CDTA Newsletter

June 2017 Articles

Responsible representation: The importance of industry background checks
Source: http://www.wastedive.com/; by Cole Rosengren, April 19, 2017

Many aspects of the waste industry have changed, but old perceptions about criminal elements still persist for some members of the public — and can be reinforced by rare incidents involving fraudulent activity.

 
 

Luckily there's a way to combat these incidents, which may be more obvious than expected: background checks.

Establishing a thorough background check procedure for both employers and employees is seen as one way to ensure everyone is playing by the same rules. Like many aspects of the waste industry, the requirements for an employer to obtain a state or local permit can vary, though the basics of background or work eligibility checks for employees are governed nationally. In the most general sense all of these requirements are meant to ensure that companies know who they're hiring and can’t gain an unfair advantage by cutting any corners with wages, safety or disposal practices. The companies that do this often get more attention than the ones who are in full compliance.

"There’s always been operators like that in this business. There’s also really good operators," said Steve Changaris, northeast regional manager for the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA). "I think that the changes in the industry with the public companies and the private equity has brought additional new disciplines."

The scale of some companies in the industry allow for human resources departments that can apply more uniform standards when it comes to the hiring process. Though Melissa Sorenson, executive director of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), said it is now common for companies across all industries to contract with third parties for these services.

"Having a partner who focuses solely on background checks versus members of your own team who tend to be experts in your own industry and field is often important," said Sorenson.

According to a recent NAPBS survey conducted by HR.com, 96% of respondents use some form of background screening during the hiring process. Preventing potential workplace violence was cited as the top reason, though the survey also found that improving hiring quality, protecting company reputation and complying with regulations were all key factors.

The basics of how the background check process should work are set out in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has also taken action in the past regarding violations of this law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can get involved to address any potential discrimination in the screening process. Additional local laws may also limit whether employers can ask about an applicant’s previous salary or criminal record.

Ensuring accuracy

Keeping track of all this can be complicated, especially when the added layer of a staffing agency comes into play. Sorenson said the key to making these relationships work is establishing clear responsibility for who will perform background checks in the contract between a company and an agency. If the agency is doing it, she recommended building in the option for an audit to confirm that checks are indeed happening and to help maintain the company’s reputation.

"Ultimately the individuals themselves are representing the brand not necessarily of the staffing agency, but of the entity whom they’re performing work for," she said.

The potential for issues with a staffing agency was highlighted by the recent sentencing of two former Waste Management employees related to convictions for identity theft and hiring undocumented workers in Texas. The company switched staffing agencies and reportedly implemented new controls after the initial incident occurred in 2012.

Close to 600,000 employers now use a system called E-Verify, a Department of Homeland Security program, as a way to check work eligibility. Applicants can check their own eligibility online for free at any time or employers can also do it within a set period of time after an offer has been made.

Currently this system is only required for federal contractors and vendors, but a number of states have also adopted their own laws applying it to government employees and some elected officials would like to see it expanded even further. This year legislation was introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley, S.179, that would eventually require all U.S. employers to begin using E-Verify.

Getting lawmakers involved

New regulation is also being discussed regarding the backgrounds of employers themselves. Different states take different approaches and the more stringent systems are mainly concentrated in one part of the country.

"The background checks issue is generally limited to certain Northeast locations, where organized crime used to be closely intertwined with some companies in the waste industry," wrote David Biderman, CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), via email. "Different jurisdictions have different policy drivers that, potentially, lead to dissimilar background checks. [New York City] is still concerned about keeping organized crime out of the industry. In another location, regulators may be interested in other factors."

New York’s current system is regulated by the city’s Business Integrity Commission. Efforts to establish similar regulations for Connecticut in 2009 were opposed by the National Solid Waste Management Association and ultimately unsuccessful. New Jersey’s solid waste industry is regulated by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and attorney general through a program called A901.

Yet as highlighted over multiple years by New Jersey’s State Commission of Investigation (SCI), including in a recent report titled "Dirty Dirt," individuals with organized crime connections have still been allowed to operate in the state's recycling industry because it isn’t covered by that program. These "dirt brokers" have allegedly dumped thousands of tons of contaminated soil in various locations, which will cost the state and local municipalities significant amounts of money to remediate.

As described by the SCI, "...these flagrant and continuing abuses by unscrupulous self-proclaimed recyclers have tarnished and undercut the economic viability of legitimate elements of the industry."

Senator Ray Lesniak, who was originally involved in the creation of the A901 program, has introduced a bill that would expand the same background check requirements currently in place for solid waste to all aspects of the recycling industry including these "dirt brokers."

The bill has been stalled since it was originally introduced in 2016, but Lesniak said he plans to begin pushing for it again soon.

"This new report adds additional evidence to the fact that the organized crime influence is growing and that something needs to be done about it now," said Lesniak.

While so far Lesniak has not met with members of the local recycling industry he is open to hearing their feedback.

"One of the things we don’t want to do is cast a wide net if a less intrusive action requirements will do the job," he said.

The NWRA has not taken an official stance on the bill yet, but Changaris said local members are amenable to the regulation in the industry that is currently in place and ready to discuss the new proposal when called upon.

"I know there is wide acceptance of the A901 program by the hauling industry in New Jersey and no interest to call for major reforms or its elimination. The companies recognize the value that it has," he said.

****

As these requirements evolve compliance will continue to be key for employers in terms of how they conduct background checks on their employees and how they follow permitting requirements. In the same way employers want to know they can trust their employees, customers also want to know they can trust the employers. Finding the balance between transparency and ensuring regulations aren't overly burdensome to business will continue to be important as the industry works to shed the vestiges of old stereotypes.


 

Samsung and Magellan Partner on ELD Solution
Source: http://www.worktruckonline.com/; by WorkTUCK Staff, April 28, 2017

Samsung Electronics America has partnered with GPS navigation provider Magellan to deliver an ELD-compliant hours-of-service tracking solution for short- and long-haul trucking.

 
 

Samsung mobile devices will now be part of Magellan’s fleet management solutions portfolio as part of an agreement between the companies. Magellan’s fleet solutions can be integrated and pre-loaded across a range of Samsung mobile devices, requiring minimal installation for drivers and offering device flexibility for fleets.

They are available on the Samsung Galaxy E and Galaxy A tablets, as well as select Galaxy S7 smartphone models.

Magellan and Samsung’s fleets solutions include:

ELD-compliant Hours of Service: Magellan's FMSCA-certified hours of service offers automated logging tools, reports, and alerts to keep drivers on time and in compliance. A dispatch and backend web portal allows for HOS, DVIR and IFTA reports, while on-device data transfer and co-driver support makes roadside inspections more simple and efficient.

Magellan Fleet Navigation: Magellan's commercial fleet navigation software delivers truck-specific map data, ranging from maximum vehicle heights on bridges to roads allowing hazardous containers. Combined with Magellan's routing engine, the solution provides a safety-focused navigation experience for truck carriers.

Multi-Purpose Use: In addition to fleet use, the solution also serves as a personal device that offers access to a driver's favorite content, such as movies, books, and music, for downtime while on the road.

"Helping the trucking industry be compliant with ELD standards by the end of the year is critical and Samsung is committed to bringing these solutions forward," said Kevin Gilroy, executive vice president and general manager, Samsung Electronics America. "The Magellan HOS Compliance solution is a powerful, comprehensive product that brings the best of fleet navigation software to the market."


 

Industry reps sound off to FMCSA on autonomous vehicle tech’s safety concerns, opportunities for reform
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by Todd Dills, April 25, 2017

With several companies jockeying to bring autonomous trucks to market, industry stakeholders this week stressed to a panel of top officers from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration the importance of manned control for tractor-trailers, at least for the foreseeable future. Commenters at the public FMCSA meetings also noted the potential for hours of service reform relative to autonomous vehicle tech.

 
 

The agency’s listening session on autonomous vehicles was held at the semi-annual Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance workshop Monday. Attendees of the workshop and others from the public offered commentary on several issues relative to developing an appropriate regulatory framework for the operation of highly automated commercial motor vehicles with advanced driver-assist systems.

During the meeting, commenters shared a variety of information related to the design, development, testing and deployment of highway automated commercial vehicles. Special regulatory requirements as technology moves into the arena of near-full autonomy — in the areas of driver and tech credentialing, hours of service, inspection, repair and maintenance — were on the table for input.

"Vehicle manufacturers and technology developers continue to design, test and develop driver-assistance systems," noted Deputy Administrator Daphne Jefferson in opening remarks. "We encourage these developments and applaud the innovators,” regarding the technology broadly as an opportunity to enhance safety. The primary focus of the session, she added, was to ensure that related "regulations provide appropriate standards for safe operation. … Our goal is not to impede progress, but for us as regulators to try to run alongside development …. [continuing to be the] voice of safety in the room."

More than one commenter emphasized the need for a human to remain in control of the vehicle. Truck operator Bryan Spoon, a board member of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, illustrated such with an example of the kinds of safety decisions operators make on the road, invoking a hypothetical near-crash where the choices are to "his this brick wall" and destroy the truck or "deviate and hit kids in a crosswalk," Spoon said. "What choice does our automated vehicle make?" Destroy itself or "a group of schoolchildren in a crosswalk?"

Such thorny questions around the implications of robotics in heavy-vehicle technology were, however, by and large on the backburner throughout the session — practical matters emerged in two big areas of discussion: hours of service and the CDL.

Hours of service

Those believing FMCSA ought to incentivize adoption/development of highly automated driver-assist technology insisted there has to be a return on investment — the biggest opportunity for such appeared to be in the hours of service regulations.

Consultant Richard Bishop noted the "interesting situation" for tech developers today, given a seeming lack of return-on-investment potential for carriers who might choose to take up Level 3 and higher automated systems (Level 5 is considered near fully automated). "There would be more private investment in Level 3 systems if hours of service were [such that] you could get more of a return on investment," Bishop said. Of course, he also noted, "hours is a very contentious place" for regulators to go, and one where owner-operators experience many of their biggest business headaches.

Bishop wondered about the pathway for FMCSA to "get to a place [in the regulations] where that driver can get into the cab of the automated vehicle and he’s on-duty not driving. I think the tech will get us there." Bishop went on to offer the example of long waits in line by dray drivers at ports he’d seen, where two hours of waiting isn’t uncommon and with the truck moving no faster than 5 mph. In a highly-automated situation, that might even make for an opportunity to get into the bunk for sleeper-line time.

Fred Kovall of Anderson Trucking Service wondered "if the driver has to be in the truck and has to have some control over it, how many hours in a row can you pay attention doing nothing" in a highly-automated-vehicle environment? A recent study presented at the Managing Fatigue conference in March suggested such automated driving may be more fatigue-inducing than active control.

"Right now," Kovall added, drivers can drive "for 11 hours – you want to extend beyond that? … My biggest concern is how do we keep them occupied, busy and awake." (Kovall saw a remote-control drone-type situation in the future for any truly "driverless" vehicle.)

Tom Balzer of the Ohio Trucking Association noted that hours of service as an issue "hasn’t been settled in 12 years and will remain so for the next 25 because of the changes in technology. … You probably won’t find a distinct long-term plan to deal with hours."

Sean Garney, representing the American Trucking Associations, concurred to an extent. "We talk about return-on-investment in the trucking industry, removing the driver to create additional efficiencies," but "there are efficiencies to be gained with the driver still on the truck." He emphasized that the technology is a long way from coming to full flower and though the conversation may be premature, the "hours of service piece is one of the more interesting conversations."

The CDL

Starkly divergent points of view around the need for special credentialing for autonomous vehicle operation came from several commenters.

Some states have been approaching the issue of endorsements differently as highly automated light- and heavy-duty vehicles have been tested. FMCSA "does not require a special [CDL] endorsement for autonomous operation" currently, said Jack Van Steenburg, the agency’s Chief Safety Officer.

Former driver and current MCO Transport Safety Director Danny Hefner illustrated the need for special skills, noting fears around safety and autonomous vehicles, particularly in the event of one of the most precarious of highway emergencies for operators — a steer-tire blowout. "Will the truck be able to maintain its lane" without immediate driver control? he asked. "That kind of thing can lead to several highway deaths." Hefener concluded that "drivers operating these vehicles should have a special endorsement," something that said they’d "been specifically trained and can meet the requirements."

Tom Foster of the Washington State Patrol, too, picked up a tire-related failure situation as a means of illustrating what he saw as the long-term necessity of active human involvement in the operation of highly automated commercial vehicles. "What does the citizen do when a retread comes off an breaks a windshield? As law enforcement, how do we intervene and stop the vehicle? I think having the driver in the seat is important. We’ve got great drivers in this country and I don’t want to ever minimize the importance of those people."

Ognen Stojanovski of Uber/Otto, the company behind last fall’s Budweiser partially automated beer run last year, disagreed with the prevailing sentiment about special CDL credentialing via an endorsement or other mechanism.

"No changes to existing regulations are needed when a person is required to be in the driver’s seat," he said, likewise with hours. "Operators required to be behind the steering wheel will perform the same duties. Existing regulations … already ensure drivers are capable."

Moving farther along — if automated vehicles remove the human — "FMCSA may need new regulations," he said. Nearing the end of the transition period, ultimately, "If it requires just the push of a button" to engage an automated system, "it may be appropriate to allow the driver to record time spent in the sleeper" on the road as such. "FMCSA should recognize the distinction between [automated vehicles] that require the driver" to be engaged, "and those that don’t."


 

Safety Tip: Understanding Flood Dangers
Source: http://www.worktruckonline.com/; by WorkTUCK Staff, May 8, 2017

In recent days, flooding in the Midwest and South has claimed the lives of at least nine people and closed hundreds of roads. Rain-drenched Missouri has bore the brunt of the flood damage, with authorities scrambling to prevent the breach of local levees and to oversee evacuations.

 
 

Fleet drivers in all states need to be informed about the dangers of flash floods. More people are killed by flooding, on average, than any other single severe weather hazard, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Here are tips from the NOAA you can pass along to fleet drivers as a friendly reminder:

Remember…

- Do not drive onto a flooded roadway.

- Do not drive through flowing water.

- If you approach a roadway that is flooded, turn around – don’t drown.

- Drive with extreme caution if roads are even just wet or it's raining. You can lose control of your vehicle if hydroplaning occurs. This is when a layer of water builds up between your tires and the road, resulting in no direct contact between your vehicle and the road.

If a Flash Flood Warning is issued for your area…

- If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Act quickly to save yourself — you may not have much time.

- Get out of areas subject to flooding and move to a safe area before access is cut off by floodwaters. Low spots such as dips, canyons and washes are not the places you want to be during flooding.

- Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.

- Stay off the roads if possible. If driving is necessary, do not attempt to drive over a flooded road since the depth of the water is not always obvious and the roadway may no longer be intact under the water.

- Never drive around a barricade. They are placed there for your protection. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and move to higher ground before water sweeps you and your vehicle away.

- Do not try to walk, swim or play in flood water. You may not be able to determine if there are holes or submerged debris, or how quickly the water is flowing, and you may be swept away. If water is moving swiftly, as little as 6 inches of water can knock you off your feet. There is also a danger of hazardous materials polluting the water. Also, remember that water is an electrical conductor. If power lines are down, there is a possibility of electrocution.

- Continue to monitor the situation through media updates.


 

Increases in Illicit Drugs, Including Cocaine, Drive Workforce Drug Positivity to Highest Rate in 12 Years
Source: https://blog.employersolutions.com/; by Nicole Jupe, May 16, 2017

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) reveals insights into patterns of drug use among the American workforce. It has been published annually for more than 25 years as a public service for government, employers, policymakers, media, and the general public. This year’s report will be presented at the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA) annual conference, a gathering of industry professionals focused on safety, regulatory affairs, ethics, and workplace drug testing education from all over the world.

 
 

In examining the latest data, Barry Sample, Ph.D., Senior Director of Science and Technology at Quest Diagnostics, said, "This year’s findings are remarkable because they show increased rates of drug positivity for the most common illicit drugs across virtually all drug test specimen types and in all testing populations." He noted the following key findings from millions of workplace drug test results.

- Overall positivity in urine drug testing among the combined U.S. workforce in 2016 was 4.2 percent, a five percent relative increase over last year’s rate of 4.0 percent, and the highest annual positivity rate since 2004 (4.5 percent).

- Cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine use is up broadly among the U.S. workforce across multiple drug test specimen types and testing populations.

- Cocaine positivity increased 12 percent in 2016, reaching a seven-year high of 0.28 percent.

- The positivity rate for cocaine in post-accident urine drug tests was more than twice that of pre-employment urine drug tests in both the federally-mandated, safety-sensitive and the general U.S. workforces.

- In Colorado and Washington, the overall urine positivity rate for marijuana outpaced the national average in 2016 for the first time since the recreational statutes took effect.

- Year over year marijuana positivity increased nearly 75 percent in oral fluid testing. In addition, positivity increased in both urine and hair testing in the general U.S. workforce.

- Between 2012 and 2016, methamphetamine positivity climbed 64 percent in the general U.S. workforce and 14 percent among federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workers.

- Heroin detection, indicated by the presence of the 6-acetylmorphine (6-AM) metabolite, plateaued in the general U.S. workforce while prescription opiate detection declines.

"Once again, the DTI statistics reveal the on-going threat to workplace safety posed by substance abuse. While the national dialogue swirls around marijuana and opiate issues, we find cocaine—a substance with well-established dangers—continuing its troubling upswing not just in the general workforce, but in safety-sensitive jobs with federally-mandated testing," said Matt Nieman, General Counsel, Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace and Principal, Jackson Lewis P.C. "That positive test results for cocaine persist, let alone are increasing, should serve as a reminder to employers and employees that there is no substitute for vigilance in any effective effort to thwart the potential impacts of workplace substance abuse."

Along with this year’s data, we are offering an interactive map to illustrate overall positivity and positivity by drug for the past 10 years in urine testing. Users can search by both zip code and year for six illicit drugs: 6-AM (heroin metabolite), amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and PCP at QuestDiagnostics.com/DrugMap.

Workplace drug testing promotes a safe, healthy and productive environment for employees. Our analysis suggests that employers committed to creating a safe, drug-free work environment should be aware of the potential for drug use among their workforce.


 

More American Workers Are Testing Positive for Drugs
Source: https://www.wsj.com/; by Lauren Weber, May 16, 2017

More than one in 25 U.S. workers fail their employer’s drug tests; marijuana is on the rise, according to Quest Diagnostics

 
 

More U.S. workers are testing positive for illicit drugs than at any time in the last 12 years, according to data coming out today from Quest Diagnostics Inc., one of the largest workplace-testing labs in the nation.

The number of workers who tested positive for marijuana rose by 4%, while positive results for other drugs also rose. The increases come against a backdrop of more liberal marijuana state laws and an apparent resurgence in the use of drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine.

In 2016, 4.2% of the 8.9 million urine drug tests that Quest conducted on behalf of employers came back positive, up from 4% in 2015. It is the highest rate since 2004, when 4.5% of tests showed evidence of potentially illicit drug use.

Marijuana remains the most commonly used drug among U.S. workers and was identified in 2.5% of all urine tests for the general workforce in 2016, up from 2.4% a year earlier. Quest also tests people, such as bus drivers and airline pilots, in jobs that affect public safety. For these jobs, regular drug testing is mandated by federal rules. In this segment, 0.78% of workers tested positive for marijuana, up from 0.71% in the previous year.

Workers in states that permit recreational marijuana use appear to be picking up the habit. The number of workers testing positive in Colorado rose 11%; in Washington—9%. The rates of increase in these states, the first to legalize pot, were more than double the increase nationwide in 2016.

In prior years, trends in those states tracked what was happening across the U.S.

Employers in Colorado and Washington can fire or choose not to hire someone who tests positive for marijuana despite the state laws. More recent statutes in states like Maine would give employers less leeway for punishing workers with traces of pot in their urine.

Drug use appears to be higher among the broader American population compared with just workers and job applicants subject to testing. In 2015, 6.5% of Americans ages 26 and older admitted on a government survey that they had used marijuana or hashish in the prior month, according to the National Institutes of Health’s most recent analysis of drug use. Among those 18 to 25 years old, the share climbs to 19.8%.

Another concern for employers is the continuing rise in cocaine positives, particularly in drug tests conducted after workplace accidents. Of U.S. workers tested by Quest, traces of cocaine were found in 0.28% of tests. The share of positives from postaccident tests was more than twice as high as the rate from pre-employment assessments.

"While a test can’t tell you whether or not the use of cocaine is what caused that incident, it certainly raises the level of concern that cocaine may have had some impact," said Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology for Quest’s employment-testing unit.

Amphetamine positives—which include Adderall, commonly prescribed for attentiondeficit hyperactivity disorder—rose for all workers to 1.1% of urine tests, up from 0.97% in 2015. Some positive results are later discarded if a worker produces a doctor’s prescription for a legal drug. Quest found that methamphetamine positives continue to climb in the general workforce, rising 64% between 2012 and 2016, amounting to an overall positivity rate of 0.18% for the general workforce last year.

One bright spot: The use of prescription opioids like oxycodone appears to be on the decline. In 2016, even heroin positives leveled off—a reversal of a previous pattern. In the past, heroin positives increased as law-enforcement agencies and regulators cracked down on illegal opioid prescriptions, Dr. Sample said.


