Ferro, speaking at a forum on driver health in Baltimore, said the Department of Transportation had asked for an extension of 30 days in the schedule to assist in OMB's review of the proposal.
Proposals and rules hardly ever get through the system on schedule, but FMCSA's original plan was to get this one back from OMB on October 26. Now the schedule calls for completion by November 26. Once the proposal is published, the public will have an opportunity to comment before it becomes final. The agency is operating under a court order to get the rule finished by next July.
Ferro was speaking to an audience of some 200 health and transportation professionals gathered for the first of what she hopes will be many conferences on commercial driver health and wellness.
Driver Health Focus of Conference
The International Conference on Commercial Driver Health and Wellness is bringing together regulators, researchers, trucking executives and others to discuss driver health issues and look for ways to improve health and improve carriers' bottom line.
Albert Alvarez, senior transportation specialist at FMCSA, has been planning the conference for more than 18 months. "The industry wants to do the right thing but profits are slim," he said. Studies in industries other than trucking show that it is possible to gain a positive return on investment in health.
"We believe that these programs, which have proven to be quantitatively successful, can be adapted to trucking," he said. "The aim is for attendees to leave with the information and the belief that health and wellness improves safety and generates a return on investment."
Ferro noted trucking's grim statistics. The life expectancy of a commercial driver is 16 years shorter than the norm, she said, referencing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It is a startling, frightening and frankly untenable figure," she said. "There are a host of contributing issues but health is at the heart of it."
She said only 10 percent of drivers exercise regularly. Fifty-four percent of drivers smoke tobacco, compared to 21 percent of the general population. Half of drivers are overweight or obese, compared to 33 percent in the rest of the population.
"We can't sustain figures like that and expect individuals to be healthy contributors to their workplaces and their families, and be safe on the roadway," she said.
The conference continues through mid-day Wednesday. Look for more coverage later this week.