Enforcement officials across the country this week are cracking down on unsafe fleets, unsafe truck drivers, and car drivers who drive unsafely around large trucks.

Operation Safe Driver got an official kick-off during the American Trucking Associations' annual management conference Monday, with FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro, enforcement officials and ATA emphasizing the enforcement and education effort's team approach.
FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro speaks during the Operation Safe Driver kick-off event at American Trucking Associations convention. (Photo by Deborah Lockridge)
FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro speaks during the Operation Safe Driver kick-off event at American Trucking Associations convention. (Photo by Deborah Lockridge)

Operation Safe Driver, Oct. 17-23, targets both passenger car and commercial drivers and is organized by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The program was initially launched in 2007.

As part of this year's effort, FMCSA has selected 261 motor carriers with problems such as a pattern of hiring unsafe drivers or a pattern of continuing to operate after being put out of service, and they will be getting "aggressive compliance reviews" this week, according to Ferro.

Steve Keppler, executive director of CVSA, pointed out that each year, nearly 5,000 people die on the highways in a crash which involves a commercial vehicle. "This is equivalent to a 737 airplane crashing every two weeks," he said. "Could you imagine if we experienced 26 planes crashing in a year? That would never be tolerated. And we should have no tolerance for these deaths on the highways, either."

Ferro emphasized the success of the team approach, noting as she took the podium during the kickoff event that she was happy to see "friends, colleagues and folks singing the same tune" about safety.

Lieutenant Colonel Jack Hegarty of the Arizona Highway Patrol emphasized how unique this kind of partnership is. "I see no other area of highway safety that has such a team of agencies, organizations, and an entire industry all working to reach the same goal, safe commercial vehicle operations," he said.

This partnership approach has also been key in the successful Teens & Trucks Training Program, created and launched by CVSA, the Arizona Trucking Association, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and American Trucking Associations last year. This program that helps educate young drivers about safe driving around trucks has been shown to thousands of teens.

The partners are taking the same approach in developing Defeating Distracted Driving, an educational program with a DVD, two 30-second public service announcements, a tri-fold handout, a PowerPoint presentation, talking points and model policies for motor carriers about the dangers of distracted driving for use by fleets, driving schools and others.

Hegarty pointed out that such cooperation will be even more important moving forward, as the trucking industry starts to bounce back and puts more trucks on the road, while at the same time state governments, strapped for cash, are "streamlining" state law enforcement agencies in most areas of the country, and in some areas are cut to bare-bones minimum. "It will be an incredible challenge to continue to reduce fatal crashes involving commercial vehicles, but I'm confident that given the relationship between federal and state enforcement, industry, and the team you see here today, we can be successful."

Watch an Operation Safe Driver public service announcement:

More info: www.operationsafedriver.com.