 

May 2017 Articles

The Price of Compliance
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by Todd Dills

Today’s electronic logging devices are different animals from the onboard communications and logging systems of even a decade ago. And while the $1,000-plus onboard systems with expensive ongoing costs in maintenance and subscriptions haven’t gone away entirely, many inexpensive options exist, even among dedicated units.

 
 

Hardware purchase costs for dedicated-unit systems range from a little more than $400 for Hutch’s Mercury unit up to $2,000 for PeopleNet’s top-of-the-line, fully functional custom fleet management device.

For engine-connection-device purchases for BYOD ("bring your own device") systems, costs range from around $170 up to about $500 on the top end.

Most systems with subscription-based pricing, even those with the most expansive functionality for fleets, can start with no hardware investment other than a lease cost rolled into a monthly or annual fee. Monthly subscription costs vary with the variety of services used, though many start at as little as $15.

It’s possible to satisfy the requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s ELD mandate for as little as a one-time $200 investment. Zed Connect made news in March for its Zed ELD, turning the common BYOD pricing model on its head.

Most BYOD ELDs, as evident in our comparison chart, operate in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, with subscription fees ensuring full functionality. While many give away or lease engine-plug-in hardware, Zed is charging just $200 for the hardware and giving away the smartphone app and web-based administration portal.

"This is an application of an innovative company that believes there are a lot of truckers out there who actually don’t want to have that monthly fee and the charges for a lot of things that aren’t applicable to their business," says Jill Nowlin, Zed’s sales director.

Tailoring the company’s e-log offering to small fleets and owner-operators, Nowlin likens the more well-equipped services to cable TV packages. "You get 800 channels, and you only want two or three," she says. "We’re targeting that group to be able to give them an ability to meet this mandate" and not keep a monthly fee subtracting from the bottom line in perpetuity.

Along with Zed, Blue Ink Technology has adopted a similar pricing model for its BYOD ELD – a $295 one-time hardware purchase. BIT’s Mike Riegel expressed a similar desire to provide something "very lean" and simple to "keep the cost low" for small fleets and owner-operators.


 

How to Choose the Best Background-Screening Provider
Source: https://www.shrm.org/; by Dave Zielinski, March 29, 2017

The stakes for choosing a background-screening provider have always been high, but now that decision looms larger than ever. As laws governing background checks constantly shift, regulatory oversight expands and the ranks of applicants misrepresenting themselves grows, selecting a vendor to conduct background screens of your candidates assumes greater weight.

 
 

Yet complying with the requirements of regulators and legislators is only half the battle in background screening. Vendors and employers alike must roll out the red carpet for a third member of that screening triad: job applicants themselves. Poor experiences during the application process can turn off top candidates and reflect badly on an organization's brand.

SHRM Online interviewed industry experts and HR practitioners for advice on how to evaluate and choose a background-screening partner. Included is an extensive comparison of top screening vendors in the market.

Compliance Is the Top Criterion

Experts agree that any selection process should begin by verifying that a screening provider is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). That seal of approval ensures that a provider has been independently audited to confirm it adheres to best practices across the breadth of its operating procedures and policies.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Conducting Background Investigations and Credit Checks]

Because background screens must comply not only with federal law but also with differing state and local legislation, providers need to monitor diverse and ever-shifting laws, said Les Rosen, an attorney and CEO of Employment Screening Resources, a San Francisco-based background-screening provider. One area that requires close attention is the fast-growing "ban-the-box" movement that mandates removal of criminal history questions from job applications, delaying those questions until later in the hiring process. Currently, the law has been adopted by 25 U.S. states and many other cities and counties.

Julia Mair, chief marketing officer for New York City-based screening provider Sterling Talent Solutions, said the top screening challenge that Sterling's customers report is ensuring compliance in a shifting regulatory and litigation environment.

"Every time a state, city or county changes a ban-the-box regulation, employers need to be aware of that," Mair said. "Screening providers have to be able to monitor and communicate those changes to clients that are hiring in those geographies or it opens the door to litigation."

Screening providers should conduct criminal records searches using the most accurate means possible, Rosen said, which still requires onsite visits to courthouses rather than searching online databases.

"Database-only background checks can be the enemy of due diligence," Rosen said. "In any database, there are false positives and false negatives and records aren't always complete or up-to-date."

When a criminal record is reported, Rosen said, screening firms should have experts on staff to review the record and determine if there are any legal issues in reporting findings.

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs how background checks must be conducted and requires providers to use procedures that ensure maximum accuracy in reporting.

"Providers should have the ability to quickly notify their clients of any changes in the FCRA or other applicable laws," Rosen said, and also should conduct annual FCRA compliance audits of their own operations.

To protect data privacy, Rosen said, HR professionals should ask if the screening is performed by workers in the United States; if the work is offshored, providers should explain how data privacy will be protected. Vendors also should know about the European Union (EU)-United States Privacy Shield Framework launched in 2016—regulations that replaced the Safe Harbor Framework provisions—and should comply with data privacy requirements for screening applicants from EU countries.

With more employers screening candidates with international backgrounds, Mair said, it's important that screening providers be equipped to conduct background checks in countries that may still rely on paper-based records or have varied jurisdictional laws.

Turnaround Times and Costs

With hiring decisions tied to acceptable background checks, HR naturally seeks the fastest turnaround times possible, especially in high-volume hiring scenarios or when there is fierce competition for talent. Although improvements in technology and data-sourcing practices have reduced turnaround times, most standard criminal records searches still take between 24 and 48 hours, screening experts say. A basic criminal search can be done faster, while screens that include employment, education and reference checks will take longer, as will most checks of applicants with international backgrounds.

There isn't wide differentiation in pricing among providers, but "buyer beware" still applies. "If costs are too cheap, you might be getting questionable database results, practices that aren't FCRA-compliant or customer service that isn't high-quality," Rosen said.

Providers can take shortcuts in sourcing records to reduce their costs, he added, so it pays to understand data acquisition processes. "Unless an employer knows how the sausage is being made, they wouldn't have an idea that they are not getting accurate and actionable criminal record reports," he said. While screening firms access similar information, the methods and supply chains they use to source records can differ.

HR buyers should seek screening providers that match their organization's business strategy and culture, said Melissa Sorenson, executive director of the NAPBS. If your company is technology-oriented, depends on a fast onboarding process or places high priority on the candidate experience, you should seek screening companies with strengths in those areas, she advised. "Identifying a screening partner that aligns with your priorities and corporate values enhances the partnership as well as the applicant experience," Sorenson said.

Technology Considerations

The sophistication and flexibility of a vendor's technology platform separates top providers from the rest of the pack. Any vendor should have an intuitive, scalable and configurable screening platform, experts agree.

"Mobile access, automated data entry and real-time reporting capabilities are key today," said Joe Jaeger, chief revenue officer of First Advantage, a background-screening provider headquartered in Atlanta. "Hiring managers and recruiters are often on the run and need the ability to access screening reports and confirm answers that aid in making faster hiring decisions."

Global capabilities play a larger role today, Jaeger said. "Finding a provider that operates on a global platform with customer service delivered by those who understand local laws and regulations is highly valuable when screening an increasingly global workforce," he explained.

The ability of vendors to integrate with a wide variety of applicant tracking systems (ATSs) has become table stakes in the selection game. Such integration creates workflow efficiencies that make life easier for HR and job applicants. With candidate data pouring directly into an ATS, employers can store information such as past employment, education and any criminal history in one location and reduce administrative processing time. For job candidates, such integration eliminates the need for frustrating dual entry of personal data like Social Security number.

Platform flexibility is an important selection criterion, Sorenson said. "The regulation and litigation in this space is such that there are constant changes that require employers to amend forms and processes based on their own risk tolerance," she said. "Ensuring that your screening partner has flexibility in its system to allow for such changes is important."

Top systems also allow applicants to enter required personal information or provide consent for checks via self-service portals and mobile devices, not just by fax or computers. Mobile-friendly systems serve applicants on the devices they use most, and self-service portals create fewer data entry mistakes and less time wasted playing phone tag or completing cumbersome paper forms.

"HR should be able to automatically send personalized e-mail to applicants so they can fill out forms to initiate the screening process and also receive completed reports easily," Rosen said. "Everything today should be mobile-friendly and paperless."

Candidate Experience

How vendors treat applicants during the screening process also should factor into selection decisions, with a smooth and transparent application experience being the goal. Vendor systems and staff should be equipped to answer applicant questions promptly and offer user-friendly dispute processes should issues or discrepancies arise around report results.

"Applicants should know what to expect from the process and be kept informed throughout," Sorenson said. "If they have questions, they should be able to get in touch with providers easily, and when they request a copy of a report, they should receive it efficiently. A seamless ability for applicants to interact with a potential employer and a screening provider makes the process quicker, smoother and more enjoyable for the entirety of the relationship."

Hiring employees with criminal records or who falsify employment or educational histories can have lasting fallout for organizations. That makes choosing the best background-screening provider among the more important decisions that HR leaders will make.


 

Two Plead Guilty in Michigan CDL Fraud Scheme
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by Trucking Info Staff, April 10, 2017

Two former Detroit DOT employees pleaded guilty for their roles in a CDL fraud scheme.

 
 

On March 28, Calvin Foulks and Michelle Reed pleaded guilty in Michigan State Court, Detroit, to forgery and bribery. Foulks, of Southfield, Michigan, and Reed, of Novi, Michigan, also agreed to pay restitution to the city of Detroit in the amounts of $1,000 and $625 respectively.

In February 2017, Foulks and Reed turned themselves in and were arraigned on felony charges for taking more than $4,000 in cash bribes in return for falsifying multiple Michigan Department of State documents. The forged documents stated that applicants had taken and passed the CDL skills test when, in fact, they had not.

The Michigan Secretary of State invalidated 85 CDL tests related to the scheme. Affected drivers were required to retest before their CDL driving privileges could be restored.

DDOT Director Dan Dirks said the incidents happened between May 2012 and June 2013. Once it was discovered, DDOT stopped conducting its own CDL testing. Since that time all DDOT drivers have received their certifications through a third-party vendor, according to the Detroit Free Press. The cost for this certification is paid for by the students.

DOT-OIG conducted this investigation with assistance from the Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Detroit Police Department-Internal Affairs, and the State of Michigan Attorney General’s Office.


 

Could the ELD solve the attraction to smartphone distraction?
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by Jason Cannon, April 18, 2017

Could the ELD solve the attraction to smartphone distraction?

 
 

You’re driving along and hear that distinctive "ding." You pick up your phone, read the text and hammer out a reply with one knee on the steering wheel to keep your lane. With mobile device already in-hand, might as well check Facebook, right? Twitter? Oh, a couple new emails.

Before you realize it, you’re straddling the lane divider and probably speeding.

It happens. It’s stupid, but it happens.

A recent study conducted by SmartDrive Systems concluded that most distracted drivers are 36 percent more likely to be involved in a near collision than other drivers.

That’s not all that difficult to wrap your head around; that distracted drivers are more likely to have an accident. But an interesting footnote, according to the study, is that drivers distracted by a mobile device are 88 percent more likely to be involved in a near collision than all other drivers and nearly three-times more likely than all other drivers to drive 10 mph or more over the speed limit.

SmartDrive analysis of in-cab video and observation data gathered over 14.5 billion driving miles show that distracted drivers are more likely than all other drivers to have a near collision, fail to stop at an intersection and exceed the speed limit.

The only practical way to remove the temptation for quick check of the phone is to turn it off and store it out of reach. If you have a video-based driver monitoring system, you can monitor whether or not it’s happening but that doesn’t prevent it. But with the electronic log mandate looming later this year, mobile devices will be placed in a tempting position – within the driver’s reach.

ELDs basically come in two forms: fixed-mount/dedicated and smartphone/app based.

The "bring your own device" method uses Bluetooth to communicate with a smartphone or tablet via a dongle connected to the ECM through the onboard diagnostics port. Not only does that put the driver’s phone within reach, it makes it a vital function of the business.

The one thing the ELD mandate most-assuredly is going to do is press drivers for more efficiency, and that could lead to improved safety and less distraction on the road.

According to Telogis, fleets outfitted with electronic logging devices reported a 12 percent reduction in crashes and a drop in speeding and harsh braking incidents.

SmartDrive’s study says drivers distracted by a mobile device waste 8 percent more fuel, than other drivers but Telogis says ELD users have seen a 25 percent saving in fuel costs, and a 30 percent savings in unproductive idling.

How SmartDrive’s study will wash with Telogis’ data with a wide adoption of ELDs in the years ahead will be interesting to see.


 

FMCSA’s study on adding split sleeper berth flexibility to hours of service could start this year
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by CCJ Staff, April 6, 2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s study on split sleeper berth flexibility for truck operators will likely enter the data collection phase later this year, says Kelly Regal, the agency’s associate administrator for research and information technology. Regal spoke last month at the Managing Fatigue conference in San Diego, Calif.

 
 

The data collection phase is when researchers began the actual testing component of the study, meaning the driver research subjects will begin operating under a more flexible hours of service schedule that allows them to split their 10 off-duty hours into splits of 5/5, 4/6 and 7/3, as opposed to only the 10/0 and 8/2 splits currently allowed.

It will then compare those in a naturalistic driving study to drivers operating without the flexible sleeper split options.

The agency announced early last year intentions for the study. It has partnered with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to produce the research.

The current step, Regal noted, is to clear the methodology and approach with the White House Office of Management and Budget for review and approval to proceed. "We’re right now planning to start data collection in the fall of 2017." Before it starts, VTTI will be recruiting operators to participate and have said they’ll notify the press when recruitment begins.

Kimberly Honn, Washington State University principal researcher at the Sleep and Performance Research Center, also a partner on the new study, spelled out that the berth-rules exemption that would be provided to drivers participating in the study would enable 3/7-, 4/6- and 5/5-hour splits of the 10-hour required off-duty period. "We know a lot of drivers do choose daytime sleep," Honn said. "But if they can get some of their sleep during the nighttime hours it may be beneficial for them – as good as or better than consolidated daytime sleep."

Much of the trucking industry in recent years has clamored for greater flexibility of drivers’ off-duty time, arguing the 14-hour clock is too stiff to take into account truck drivers’ wildly variable schedules.

Study participants, Honn noted, would be supplied custom ELDs outfitted with alternative exemption-capable rule-sets as well as SmartDrive forward and driver-facing cameras to record critical events on the road. They would wear actigraph watches during waking and sleeping hours, capable of syncing with a supplied smartphone for recording sleep/wake patterns. Drivers would also be asked to utilize the smartphones two to four times a day for three-minute psychomotor vigilance task tests to measure response time/patterns to assess fatigue levels in order to give researchers an indication of whether those utilizing more flexible berth periods experienced substantially different fatigue outcomes than others.


 

Thousands of current Uber, Lyft drivers fail new background checks
Source: https://www.bostonglobe.com; by Adam Vaccaro and Dan Adams, April 5, 2017

More than 8,000 drivers for ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft have been pulled off Massachusetts roads after failing a new state background check, for infractions that range from license suspensions to violent crimes and sexual offenses, according to records released Wednesday.

 
 

The state reviewed the criminal and driving records of nearly 71,000 drivers who had already passed reviews by the companies, and rejected 8,206 — about 11 percent.

Hundreds were disqualified for having serious crimes on their record, including violent or sexual offenses, and others for driving-related offenses, such as drunken driving or reckless driving, according to the state Department of Public Utilities.

The agency said it rejected 51 applications from sex offenders and 352 for incidents related to "Sex, Abuse, and Exploitation."

The new state system, which began checking records in January, rejected many drivers who had first passed the companies’ own reviews. The results prompted concerns about passenger safety, especially since some of the rejected drivers may have been on the roads for years.

"These statistics show clearly that passengers were potentially at risk before regulations took effect," said Mayor Carlo DeMaria of Everett, where two sexual assault cases were brought against Uber drivers in 2016.

Barring a successful appeal, rejected applicants can’t drive for a ride-hailing operation.

Regulations authorized by the Legislature in 2016 are some of the strictest for ride-hailing drivers in the nation. The state says drivers can be disqualified if their records show license suspensions, driving infractions, or serious crimes such as sexual and violent offenses, among other charges.

Some legal advocates said the results raise questions about whether the state’s background checks are too stringent, disqualifying applicants who may have committed a minor violation decades ago or whose cases were settled without a conviction.

The state looks back seven years for violations such as reckless driving, license suspensions, and less serious violent crimes. But it looks back for unlimited periods at other offenses, such as sex crimes, more serious violent crimes, and drunken driving that results in serious injury or death.

Uber and Lyft each pointed out that they are limited by state law to checking just the last seven years of an applicant’s history, which they said explains why so many drivers they had passed flunked the government’s more thorough review. Lyft said only “a small percentage of our drivers failed,” while Uber added that the unlimited reach of the government’s background checks is unfair to drivers who are trying to overcome past troubles.

"Thousands of people in Massachusetts have lost access to economic opportunities as a result of a screening that includes an unfair and unjust indefinite lookback period.

"We have an opportunity to repair the current system in the rules process so that people who deserve to work are not denied the opportunity," the company said.

Uber officials have said that the company runs criminal background checks on all new drivers and rescreens them twice a year. Under the company’s rules, drivers can’t join the service if they have had a felony conviction in the past seven years or a major driving violation, such as a suspended or revoked license or registration, in the past three years.

The most common reasons for rejections were related to driver’s license status: Many had suspended licenses or had not been driving long enough to qualify for the ride-hailing services.

Also disqualified were drivers who had court cases that ended not with a conviction but in a continuation without a finding, a form of settlement that defendants can later get dismissed.

One is Erik Scott, a Peabody resident who began driving with Uber last year. In January, he was told he could no longer operate after failing the state’s background check. The reason, he said, was a continuance without a finding stemming from a street fight in the 1990s, when he was in his early 20s.

"I agree Massachusetts should have stringent background checks," Scott said. "But if the case is dismissed and there’s no conviction, then a driver should be able to earn a living, regardless."

Pauline Quirion, an attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services who represents workers with criminal backgrounds trying to reenter the workforce, said her office has received numerous inquiries from drivers who were disqualified for minor, long-ago offenses.

By not considering the circumstances of each individual’s conviction, Quirion argued, the state could be exposing itself to discrimination lawsuits, because longstanding racial inequities in the criminal justice system mean nonwhite workers are more likely to have records.

"What about somebody who abused drugs, but now they’ve been sober for 20 years? Or a domestic violence victim who has a conviction for throwing a can at her abuser?" Quirion wondered. "Would anyone be worried about her driving an Uber?"

Moreover, the appeals process available to drivers is extremely limited; the state automatically rejects appeals from applicants who have any of 18 disqualifying conditions, ranging from a suspended license to a violent crime. Scott, for example, said his appeal was summarily dismissed.

Concerns about passenger safety have been stoked by a series of sexual assault charges against Uber drivers in recent years. They include a 34-year-old driver arrested in 2016 in Everett for allegedly raping a 16-year-old passenger; the driver had an extensive criminal background, including an array of motor-vehicle charges and a 2008 drug conviction that resulted in a prison sentence.

Outside Massachusetts, the ride-hailing companies typically are the only entities that vet drivers; even states that have adopted regulations for the burgeoning industry generally rely on the companies. But in Massachusetts, after tense negotiations that included lobbying by the taxi industry and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans to require fingerprinting, lawmakers last summer added a state-run background check.

Critics say the results of the state reviews vindicate their claim that the companies’ checks were lax.

"These were 8,200 unqualified and potentially dangerous individuals to the public who were driving around," said Donna Blythe-Shaw, a labor organizer and advocate for Boston cab drivers, who must undergo fingerprint checks by the city. "The good news is that they’re not on the road any longer. The bad news is that the [companies’] system is deeply flawed."

Evans said the rejections were "a good sign we’re looking into making sure our drivers are qualified and our riders are safe."

"You can’t be too safe," he added, saying that he still wants drivers to undergo a fingerprint-based background check, like those his department imposed on cab drivers, beginning in February 2016.

The state checks began in January, after Uber and Lyft signed an agreement to submit their drivers to the reviews a year before the law would have required. Drivers had until Monday to submit their applications to the state.

In a statement, Governor Charlie Baker said “public safety is a top priority” and that his administration looks forward "to future partnerships with Uber, Lyft, and others to grow this innovative industry and support more jobs and economic opportunities for all."


 


 

FMCSA ups fines for violations
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by Matt Cole, April 11, 2017

The U.S. DOT has increased fines across the board for violations of federal trucking regulations, it announced Wednesday.

 
 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is required by Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 to adjust fine amounts each year based on inflation.

A Final Rule that will be published in the Federal Register Wednesday, April 12, will make the new fine amounts effective 10 days following the rule’s publication. The 2015 Act requires FMCSA issue the inflation adjustments by Jan. 15 each year, meaning the agency missed its deadline. FMCSA says delaying the implementation further than 10 days "would be contrary to the public interest."

Last year, the agency issued a "catch-up" adjustment, which raised some fines and lowered others. This year, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget provided guidance to FMCSA for a cost-of-living adjustment multiplier of 1.01636. Given this multiplier, all of the fine amounts increased, as seen here.


 

April 2017 Articles

ELD Certification: What Does it Really Mean?
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com/; by Deborah Lockridge, March 2017

Motor carriers beware: FMCSA does NOT "certify" ELDs.

