ATRI Suggests Alternative Approach to Safety Compliance

January 24, 2011

A trucking industry research group has put together a concept for how carriers might improve their safety performance without following traditional compliance requirements.

Onboard electronic recorders to track driver logs are among the technology and techniques that could be used for an Alternative Compliance program.

The American Transportation Research Institute concludes that there is enough evidence to justify a pilot test of an Alternative Compliance program that uses such techniques as electronic onboard recorders, fatigue management programs, using hair samples for drug and alcohol testing, speed limiters and onboard technologies like collision warning, roll stability and lane departure warning.

ATRI, the research arm of American Trucking Associations, sees this approach as a way to improve upon and perhaps replace the traditional safety compliance system that is now in effect.

Steve Williams, CEO of Maverick Transportation and chairman of the ATRI board, said his company has tested and benefited from many of these alternative tools.

"This report is the first of its kind to package the (returns on investment) into a toolbox of proven solutions," Williams said in a statement. "Department of Transportation certification of an 'alt compliance' program can help our industry move from incremental to exponential safety improvements."

ATRI began its research with the observation that even though fatal truck crash rates are the lowest they have ever been, the total number of truck-involved fatalities is still too high. The question was, could the alternative technologies that are just beginning to come into use do a better job than the compliance mechanisms now in place.

The Institute said its research indicates that these technologies could be integrated into or even replace systems such as Compliance Reviews, safety audits and roadside inspections.

The Institute developed a guide for incorporating an Alternative Compliance program into the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's new safety enforcement system, CSA.

As part of its research, the Institute looked at the impact of the traditional Compliance Review on carriers' safety performance - and came to a surprising conclusion.

"While crash rates are notably lower following CRs for small fleets, this safety benefit diminishes (and even disappears) as fleet size increases," the Institute said.

The findings suggest that larger fleets may benefit more from an Alternative Compliance approach than smaller fleets, the Institute said. It is proposing a pilot program to flesh out the findings.