' rel='shortcut icon'/>

Amber Alert

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Trucking industry debates 11-hour rule

Is it any less safe for a truck driver to be on the road for 11 hours than 10 hours?

The debate over the one-hour difference in “hours of service” has raged since 2003, and it doesn’t look to subside anytime soon.

Federal regulators two weeks ago reiterated a rule originally issued in 2003 that allows over-the-road drivers to work 11 hours followed by 10 hours of rest. Issued by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the ruling also preserved the provision that allows a driver’s workweek to restart after 34 hours of rest. That replaced the traditional weekend’s rest of two days.

In issuing its interim rule while awaiting public comment, agency administrator John Hill said the government’s data show that vehicle fatality rates fell to an all-time low last year. In addition, fatigue-related truck crashes in the 11th hour of driving have been negligible since 2003.

“This proposal keeps in place hours-of-service limits that improve highway safety by ensuring that drivers are rested and ready to work,” Hill said in a statement. “The data makes clear that these rules continue to protect drivers, make our roads safer and keep our economy moving.”

The American Trucking Associations, which represents big carriers like United Parcel Service Inc. and YRC Worldwide Inc., supported the agency’s ruling. The changes create natural rest and work cycles while giving the industry flexibility, according to the group.

“ATA supports the new hours-of-service rules because they are working,” said Dave Osiecki, the trade group’s vice president of safety, security and operations.

It’s a decision that has been struck down in federal courts twice, but only for procedural errors. Consumer and safety groups as well as the Teamsters union went back to federal appeals court again last week seeking to vacate the rule once again.

“The Bush administration’s arrogance in believing it is above the law will force the nation’s truck drivers to continue enduring sweatshop-like working conditions,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group involved in the lawsuit. “Tired drivers are putting themselves and all of us who share the highways with them at risk.”

The Teamsters agreed, saying the new rules allow drivers to work 17 more hours a week than previously. Union President Jim Hoffa said there are no peer-reviewed studies showing the new rule is safer than the old one.

“It’s clear the Bush administration has more loyalty to its corporate supporters than to the men and women who actually drive on our roads,” Hoffa said in a statement.

YRC could not be reached for comment on the hours-of-service ruling. However, the company and industry analysts have stated previously that the unionized less-than-truckload carriers are not substantially affected by hours-of-service rules. The regulations mostly affect the nonunion, truckload industry.

While both supporters and opponents of the 11-hour rule cite crash and fatality statistics, one trucking group has maintained the debate is misguided.

“The agency (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ) has to address the real problem, which is drivers waiting to load or unload their trucks, which counts as part of their driving time,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in Grain Valley.


Amarillo man dies in massive Texas Panhandle pileup

A 62-year-old man was identified as the person killed in a massive chain-reaction wreck in the Texas Panhandle that left more than a dozen people injured and temporarily shut down Interstate 40.

The man, whose name was not being released pending family notification, was an Amarillo resident, police Sgt. Greg Fisher said Sunday. The man was in a car with his wife, who was in stable condition at a hospital following Saturday's pileup.

Investigators say winds hastened around mid-morning Saturday, whiting out visibility for motorists and contributing to the 30 second chain-reaction accident that stretched for about a quarter to a half mile.

It started when a tractor-trailer lost control and flipped over, blocking the portion where I-40 and U.S. Highway 287 split. At least four other semi-trailers were unable to stop in the icy conditions and slammed into each other. Another tractor-trailer jacknifed and yet another overturned. Several cars then crashed into the wreckage, leaving people in at least four vehicles trapped, Fisher said.

"We're not really sure how many cars, probably in excess of 40 cars and in excess of 20 semi-trailers," he said on Sunday.

At least 16 people went to the hospital. Several have since been released but at least one had life threatening injuries, Fisher said. Hospital officials were still trying to gauge Sunday how many patients were injured in the pileup.

One officer responding to the scene was injured when another vehicle sideswiped his patrol car, which was parked in a ditch.

Passers-by helped the injured, which included children, by opening presents to provide warmer clothing and loading people into their cars to help them keep warm, officials said.

"We don't know who they were but it was very nice to see," Fisher said.


Fatal pileup began with Parr's skid

John Parr was driving through a near whiteout when he skidded on an icy Wyoming highway, triggering a string of collisions that left Parr, his wife and daughter dead.

Conditions on Interstate 80 near Rawlins were so bad that shortly after a tractor-trailer slammed into Parr's Subaru station wagon on Saturday, another seven vehicles piled up 5 miles from the accident site, according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol. Two people were injured in that crash.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol issued three citations in the chain-reaction crashes that killed Parr, 59, a prominent Denver political consultant, his wife, Sandra Widener, 53, and their daughter, Chase, 19.

A second daughter, Katy, 17, was seriously injured in the crash and taken to Wyoming Medical Center in Casper. She is conscious and doing well, said Parr's niece, Kathryn McAllister.

Family members have told the teen about the deaths, but they haven't determined where she will stay during her recovery, McAllister said.

However, it is likely that she will recover in Boise, Idaho, with relatives. The family was headed for a holiday gathering in Boise at the time of the crash.

Katy is now expected to be out of intensive care soon and family friends say it is possible she will be released from the hospital by the end of the week.

Funeral arrangements, including what kind of service and when it would be held, still haven't been decided.

"A lot of it hinges on Katy's health. I expect it to be a memorial service. They fondly referred to their wedding in 1986 as a 'Happening,' so the service will likely be of similar spirit," McAllister said in an e-mail.

Motorists Angela Seeley, Robert Maxwell and William Bowers received tickets for driving too fast for the road conditions on Saturday.

None could be reached for comment on Monday.

Parr was driving through blowing snow that sharply reduced visibility and created ground-blizzard conditions, according to the patrol.

His loss of control triggered the chain of crashes that led to his death, said Patrol Sgt. Stephen Townsend.

"He is the first to lose control, and everybody was unable to avoid him or other vehicles. We constantly remind people when they encounter those kinds of driving conditions to drive within their limits, reduce their speed and increase following distance. If need be, get completely off the highway and into the nearest town," Townsend said Monday.

Parr's 1997 Subaru slid sideways on westbound I-80 at about 9:50 a.m. Saturday. Seeley, of Colorado Springs, who was following in a 2003 Acura, swerved but clipped the front end of Parr's car. She then ran into the back of a snowplow.

Maxwell, of Douglas, Wyo., who was at the wheel of a Chevrolet pickup truck, swerved and missed Parr but ran into Seeley's car.

Bowers, of Bremerton, Wash, who was driving a United Van Lines tractor trailer, then struck Parr's car on the driver's side.

Parr and Widener were both wearing seat belts, according to the accident report. The two girls were not.

After the crash, I-80 in both directions was closed between Rawlins and Laramie and reopened around 2:30 p.m.

The accident is still under investigation.


Merry Christmas Too All

I know it has been a while since I have posted anything on this blog, but I have been busy. Work was really hectic for the last few months.
But now has slowed down a bit, I now have some breathing room finally.

Anyway I just wanted to post a Very Merry Christmas to all the Truck Drivers, and their families.

I hope all had a safe year....

I wish that all will have a Safe and Happy New Year as well.