 
 

If you see an announcement that an electronic logging device has been "FMCSA certified" to meet the new mandatory ELD regulations that go into effect Dec. 17, you might assume that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has performed some sort of testing to verify that that the ELD does in fact comply with those regulations.

That assumption would be wrong.

Earlier this year, FMCSA posted a notice on its Facebook page that "some ELD manufacturers are improperly marketing their devices as ‘FMCSA-certified.’ This is incorrect. FMCSA maintains an online registry of devices vendor-certified by the manufacturer."

In guidance last September, FMCSA advised, "Prior to purchasing an ELD, carriers and drivers should confirm that the device is certified and registered with FMCSA and listed at this website: https://3pdp.fmcsa.dot.gov/ELD/ELDList.aspx. Devices not vendor-certified by manufacturers and registered with FMCSA may not be compliant with the FMCSRs."

But in reality, there’s no guarantee that the ones on the list are actually compliant, either.

Registration, not verification

"In order to certify their product, ELD manufacturers simply conduct their own tests," explains Alexis Cappelle, ELD program manager for Continental Corp. "However, the tests may or may not follow FMCSA's test specifications. As a result, fleets may not know if an ELD registered on FMCSA's website is actually compliant. A system registered today may be found non-compliant tomorrow and removed from the list."

John Seidl, a longtime commercial enforcement officer who’s now a transportation consultant with Integrated Risk Solutions, puts it a bit more bluntly: To get on the list, "In layman’s terms, you just say, ‘I’m an ELD.’"

Tom Cuthbertson, vice president of regulatory affairs with Omnitracs, explains that "it’s a registration process; it’s not a certification process. At this point FMCSA, they’re not vetting documentation."

Joel Beal, general manager of Loadtrek, has been in the electronic logs business since 1998. Unscrupulous ELD providers, he says, "could throw together some Word docs and check a few things off and [say] ‘Voila, I’m certified.’"

Gorilla Safety, however, says "the self-certification process is not as easy as one might think. The FMCSA doesn’t just ‘trust’ that you are compliant. Instead, they ask for additional details of your product, documentation and other items important in the process."

Cuthbertson explains that there is a list of documents ELD suppliers must upload to the website to register, such as a driver user card, instructions on transfer of data to law enforcement, malfunction and diagnostics, photos, and serial numbers of the products.

Nevertheless, Gorilla Safety admits, "With that said, there is much room for ambiguity."

"The assumption is compliance," says David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. "Like any rule — when they issue the hours of service rule, they expect drivers to comply. They’re not going to be out there looking at these carriers… it’s up to the provider to develop the device to the specs" provided by FMCSA.

Avery Vise with TransComply, a compliance support firm for smaller carriers, says in developing this self-certification process, the agency "has not really fully taken into account… the upside of being able to entice people to buy your product because you’re registered is great enough that some of these vendors may well self-certify even if they’re not remotely compliant. Some of them have been on the list from within a few weeks of the list being available, and it seems unlikely they went through a very rigorous process."

Independent verification

This is why PIT Group, a Canada-based testing group better known for its fuel efficiency testing, last year announced that it would offer independent testing and verification of ELDs.

"In advance of the ELD mandate in the U.S., a growing number of suppliers are self-certifying ELDs," said Yves Provencher, director of the PIT Group. "But suppliers that come to us for ELD verification will differentiate themselves in the market because our testing is thorough and unbiased, and it will cover the most up-to-date requirements in the ELD rule."

One ELD provider that has teamed up with PIT for independent verification is ERoad, which expects to be on the FMCSA ELD provider list very soon. The New Zealand-based telematics provider is relatively new to the North American market but has been in business since 2000.

Gorilla Safety is another company that has turned to outside help. It is using KPMG, one of the "big four" auditing firms, to review testing procedures, results, security governance and more.

The company explains that in self-certifying, ELD providers can use the ruling itself or the testing manual. However, "We have found many discrepancies between the ruling and the published testing manual, causing Gorilla Safety to err on the side of safety and use the ruling itself in these cases. Due to this ambiguity, it was important to Gorilla Safety to enlist the help of a well-recognized third-party for our testing procedures, test result review and final assessment."

Gorilla says there are still challenges to using a third-party certification. "The third party provider could be engaged to test one version of the software. In this case, how do they assure ongoing versions of the software remain compliant? Secondly, how can the client be sure the testing company takes the most conservative approach, assuring compliance? Third, what is the reputation of the third-party testing firm? Is this a company you have heard of before and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt is above board? Will you stake your company on it? These are all important questions."

What happens if it’s not compliant after all?

If for some reason the device is discovered down the road to not be compliant, the carrier is in a tight situation. While the driver can use paper logs temporarily, the FMCSA says motor carriers will have eight days from notification to replace a noncompliant device with a compliant one.

"This is the same time allowed to take action on ELDs that need to be repaired, replaced, or serviced," says Duane DeBrunie, FMCSA spokesman. "In the event of a widespread issue, FMCSA will work with affected motor carriers to establish a reasonable timeframe for replacing non-compliant devices with ELDs that meet the requirements."

Vise says "this provides little comfort to carriers. It sounds as if FMCSA only plans to be flexible if there is a ‘widespread issue.’ That is of little consolation to a carrier that relied on ELD registration in its decision to purchase a system."

Eric Witty, vice president of product at PeopleNet, says "a system that’s noncompliant should be one of the most concerning things for people. If they buy a system that claims to be compliant and FMCSA says, ‘We don’t think this is compliant and you need to get it corrected,’ you’d better make sure whoever you’re doing business with has the ability to react. Otherwise you could get into a rip-and-replace situation where you have to replace it with a new one."

Why don’t I recognize most of these names?

As of this writing, there are just under three dozen ELDs on the list. But if you’re looking for longtime electronic log and in-cab computing companies such as Omnitracs or PeopleNet, you may be puzzled to find they aren’t there. Some providers say they won’t feel comfortable self-certifying their e-log systems as an FMCSA-compliant ELD until they’ve completed more testing.

Pete Allen, executive VP of sales for MiX Telematics, notes that the ELD certification guidelines are a 500-plus-page document with a lot of technical details. As an ELD provider, he says, "you want to make sure you’ve got it right before you [self-certify]. We are planning to do it well before the deadline. Our platform we’re putting out in the field today is ELD ready, it just needs a software update."

At Omnitracs, Cuthbertson explains, there’s a lot of testing to go through before they will feel comfortable registering as self-certified. "We support quite a number of HOS rulesets you have to go through. We want to make sure if our customers are using California ag rules or Texas oil field rules, all this stuff has to be tested together."

However, ERoad says the ELD rule does not require those HOS rule sets to be built in. "There are no technical specifications that require all the standard and specialized HOS rule sets to be provided on the ELD," says Gail Levario, vice president of strategy and market development. "It is an optional value-added feature for an ELD to have the built-in HOS functionality." ERoad is one ELD provider that says it will soon be on the self-certified registration list, with the help of a third-party verification service from PIT Group.

The ERODS file

One of the key sticking points cited by some ELD providers is related to how enforcement officials will check driver logs. Many officers will be using a software called ERODS (short for Electronic Record of Duty Status) to translate data from a file transferred from the ELD into a consistent format that will automatically do the math.

To get that file to the officer, it can be done via telematics (uploaded via web services or sent in an attachment to an email), or peer to peer (a short-distance transfer protocol such as Bluetooth or a USB file transfer.)

"This USB file transfer is not your $15, 6-GB thumb drive," says Cuthbertson. "This is an approximately $100 malware-protected thumb drive that enforcement would own, not the carrier or the driver."

Seidl says not all states will do the file transfer to ERODS. In that case, there are two options:

• The driver can print a copy of the log to give to the enforcement officer. Very few systems will have this capability.

• If the ELD is set up to allow it, the driver can hand the actual device to the enforcement officer to look at a display that mimics the traditional paper log grid. Cuthbertson notes that the display under ELD rules must have additional fields displayed for the officer, such as the odometer reading.

However, apparently the ERODS software is not yet ready, and FMCSA has not given ELD providers a way to test the actual files to make sure they will transfer properly. FMCSA has been clear that this is not a requirement to self-certify, but some ELD providers would feel better about putting themselves on that list if they were able to test this file.

Duane DeBrunie, FMCSA spokesman, says the requirements for the output file are outlined in the technical specifications. "The manufacturer’s responsibility is to ensure the output file meets that requirement. If it does, the manufacturer can self-certify. FMCSA is in the process of testing its ability to receive and process the output file, but that will not be part of the certification process."

PeopleNet’s Witty explains, "It’s not that we don’t want to be [on the list] and that customers don’t constantly ask why we’re not, but even though it’s self-certification, there is a testing process…. and one of those things is being able to create and exchange a file with the FMCSA, and the FMCSA is not even done creating the web services that allow you to exchange the file. So until then, you can’t really verify it.

"We could in spirit say we’ve done all the other testing, we’ve created a file and reviewed it and believe it meets the criteria without actually exchanging it with FMSA and could be on that list today, but we’ve chosen not to because we believe until you can actually do the testing and be sure it works," Witty says.

Beal says the fact that there is no way to really test the file makes many ELD providers nervous.

"As most developers and engineers will tell you, building a file to spec doesn’t always mean it’s going to work," Beal explains. "There are some very smart people who question the structure of the file. We would never release a product that isn’t tested because you just never know. So we’re hoping in the next month or two we get access to some sort of testing environment."

One company that’s not particularly concerned about it is ERoad, which was expected to be added to the FMCSA self-certified list in March.

"We’re still waiting for FMCSA to finalize the file transfer, [but] we have no doubt that after what we’ve done with the 600-page document and how well we’ve translated that into a very workable product that we'll be able to do the same with the file transfer," says ERoad President Norm Ellis. "That’s not an area we’re particularly concerned about and we’ll be ready to comply as soon as it’s shared with us."

And in fact, says ERoad’s Levario, "The way that the ELD mandate has been written, the ELDs can be implemented without ERODS, because roadside inspectors will fall back to the display requirement of the ELD to be able to conduct their inspection."

Or, they can fall back on an ELD which can print the logs, which is what Continental’s VDO Road Log ELD does. Capelle says "standards for roadside log data transfers are not yet in place, and may not be in place for years to come. As enforcement starts truly checking the logs from ELDs, scrolling through electronic displays and smartphones will be very difficult and time-consuming. Many drivers will want to look for a system that doesn't require them to hand over their smartphone or tablet to enforcement … An ELD that can print out an instant log answers the need for fast inspections and maintaining privacy."

Teletrac Navman is addressing the problem by guaranteeing updates to its customers as needed for compliance. "Certain aspects of technical specifications that ELD devices will be required to comply with have yet to be published," it noted in an announcement. "As a result, Teletrac Navman will continue to upgrade existing Director HOS customers with the relevant compliance specifications when and as they become defined; ensuring customers' Director investments remain protected after the December 18, 2017, and December 16, 2019, compliance deadlines."

What can you do?

Cuthbertson was on the MCSAC subcommittee that wrote some of the technical specs. "I know what the detail is, and it’s pretty significant. I’m not going to disparage anybody; I’m just saying people should look at the products, understand the regulation, and go through the checklist to make sure all those items are there. Don’t just say, ‘They're on the list, that’s a good product.’ It’s buyer beware."

There is a checklist that ELD providers are supposed to go through in order to self-certify. For instance, Beal says, the system is supposed to allow you to do a diagnostic health check to make sure the system is running.

"A lot of systems have been known to go down for hours at a time and record nothing," Beal says. There are provisions to make sure the system is tied into the truck’s electronic control module and read specific information from it, such as speed and distance. There are certain ways the information has to be displayed in the cab of the truck.

"If you’re reasonably honest and competent, you can do your own homework and figure out if [an ELD] meets [the standards] or not," Beal says.

MiX Telematics' Allen recommends fleets work to understand the technical requirements and make sure whoever they pick meets the requirements. "It’s a self-certification process, and just because a company fills out the form that says they do, doesn’t mean they do." He recommends fleets consider creating test scenarios to help evaluate possible ELD vendors. For instance, how are the new editing requirements handled?

"They must have a log in for the driver; they must prompt for any unassigned mileage to find out if should go against that driver. They also need to validate any edited logs. All edits are put in the driver’s hands, but if a manager does an edit, it must be prompted to the driver to accept or reject."

Another scenario, Allen says, is if you have certain specific hours of service challenges such as oil field rules. "I’ve been doing this 25 years and I’ve seen companies that don’t interpret the hours correctly, so the system doesn’t work for certain scenarios."

Fleets, he says, could create a couple of such scenarios for a potential vendor and ask them to demonstrate how their system handles them, or request that a couple of units be installed and run a live test for a week or so alongside the paper logs.

Vise suggests that at the very least, "the simple thing to do is to ask the manufacturer what they have done with the product to differ from an AOBRD [the regulatory standard in effect for e-logs currently in use]. Don’t say, "Do you do this or that;’ just say, ‘What have you done.’ See if they can explain it, see if they understand the difference. Any credible supplier should know.

"The other thing they should do is they really should insist on or try to insist on a provision in their supply agreement that calls for damages in the event there’s a delisting, in the event FMCSA ultimately determines that an ELD is not compliant and says essentially that we’ll buy back the devices and compensate for any lost time because a driver or truck had to be grounded. The upshot is really that a disreputable provider is not going to agree to that. If they’re not going to stand by their product, then I would recommend moving on to someone else."


 

Audit: Some Californians cleared to work without background checks
Source: http://www.kcra.com; by KCRA Staff, March 15, 2017

DSS continues to improper checks 3 years after KCRA investigation, state law

 
 

State auditors found that California does a poor job of screening social services workers and sometimes allows people with previous arrests or convictions to work in facilities that care for children, adults and seniors.

The report was released Tuesday, three years after a KCRA investigation found that the Department of Social Services (DSS) was clearing people who were convicted of serious crimes to work without proper background checks.

In 2014, KCRA 3 Investigates found that DSS was sending letters clearing people who were convicted of violent offenses like sex with a minor, elder abuse, arson and other crimes without looking into their backgrounds. The department had said they would clear them and do the proper check later.

That report sparked a state law which requires the DSS perform proper background checks. Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, authored the bill in 2014, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

State auditors said in the last two years, DSS still wasn't performing the proper background checks.

"You know, we worked really hard to get at this problem,” Maienschein said Tuesday. "This is a serious problem, and to see people just not complying with the law is incredibly frustrating."

The audit pinpoints several areas where the DSS falls short and allows people to work before they are cleared. The report found:

• DSS was not getting the proper information from the California Department of Justice (DOJ).

• DOJ stopped providing complete criminal histories and the information it did provide is often tardy.

• DSS does not always obtain or review all appropriate information before allowing individuals access to facilities.

• DSS granted exemptions allowing more than 40 people to get licenses between 2013 and last year, despite being convicted of identity theft, pimping, pandering or certain sex crimes.

• DSS and four other departments within the California Health and Human Services Agency do not share critical information.

As a result, "Social Services does not receive all of the information it needs to protect vulnerable clients," auditors said.

Auditors found that in 17 of the 18 cares they reviewed, DSS did not properly review background information on those seeking state licenses, sometimes ignoring convictions for relatively minor crimes.

All told, auditors found six times in 2014 and 2015 where justice officials did not notify the department of convictions, though department officials found out in other ways. Two of those convictions -- for child abuse and for inflicting pain on an elderly or dependent adult -- were enough to disqualify the applicant from getting a license.

Auditors found one case where the DOJ did not disclose that an applicant seeking a license had committed assault with intent to murder as a minor.

"We like to focus more on the felonies and the misdemeanor convictions and arrests because those are things we look at as being risks to individuals in facilities," DSS spokesperson Michael Weston said. "Whereas something that is an infraction, most likely on an appeal, somebody can have that overturned by a judge."

DSS said it welcomes the recommendations by the auditor. The agency claims it did not get proper information from the DOJ. The audit report said changes should be made to state law to require the DOJ to give full background information to the department.

A pending bill, SB420, by state Sen. William Monning, D-Carmel, would require justice officials to disclose more information.

Auditors said lawmakers should also add to the list of crimes that keep individuals from obtaining a state license.

Portions of the report "are somewhat disturbing," said Bob Alvarez, a spokesman for Sen. Kathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, who sought the audit. He said Galgiani may seek changes in state law as the auditors recommended.

The social services department "will continue to improve processes to ensure that individuals caring for adults and children are properly cleared," said spokesman Michael Weston, adding that "much of this work is already underway."

DOJ officials did not immediately comment Tuesday, but told auditors that state law must be changed before it can provide more information.


 

ATA Pulling for Hair-Testing Standards
Source: http://www.worktruckonline.com; by David Cullen, March 21, 2017

The American Trucking Associations is continuing its push to allow hair-testing to be used in lieu of urinalysis to detect drug use by CDL driver applicants.

 
 

In a March 20 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear called for HHS to quickly release guidelines and standards for the use of hair samples in mandatory drug testing of truck drivers.

ATA pointed out in a statement that HHS has yet to issue the necessary standards that would allow those tests to be implemented. It also noted that this week ,the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (an HHS agency) will hold Drug Testing Advisory Board meetings to consider hair-testing, "putting HHS well behind its congressionally mandated deadline."

"Many trucking companies are using urinalysis to meet federal requirements, while also paying the additional cost to conduct hair testing," Spear said in the letter. "We are frustrated that the previous administration failed to meet the statutory deadline and believe your leadership will finally see a resolution to this long-standing and important safety rule."

According to ATA, the association and many of its member carriers contend that, based on experience, "hair-testing is more effective at preventing habitual drug users from obtaining jobs as truck drivers, thus improving highway safety."

"Making sure America’s truck drivers are safe and drug-free is among ATA’s highest priorities," Spear said. "This commitment is why ATA led the charge for mandatory drug-testing of commercial drivers, for the creation of a clearinghouse for drug and alcohol testing results, and the use of hair-testing."

Spear’s letter comes a month after the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (a.k.a. the Trucking Alliance) submitted a set of detailed comments to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that strongly support a petition calling for motor carriers to be exempt from having to use urinalysis to test for drug use by CDL driver applicants.

In January, David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association, told HDT that once HHS "vets its guidelines to incorporate hair testing as an 'and/or option' for its drug testing protocols, carriers can use that option to better define the drug history of a potential driver."


 

5 Trends in FMCSA Compliance Reviews
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by Don Jerrell, HNI, March 2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced that it is changing the process for performing compliance reviews. Specifically, they referred to expanded interviews with members within the organization. (The truth is, they have been doing this for a while, but recently completed all the training and therefore made the announcement.)

 
 

Does this mean that compliance reviews have changed?

Yes and no. FMCSA had already trended from full reviews to focused reviews. However, there are some things that we are seeing with regards to compliance reviews. From our perspective, here are five items that we are seeing:

1. Many reviews are occurring due to complaints vs. CSA scores.

Historically, complaints were considered a lower priority by FMCSA in deciding to perform a compliance review. CSA scores that had BASICs on alert were the primary determining factor for a compliance review. However, recently the complaints are taking a much higher priority than previously. There are a couple of reasons for this:

• Driver coercion rule:In 2016, the DOT released the final rule regarding driver coercion (different from harassment, which is tied to electronic logging devices). As a result, most complaints are being treated as if coercion has occurred. Thus, the visit. What is interesting is that little if any cases of coercion are being found. What is happening is during the investigation the inspector is “discovering” issues that now result in a compliance review being performed while the inspector is at that location. We have seen several carriers who have no scores on alert (in fact have “best in class” scores) in CSA BASICs, but are now receiving a focused review (usually hours of service – but not always), which is resulting in a "conditional" rating along with a fine. 

• Ease of filing a complaint: FMCSA has made it very easy for someone to file a complaint. Previously the complainant was requested to put something in writing and send in to the FMCSA. Now the complainant can just go through the FMCSA website and to enter the complaint.

2. Hours of service, in particular false logs, is still the most common violation.

We are still seeing that hours of service is the most common area where violations are occurring during these focused reviews; primarily falsification. Carriers need to make sure they are cross referencing time (not just date) documents with the driver’s logs. These documents could include fuel (from fuel reports not paper receipts), tolls, reimbursement receipts, etc.

3. The DVIR process has now popped up as an easy target

Before December 2015, it was more difficult for an inspector or auditor to be able to make a case with regards to driver vehicle inspectino reports. With drivers turning in a DVIR daily and the requirement of finding a pattern of 10% (critical) in order to make a case that would result in a fine, it was very difficult and time-consuming for the inspector to gather enough information. However, with the new rule of only filling out a DVIR when a defect has occurred, it is much easier to make a case. Throw out all the clean ones and what do you have left?

So inspectors are using roadside inspections that had maintenance issues listed and asking for the DVIR that corresponds with that date. No DVIR or an issue not listed? That’s one. Now you need at a minimum of 10 to make up for that one. Other items that could be used against a DVIR would include breakdown reports filled out by the driver and given to the shop for repairs, and maintenance records that show multiple items that it would be obvious the driver should have been aware. 

We recommend carriers to (at a minimum) do the following:

- Cross reference roadside inspections that have maintenance issues listed with the drivers DVIR.

- Look at your internal processes to see how drivers are communicating to the shop when repairs are needed and cross reference with the driver’s DVIR.

- Train the shop to report when they see or perform repairs that should have been seen by the driver and compare to the driver’s DVIR.

