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FMCSA Safety Chief Opens Zonar User Conference

May 16, 2013

By Jim Beach

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Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer of the Federal Motor Carrier address attendees at Zonar Systems the Zone 2013 user’s conference.
Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer of the Federal Motor Carrier address attendees at Zonar Systems the Zone 2013 user’s conference.

You'd better be getting ready for new hours of service rules that go into effect July 1, to be followed by proposed rules for electronic logs. That, along with an emphasis on enforcement, was the message from Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in his keynote speech for Zonar Systems' inaugural users’ conference.

The Zone 2013 opened May 14 in San Antonio with more than 150 customers in attendance. While the event officially opened with a golf tournament and dinner on May 14, the real work began the next day with a full slate, which also included breakout sessions covering a number of fleet management, compliance and technology topics, an interactive computer training lab and a future tech development lab, in addition to Van Steenburg's remarks.

Van Steenburg’s address drew an attentive audience as he discussed a number of FMCSA’s recent initiatives, including drivers’ hours-of-service, electronic logging devices, CSA and enforcement.

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Hours of Service and Electronic Logs

The new hours-of-service rules are still scheduled to go into effect in July, despite requests from industry groups and some members of congress to delay the rule.

The most controversial aspects of the rule are a requirement that drivers take 30-minute breaks with 8 hours of coming on duty and a revised 34-hour restart period that requires two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. off duty before a driver can resume driving.

“Taking a 30-minute break is good for drivers,” he said. And the revised restart rule will mean drivers won’t go back on duty until they have had a normal sleep pattern.

And the agency intends to enforce the new rules. “There will be big fines for egregious violations,” he said. “We are going to start enforcing those violations.”

He said a new rule mandating electronic logging devices (the new name for EOBRs) would come up sometime this fall with a final rule ready by next year. The rule will establish technical standards for ELDs and eliminate a lot of current requirements involving supporting documents.

“Once carriers start using them (ELDs), they love it,” he said, noting the operational efficiencies they can gain. The new rule will also include “strong measures” to make sure carries or shippers do not harass drivers.

Enforcement

Van Steenburg noted that while FMCSA sets the rules, most enforcement work, including roadside inspections, are done by state commercial vehicle enforcement agencies. These agencies conduct about 3.6 million inspections a year.

He said a common complaint from motor carriers is that there aren’t enough clean inspections.

“When we first started, 30% of our inspections were clean,” he said. “Now we are up to 39% clean. We’ve made great progress over the years, but over 4,000 people lose their lives in commercial motor vehicle crashes each year, which is not good.”

In response, he said the agency is promoting commercial vehicle traffic enforcement by local and state police officers. “It sounds harsh, but I want to see drivers who operate unsafely get tickets.”

He also said he would love to be have access to all the traffic violations issued by police officers, sheriffs and other local law enforcement. Currently, the FMCSA doesn’t capture serious traffic violations issued by police officers because they don’t go on a roadside inspection report.

Raising the Bar

Van Steenburg said the agency remains committed to the raising the bar to get into the business, maintaining high safety standards and removing high-risk drivers.

The agency is looking at combining a number of registration forms into one and building a screening algorithm into the application process to better access that applicant’s safety capability.

As for safety standards, he said the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program is a good way to make sure carriers adhere to these standards.

“I am a big proponent of CSA. I believe it works. I believe the right methodology is there as it allows us to identify carriers that are high risk.”

He acknowledged it's not perfect. “Don’t get me wrong, we know there are problems in CSA and we are making changes over time. We are listening and willing to make changes to CSA.”

Technology

Of course, since Zonar is a technology company, Van Steenburg had some remarks in that area, as well.

“We feel that carriers that have advanced technologies are safer and are showing a greater commitment," he said. "We are promoting advanced technologies. We see a lot of technology in private fleets and the data shows that private fleets are safer.” He said the data shows private fleets have lower crash rates, lower out of service rates and lower inspection rates.

Of course, he said, “there are a lot of for-hire carriers out there that are very safe and are making investments in the technology.”

“Our ultimate vision, he said, is of a crash-free environment. Working together, I think we can achieve that.”

