Todd Spencer OOIDA executive vice president.
OOIDA's observation over the years is that too many training programs have been focused on guaranteeing new drivers their CDLs quickly instead of ensuring they will be trained and knowledgeable truckers, according to Spencer. "The campaign includes not only an agenda for basic training, but also provisions for improving infrastructure, truck parking, passenger vehicle education and enforcement efforts that encourage safe driving."
"Better trained drivers mean safer drivers," said Spencer. "An experienced career trucker is the type that people want to share the road with, and our members tell us that training should be the biggest focus of highway safety efforts."
The highway safety initiative agenda is based on feedback from OOIDA members, Spencer says, men and women who have on average 25 years of truck driving experience and 2 million miles of accident free trucking. It focuses on addressing both safety challenges and the future of the trucking industry, especially ensuring trucking is a viable career for the future through four major focus areas:
- Training for New Drivers
- A Safer Highway Environment
- Improving Enforcement's Focus on Accidents
- Protecting Truckers in an Accident
A key of the initiative calls that the focus be on the long-haul, interstate, tractor-trailer segment ONLY, no other CDL classes or operations covered. Another major element of the campaign is on ending CDL mills and ensuring new drivers get safe operations training and experience.
Key elements of the driver training plan:
- Certification standards for instructors and examiners;
- Driver candidate must show proficiency in subject areas before taking their CDL test and instructor must certify proficiency;
- Tests use real-world trucks with loaded trailers
- Training record becomes part of the driving record;
- FMCSA can audit instructors; and
- FMCSA work with industry, states, and stakeholders to develop an "on-the-job" experience building period for new drivers before they go out on their own.
The second part of the initiative focuses on providing a safer highway environment including:
- Continued Focus on Truck Parking, Implementing Jason's Law, and addressing challenge at national and local level;
- Ensure the Highway Safety Improvement Program, which funds highway safety infrastructure, includes CMV accidents in state improvement plans and funding allocations; and
- Greater focus on "share the road" activities, both through NHTSA campaign activities and teaching new drivers how to operate safely around trucks.
The third arm of the Truckers for Safety campaign lies in improving law enforcement's focus on accidents by:
- Addressing challenges with FMCSA's Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) system by splitting out scores tied to "safety-related" violations from those tied to "compliance-related" violations;
- Review of current regulations to determine which are actually having an impact on reducing accidents;
- Beginning the discussion about how enforcement policies can start to incentivize safe driving versus simply being a punishment tool; and
- Continued focus on other areas: advancing reforms for detention time, stopping bad policies like speed limiters and truck size and weight increases, and others.
Lastly, the initiative calls for reforms in rules addressing crashworthiness for new trucks including:
- Crashworthiness should only be measured by how well a truck does at protecting the occupant when they are involved in an accident. Accident avoidance technologies should not be considered as a replacement for occupant protection.
- Looking to better inform truck purchasers about the protection offered by the new truck they may buy – NHTSA testing and rating for trucks similar to what is currently in place for cars.
For more information visit http://www.ooida.com/