4. Changes to the medical card verification process are causing compliance concerns.

The "grace" period is over. If you are not verifying the physician's license via the national registry and/or not running a CDLIS report, you will be a target.

There has been an interesting battle as to when a report from a system vs. a CDLIS report is acceptable. We recommend the carrier run the new CDLIS report, but there has been an interpretation that says if “all” the required information is on a report, you can use that instead – the issue being "all the required information."

5. Drivers operating with suspended or invalid CDLs.

It only takes a few of these violations to get a BASIC on alert status in CSA. You need to make sure that you have an internal process to monitor and make sure driver’s licenses are not being suspended. (Don’t count on the driver.)

Not updating medical information is a suspension. Many states are not communicating back and forth on suspended licenses too.


 

As Opioid Epidemic Rages, Worksite Policies Overlook Prescribed Drugs
Source: https://www.shrm.org/; by Stephen Miller, CEBS, March 2017

How to craft drug policies to include prescription medications

 
 

Seventy-one percent of U.S. employers say they have been affected in some way by employee misuse of legally prescribed medications, including opioids, according to a new survey.

"Most drug addictions today don't begin on the street; they start in a doctor's office with legal, valid prescriptions," said Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, a nonprofit chartered by Congress. "Employers must understand that the most dangerously misused drug today may be sitting in employees' medicine cabinets. Even when they are taken as prescribed, prescription drugs such as opioids can impair workers and create hazards on the job."

Most employers have a drug-free workplace policy directed at illegal drugs, along with an alcohol abuse policy, but most don't have a prescription drug policy in place, Hersman said during a press briefing. Meanwhile, "misuse has grown rapidly, and employers have struggled to keep pace."

The council's survey findings, released on March 9, build on 501 interviews with HR decision-makers across the U.S. at organizations with 50 or more employees. All respondents were involved in, or ultimately responsible for, their workplace's strategy and policies on health and safety (including drug and alcohol policies) or health care benefits.

Other findings from the survey include:

- 19 percent of employers feel "extremely prepared" to deal with prescription drug misuse in the workplace.

- 81 percent lack a comprehensive drug-free workplace policy.

- 41 percent of those that drug test employees are not testing for synthetic opioids.

"Encouragingly, 70 percent would like to help employees who are struggling with prescription drug misuse return to their positions after completing treatment," said Hersman.

[SHRM members-only HR Q&A: What laws should companies be aware of when implementing a drug testing program?]

Coverage of Alternative Therapies

Hersman advised employers to work with their insurers to cover alternative therapies so that employees can avoid taking opioids or other addictive medications for chronic pain. Alternative therapies include acupuncture, guided imagery, chiropractic treatment, yoga, hypnosis, biofeedback and others.

While 88 percent of survey respondents were interested in their health insurer covering alternative pain treatments, 30 percent of those employers indicated they would not act on that interest by negotiating expanded coverage with insurers—suggesting a missed opportunity to provide employees with healthier pain-relief options.

Establishing a Policy

Taking medications with a valid prescription is not illegal, which has made enacting prescription drug policies and understanding the need for them difficult, Hersman noted.

The National Safety Council provides a free Prescription Drug Employer Kit to help employers create prescription drug policies and manage opioid use at work. The kit recommends actions that HR managers can take, including:

- Define the employee's role in making the workplace safe. A drug-free workplace program (DFWP) should state what employees must do if they are prescribed medications that carry a warning label or may cause impairment. Commonly abused medications include hydrocodone (prescription medications Lortab and Vicodin, for example); benzodiazepines (tranquilizers like Valium, Librium, Xanax); barbiturates (phenobarbital, butalbital, secobarbital, downers); methadone (increasingly prescribed as a painkiller); buprenorphine (often used to treat heroin addiction); and stimulants (like Ritalin and Dexedrine).

The DFWP should also spell out the steps an employer will take if it suspects a worker is using these kinds of medications without a prescription, in larger doses than prescribed or more frequently than prescribed.

- Add prescription drug testing to illicit drug testing. There are tests that detect legally prescribed and commonly abused medications, such as those listed above. Working with legal counsel, the employer should decide if additional testing is warranted for pre-employment screening, or for pre-duty, periodic, at random, post-incident, reasonable suspicion, return-to-duty or follow-up situations.

- List the procedures or corrective actions the employer will follow when an employee is suspected of misusing prescription drugs or for an employee with confirmed prescription drug abuse. This should include how the misuse will be identified, what the worker's leave options are, what medical certifications are required for medical leave and the conditions that must be met before the employee can return to work.

- Obtain legal advice. An attorney experienced in DFWP issues should review the policy before it's finalized.

- Train supervisory staff and educate employees. Educate managers and supervisors about prescription drug abuse and what to do if they suspect an employee has a problem.

- Review service coverage for behavioral health and/or employee assistance program (EAP) needs. Evaluate the behavioral health portions of health insurance policies and EAP contracts to ensure employees are covered for abuse of prescription drugs.

Employers have been held legally responsible when workers who were injured on the job and prescribed medications have accidentally overdosed, "but the biggest reason employers should care about the issue is out of concern for their employees," Hersman noted. "Research indicates that those struggling with substance abuse have better sustained recovery rates if their employers help them to receive treatment and monitor their recovery, than if treatment is initiated by family or friends," she said. "For some workers, employer engagement may be the difference between life and death."


 

Preventable or not: Trucker’s trip ruined by railroad track drama
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by CCJ Staff, March 2017

At a roadside safety inspection that morning (which earned him a CVSA decal), tractor-trailer driver John Doe had a brief chat with the safety specialist about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s emphasis on violations under Compliance, Safety, Accountability. Trucking companies now must be on guard for even the smallest infractions, Doe was advised. Good thing he’d rolled into fleet headquarters yesterday for a preventive maintenance check, 10-4?

 
 

Suddenly, Doe’s musings were interrupted by the realization that he was fast approaching an intersection controlled by a traffic light. About 60 feet beyond the intersection was a railroad grade crossing with another traffic light plus signal arms and bells to warn of an approaching locomotive. Since both traffic lights were green, Doe proceeded and was a few feet from the tracks when … Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! … Egad! The light at the grade crossing had just turned red, and the gates were descending!

If Doe stood on the brakes, the little car that presumably still was tailgating his rig surely would run smack into his underride guard, 10-4? And what about that phone call from his fleet manager about that hard-brake alert? So Doe reluctantly floored the accelerator and … CRACK! Oh no! A signal arm descended upon, and severely mangled, Doe’s shotgun-side West Coast mirror! Argh!

Since Doe contested the preventable-accident warning letter from his safety director, the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee was asked to render a final decision. To Doe’s dismay, NSC ruled against him, noting that it’s better to risk being rear-ended by a Honda Civic than to be sideswiped by a freight train. Doe should have panic-stopped, NSC decided.


 

March 2017 Articles

Commentary: Parts - At A Vending Machine Near You
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com/; by Denise Rondini, February 2017

Typically when we think of vending machines, we think of snack foods or beverages. More recently, however, they are being used in industrial applications.

 
 

Companies such as Fastenal and 1sourcevend are installing vending machines in industrial plants, where they vend things like tools, safety glasses, and even small parts. Fastenal has gone one step further with its Fast P.O.D, a shipping container that acts as a mini-store. The shipping containers have been altered to accommodate computer equipment, to improve security, and to include insulation and heating and air conditioning.

Whether a shipping container or a vending machine, the idea is to bring parts closer to the customer.

"I think it will fit [with trucking]," says Mark Hill, president of 1source vend. "As we say here, we manage widgets. We don’t care what they are. It is about management and replenishment of [needed] items." Initially, Hill thought the vending machines in industrial applications would be used for high-value items, but he says, "a lot of it has turned out to be low-cost items, and that has been driven by the customer."

He says customers don’t want to run out of things they need, and although places like Amazon and others say they can get a needed item delivered the next day, with a vending machine there is no need to wait.

Will vending machines work in the trucking industry? Bill Wade, managing partner, Wade & Partners, thinks so. "I think it would be especially good for the heavy truck business. You could put all the wear items like belts, hoses, seals, bearings, etc., in them."

While you might not be able to put a whole suspension in a vending machine, "you definitely could carry rotors, drums, disc brake pads," he adds. If a pod system was used, Wade believes it could also serve as a core depot, where a fleet could leave used cores for later pickup by a distributor or dealer.

Gary Polipnick, executive vice president of FAST Solution at Fastenal, believes truck stops would be a great place for the company’s Fast P.O.D. or even a vending machine. "It could be used for common things like diesel additives or quarts of oil — some real basic things. It is a nobrainer." He adds, "Vending machines or Fast P.O.D. systems are accessible 24/7, so if a driver needs something like a headlight, he can pick it up when he stops to eat or use the restroom."

Current industrial vending machines work via a magnetic swipe card or other device that tracks who has purchased a part. Hill says in addition to tracking purchases by employees, 1sourcevend machines can track which department or which job the part was for. In the case of a vending machine at a truck stop or other more public location, credit card purchases would be allowed.

Both the vending machine and the shipping pods keep track of inventory levels and send alerts when minimum stocking numbers have been reached, allowing for replenishment before a product runs out.

Machines do not have to be stocked with the same products, meaning a distributor or dealer could tailor each machine to a fleet’s specific needs at a specific location.

Think the idea is not realistic for trucking? Remember that it was not that long ago that the idea of Amazon being in the truck parts business seemed far-fetched, Wade notes. "Last year Amazon did something like $1.89 billion in truck parts sales. That would make them the biggest truck parts distributor in the world."

While a vending machine solution is not going to cover everything, it is one way to get parts closer to the end user. "I think anybody who looks at this idea and doesn’t see a possibility for it is just not looking too hard," Wade says.


 

Should You Hire Someone with a Criminal Record?
Source: https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu; by Kellogg Staff, February 3, 2017

Companies that give ex-offenders a fresh start may be rewarded with employees who stick around. Based on the research of Dylan Minor, Nicola Persico and Deborah M. Weiss

 
 

Each year, more than 650,000 prisoners in the U.S. are set free. But many employers are unwilling to hire them—a trend with enormous social implications, since being employed increases an ex-offender’s chance of reintegrating into society and staying out of jail.

Employers often worry that people with criminal records will steal, behave unethically, harass coworkers, or become violent. Or these applicants may be perceived as less competent; if they have spent time behind bars, maybe they lack social and professional skills.

But how true are these assumptions?

A team of researchers at Kellogg and Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law wondered whether employers were right to be concerned. When they analyzed data on about a quarter of a million applicants for sales and customer service jobs in the U.S., they found that ex-offenders who did get hired were no more likely to be fired later than non-offenders. And they were less likely to quit — saving their firms a significant amount of money in employee turnover costs.

"For these companies, turnover is huge," says coauthor, Dylan Minor, an assistant professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at Kellogg. If an employer has thousands of workers, "at the end of the year, that’s going to be a big difference."

The picture was not entirely rosy. The researchers found that in sales positions, people with criminal records were more likely to be fired for misconduct. So if a firm is filling a position where unethical or illegal behavior could dramatically affect the company, such as a financial job, the employer might be wise to avoid hiring an ex-offender, Minor says.

"There could be an opportunity to hire some people, give them a second chance, and even get a more loyal employee."—Dylan Mino

For other types of work, though, companies that automatically blacklist applicants with criminal records might want to reconsider their policies.

Minor says he has heard employers say, "I’d never hire someone with a background." But, he notes, "there could be an opportunity to hire some people, give them a second chance, and even get a more loyal employee."

Hiring Ex-Offenders

A job is a crucial step in establishing a new life upon release from prison. Yet, one study found that eight months after getting out of jail, more than half of ex-offenders did not have current jobs. And being unemployed is strongly linked to a higher risk of committing another crime. In other words, many of these rejected applicants are likely to end up back in prison.

Minor and his colleagues Nicola Persico, a professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at Kellogg, and Deborah Weiss, director of the Workforce Science Project at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, examined data from a hiring consultancy on more than 1 million job applicants from 2008 to 2014. The records covered 11 companies in the U.S., mainly for sales representatives in call centers and customer service positions. For about 264,000 candidates, information was available on whether or not the person was an ex-offender.

The researchers first investigated whether these companies were indeed more reluctant to hire candidates with criminal records. Looking at the overall data set, the researchers did not initially see a pattern suggesting that the employers were less likely to hire people with a criminal history.

Persico points out that while that may seem surprising, it is important to remember that those who apply for a job are a self-selected group.

"Applying is costly in terms of time, and so presumably only those who have a reasonable chance of being hired choose to apply," he says. "With this self-selected group of applicants, those with a criminal record presumably have some other positive attribute that, while unobservable to us researchers, makes them optimistic that they can get hired despite their criminal record."

But if the team analyzed specific positions and controlled for some aspects of education and work history, differences emerged. The hiring rate for ex-offenders was 3.7 percentage points lower than for non-offenders in sales positions and 1.7 percentage points lower in customer service positions.

Reducing Employee Turnover

What happens to ex-offenders that are hired?

Contrary to what employers might assume, the team saw no difference in firing rates between workers with and without criminal records. The data did not specify which crimes the employees had committed, so it is possible that the companies hired ex-offenders only if they had a less serious criminal history. That said, the ex-offenders whom the firms do hire appear to perform no worse than non-offenders, Minor says.

And when the team examined rates of voluntary quitting, ex-offenders actually did better. On average, employees stayed at their jobs for about five months. But workers with criminal records stuck around for an average of about three weeks longer than those without records. While that might not seem like much extra time, each turnover costs the firm about $4,000. So the researchers estimate that hiring ex-offenders could save companies about $1,000 per year per position.

Put another way, the turnover rate for employees with criminal records is about 13% lower. "They’re more loyal to the firm," says Minor, who speculates that they might stay longer because they do not have as many options to work elsewhere.

Trouble in Sales

Employers’ concerns about ex-offenders are, however, partially justified. The team studied workers who had been fired specifically for misconduct, which could range from stealing to workplace violence. The researchers saw no difference in customer service jobs. But when they examined sales positions, they found that employees with criminal records had a 28% higher risk of being terminated for misconduct than coworkers without records.

It is not clear why this pattern would arise in sales. Perhaps people with a penchant for bad behavior are more attracted to sales positions. Or maybe the sales environment somehow encourages workers to act unethically.

The results suggest that employers should be cautious about hiring an ex-offender to perform, say, a job involving sensitive business information. “I would think twice before hiring someone with a record in that setting,” Minor says.

Ban the Box Laws

Policies have been implemented to help ex-offenders get jobs, but they may not always work as intended. In some areas, regulations known as ,"ban the box" laws prevent companies from asking candidates on their initial applications whether they have a criminal record. Instead, employers must wait to find out until later in the hiring process. But some studies suggest that in the absence of this information, employers may discriminate more strongly based on racial stereotypes instead.

This research cannot address whether "ban the box" policies should continue. The data covered only ex-offenders who applied for jobs, and it is possible that people with particularly bad criminal records did not even bother trying. If candidates were no longer required to disclose their backgrounds up front, perhaps the serious criminals would seek work more frequently, with different results.

However, the study does suggest that, at least for some occupations, ex-offenders can become valuable employees. Educating employers about these findings could open the door to more applicants with criminal records, Minor says. And that could keep more people out of jail.

"If these people don’t get a job, the chances are that they’re going right back," he says. "It’s this vicious circle that’s really tough to get them out of."


 

Do You Have a Will?
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by TruckingInfo Staff, February 9, 2017

I hope this doesn't come across like an admonishment from a reformed smoker, but I just lost my father, and I'm happy to say he died with a will. That will make the next few months much easier on me and my sister. Dad had it all in place, right down to phone numbers and email addresses for those that held his important papers. Unfortunately, statistics suggest that anywhere from one-half to two-thirds of Americans do not have a will or even any written instructions or last wishes to guide their next of kin.

 
 

Dad was in his mid-80s and had terminal brain cancer, so he knew the end was inevitable. However, he put his affairs in order when he was in his 30s. That's just the kind of man he was. He didn't want my mother to have to deal with the problems associated with his passing while keeping the mortgage paid and food on the table. My grandfather, too, was pretty well organized in this regard. It took me a while longer to get my affairs in order. It was not until my daughter was 9 that my wife convinced me to visit the lawyer and have something drawn up.

A story in USA Today from June 2015 notes that according to a 2015 Rocket Lawyer estate- planning survey by Harris Poll, 64% of Americans don't have a will. Of those without a plan, about 27% said there isn't an urgent need for them to make one — and 15% said they don't need one at all.

A poll conducted by Gallup in May of 2016, just two weeks after the passing of pop singer Prince, who did not have a will, showed he was not alone in that regard. The poll revealed that 68% of those aged 65 and older have a will, compared with just 14% of those younger than age 30. Of Americans whose annual household income is $75,000 or greater, 55% have a will, compared with 31% of those with incomes of less than $30,000. And while 61% of those with a postgraduate education have a will, only 32% with a high school education or less do.

I write this today thinking mostly about truck drivers, but it applies to anyone in any line of work. Considering that driving a truck is one of the riskiest occupations in the country, it behooves drivers to consider their final will and testament at their earliest opportunity. The will is a legal document that not only determines who gets your money and property when you die, it can also determine who gets guardianship of your minor children, or in whose care an aging parent might wind up. Without a clear statement of your intentions in the form of a will, the state might make these decisions for you, or decide how to divvy up your assets – possibly including your truck if you're an owner-operator.

When I was driving, back in my 20s, 30s, and 40s, I had some property, I had a little money in the bank and a few investments. But I never had the time (or saw the value) to commit my final wishes to paper. Back then dying was the furthest thing from my mind, despite driving past at least one fatal collision nearly every day. The reminders were there, but I managed to ignore them.

I was lucky, I suppose, in that nothing serious ever happened to me. I was never even badly injured on the job or in civilian life. Once my daughter came along, my outlook changed. I continued to think of myself as bullet-proof, but I finally understood what it would cost my wife if she had to get by without my income, and how unlikely it would be that my daughter would ever go to college without a portion of that income shaved off for a school fund.

I had previously set up a life insurance policy, but it would provide little more than what was needed to cover a pauper's funeral. Of course I wanted more for my family, and they needed the protection of a much more comprehensive policy. As for the will, in addition to naming my wife and daughter as beneficiaries, it also addressed my desire that my sister become my daughter's guardian (along with sufficient resources to pay for her upkeep and education) in the event my wife and I both died prematurely.

I survived the risky years, and my daughter has graduated from college. If I keel over tomorrow, that same policy will now provide enough to set her up in a first home and pay for her kids to at least start college. The value of the policies have been building, while other policies will cover my funeral expenses (which are considerable, let me assure you), and pay for all the services my family is likely to need if I suddenly disappear. I'm in my late 50s now and fairly healthy, and statistically still have a few years left in me. I recently updated my will to include recently acquired assets, changes in the financial needs of my next of kin and wishes for my funeral arrangements.

When you're gone, it's not you who makes such decisions; in the worst case, the state can step in and make them for you. Those decisions might not be in your survivors' best interests. So, if you haven't already done so, please consider talking with a lawyer and getting your affairs in order. Death and wills are strange things to talk about when you're 20 or 30, but every day you put it off increases the chances that somebody else might wind up making some very important choices for you.


 

Trucking groups urge new DOT Secretary to scrap new carrier rating system, citing lingering CSA faults
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by Todd Dills, February 21, 2017

Trucking groups have united in urging Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to order the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to rescind a proposed rule issued in January 2016 that would institute a new carrier rating system based on carriers’ scores in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.

 
 

In a Feb. 15 letter to Chao, a large and wide-ranging group of industry stakeholders said the proposed Safety Fitness Determination rule should come only after FMCSA revamps the CSA system itself, due to the inconsistencies and flaws of the current CSA Safety Measurement System and its BASICs.

"Our major concern with the proposal is that the new proposed methodology utilizes flawed [CSA/SMS] data and scores," the letter’s signatories write.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by FMCSA in January 2016 followed Congress’ removal of CSA/SMS percentiles from public view, ordering then a study and potential revamp of the program, by little more than a month.

That’s study’s results have been slow in coming to light, and at the time of the SFD NPRM, a smaller coalition within the trucking industry alleged the NPRM itself was a violation of the December 2015 FAST Act highway bill, which included language prohibiting developing a safety-rating rule that utilized percentiles and category alerts. Though DOT pushed back on that contention, the broad-based nature of this latest letter’s signatories is evidence it’s taken hold in a much bigger way a year later.

An eight-member coalition petitioned the agency last January to have the the rulemaking suspended. Another push was made in March by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The latest letter brings in a large variety of state and private industry associations, including the American Trucking Associations, OOIDA, the National Association of Small Trucking Companies and Western States Trucking Association, among many others. The broad nature of the signatories "should indicate how seriously everyone views this issue," says WSTA’s head of regulatory affairs, Joe Rajkovacz. "And the hope that with new leadership in Washington, legitimate industry concerns will finally be dealt with positively."


 

Young Millennials Are Worst Behaved Drivers, New Research Reveals
Source: http://www.forbes.com/; by Tanya Mohn, February 17, 2017

Teens typically take the rap for their risky driving, but new research indicates that young millennials garner the top spot on the list of worst behaved U.S. drivers. The findings, issued in a report released last week by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a nonprofit research and education organization, show that about 88 percent of young millennials (adults between the ages of 19-24) engaged in at least one risky behavior behind the wheel in the past 30 days.