Comments

  1. 1. gary bary [ May 16, 2013 @ 09:11AM ]

    So, in other words it's still the same old "beatings will continue until morale improves" (or until only five mega carriers are left standing). Zonar could have saved themselves a bunch of money and just had a banner printed and hung at the podium saying "We at the FMCSA think the industry we oversee is full of criminals". Obviously the FMCSA figures if you're not a criminal now, they have the tools to guarantee you will be in the future. Best to just slap the cuffs on now and turn yourself in to Mr. Van Steenburg and his circus of bureaucrats while you still have time.

  2. 2. GREG FOREMAN [ May 16, 2013 @ 02:46PM ]

    This guy, Van Steenburg, must never worked for or driven a cross country truck. If he had then he would know "normal sleep patterns" in the trucking industry are non existent. This revision by the FMCSA is simply another regulation aimed at solidifying more trucking businesses toward the major trucking companies. This measure is a joke, the FMCSA is a joke. The entire system is aimed at forcing the independent owner operators out of business or at least, forcing such drivers to lease out to the major carriers ridding the majors of their competitive threat.

  3. 3. Terry Massey [ May 17, 2013 @ 05:46AM ]

    More " big brother" to keep us safe and help put the whole country into bankruptcy. I'm trying to be nice but I am Very Tired of all of the rules being written by people who have never been in a truck much less ever created a business from scratch that had to make a profit to stay in business.

  4. 4. mike [ May 19, 2013 @ 06:36PM ]

    if all of us cry babie truck drivers just went on strike for 1 week and demanded at least 3,50 minimum. @ mile then they can enforce all these idiotic rules and we wouldn't give a dam know would we

  5. 5. Aloysious Farquart [ May 19, 2013 @ 08:31PM ]

    “Our ultimate vision, he said, is of a crash-free environment. Working together, I think we can achieve that.”

    Yes, I was a Freshman once myself.

    Unfortunately, what the HOS are eliminating is the "professional" driver, and their options to rest when tired, wait upstream of urban areas for rush hours to pass, to "manage" their time.

    I sleep 5 hours per night, period, been that way for decades, grab a nap in the afternoon. With the first new HOS 5 hours later I was exhausted from "waiting" for my 10 hour clock to go off.

    I always liked to hit the road at 5, drive a few hours, take a break, drive a few hours, take a break.

    I don't see how they expect drivers to concentrate non-stop on driving for longer than anyone would be expected to concentrate on reading a book, but one thing is certain; they've never tried it.

    "The first thing we must recognize is that crashes are not accidents."
    -Ricardo Martinez, M.D., NHTSA Administrator, 1997

  6. 6. We3Kings [ May 19, 2013 @ 08:54PM ]

    Write to your Congressmen, write to your Senators...some will be wasted effort but we do have some elected officials that care about the affects of unneeded laws and regulations....The FMCSA is really out of control, out of touch with the industry and most of you are correct; they have no idea of how drivers or the trucking industry operates. Remember on a 14 hour work day you cannot take that 30 minute break until after the 6th hour OR you will have to take a 2nd break after 8 more hours if the first one occurs before the 6th hour. So SAFETY just went By Bye.....We cannot manage our time to the needs of our bodies and the environment we are working in at the time! And for future of the electronic recorders, the FMCSA is more concerned with creating a market for makers of these systems than for the safety of the Public and Drivers.

  7. 7. Aloysious Farquart [ May 21, 2013 @ 01:42PM ]

    You can write to Jesus, he doesn't know anything about driving, either.

    Nothing can be explained to those who lack the knowledge to understand it, or refuse to.

    The vast majority of fatal car/truck crash have been found to be the sole fault of the motorist. It seems reasonable to extrapolate that most car/truck crashes are the sole fault of the motorist.

    More trucking regulations isn't going to fix that, the sole solution is better truck drivers. And let's be honest, most on the road shouldn't be permitted to drive nails. Same frustrated, emotional operators as in most 4-wheelers, in a truck, all fear of the equipment long gone.

    "Driving" a truck safely among suicidal motorists requires infinite patience, and all the rest in the world does not and will not achieve that. True... professional grade "safe" operation is not rooted in the reaction times of the most alert, but in judgment.

    "Be wary then, best safety lies in fear." -Shakespeare

 

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