 
 

These dangerous behaviors - which increase crash risk -- included texting while driving, redlight running and speeding.

"Alarmingly, some of the drivers ages 19-24 believe that their dangerous driving behavior is acceptable," Dr. David Yang, the AAA Foundation’s executive director, said in a statement. "It’s critical that these drivers understand the potentially deadly consequences of engaging in these types of behaviors and that they change their behavior and attitudes in order to reverse the growing number of fatalities on U.S. roads."

The findings come as U.S. traffic deaths rose to 35,092 in 2015, an increase of more than 7 percent and the largest single-year increase in five decades, the group said. And new estimates based on an analysis of preliminary data by the National Safety Council indicate the spike in deaths is the most dramatic two-year escalation since 1964 and an indication that 2016 may have been the deadliest on the nation’s roads since 2007.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the council noted, as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes last year, a 6 percent increase over 2015 and a 14 percent increase over 2014.

The survey results are part of the foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to traffic safety. The data are from a sample of 2,511 licensed drivers ages 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days.

Among drivers ages 19-24, 88.4 percent reported engaging in speeding, red light running or texting behind the wheel in the past 30 days. Drivers in that age group are:

--1.6 times as likely as all drivers to report having read a text message or e-mail while driving in the last 30 days and nearly twice as likely as all drivers to report having typed or sent a text message or e-mail while driving.

--1.4 times as likely as all drivers to report having driven 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street and nearly 12 percent reported feeling that it is acceptable to drive 10 mph over the speed limit in a school zone, compared to less than 5 percent of all drivers.


 

February 2017 Articles

U.S. DOT Proposes 4 Opioids for Drug Testing Panel
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com/; by TruckingInfo Staff, January 23, 2017

The Department of Transportation is proposing to amend its drug-testing program regulation to add four opioids (hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone) to its testing panel.

 
 

In addition, it is proposing to add methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) as an initial test analyte and remove methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA) as a confirmatory test analyte.

Published in the Federal Register for Jan. 23, the notice of proposed rulemaking aims to align DOT’s regulated-industry drug testing with the Department of Health and Human Services’ laboratory drug-testing requirements.

DOT said the NPRM also would clarify certain existing drug-testing provisions as well as remove outdated information from the current regulation and remove the requirement for employers and C/TPAs to submit blind specimens.

In addition, DOT said some other elements of the proposal would:

- Remove, modify, and add specific definitions and make certain definitions consistent with those of HHS

- Remove blind specimen testing

- Modify several provisions related to urine specimens

- Add emphasis to an existing Part 40 provision that prohibits DNA testing of urine specimens

- Add clarification to the term "prescription"

- Modify sections related to how MROs verify test results related to semi-synthetic opioids

DOT noted that it is required by the Omnibus Transportation Employees Testing Act to follow the HHS requirements for the testing procedures/protocols and drugs for which it tests.


 

4 Ways to Improve Your Office's Work Environment
Source: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/; by Shannon Gausepohl, Business News Daily Staff Writer, January 12, 2017

The overall vibe of a workplace, from the office layout and break-room setup to co-worker dynamics and company culture, has a huge impact on your team's performance and happiness.

 
 

"Positive workplaces tend to exhibit a common set of traits that foster excellence, productivity and camaraderie," Linnda Durré, wrote for Monster.com.

The reverse is also true: If people are physically, mentally or emotionally uncomfortable in the office, they're unlikely to be successful or satisfied with their jobs. Here are four ways you can improve your work environment and, in turn, employee engagement.

Identify good and bad staff

Smart businesses know that a good work environment starts with hiring the right people.

Make sure you're hiring people who are professional, can work in a team and can contribute to a positive work environment," said Jazmin Truesdale, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Mino Enterprises. "One bad apple can spoil the bunch."

The same idea translates to those who are already in the office. When employees are working alongside a high density of toxic workers, there is a 47 percent chance that they, too, will become toxic, Dylan Minor, an assistant professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, told Business News Daily in 2015. Minor called the situation "ethical spillover," reinforcing that toxicity is, in fact, contagious.

"It's amazing to watch one bad attitude affect everyone's daily performance," added Claire Marshall Crowell, chief operating officer of A. Marshall Family Foods/Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant. "I can't tell you how many times I have been thanked after letting poisonous employees go. Though it's a hard thing to do, it ultimately impacts the working environment, which can be felt by not only our employees, but also by our [customers]."

Improve communication

Be cognizant of how you're interacting with employees. Team members and upper management should consider the flow of communication and whether it's affecting the office environment.

"Employees are motivated and feel valued when they're given positive reinforcement and shown how their work contributes to the success of the business," said Dominique Jones, chief people officer at Halogen Software.

This means going beyond a 'Hey, good job' and making the time to regularly offer employees specific feedback on how their work is feeding into the broader business objectives, she noted.

Giving feedback makes a difference for employees, especially millennials, according to a survey from ManpowerGroup. Managers should be open to feedback as well, said Samantha Lambert, director of human resources at Blue Fountain Media.

"When you involve your staff in decision making in an effort to create a better work environment, they feel valued," Lambert said. "Don't be afraid to ask employees for their opinion on a new benefit offered or what they think of a new client project."

While you're working on communication, don't forget to show gratitude for hard work. According to David Sturt, executive vice president at the O.C. Tanner Institute, an employee recognition and corporate gifting firm, effective employee recognition can transform and elevate an organization.

"It ignites enthusiasm, increases innovation, builds trust and drives bottom-line results," he said. "Even a simple 'thank you' after an employee goes above and beyond on a project, or puts in a series of late nights, goes a long way."

Make the office comfortable

Beyond cultural changes, there are other, simpler solutions that can improve how the office operates. Working in a clean, attractive office can have tremendous effects on co-worker and manager relationships, said Mike Canarelli, CEO and co-founder of Web Talent Marketing.

"Even if the sun can't shine into your workplace, make an effort to provide a relaxing atmosphere with comfy furniture, working equipment and a few 'extra-mile' amenities," he noted.

For example, give your employees the flexibility to choose to work where they're comfortable, including comfy chairs or a choice of whether to sit or stand at their desks.

"Make it easy for them to purchase things like exercise balls and plants on the company dime," said AJ Shankar, CEO and founder of litigation software company Everlaw. "We also trust our employees to manage their own time. They're free to take breaks to play games or just recharge as necessary."

When they choose a space that makes them comfortable, give them the freedom to customize their area, as everyone works differently, said Josh Turner, CEO of UsersThink, a tool for companies to receive feedback. He suggested getting rid of "the same issued everything" and giving everyone a budget to customize their his or her own setup.

Be flexible

Being an understanding leader can encourage better production and a more positive workplace. Ashley Judge, president of The Funtrepreneur gift-selling sites, encourages employees to schedule their personal lives the way a CEO does.

"Unless it conflicted with a meeting, I wouldn't think twice about scheduling a midday doctor's appointment or more trivial personal appointment, such as a haircut, and I encourage [my team] to do the same," Judge said. "A trusted, hardworking employee should be able to schedule their day like a CEO."


 

Digital disruption, friend or foe (part 1): Self-driving trucks, Uber-for-freight
Source: http://fleetowner.com/; by Kevin Jones, January 30, 2017

Despite questions, autonomous vehicles are rolling sooner than expected

 
 

The potential for autonomous trucks to disrupt freight transportation—or at least the recognition, by carriers and shippers, of that possibility—has surged in the past year, according to an updated survey by Princeton Consultants. But the industry still might not fully appreciate the changes that are coming.

"Our firm believes self-driving trucks are going to get here faster and have more impact than the survey results [showed]," Princeton Consultants CEO Steve Sashihara said, and he cited a load of freight delivered recently by a sensor-driven truck in Colorado. "It’s no longer crazy white cars driving around cities; it’s starting to really happen. … There’s some amazing, smart engineers working on this. On the highways, the technology is already here."

As for adoption by the trucking industry, there’s a “solid” business case based around the salary expense and hours limitations of human truck drivers, he explained, speaking in a Stifel Capital Markets conference call Friday.

Princeton projects implementation of self-driving truck technology in three phases:

1. Truck autopilot, assisting a traditional driver who’s still in the seat—variations of which are currently being tested on U.S. highways;

2. Linehaul driverless, for on-highway freight moves (perhaps in pelotons) and with first/last mile conventional drayage—"think of this as the new intermodal," Sashihara said.

3. Door-to-door driverless, but not before the public believes the technology is safer than human drivers.

And while that full, Level 5 autonomy is still some time in the future, the public is rapidly being won over by the rollout of self-driving passenger vehicles, Sashihara added.

"When most people are trying to imagine this, [full autonomy] is where they’re getting hung up. They’re saying ‘have you ever seen a truck back into a dock, or how many docks there are in a crowded city—can a robot really do that?’" he said. "The nice thing about step 2 is you don’t have to worry about that—it’s the long-haul up and down the highways in pelotons; and the peloton itself may save 15% in fuel."

In last year’s survey, Princeton found that only 28% of respondents believed self-driving trucks would have a moderate or large impact, compared to 40% in the latest survey. The number who said there would be "no real impact" fell from 24% to 19% this year.

As business advisors, Princeton is recommending carrier executives take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to self-driving vehicles and drones, both in terms regulations and the rapidly evolving equipment itself.

But Sashihara also discussed the disruptive potential of "Uber for freight," or "radical disintermediation" of the freight transportation market. With 57% of the survey respondents anticipating a moderate to large impact, the sentiment was basically unchanged from a year ago.

"I don’t think we can sit back and just wait for things to happen, but that doesn’t mean we should create our own Uber-like channels. Whether we are a buyer of freight, a seller, or an intermediary, we have to improve our user friendliness and automation," he said. "It’s undeniable that like Amazon really did to retailing, Uber really disrupted taxis—and that’s not such a big leap from taxi to commercial freight."

The takeaway: Easy access to real-time market data and the ability to quickly tender a load and get a price is the direction freight transportation is heading. Still, cross-country freight moves are a lot more complicated than carrying a passenger across town—and that’s why Sashihara suggests change will more likely come from within the industry than from an outsider.

"There’s a lot moving parts and non-obvious stuff, so it’s hard to think that a couple of people will graduate from Berkeley and disrupt the trucking industry," he said. "There’s a lot of inefficiencies in our marketplace, but I think it will be someone who is more of an insider who will say, ‘how can we think bigger than most and come up with some disruptive ways of really moving the needle?’"


 

Lawsuit seeks $350 million from CRST for 2014 crash that injured CHP trooper
Source: http://www.landlinemag.com/; by Greg Grisolano, January 20, 2017

A lawsuit seeking hundreds of millions in damages against CRST, Inc., its subsidiaries and a former company driver for their role in a July 2014 crash that severely injured a former California Highway Patrol officer and his brother.

 
 

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleges that CRST Inc., CRST Van Expedited, and other companies were negligent in the hiring of driver Hector Contreras, who was behind the wheel of one of the company’s 2014 Freightliner tractors when the rig reportedly crossed the center line and struck a private passenger vehicle carrying California Highway Patrol officer Michael Lennig and his brother Matthew on July 7, 2014. The suit alleges that Contreras was under the influence at the time of the crash.

The suit claims that CRST and its associated companies failed and refused to properly hire, screen, train and/or supervise their employees. The lawsuit seeks punitive damages in excess of $350 million.

According to the complaint, CRST was negligent by failing to perform an adequate background check on Contreras, failing to follow their own policies, and failing to pull Contreras off of the road following four previous accidents before the July collision.

Among the allegations in the lawsuit are that CRST and its affiliated companies failed to conduct an in-depth background check on Contreras, and hired him despite his alleged record of having been convicted of driving under the influence, grand theft auto, and “multiple convictions for the possession of illicit substances and illicit substance use.” The lawsuit also claims that from his hire date of Dec. 5, 2013, and the date of the crash, Contreras caused a total of four preventable collisions, including two that occurred less than two weeks before the crash with the Lennigs.

"CRST driver Hector Contreras has a long list of prior convictions ranging from driving under the influence, possession of drug paraphernalia, and felony grand theft auto," plaintiffs’ attorney Khail Parris said in a press release. "CRST had also been alerted by his co-driver that Hector Contreras posed a danger to the public at large."

CRST Expedited did not respond to a request for comment.

Despite causing four preventable collisions, Contreras was only required to attend one defensive driving course. Two months prior to the collision, the lawsuit states, Contreras’ co-driver notified CRST that the defendant was pulled over by law enforcement for tailgating and speeding in a construction zone.

The suit also alleges that Contreras, who had been hired in December 2013, was driving the truck without a co-driver, in violation of the company’s own policy of having new employee drivers undergo a probationary period with a co-driver.

The crash occurred on State Route 14 in Mojave, in a construction zone on the Red Rock Canyon Bridge. According to a press release issued Thursday by the Parris law firm, Matthew suffered a traumatic brain injury, severe injuries to his arm, and multiple fractures to his ribs. Michael, a California Highway Patrol officer, shattered two vertebrae and sustained a traumatic brain injury.

The lawsuit also seeks damages from several construction companies for failing to erect "K-rails" or any other barriers between northbound and southbound traffic which would have prevented the crash.


 

11 Strategies For Achieving A More Diverse And Productive Work Environment
Source: http://www.forbes.com/; by Theodore Henderson, January 20, 2017

When public companies release information on how their policies keep up with the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, it sets an impressive standard for other businesses to live up to. Citigroup, Coca-Cola, IngramMicro, Oracle and JPMorgan Chase — to name a select few — may have the funds to manage diversity better than most, but managing diversity in the workplace isn't as capital intensive as it seems.

 
 

Workplace diversity is achievable by businesses regardless of nature, size or budget. It can revolutionize the way business is done today the same way it did since the first models were drawn in the '60s. Managing diversity in the workplace, however, shouldn't end with federal laws or with top management of corporations. There should be involvement in every level of leadership in a company.

Since everyone benefits in the triumph of a business, there must be a collective effort when it comes to leading in a diverse workplace. It should be made clear to every employee to take an open attitude to create and promote a diverse environment. This makes it possible to plant the beginnings of a successful business built on creativity and innovation. In my personal experience and study, the best way to achieve a productive and diverse environment is not just leadership by example but with the use of specific strategies:

1. Set small teams that will get new employees actively involved and fully integrated into the company's culture. The introduction to a company's culture may happen naturally, but it's better to intentionally create open communication lines where issues can be addressed. The interactive exercises in my course "Creating Teamwork and Partnerships" drives this point home to the participants through the use of short video reenactments and short scripted role plays to reinforce given situations, such as handling needy colleagues and domineering supervisors.

2. Practice mentorship to encourage retention and focus on long-term career goals. Discuss opportunities for advancement and growth offered by the firm. Remember the initial point for any good mentoring program starts with two important questions: What is the reason you are starting the program? How does success look for the company and the participants?

3. Create learning and development programs that focus on building relationships and skills. Reward employees based on performance. According to the Human Resources Council, "Employee training is the responsibility of the organization. The responsibility of management is to provide the right resources and an environment that supports the growth and development needs of the individual employee."

4. Schedule activities outside of work that encourage communication and fun interactions. Promote healthy relationships and friendships among colleagues through social or community involvements.

5. Get employees' participation in hiring new talents and ask for referrals. Partner with schools to introduce the company's culture, help young people build self-esteem, and educate on the benefits of diversity. Many colleges and even high schools welcome this type interaction with the corporate sector. It shows not only business leadership but social responsibility also.

6. Provide diversity training to make employees more aware of what constitutes a diverse workplace. Demonstrate how each can contribute to help in the company's success. If you are not convinced of training value in this area, consider the following three points as highlighted in a study by NCRVE UC Berkeley.

1. "Managers become more effective because they can provide suitable job assignments and at the same time they can evaluate employees properly.

2. "Second, employees also gain benefits. As their motivation and morale increases, they become more satisfied with their work. They can also have access to better mentoring and coaching. In addition, they are more committed to their professional growth because performance becomes the criterion for success.

3. "Finally, the organization and its environment will improve. The workforce becomes more loyal to the organization because employees develop a sense of ownership."

7. Make communication lines accessible across different generations (traditionalists, baby boomers, generations X, Y and Z) within a workplace. Use current technology to encourage participation and informality. An article from Harvard Business Review called "Managing People from 5 Generations" notes: "For the first time in history, five generations will soon be working side by side. But whether this multi-generational workplace feels satisfied and productive is, in large part, up to you: the leader."

8. Develop company policies aligned with government laws on equal employment opportunity. Set a team that will focus on diversity policy implementation to ratify across-the-board changes. There are convenient online resources to familiarize you and your team on this topic. For example, one such source is "Laws Enforced by EEOC."

9. Celebrate important events such as International Day to End Racism, Gay Pride celebrations in June, International Day of Person with Disabilities, and International Women's Day every March. My recommendation is that you establish a calendar to follow for the relevant groups in your company. Doing this shows leadership and commitment that you value and recognize diversity.

10. Establish proper decorum on how to address transgendered or disabled employees. For clarification, the term "transgender" is commonly used to refer to people who do not identify with their birth sex or with society's view of male and female gender roles. According to Society for Resource Management,"Transgender persons include people who are transsexual, cross-dressing, androgynous and gender-nonconforming, among others."

11. Create an environment that is disability inclusive. The key ingredients to this are leadership and communication. Leadership must ensure company commitment to disability inclusion at all levels of your organization — including the C-suite. Communication must be unequivocal and demonstrated by expressing commitment to disability inclusion, both internally and externally, and providing training on workplace issues related to disability.

Workplace diversity is unavoidable. In spite of the challenges it may impose, managing diversity in the workplace should be everyone's business. When working properly, diversity will provide improvements to the bottom line if supported by executive leadership and management.

Diversity can also contribute to the company's development by allowing this collective knowledge or fresh perspectives to drive innovations of products, methods, and systems. Begin with making small attempts because no matter how minor; the impact will prove to be profound in the long run.


 

January 2017 Articles

Med examiner who cleared thousands of truckers charged with issuing fake certifications
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by James Jaillet, December 16, 2016

Update, 12/20:The DOT says truckers affected by the Lefteris’ arrest will be notified via mail that they need to be re-certified within 30 days. See further CCJ coverage at this link.

 
 

An Atlanta, Georgia-based medical examiner has been arrested and charged by federal investigators for allegedly issuing medical certifications to truck drivers without performing full medical exams, according to court records. Dr. Anthony Lefteris, who operated out of an Atlanta-area Petro truck stop, could have issued certifications to thousands of truck drivers.

The DOT has not said whether truckers who received medical certification from Lefteris will need to be recertified and, if so, the deadline for doing so. CCJ will publish that information when it becomes available. The DOT has added a note to Lefteris’ listing in the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners telling drivers not to schedule appointments with him. The note says Lefteris is no longer certified to perform the exams.

Lefteris could have issued certifications to more than 8,000 truckers since the FMCSA’s medical examiner registry rule took effect in 2014, based on the average number of certifications prosecutors allege Lefteris issued per month.

Lefteris issued about 360 truck operators a month, DOT investigators allege in an affidavit filed to a U.S. District Court in north Georgia. Most examiners only perform 13 to 14 a month, prosecutors say in the affidavit.

He was arrested Dec. 1 and has been granted a public defender, court documents reveal. Lefteris has not yet made a plea in the case, but he is due back in court Dec. 20. Charges against him include eight counts of false writing/documentation of the DOT’s exam forms and false entry into DOT records with the intend to impede and influence.

Officers from the U.S. DOT and the U.S. Department of Justice began investigating Lefteris in September, according to court documents, following a written statement from a driver who said Lefteris gave him a medical certification but didn’t perform any tests or examination procedures, even after the driver told him he had previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Three undercover officers, all of whom hold a Georgia-issued CDL, later visited Lefteris’ office at different times, according to court records. In all three instances, Lefteris granted the officers medical certification without performing all tests required, according to a sworn affidavit submitted by the officers. Lefteris failed to perform vision and hearing tests, urinalysis, blood pressure check or heart rate test, officers allege.

Prosecutors say Lefteris uploaded MCSA-5875 (the forms used by medical examiners) to the DOT for all three officers with fake numbers recorded in fields meant for the urinalysis, the vision and hearing exams, pulse and others.

Officers also performed surveillance outside Lefteris’ office during the investigation, court documents reveal. An affidavit submitted to the court alleges that on Nov. 9, 2016, officers saw 12 people enter Lefteris’ office and about eight leave. When agents went inside to ask Lefteris’ questions regarding the morning’s visitors, they discovered he’d failed to perform urinalysis on those patients, too, officers claim.

Federal law requires examiners to perform all of the tests Lefteris allegedly skipped when examining the undercover officers. The urinalysis is not for drug testing but to test protein, blood and sugar in urine, “which may be an indication that further testing is needed to rule out any underlying medical problems that impact a driver’s ability to drive safety,” prosecutors said in the complaint against Lefteris.


 

DOT Proposes V2V Rule for Cars; Could One for Trucks Be Far Behind?
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com/; by David Cullen, December 13, 2016

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission issued a proposed rule on Dec. 13 aimed at getting vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology on all new light-duty vehicles, NHTSA Communications Director Bryan Thomas confirmed for HDT that there is "no [similar] rulemaking as of yet" in the works for commercial vehicles.

 
 

Thomas noted that "research is ongoing and we see great potential" in V2V technology for medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses as well. Per a NHTSA fact sheet on the light-duty proposal, the agency is "working with industry" on continuing research "to adapt the technology for these vehicles."

V2V is a companion technology for autonomously driven vehicles, including platooned trucks that are electronically linked while operating on the road.

At an October news briefing, Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, said that the lobby was determined to make sure trucking has "a seat at the table" along with the automotive industry when policies are developed to allow and further vehicle automation.

"The technology is here and will grow rapidly," Spear said on the show floor of ATA’s Management Conference & Exposition. "Suppliers are already creating connected and automated technology." But he added that trucking is "a different animal than the car side," so ATA is aiming to ensure the industry’s voice is heard as federal policymaking develops.

Spear then pointed out that the first federal guidelines for the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles, released by the Department of Transportation in September, were developed with almost no input from the trucking industry.

Asked on Dec. 13 to review the current landscape for a V2V commercial-vehicle rulemaking, ATA Executive Vice President of Advocacy Bill Sullivan told HDT that a lot has changed since Spear spoke out less than three months ago on trucking being consulted by DOT regarding such activity.

"Chris [Spear] was right in speaking out and, since then, we do have a seat at the table [with DOT]," said Sullivan. "This V2V rulemaking is for light-duty vehicles and it points in the right direction. It sets the bar high in respect to preserving a data spectrum for safety communications. We are hopeful this approach will continue under the Trump administration."

According to DOT, the proposed rule would enable V2V communication technology on all new light-duty vehicles, "enabling a multitude of new crash-avoidance applications that, once fully deployed, could prevent hundreds of thousands of crashes every year by helping vehicles ‘talk’ to each other."

The rule would require V2V devices to operate through standardized messaging that DOT said would be developed with industry. More specifically, NHTSA said that V2V devices would use dedicated short range communications (DSRC) to transmit data, such as location, direction and speed, to nearby vehicles.

That data would be updated and broadcast up to 10 times per second to nearby vehicles. Using that information, V2V-equipped vehicles could identify safety risks and provide warnings to drivers to avoid imminent crashes.

NHTSA pointed out that vehicles equipped with automated driving functions— such as automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control— could also benefit from the use of V2V data to better avoid or reduce the consequences of crashes.

DOT also announced that, separately, the Federal Highway Administration plans to soon issue guidance for Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications, “which will help transportation planners integrate the technologies to allow vehicles to ‘talk’ to roadway infrastructure such as traffic lights, stop signs and work zones to improve mobility, reduce congestion, and improve safety.


 

FMCSA Again Delays Rollout of Online DOT Registration System
Source: http://capitolweekly.net; by John Howard, December 23, 2015

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has again delayed implementation of the final stage of its Unified Registration System for new motor carriers.

 
 

Completion of the URS rollout had last been scheduled for January 14, 2017, a date announced back in July. Prior to that, the implementation date had been set for Sept. 30, 2016.

Now, the agency has instead announced it will publish a notice in the Federal Register early next month that will state the newly revised URS compliance date.

By way of explanation, FMCSA said it recently completed a "complex migration" of its IT systems to a cloud environment. "This mitigation effort was a necessary step in order to provide a foundation to successfully implement URS."

However, the agency said the new implementation delay is necessary "because additional time is needed to securely migrate data from multiple legacy platforms into a new central database" and to conduct further compatibility testing with its state-agency partners.

"By moving the implementation date, FMCSA is providing its State partners more time to develop, update, and verify data connectivity and system reliability," the agency said. "The additional time will also enable the Agency to conduct more thorough training and to implement broader outreach and education activities that will provide for a seamless transition."

URS is a simplified online registration process. It combines multiple legacy reporting forms into a single, online "smart form" that is designed to streamline the registration and renewal process. When fully implemented, URS will allow FMCSA to identify unfit carriers and detect unsafe truck and bus companies that are trying to evade enforcement actions. Offending companies often attempt to regain U.S. DOT registration by registering as a different or unrelated business entity.

Since the December 2015 launch of the initial phase of URS, FMCSA estimates that the industry has saved more than $3 million in registration expenses. What's more, the agency said that using URS, it has so far issued over 100,000 new USDOT numbers; removed more than 360,000 dormant USDOT numbers from its databases; and achieved “a 100 percent screening of operating authority applications for disqualified carriers attempting to fraudulently ‘reincarnate’ as new operators."


 

FMCSA Keeps Controlled Substance Random Testing Rate
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com/; by Trucking Info Staff, December 13, 2016

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced that the controlled substances random testing rate for regulated motor carriers will remain at 25% for 2017.

 
 

In 2016, FMCSA lowered the minimum annual drug testing rate from 50% to 25% following three straight years (2011, 2012, 2013) of drug testing data that indicated that the positive rate for controlled substances was less than 1%. Federal regulations allow the agency to lower testing rates when positive rates are under 1% for two consecutive years.

"We will continue to monitor the data closely, and should the positive rate for drug use rise above the 1% threshold in the upcoming 2015 survey, the national random testing rate requirement will be immediately increased to 50%," said Scott Darling, FMCSA administrator.

FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey measures the percentage of CDL drivers who test positive for drugs and/or alcohol as a result of random and non-random testing. In 2014, FCMSA required carriers to randomly test 50% of their CDL drivers for drugs and 10% for alcohol.

According to the survey, for random drug and alcohol testing conducted in 2014 (the most recent data available):

• The estimated positive usage rate for drugs in 2014 was 0.9%. For 2012 and 2013, the estimated positive usage rate for drugs was estimated to be 0.6% and 0.7%, respectively.

• The estimated violation rate for alcohol usage (the percentage of drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04 or higher) in 2014 was 0.08%. For 2012 and 2013, the alcohol usage violation rates were 0.03% and 0.09%, respectively.

"For the safety of everyone traveling on our highways and roads, no driver should ever get behind the wheel under the influence of drugs or alcohol," said Darling. "Commercial motor vehicle companies must comply with the crucial safety responsibility of conducting rigorous drug and alcohol testing programs for all of their CDL drivers."


 

December 2016 Articles

DOT: Marijuana still banned for truckers despite ballot victories
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by Matt Cole, November 10, 2016

After four more states voted to approve legalization of marijuana Tuesday, it appears the Department of Transportation will stand by its previous stance that using marijuana is forbidden for truck drivers as long as it remains a Schedule I drug.

 
 

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration spokesperson Duane DeBruyne said Wednesday any change in the drug testing laws for truckers would have to begin with the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy before the DOT could make any changes.

Voters in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine voted to legalize recreational marijuana in their respective states Tuesday, and voters in Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota voted to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. Montana voted to loosen restrictions medical marijuana laws in the state.

In 2012, when Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, the DOT announced the initiatives wouldn't change its drug testing policies. Last November, DOT issued a similar statement about medical marijuana that stated it wouldn’t change the drug testing program.

"It is important to note that marijuana remains a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act," the 2012 statement said. "It remains unacceptable for any safety‐sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana."

According to a report from the Associated Press, nearly a quarter of the U.S. population — upwards of 80 million Americans — now live in states with legalized recreational pot. With Tuesday’s vote, 28 states now allow medical marijuana.


 

Q&A: Tips for managing driver medical exams
Source: http://fleetowner.com; by Sean Kilcarr, November 28, 2016

Staying in compliance with the thicket-like rules regarding driver medical exams can be daunting for fleets. Two experts offer some tips on how to make the process easier.

 
 

Regulatory compliance is not a chore any fleet looks forward to, but the costs of non-compliance – even if unintentional, committed solely by mistake – can leave a motor carrier facing monetary fines and unwanted extra scrutiny by any number of federal agencies.

Driver medical exams required by the Department of Transportation (DOT) offer one such example as they can "create nightmares" for fleets as they combine the complexities of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations that can at times contradict medical guidance given to the examiners in charge of administering said exams and even stand athwart best medical practices.

On top of that, trying to understand the medical terminology involved with those exams can be extremely confusing to those outside the medical field.

Fleet Owner touched base with two experts to get some advice on the thorny subject of driver medical exams: Bob Stanton and John Glenn.Stanton is an over-the-road driver who also serves as a "driver liaison" with Dedicated Sleep Health and Wellness, a firm providing sleep apnea testing and treatment. As a driver afflicted with sleep apnea, he has been an active advocate on a number of driver-health related issues.

Glenn, a physician’s assistant since 1989, is experienced both family practice and emergency medical care and for the last 14 years has focused on sleep-related medical issues.

Start with the basics: What are the critical items fleets need to know about when it comes to driver medical exams?

First of all, fleet managers need to be aware of the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME) and to make sure staff in charge of dealing with driver qualification files understand that examiners being used for driver medical exams are in that registry (a registry established four years ago that officially went "live" in 2014) and that they are documenting this.

On top of that, know that in April of this year the MCSA-5875 – a.k.a. the DOT "long form" – and MCSA-5876, the DOT Medical Certificate, both went through revisions.

What are some things fleets should NOT do when it comes to managing driver medical exams?

For starters, DON’T have existing drivers take a DOT physical while over the road away from home unless absolutely necessary and you are sure they will not get a disqualified or "DQ" result. A driver taking a DOT medical exam that results in a DQ is out of service, even if they had time remaining on their old medical card. Something as simple as blood pressure being too high during a DOT exam can leave you with the logistical nightmare of a truck, driver and load stranded on the side of the road.

Another area of caution is when a new hire gets a DQ or "short term" medical card pending additional testing or treatment and is sent home from orientation.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will apply with many of the medical conditions involved and know that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been more active in ADA enforcement in trucking.

Bringing new hires back after going home for treatment or getting testing done while still in orientation might be needed: Keep that in mind.

What are some of the top "to do list" items for fleets when it comes to driver medical exams? It’s critical to start reminding drivers about upcoming medical card expirations at least 30 days in advance.

The new MCSA-5875 – that DOT "long form" again – now features more questions about a driver’s long-term medical history. It now asks "have you ever had" versus asking "do you currently have" as one example. This often requires a driver to get medical history, test results and contact information from previous treating physicians. A new optional CMV Driver Medication Questionnaire can be used by an NRCME examiner to gather more information on medications from the prescribing health care provider.

NRCME examiners also have a new certification option with the exam. They can complete the entire exam and issue a 45-day temporary card pending further information, along with possible 30-, 60-, or 90-day cards. Information can be submitted by e-mail or fax without the driver needing to redo the entire exam.

Also realize drivers can get a second medical opinion about their medical exam results.

FMCSA allows drivers to seek a second medical opinion from a different NRCME certified examiner, but the caveat is that the driver MUST provide the second examiner all information provided the first examiner. Having options for drivers to seek a second medical opinion from an examiner suitable to the motor carrier should be included in your medical policies.

Why do you stress that fleets need to use "good" medical examiners? And what using third party firms to audit a fleet’s medical tests?

A minimum for any DOT medical examiner is that they are currently listed in the NRCME registry. This can be easily confirmed on the FMCSA’s NRCME website.

A fleet wants an examiner who ensures drivers meet the medical requirements without creating undue administrative issues. In the event of a major accident, medical documentation may be critical in litigation. Fleets may have their own medical standards more restrictive than FMCSA. Developing a network of examiners that works with your geographic operations is important.

Also, you should consider using a third party medical auditing firm for DOT exam reviews.

These firms are often part of drug and alcohol testing programs and they can provide a variety of services ranging from reminder systems and administrative auditing of exams to full medical expert review of exam and getting copies of the MCSA-5875 (again, the DOT long form) to access driver personal health and medical information.


 

Database of truckers who fail drug/alcohol tests coming in 2020; carriers required to report results
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by Todd Dills, December 2, 2016

Beginning Jan. 6, 2020, carriers will be required to report information about positive drug test results, test refusals, failed alcohol tests and more by drivers to a FMCSA-administered database.

 
 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is set to publish Monday a final rule to establish the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a long-under-way database of positive commercial driver drug and alcohol test results.

The Clearinghouse will be under the agency’s administration, in collaboration with a third party, and will contain information about violations of FMCSA’s drug and alcohol testing program. The compliance date for the rule remains a little more than three years away — January 6, 2020.

The rule, mandated by the MAP-21 highway bill in 2012, will improve roadway safety, FMCSA believes, by preventing any driver’s ability to conceal “drug and alcohol violations merely by moving on to the next job or the next jurisdiction” without completing the return-to-duty process.

Current return-to-duty rules require employers to furnish a list of potential referrals to drivers for completion of a rehabilitation program with a Substance Abuse Professional meeting Department of Transportation guidelines. Drivers thus affected must complete the program and retest before returning to work with any employer.

The Clearinghouse database will reflect such completions, and records will follow every affected driver regardless of how many times he or she changes employers, seeks employment or applies for a CDL in a different state, FMCSA notes in its summary.

Employers and medical review officers, including testing consortiums utilized by many independent owner-operators, will be required to report information about positive drug test results, alcohol test results greater than 0.04 blood alcohol content, refusals to test and other non-test violations of FMCSA’s drug and alcohol regulations to the database.

Substance Abuse Professionals working with drivers on return-to-duty rehabilitation, likewise, will be required to report information about the rehabilitation process to the database.

The rule also requires employers to search the Clearinghouse database for information during the pre-employment process and at least once a year for current employees.

The agency says it will comply with the consent requirements of the Privacy Act prior to releasing any driver’s record to an employer. FMCSA suggested in commentary published with the rule that subscription and/or transaction fees for those required to utilize the Clearinghouse database would be minimal. As suggested above, the agency plans to "contract with a third-party to operate and maintain the Clearinghouse."


 

What You Can and Can’t Recycle After the Holidays
Source: http://www.uticaod.com; by Amy Neff Roth, November 30, 2016

The Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority has some advice for how to generate less trash and more recycling over the holidays.

 
 

The holidays bring parties, family get-togethers, wonderful meals, presents – and lots and lots of trash. In fact, waste goes up 25 percent over the holidays, according to the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority. And each year Americans buy 2.65 billion holiday cards, enough to fill a football field 10 stories high, according to the authority.

To try to keep all that waste from piling up in the landfill, the authority has some recycling advice for residents.

"This year marks the 26th year that holiday gift wrap will be accepted for recycling in Oneida and Herkimer counties," said Jamie Tuttle, authority recycling educator. "To recycle holiday gift wrap, fold or flatten the gift wrap and place it loosely in your recycling container. Gift wrap cannot be placed in plastic bags for recycling. Tissue paper and foil or metallic wrapping paper are not accepted for recycling."

But don’t let the wrap pile up under your feet. Wrapping paper only will be accepted during the two weeks after Christmas, Tuttle warned. And the cardboard tubes from wrapping paper also can go in recycling containers, she said.

Here’s a checklist of what to do with other holiday items:

• Holiday cards. These can go in your recycling bin year-round along with catalogs and gift boxes.

• Styrofoam and packing peanuts. These are not recyclable and have to go in the trash.

• Broken or unneeded holiday lights. They cannot go in your recycling bin. But you can give them to the CNY Veterans Outreach Center (765-0975) to support its project to build housing for homeless veterans. Or bring them to the Rome or Utica convenience stations.

• Christmas trees. Ask your municipality about its collection schedule, or if municipal collection isn’t available, bring your tree to the Utica convenience station for composting. Be sure to remove all decorations and tinsel.

• Real and artificial wreaths. These are held together with wire and plastic and cannot be composted. Remove any decorations and throw them out with your garbage.

• Cooking oil and kitchen grease. Drop them off for recycling into animal feed at the Utica convenience station year-round. Carry them in sealed, unbreakable, leak-proof containers.

Tuttle also suggested that residents think green before the holidays and not just after. "In order to close the recycling loop, we need to buy recycled products. While shopping for gifts, purchase items made from recycled content," she said.

Some clothing, such as much polar fleece, is made from recycled plastic bottles, she said. And residents should look for wrapping paper, gift boxes and bags and holiday cards made from recycled paper, Tuttle said.

"With a little pre-cycling, waste reduction and proper recycling of the materials we generate we can all make our holidays a little greener," she said.

For more on properly recycling or disposing of items in Oneida and Herkimer counties, go to www.AmIRecyclable.com


 

FMCSA plans to allow V.A. docs to issue medical certs to military vet truckers
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by Matt Cole, November 30, 2016

A proposed rule set to be published in the Federal Register Thursday, Dec. 1, will outline the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s plan to establish an alternative process for Veterans Affairs doctors to be allowed to issue medical certificates to military veteran truck drivers. After FMCSA-administered training and testing, the V.A. doctors would be listed on FMCSA’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners without having to go through a third-party tester.

 
 

The FAST Act highway bill directed the agency to allow V.A. doctors to be listed on the National Registry and laid out certain guidelines the physicians must meet. The FAST Act stated V.A. doctors must be employed in the Department of Veterans Affairs, be familiar with FMCSA’s standards for truck drivers and have never "acted fraudulently" when it comes to administering medical certificates for commercial drivers. The proposed rule adds the physicians must be either a doctor of medicine or a doctor of osteopathy employed by the V.A.

Once the qualified doctors complete the training and pass testing, they would then be allowed to conduct medical exams and issue Medical Examiner’s Certificates only to military veteran drivers enrolled in the V.A. health care system.

The training for the doctors would be delivered through a web-based system operated by the V.A. FMCSA says the training "would be an intensive, online training course" and include an overview of FMCSA medical standards, an overview of how the federal medical exemption programs factor into the qualification decision, an administrative component with an overview of driver exam forms and information regarding the use of the National Registry and the National Registry System. After completing the training, the doctors would be tested on it and must receive a passing grade to become a certified medical examiner on the National Registry.

In addition to providing an easier path to the National Registry for V.A. physicians, FMCSA also proposed a couple of minor changes to the certification requirements for all medical examiners. First, the agency proposes to add a requirement that a doctor must first register on the National Registry System and receive a unique ID before being allowed to take any of the training or testing to become a certified medical examiner. FMCSA says this has always been the way the system has worked, but it wasn’t included in the language of the regulation.

FMCSA also proposes in the rule to remove the prohibition against taking the test more than once every 30 days. FMCSA says there are no actions that must be taken in the 30-day period, such as additional training, so there is no need for the waiting period.

FMCSA is seeking comment on the proposed rule, which can be done by searching Docket No. FMCSA-2016-0333 at www.regulations.gov. The full text of the 43-page proposed rule can be seen here.


 

State of Trucking for 2017: The Driver Shortage
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by Trucking Info Staff, December 2, 2016

The transportation industry provides millions of people an income each year. According to Driver Solutions, truck driving is the most popular job in 29 states. Yet, this industry remains one of the most forgotten about. Truck drivers are running more miles and hauling more freight than ever, in part because of a driver shortage. It's been a growing issue in the industry for years, and much of it can be attributed to an aging workforce. The average age of a truck driver is 49, and many of them are now retiring. This, combined with a lack of qualified drivers and industry turnover, in general, has some projections showing a need for 100,000 drivers heading into in 2017, according to Driver Solutions.

 
 

To combat the growing shortage, many transportation companies are changing their ways. To get new drivers started in the industry, some companies offer programs that not only give aspiring drivers free commercial driver’s license (CDL) training, but also a job opportunity after completion.

Additionally, trucking companies are improving benefits such as home time and retirement plans, introducing safe driver and performance related incentives, and creating various first-year career advancement opportunities to help retain its drivers.

To see the entire breakdown of the State of Trucking, visit http://www.greatcdltraining.com/stateof-trucking-2017.


 

November 2016 Articles

ELD mandate upheld in court, compliance date remains December 2017
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/eld-mandate-upheld-in-court; by James Jaillet, October 31, 2016

A federal mandate requiring nearly all U.S. truck operators to use electronic logging devices to track duty status has been upheld in court, meaning the December 18, 2017, compliance date remains effective.

 
 

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal court overseeing the case, voted to keep the mandate in place, securing a victory for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and its ELD rule. Its decision was issued Oct. 31, following oral arguments made in Chicago on Sept. 13.

The decision does not change the rule’s exemption for pre-2000 year-model trucks, which are allowed to operate without an ELD.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed a lawsuit on behalf of two truckers in March in an attempt to have the mandate overturned. But OOIDA was unable to convince the court of its arguments that the rule violates truckers’ Fourth Amendment rights to privacy. OOIDA also claimed the rule didn’t meet standards set by Congress for an ELD mandate — an argument the court also rejected.

The rule "is not arbitrary or capricious, nor does it violate the Fourth Amendment," the 7th circuit judges wrote in their decision. The decision was issued by circuit judges William Bauer, Michael Kanne and David Hamilton.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is the same court that tossed out FMCSA’s 2010-published ELD mandate on the grounds that the rule didn’t do enough to protect truckers from harassment by carriers via the devices.

The court in its Oct. 31 decision said the agency fixed those issues in its 2015-issued rule. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is the highest court in the country next to the Supreme Court. OOIDA still has the option to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

The ELD mandate rule, published December 2015, requires all truckers currently required to paper logs to transition to an ELD by December 18, 2017.


 

DOT Extends Speed-Limiter Rule Comment Period
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by David Cullen, November 1, 2016

A 30-day extension of the public comment period for a proposed truck speed-limiter rule was announced today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

 
 

The new deadline for comments is Dec. 7.

The proposed rule would require all newly manufactured U.S. trucks, buses, and multipurpose passenger vehicles with GVWR over 26,000 pounds to be equipped with speed-limiting devices. Motor carriers would be responsible for maintaining the speed limiters at or below the designated speed for the service life of the vehicles.

According to the Department of Transportation, the proposed rule "discusses the benefits of setting the maximum speed at 60, 65, and 68 miles per hour, but the Agencies will consider other speeds based on public input."

That nebulous aspect drew heavy fire last month from the head of trucking’s biggest lobby. Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, slammed the rule during an Oct. 4 press conference. "The various differentials in speed from what this rule proposes and what state speed limits are is dangerous,” he said. “What is this proposal? Three speed limits, not one. No studies to back it up. And no national cap on limits to address speed differentials."

"Our policy focus now is to develop comments on this proposal, which in my humble opinion, is flawed," Spear continued. "We cannot afford to elevate risks for the motoring public with a rule that does not take into account the danger of differential speeds for cars and trucks."

Spear also said the two agencies have “the responsibility to study [what they’ve proposed] and come to a consensus about [setting] one speed and one national limit— not three speeds and no national limit [as is laid out in the proposal]."

To date, over 3300 public comments have been filed on the proposal. Existing comments may be viewed and new comments submitted online via this link.


 

Woman Indicted for Impersonating CDL Medical Examiner
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com/; by Trucking Info Staff, October 24, 2016

UPDATED — A federal grand jury in Harrisburg, Penn., has indicted Joann Wingate for wire fraud, submitting false documents and aggravated identity theft for impersonating a commercial driver’s license medical examiner.

 
 

Wingate, a 58-year old resident of Carlisle, Penn., allegedly used the identity of a licensed physician to administer physical examinations to CDL holders after her chiropractor’s license was suspended in October 2014. Wingate also claimed to be a medical doctor in order to serve as a medical review officer for drug tests for CDL holders.

Wingate advertised her medical services at rest stops and gas stations in the Carlisle area and has a business agreement with a Carlisle-based trucking company to handle driver drug and alcohol program requirements, alleged the indictment. She collected urine samples and turned them into medical laboratories and completed medical examinations and transmitted documentation to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Wingate is accused of defrauding CDL holders and the Carlislebased trucking company as well as creating and submitting false documents to the DOT’s vehicle safety program.

"In the 11 years I have been at FMCSA, this is the first case I have heard of someone impersonating a medical examiner – particularly since the 2014 launch of the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners," said Duane DeBruyne FMCSA Spokesman.

"Any carrier or any driver, however, who suspects fraudulent activity by a medical examiner or by a drug/alcohol test examiner or facility should contact the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General by writing to hotline@oig.dot.gov or by calling 800-424-9071."

UPDATE: Story updated to include comment from FMCSA Spokesman Duane DeBruyne.


 

Drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule moves closer to publication
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by Matt Cole, November 2, 2016

A final rule to establish a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for CDL holders has cleared its final hurdle before publication.

 
 

The CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse final rule would establish a database of CDL holders who have failed or refused to take a drug test. Having cleared the White House’s Office of Management and Budget on Monday, Oct. 31, the rule should be published soon.

The OMB gave the rule a "consistent with change" ruling, which means the rule is cleared to be published with changes recommended by OMB. Those recommendations were not published, and the final text of the rule won’t be known until it’s published in the Federal Register.

The clearinghouse would require carriers to submit positive tests and refusals to the database, and owner-operators must also report to FMCSA the consortium or third-party drug test administrator it uses and authorize it to submit information on any of its drivers, including themselves, to the database.

In its latest rulemaking update, the Department of Transportation estimated the rule would be published in the Federal Register on Nov. 23.


 

FMCSA grants an hours exemption for some oversize/overweight loads, denies another
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by Matt Cole, October 31, 2016

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted an hours-of-service exemption to the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association for drivers of certain oversize/overweight vehicles. The agency also has denied another exemption request requested by the group.

 
 

SC&RA’s main reasoning behind the exemption requests was the difficulty the drivers face finding parking for such large vehicles, which sometimes forces drivers to park on the shoulders of roads to comply with hours rules, the group says.

FMCSA granted an exemption from the federal 30-minute rest break requirement but denied a request to be exempted of the 14-hour rule. The 30-minute break exemption had already been granted to the association in June 2015 for drivers operating mobile cranes with a lifting capacity of greater than 30 tons. When the FAST Act highway bill was enacted in December 2015, it extended any HOS exemption already in effect to five years from when it was enacted, but it gave FMCSA the authority to limit exemptions to two years.

In the notice to be published in the Federal Register Nov. 1, FMCSA is exercising that authority and issuing a new exemption to SC&RA from the 30-minute rest break requirement for two years until Nov. 1, 2018. The agency says the unpredictable workday for mobile crane operators includes frequent interruptions and downtime, which, it says, reduces the risk of cumulative fatigue.

In the same notice, FMCSA denied a SC&RA request from the 14-hour daily on-duty window. The agency says even though the "30-minute break rule is unnecessarily restrictive for operators of large mobile cranes, the 14-hour window is far less restrictive," and adds that the 14-hour window is a "critical factor in containing fatigue that might otherwise develop." FMCSA says the 14-hour window should be built into planning for the operation of mobile cranes.


 

October 2016 Articles

DON'T Sit Down! Sitting All Day Really is Killing Us
Source: http://www.ushealthworks.com/; by US Healthworks, June 11, 2016

"Even with regular exercise, excessive sitting linked to disease, premature death"
"Two-minute walk every hour may reduce hazard of prolonged sitting"
"Too much sitting may have some serious health effects"

 
 

A stream of medical news headlines over the past few months has been hammering home the same point: sitting is terrible for us, and it’s causing major concern among doctors (and those of us who sit for eight or more hours a day at desk jobs and during our daily commute).

Much research has been conducted on the topic of sedentary lifestyles, and here are just some of the frightening findings.

• A review of 47 studies shows that the time a person spends sitting each day produces detrimental effects that outweigh the benefits reaped from exercise.

• Sitting was found to increase your risk of death from virtually all health problems.

• For example, sitting for more than eight hours a day was associated with a 90 percent increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes and a 147 percent increased relative risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who sit the least.

• All-cause mortality is also increased by 50 percent. In fact, chronic sitting has a mortality rate similar to smoking!

• An article published in the British Medical Journal highlights the hazards of our sedentary lifestyle with findings that indicated sitting increases lung cancer by 54 percent; uterine cancer by 66 percent, and colon cancer by 30 percent.

• The less you exercise, the more pronounced the detrimental effects of sitting.

The reason for this increased health risk is thought to be linked to weight gain and associated biochemical changes, such as alterations in hormones, metabolic dysfunction, leptin dysfunction and inflammation. Research also shows that your risk for anxiety and depression rises right along with hours spent in your chair.

Dr. James Levine, co-director of the Mayo Clinic and the Arizona State University Obesity Initiative, and author of the book Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, has conducted investigations that show that when you’ve been sitting for a long period of time and then get up, a number of molecular cascades occur. For example, within 90 seconds of standing up, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol—which are mediated by insuli—are activated.

All of these molecular effects are activated simply by carrying your own bodyweight. These cellular mechanisms are also responsible for pushing fuel into your cells and, if done regularly, will decrease your risk of diabetes and obesity.

Basically, at the molecular level, our bodies were designed to be active and on-the-move all day long. When we stop moving for extended periods of time, it’s like telling the body that it’s time to shut down and prepare for death… (a little dramatic, but you get the idea.)

Dr. Levine notes that while we need to rest from time to time, that rest is supposed to break up activity—not the other way around! Inactivity—sitting—is not supposed to be a way of life.

As a consequence of sitting, our blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and toxic build-up all rise.

The solution to these adverse events is to get up, and avoid sitting down as much as possible. If you’ve been sitting down for a full hour, you’ve sat for too long, and the cellular mechanisms involved in the maintenance of your body and health are shutting down.

So, get up! Get up! Get up!


 

Falling Fuel Prices Have Reduced Operational Costs
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by Trucking Info Staff, September 27, 2016

The American Transportation Research Institute released the 2016 update to its report, An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking, showing the impact falling fuel prices and a soft economy have had on the trucking industry.

 
 

Using financial data provided directly by motor carriers throughout the country, this research documents and analyzes trucking costs from 2008 through 2015, giving trucking industry stakeholders a high-level benchmarking tool and government agencies a baseline for transportation infrastructure improvement analyses.

The average marginal cost per mile in 2015 was $1.59, a 6% decrease from the $1.70 found in 2014. This decline in average marginal cost per mile is attributed mostly to the steady fall in fuel prices experienced throughout 2015, but also identifies the late-2015 economic softening that continued into 2016.

For the first time since ATRI started collecting the industry's operational costs data, driver costs now represent a higher percentage of overall costs than fuel does. In 2015 fuel costs averaged 40.3 cents per mile, while driver wages and benefits cost fleets an average of 63 cents.

"ATRI's 'ops cost' research is an excellent barometer of the state of the nation's economy, as it documented the softening in 2015 but also indicates that costs will be on the rise in 2016," said Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations and a member of the ATRI research advisory committee.

The report found that the average fleet age increased to 8.7 years in 2015 compared to 7.4 years in 2014, while the average miles driven per truck decreased in the same period of time. These point to a larger trend of carriers holding onto equipment for longer and logging fewer miles per year. In private fleets, the trend was reversed: the average Class 8 tractor age fell from 7.4 years to 6.7 years.

New to this year's report is additional information on fleet-wide fuel economy and operating speeds and the relationship between speed limiter use and fuel economy. Over 85% of surveyed fleets reported using speed limiters, with the majority of those fleets using it on all trucks. Fleets that used speed limiters also showed a better average fuel economy than those without – 6.4 mpg to 6.0 mpg respectively.

In addition to average costs per mile, ATRI's report documents average costs per hour, cost breakouts by industry sector, and operating cost comparisons of U.S. regions. To obtain a copy of the report, go to www.atri-online.org.


 

Temporary hours of service exemptions issued for fuel haulers in five states
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by Jill Dunn, September 21, 2016

Colonial Pipeline is scheduled to restart its Line 1 today, Sept. 21, following a leak that began earlier this month, causing hundreds of thousands of gallons of gasoline to flood remote parts of Alabama.

 
 

In light of the leak, five states have suspended hours of service regulations for fuel transporters: Kentucky, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. Georgia had a temporary waiver in place, but it has expired. The state has not renewed the waiver.

States supplied by that line were hit by price increases and shortages after a leak was detected Sept. 9 near Pelham, Alabama. About 6,000 barrels of gasoline flowed into a pond from Line 1, which connects Collins, Mississippi, and Greensboro, North Carolina.

The company attempted to mitigate supply problems by shipping "significant volumes" on Line 2, the distillate main line from Epes, Alabama, to Anderson, South Carolina. After safety testing is finished on the newly built bypass, Southern Pipeline will connect it to Line 1 as a temporary means to restore the supply chain.

Kentucky’s emergency declaration ends Oct. 5. Additionally, HOS waivers expire Oct. 15 for Alabama and North Carolina; Oct 1 for Virginia and Sept. 23 for Tennessee.


 

Engagement Key to Lowering Early Driver Turnover Rates
Source: https://wasteadvantagemag.com/; by Waste Advantage Mag Staff, October 4, 2016

Getting newly-hired truck drivers engaged in "positive feedback" loops early on in their tenure with motor carriers is critical to preventing what’s being dubbed "hire and retire syndrome" or "early turnover" within 90 days, research firm Stay Metrics suggests.

 
 

Based on its analysis of 24,000 drivers employed at 80 carriers using its loyalty and engagement programs, Stay Metrics found that out of 100 drivers, 33 will leave 90 days after being hired, with 22 leaving by the 180-day mark.

To prevent such early turnover, Tim Hindes, CEO of Stay Metrics, explained in a conference call with reporters that trucking company "messaging" needs to be aligned between the recruiting and orientation stages of driver hiring, as well is into the "operation" phase, as a bad first impression is hard to overcome.

"Driver recruits come with a set of pre-arrival expectations, competencies, and experiences that will be shaped by what company says the job will be like," added Timothy Judge, the firm’s director of research, during the conference call, which was hosted by Stifel Financial.

"Then they look at the interaction of what they thought the job would be like, what they were prepared to deal with, and then what it really is like; that is the 'encounter' phase," he explained.

"Then go through this metamorphosis from their pre-arrival mentality to reality. It happens very early and [that] influences their productivity, commitment and turnover rates down the line," Judge stressed. "First impressions really matter. A lot of people have a really harsh reality shock: job thought getting into not what presented with, sometimes due to their own false impressions. When that happens there is a big reality shock and expectations gap."

During this "shock and surprise" period, many new drivers think a lot about whether stay or not. "If they quit, they will quit fairly early," he said. "That is why turnover so high in the early stage of employment."


 

DOT issues guidance, basic safety measures for autonomous vehicles, including heavy-duty trucks
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by James Jaillet, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued Sept. 20 regulatory framework for vehicle manufacturers, state regulators and other stakeholders regarding the development and deployment of autonomous cars and trucks. The proposed policy initiative comes as both traditional automotive makers and tech giants march increasingly closer to readying such technology for public use.

 
 

The 114-page document, which the DOT is accepting public comment on for 60 days, intends to set safety standards for companies developing self-driving vehicles and to establish a unified national policy on vehicle automation. DOT says its Federal Automated Vehicles Policy was developed to help hasten the development of autonomous vehicles while also addressing safety issues "at the front-end of development," DOT says.

The proposed guidelines set a 15-point safety assessment, which requires autonomous vehicle manufacturers to submit a notice to the DOT stating their autonomous vehicles meet certain specifications regarding crashworthiness, individual privacy, cybersecurity, safety systems, privacy, data recording, ethics and more.

"There are huge upsides and significant challenges that come with automated vehicle technology, and we will continue the conversation with the public over the coming months and years as this technology develops," said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx in an address announcing the policy proposal. "Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives, driving the single biggest leap in road safety that our country has ever taken."

The DOT noted in its announcement that more than 35,000 people were killed in the U.S. in car crashes last year, and more than 94 percent of the crashes were caused by "a human choice or error," says Mark Rosekind, head of the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Autonomous vehicle deployment could dramatically reduce those numbers, the DOT says.

DOT and NHTSA will be accepting public comment on its proposal for 60 days following the proposal’s publication in the Federal Register, likely this week. CCJ will publish a link to the regulations.gov rulemaking portal once the proposal is officially published.

In addition to the safety assessments established by the policy, the DOT also set roles relative to autonomous vehicles for federal and state governments. The federal government will retain control over setting vehicle standards and enforcing compliance with such standards, along with managing recalls.

States will, similar to their duties with non-autonomous vehicles, be responsible for licensing drivers and registering vehicles, establishing and enforcing traffic laws, conduct inspections and regulate vehicle insurance.


 

September 2016 Articles

NACFE: Trucking industry made fuel economy strides in 2015 via fuel-saving tech, add-ons
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by Lucas Deal, August 24, 2016

Substantial fuel savings continue to be available for fleets willing to reach for them, the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) announced Wednesday in releasing results of its Annual Fleet Fuel Study.

 
 

In releasing its 2016 results, NACFE says 17 fleets totaling more than 62,000 tractors and 217,000 trailers that participated in its study saw a 3 percent overall increase in fuel economy in 2015 — the eighth consecutive year-over-year increase — resulting in a savings of nearly $501 million in fuel costs compared to the 2015 national average.

The results are "not only more of the same but a lot more," says Dave Schaller, NACFE industry engagement director. "Despite seeing fuel prices drop considerably … fuel economy averages are still up." NACFE says the 3 percent increase of 6.87 mpg to 7.06 mpg by its fleets was the largest margin of improvement during the recent eight-year increase, and with a trade cycle for the fleets at a little more than five years, NACFE estimates the new trucks in the study are about 16 percent more efficient than the 2010 model year trucks they replaced.

NACFE cites new mandatory vehicle technology, and optional add-on technology at the OEM and aftermarket levels as the reason for the continuing improvements.

"Improvements in both the fuel economy and bottom lines of the leading fleets this year provide a compelling call to action for the rest of the industry," says Mike Roeth, operation lead for CWR’s Trucking Efficiency and executive director of NACFE. "Investing in efficiency technologies is the new normal. And these fleets are continuing to make investments because they do not want to be caught short when fuel prices go up again."

NACFE estimates the investment its 17 fleets have made in fuel efficient technologies are showing a payback of 2.5 years on average. It also says that other than a few exceptions, nearly all of the 69 fuel efficient technologies available in the market today are seeing steady yearly increases in adoption.

Additionally, Roeth says fleets that participated in the study are increasing their adoption of technologies that will likely be required under the new fuel economy and emission regulations released last week.

"There is clearly a need to increase the confidence in and/or payback of many of these technologies for wider-scale use," he says. "Manufacturers must improve the availability and payback of these technologies to profitably meet the requirements of the final GHG2 regulations."


 

The Biggest Culprit for Back Injuries: Heavy Lifting on the Job
Source: http://www.ushealthworks.com; by ushealthworks, July 23, 2016

Workplace back injuries are a big deal. There are over a million back injuries per year in the U.S. alone, and 25% of all workers’ compensation indemnity claims involve back pain. The loss is measured in the billions of dollars.

 
 

That doesn’t even count the personal cost in loss of well-being (a euphemism for misery). I have had two low back surgeries, so my expertise is, unfortunately, more than academic. If serious low back pain is not on your bucket list, let’s figure out how to avoid it.

The low back is a complicated system of bones, muscles, cartilage, ligaments and nerves. At its simplest, the low back is a stack of 2-inch cylindrical bones, with cushions between them, hinged on one side to allow a little movement. This stack is attached to the pelvis. The spine is oriented up and down and sits on the pelvis, which is transversely oriented (sideways) – picture an upside down T. Most back trouble comes from where the spine is attached to the pelvis, which is called the L5-S1 or bottom disc.

Most back injuries understandably come from lifting, and the rest result from pushing, pulling and lowering.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to avoid back injuries:

Pick 'em: One way to reduce back injuries is to make sure the person selected to do the lifting is strong enough to physically do it. When you are operating at the limit of your strength, all thoughts of technique are ignored; you are just trying to survive. Strength testing before putting someone on a heavy lifting job can ensure their strength is appropriate for the job.

Train ‘em: Some variation of "back school" should be a part of anyone’s orientation to a lifting job. The basics include keeping heavy lifts between knees and shoulders. Getting outside of those limits puts more pressure on the back and takes more strength to perform.

• Weights need to be kept close to the body. Any distance between the weight and your trunk acts as a lever magnifying the force on your low back.

• Lift with your back straight, or lift with your knees bent (another way of saying it). The point is to use your thigh muscles, which are some of the strongest muscles in the body, and are difficult to injure.

• Keep your lifts simple and sure. Get a good grip – many injuries occur while fumbling to improve your hold. Lift, then turn with your whole body. Combining a heavy lift with rotation puts complex forces on the back and increases the injury rate.

Remember to warm up if expecting to do some heavy lifting. Stretching is important before stressing any complex system. You instinctively know you should not start a car in extremely cold weather and immediately “floor it.” Something will break. The same goes for your body.

Next, look at the job and the job site. This primarily applies to a formal job where the person does specific lifting tasks. “Sanity in design” should be the motto. Are the floors skid proof? Can the employee physically get close enough to the load to safely lift it? Are there obstructions that limit the ability to lift safely? Can the load be lifted more safely by ordering smaller packages, doing a two-man lift or machinery assist?

Some jobs make safe lifting a challenge at best. Take, for example, commercial airlines. Loading commercial passenger airline baggage has the physical dimensions of the plane to contend with. The cargo hold is only four feet high.

Compounding that, many passengers routinely travel with deceptively heavy bags. In this rather extreme case, the employer uses selection, training and administrative tools to reduce injuries. Bags are weighed and red- tagged if heavy, reducing surprises, which can cause injury. Fees discourage heavy bags. Machinery moves the bag to the level where it can be loaded with the least risk to back. Employees are tested for strength, flexibility and extensively trained.

Considerable reductions in back injuries have been accomplished, even in this challenging circumstance.

Back injury prevention is possible with attention to the whole dynamic surrounding the injury. The individual, the training, the work and the circumstances all need to be examined.

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.


 

FMCSA begins campaign for better driving around trucks
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by CCJ Staff, August 12, 2016

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration launched Thursday, Aug. 11, a new campaign aimed at raising public awareness about how to drive around large trucks and buses.

 
 

Through the new campaign, dubbed "Our Roads, Our Responsibility," FMCSA suggests several tips to motorists sharing the road with trucks. FMCSA’s suggestions are as follows:

• Stay out of the "no zones," or blind spots, around the front,back and sides of the vehicles

• Pass safely and make sure you can see the driver in the mirrorbefore passing

• Don’t cut it close while merging in front of a CMV

• Anticipate wide turns and consider larger vehicles may require extra turning room

• Stay focused on the road around you and avoid distraction

• Be patient driving around large trucks and buses

The agency created graphics to go along with the campaign, as well as compiled a list of state-by-state crash data involving commercial vehicles. FMCSA also created materials for industry stakeholders to use to promote the campaign to the public, including radio PSAs, billboards and social media content, all of which can be found here.

"Trucks and buses move people and goods around the country, contributing to our economic wellbeing and our way of life," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These commercial vehicles also carry additional safety risks, so it’s critical that all road users understand how to safely share the road."

FMCSA says nearly 12 million CMVs are registered to operate in the U.S., and these vehicles logged more than 300 billion miles in 2014. FMCSA Administrator Scott Darling said the campaign supports the agency’s mission of "reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities involving commercial motor vehicles on our roadways."


 

Medical board’s rec’s to FMCSA on sleep apnea could preview rule
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by Trucking Info Staff, July 20, 2016

The Medical Review Board of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration outlined this week its official recommendations to the agency on screening and disqualification criteria for truck drivers who are suspected of having moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

 
 

The board’s preliminary recommendations, which have not yet been approved by the board, encourage FMCSA to require a trucker to be screened for sleep apnea if he or she:

(1) has a body mass index greater than 40, or

(2) has a body mass index greater than 33 and meets three of the following: is older than 42, is male, is a postmenopausal female, has diabetes, has high blood pressure, has a neck size greater than 17 inches (males) or 15.5 inches (females), has a history of heart disease, snores loudly, has witnessed apneas, has a small airway, has untreated hypothyroidism or has micrognathia or retrognathia.

So male truck operators older than 42 and who have a BMI of 33 would only need to meet one of the other criterion to automatically qualify for screening.

The board also would recommend that FMCSA allow truckers with a sleep apnea diagnosis to continue to operate if they’re being "treated effectively," which is defined as "the resolution of moderate to severe OSA to mild or better, as determined by a certified sleep specialist," according to the board’s preliminary discussion report.

These recommendations — and the others discussed by the board this week — are not yet final, however, as the board did not vote to approve them. Another meeting will be needed to finalize and approve the recommendations. No meeting date is set yet.

Also, the recommendations are only recommendations. FMCSA has no legal requirement to adopt any of the board’s suggestions, but it will likely lean on them when developing a sleep apnea rule, if it chooses. The board based its recommendations on multiple public meetings held this year, in which board members heard testimony from truckers and industry advocacy groups, along with expert testimony from doctors. The board also relied on formal public comments made on its "pre-rule" questionnaire to the industry about apnea’s prevalence, screening and treatment, costs and more.

The meetings and the formal questionnaire were not only initiated to determine what a sleep apnea rule may look like, but to determine if a rule was needed at all. Some commenters in the meetings and in the pre-rule comments nipped the agency for not seeking data on sleep apnea’s correlation to crashes.

There are also industry-wide concerns about the costs associated with a sleep apnea rule, particular to truckers, as screening and treatment often require costly out-of-pocket expenses, even if they’re insured. Among other preliminary recommendations outlined by the board this week is a provision to limit truckers who’ve received a sleep apnea diagnosis to a yearly medical certification, even if the diagnosis was for mild apnea.

This means truckers with any type of apnea diagnosis would need to be recertified at least annually, if not more often, rather than the standard every-other-year certification.

The board also spelled out screening and treatment requirements and a conditional certification measure. Medical examiners under the board’s recommendations would be able to issue 90-day condition medical certifications to truckers who’ve been referred for sleep screening based on the aforementioned risk factors (BMI, etc.). Such truck operators would be required to be tested and begin treatment within the allotted 90 days.

A full year’s certification could be issued afterward.

Discussed treatment options in the board’s preliminary report include (1) use of PAP machine or other oral appliance, (2) bariatric surgery, (3) oropharyngeal surgery or facial bone surgery and (4) tracheostomy.


 

Ohio Marijuana Law Won’t Change Zero-Tolerance Policies
Source: https://www.shrm.org; by Lisa Nagele-Piazza, SHRM-SCP, J.D., August 3, 2016

Policies may need updating to clarify that the use of medical marijuana isn’t tolerated in the workplace.

 
 

The use of medical marijuana for certain illnesses will soon be legal under Ohio law, but that doesn't mean employers have to tolerate it, according to employment attorneys interviewed by SHRM Online.

"The law says very specifically that employers still have the right to have a zero-tolerance policy regarding the use of medical marijuana in the workplace and employees do not have the right to sue their employer for taking action," said Sarah Moore, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Cleveland.

In addition to Ohio, 24 other states and Washington, D.C., have laws permitting the use of medical marijuana, but the details of those state laws vary.

The Ohio law is very employer-friendly, said Kathryn Russo, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Long Island, N.Y.

The trend over the last three to four years has been for these state laws to contain a workplace anti-discrimination provision, she said. The Ohio law, however, doesn't require employers to accommodate any employee use of medical marijuana.

Even in states that do provide employment protections for medical marijuana users, the laws permit employers to have "no impairment" policies that prohibit employees from using marijuana, illegal drugs or alcohol at work. Employers may also have policies requiring workers who operate vehicles or machinery to provide notice if they are taking prescription or over-the-counter medication that may impair their job performance.

Employee Discipline

Employees can still be terminated under the new Ohio law even if they are using marijuana off duty and are in compliance with the statute, said Kevin Griffith, an attorney with Littler in Columbus, Ohio.

However, employers that want to maintain a zero-tolerance policy should consider amending their policy to make it clear that, even though Ohio law permits the use of medical marijuana, it isn't tolerated in the workplace, Griffith said.

Although Ohio employers will retain the right to prohibit marijuana use, there is still value in approaching employee discipline very carefully, Moore noted. This is because the conditions for which medical marijuana will be permitted are all covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The new law will permit the use of marijuana by patients who suffer from certain medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder.

If an employer is considering firing someone with one of these conditions for using medical marijuana, the company should have a plan for responding to social media and public reactions without running afoul of any privacy concerns, she said.

No Distribution Yet

Patients with qualifying medical conditions or their caregivers must register with the state and receive a patient identification card to be eligible to use marijuana under the Ohio law.

An interesting point about the law is that it doesn't allow smoking of marijuana, Russo noted. It allows the use of marijuana in the form of oils, edibles, tinctures or vapor.

Although the law is scheduled to take effect in September, "there isn't going to be a medical marijuana industry in Ohio for at least a year or two," Griffith said.

The law gives the state department of commerce and the board of pharmacy a year to establish standards and procedures for the Medical Marijuana Control Program, Griffith explained. Marijuana can't be sold until certain processes for regulating—as well as the regulating body—are created, so it may be a year or longer before the program is up and running.

Federal Ban Remains

"The state law doesn't give Ohioans any immunity from the federal controlled substances laws," Griffith noted. "Anyone who decides to use medical marijuana in Ohio does so at their own risk in light of federal criminal laws," he said. However, this likely isn't a significant risk because the federal government has so far taken a hands-off approach in states with these laws—though that doesn't mean it won't ever decide to take enforcement measures.

Moore mentioned that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice have been considering downgrading marijuana from a schedule one to a schedule three drug.

Schedule one drugs include heroine and peyote, schedule two drugs include cocaine and oxycodone, and schedule three drugs are "drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence," such as Tylenol with codeine and anabolic steroids.

If marijuana is changed to a schedule three drug, "that might change the game for employers," Moore said. For now, however, everything remains the same for Ohio employers except that they should update their zero-tolerance policy to specifically address the medical marijuana law.

Multistate Employers

"Employers need to recognize that each state stands on its own with regard to marijuana use," Moore said.

"They shouldn't assume that the Ohio framework will be the same as medical marijuana laws in other states," she said. "It's a state-by-state analysis."

"Ohio is very employer-friendly, even with this law, but other states are not," Russo said. "Some of the newer marijuana laws include express anti-retaliation language, and in those states it's a very delicate issue for employers."

In New York, Russo said, doctor-prescribed medical marijuana use is covered under the state's disability and reasonable accommodation laws.

Employers need to proceed a little more cautiously in states with these provisions, she said. The most important thing to do is look at job duties. If employees are doing something with the potential for significant danger, such as operating a vehicle or forklift, an employer may not want to take the chance of having a marijuana user in those kinds of jobs. However, employees who work office jobs and use marijuana may not present as much of a danger in the workplace.

Large employers that operate in multiple states may feel it's too burdensome to have many different marijuana policies, Russo said. They still have a choice to say, "Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and we follow federal law."


 

August 2016 Articles

Roadside drug testing pilot program coming to Michigan
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by Matt Cole, July 20, 2016

The state of Michigan will implement a pilot program later this year that will allow police to conduct roadside saliva tests to determine the presence of drugs in a driver’s system.

 
 

The law, signed recently by Gov. Rick Snyder, allows the Michigan State Police to create a one-year pilot program in five counties to be named later in which troopers that are "certified drug recognition experts" can conduct the tests during traffic stops if it appears the driver is under the influence.

"This is common sense legislation that empowers our law enforcement officials to conduct roadside tests for drugs so we can help make Michigan’s roads safer," said Sen. Tom Casperson, sponsor of the bill

Troopers that have gone through the training to become certified drug recognition experts could conduct the test at roadside by swabbing the saliva of a driver. The test can determine the presence of Schedule 1-5 controlled substances, much like a breathalyzer detects alcohol.

Casperson said if the pilot proves to be reliable, roadside drug testing could be implemented statewide.

The law, dubbed the Barbara J. and Thomas J. Swift Law, comes after the couple, both age 73 at the time, were killed in a 2013 crash with a logging truck. The driver of the truck, Harley Davidson Durocher, was found to have marijuana in his system after the wreck.


 

Hookah Pens, e-Cigarettes and the FDA
Source: http://www.ushealthworks.com; by ushealthworks, July 20, 2016

Smoking reduction has been one of the major public health victories in the U.S. Looking at a graph, there is a steady decline in smoking from 44% of adults in 1965 to 15% today.

 
 

However, the view from 10,000 feet blurs the details of the very real life-or-death struggles between "tobacco" and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For about the past 40 years, the tobacco industry had the money, talent and expertise to outmaneuver the FDA.

One of the more epic struggles was the introduction of filters on cigarettes. This was a great common sense solution and a marketing home run for the cigarette industry. Unfortunately, the filters were ingeniously designed to not filter out nicotine, something that took a few years to figure out.

"Light cigarettes" also had their day in the sun. Millions bought them thinking it was a safer cigarette (picture Marilyn Monroe by the pool smoking). Of course, everyone unconsciously inhaled more deeply, nullifying the supposed benefit from smoking light cigarettes.

You probably remember that Joe Camel, who was created to sell cigarettes, was indeed the embodiment of cool. It was no accident that the group most interested in cool was our teenagers and young adults. I bet you can still mentally picture that crazy camel. Joe Camel was banished to our memories, where he is still trying to make smoking appear cool.

The latest smoking-related craze is hookah pens/e-cigarettes. Smoking has definitely infiltrated the digital age. A battery-powered ultrasonic vaporizer turns nicotine solution into mist for your inhalation pleasure.

My teenage daughter alerted me to the presence of hookah pens three years ago. So here we are again with efforts to make young customers lifetime tobacco users. I did a little investigation and found that nicotine was still nicotine!

I made a little noise, writing an article or two (the blogs appeared in April 2013 and December 2013) and doing several interviews on the topic.

Much to my surprise, I received many irate calls, threats and even calls to my employer demanding they fire me. Now that’s quite a lobbing effort. This all blew by quickly and a couple of e-cigarette stores even opened near my U.S. HealthWorks medical center (you can’t make this stuff up).

Back at 10,000 feet, the FDA has recently spoken. They are no longer concerned about the smoke vs. mist angle and have taken a strong stand, regulating all products containing nicotine, which will be treated essentially like cigarettes. The FDA won’t allow these products to be sold to anyone under the age of 18, both in person and online.

The hope here is that e-cigarettes will go the way of Joe Camel. Consenting adults can make up their mind, but hookah pens / e-cigarettes should not be available to impressionable young people.

Take care,

Dr. B

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.


 

How to Reduce Technician Turnover
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by Denise Rondini, Aftermarket Editor, July 2016

Bad bosses and job duties that don’t meet employee expectations are the two main reasons technicians leave their jobs, according to Dick Finnegan, CEO of C-Suite Analytics, an employee engagement and retention consulting firm. Speaking at the NationaLease Maintenance Managers meeting earlier this year, Finnegan said fleets should build their retention solutions around those two findings.

 
 

The first step to cutting technician turnover is to understand which types of employees are most likely to stay with you. Finnegan cited the Department of Labor saying, “The length of time a worker remains with the same employer increases with the age at which the worker began the job." Finnegan says that by time they are 38, younger workers will have had 10 to 12 jobs.

Step two involves telling the truth about the position you are filling. You must cover things like working conditions (weather, noise, sitting, standing, sweating) and things such as volume and speed of work, as well as the length of time between breaks.

You also need to tell prospects and new employees about the people they will be working with, how closely they will be supervised, the types of customers they will be servicing and the volume of work they will be expected to handle. More obvious issues to cover are pay and benefits, as well as a realistic idea of growth opportunities within the company.

"You need to make sure you are completely honest here," Finnegan says. "Determine what it is that they don’t know about the job that they need to know, even if it is something that will make them pass on the job opportunity. What you want to develop is a realistic job description, not a fairy tale version."

From job fairs, to online postings, to radio advertisements and employee referrals, there are a number of ways to recruit new employees. Finnegan’s company has the data to show that people brought on via employee referrals tend to stay longer and perform better.

And speaking of referrals, when you are awarding employees for referral candidates, make sure you do so with something they really want. Finnegan says these awards should be open to everyone in your organization and even extended to referrals from customers. Set a goal for the percent of hires you want to come through referrals and hold managers accountable for that goal. When you are ready to make a job offer, it should include the pay and benefits you are offering but Finnegan suggests adding something along the lines of, “We hope you accept the offer but please say ‘yes’ only if you see yourself with use for at least X years."

You are not asking prospects to guarantee that they will stay for that period of time, but simply asking them to envision the length of their engagement with you. He adds that when you present the offer this way, some 20 percent will say "no," but "if they say ‘yes,’ they have made their first step toward a commitment to you." In addition, he suggests that the prospective employee’s manager be the one to make the final job offer.

One way to help ensure your managers hire people who will stay on the job rather than just try to get a vacant position filled, is to hold them accountable for employee retention.

Finnegan suggests setting retention goals for each manager. Remember a bad boss is one of the main reasons people leave a job and trust plays a big part in that. “If managers can’t build trust with their employees, fix them or fire them,” Finnegan advises. A way to make the loss of an employee real is to understand the dollar value when an employee quits and then report employee turnover in dollars on your financial statements.

If you use recruiters, hold them accountable for turnover as well. After all, they are the ones who determine who gets interviewed and who doesn’t.

The final step is having your managers forecast retention. They need to determine which of their employees are likely to leave, who is on the fence, and who they think will definitely stay. "Then they need to develop a retention plan if they care about retaining a person," he says.

From his experience, Finnegan has ranked six ideas that yield the best results. Here is what he found:

1. Hiring manager accountability

2. Hiring manager forecasting

3. Recruiter accountability

4. Realistic job previews

5. Employee referrals

6. Offer letter

One other thing you might want to consider to help meet your retention goals is a "stay interview." According to Finnegan, a stay interview is a structured discussion a manger has with each employee, once or twice a year, to determine specific actions that must be taken to help ensure that employee remains with the company.

These interviews should include questions about what the employee looks forward to when coming to work; what they are learning on the job; what more they want to learn; why they stay on; when they last thought about leaving; and why and what the company could be doing to make the work job experience better.


 

FMCSA Delays Online DOT Registration System Implementation
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by Trucking Info Staff, July 20, 2016

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is delaying the implementation of the final stage of its simplified online registration process, called the Unified Registration System, until Jan. 14, 2017.

 
 

The FMCSA has also set the full compliance date for April 14, 2017. The agency is currently updating its information technology systems and moving millions of records to remote storage servers. This work is creating a foundation that will allow the FMCSA and its state partners to successfully launch the final stage of URS, according to the agency.

The Unified Registration System is a process that combines multiple legacy reporting forms into a single, online "smart form" that is designed to streamline the registration and renewal process. The system was created to improve efficiency and reduce errors and was originally supposed to be fully implemented this year.

When fully implemented, the URS will allow FMCSA to identify unfit carriers and detect unsafe truck and bus companies that are trying to evade enforcement actions. Offending companies often attempt to regain U.S. DOT registration by registering as a different or unrelated business entity.

The agency estimates that the initial phase of URS, which was launched in December 2015, has saved the industry around $1.6 million in processing time in its first six months. The FMCSA has issued 62,000 U.S. DOT numbers and removed 340,000 dormant U.S. DOT numbers from its agency databases and screened 100% of operating authority applications for reincarnated carriers.


 

Coffee: Friend or Foe?
Source: http://www.ushealthworks.com; by ushealthworks, July 7, 2016

People are divided into two groups when it comes to coffee. Many consider it a vice and are pretty sure it’s unhealthy, while the rest consider a cup of Joe the stuff of life that gives them the vigor to face each day.

 
 

The prevailing feeling is most people think coffee is bad for them, but well worth any potential health risk.

Coffee continues to evolve and its descendants are equally controversial. Espresso drinks, home grind and drip brewed, pod brewed and now "bulletproof coffee" are among the choices.

Coffee and tea are the world’s most popular beverages. Approximately 130 million Americans are regular coffee drinkers and 1.6 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide each day. That’s a lot of Joe. Big numbers like that usually make trouble easy to spot.

The World Health Organization (WHO) first weighed in on the coffee question in 1991. It considered coffee a possible carcinogenic, which would not be a good way to start your day. It turns out that many of the studies reviewed for the 1991 opinion were flawed. The cancer found in these older studies was related to the cigarettes that accompanied the coffee. Back then, cigarettes and coffee were cohabitating and got along famously, much like red beans and rice. But it was later discovered that getting rid of the cigarettes resulted in coffee drinkers actually living longer.

Coffee is full of bioflavonoids, those strong antioxidants that seem to protect us from cancer. Coffee beans share some of the same antioxidants with well-known superfoods like cranberries and blueberries. Who knew?

More than 1,000 studies were reviewed for the 2016 WHO report on coffee. These were recent studies that controlled for the confounding influence of cigarette smoking. Coffee showed a clear reduction in cancer, specifically in the liver and uterus.

The benefits of coffee extend beyond making you a little more cancer resistant – and more awake. Parkinson’s risk is significantly lower in coffee drinkers. So is Type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease. There is very early evidence that Alzheimer’s risk is also lower in coffee drinkers.

Under the microscope, coffee kills cancer cells. That is in concentrations that would require substituting your entire circulation blood volume with coffee. Of course, that’s a little extreme. Yet the WHO study concludes that coffee drinkers on average live longer than those who abstain.

Bulletproof coffee is the latest coffee-based drink to take the world by storm. This is coffee brewed and then blended with fats such as butter and/or coconut oil.

Some Eastern cultures drink buttered coffee, which is where the idea for bulletproof coffee probably came from. There are unsubstantiated claims that the drink can make you work at a higher level and lose weight. While those are scientifically unlikely, the drink still discourages cancer and Parkinson’s.

One minor caveat to the latest news on coffee – don’t scald your throat with extremely hot coffee (over 160 degrees Fahrenheit). Repeating burns to the same area can increase the risk of throat cancer. But it’s not the coffee doing the damage, it’s the burn. Coffee has come full circle, from a beverage with a slightly unsavory reputation to one that actually makes you healthy – and awake enough to enjoy it.

Take care,

Dr. B

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.


 

July 2016 Articles

Two trucking groups file briefs in ELD suit – backing the full mandate
Source: http://www.landlinemag.com; by Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor, June 24, 2016

The lawsuit brought by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association seeking to overturn the electronic log mandate, has two more trucking-related groups along with a third group attempting to push the mandate forward with brief filed on Wednesday, June 22.

 
 

The American Trucking Associations and The Trucking Alliance, both Washington, D.C.-based large motor carrier interest groups, have filed amici curiae or "friend of the court" briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. The Trucking Alliance was joined by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in their brief.

The three groups offered arguments siding with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and a full electronic log mandate.

OOIDA filed suit against the agency on Dec. 11, 2015, the day after FMCSA published the final rule mandating that all trucks model year 2000 and newer be equipped with electronic logging devices. The Association is seeking a petition of review of the rule and the procedures the agency followed in arriving at the rule. A successful review can result in all or part of a rule being overturned.

The June 22 filings by ATA and The Trucking Alliance both laud the benefits their member motor carriers have experienced by using the devices.

"ATA and its member companies … have a strong interest in seeing the final rule implemented, so that all motor carriers operating in interstate commerce who are subject to the rule’s terms will benefit from improved HOS regulatory compliance and reduction in fatigue-related crashes," the ATA brief states.

The Trucking Alliance and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety shared similar reasoning for filing their brief in support of the mandate.

"The Trucking Alliance and Advocates have a considerable interest in the outcome of this case as representatives of the broad coalition that has worked tirelessly to develop, test, and promote the use of ELDs in the interest of highway safety," the joint brief states.

The arguments in the filings do not come as a big surprise to OOIDA.

"They have been pushing for electronic monitoring systems for years," OOIDA President Jim Johnston told Land Line Now. “They were strong proponents of it even before FMCSA started the rulemaking process – that and speed limiters.

"The reason they want to do that is because motor carriers that employ those electronic monitoring systems do so for company purposes, for management purposes, for productivity purposes," Johnston said.

Underscoring Johnston’s assessment of the groups’ motivation, included in both briefs are arguments backing the increased productivity electronic logs bring.

"By eliminating handwritten paper logbooks and replacing them with electronic records, ELDs shorten the time it takes drivers to record their time and substantially reduce the effort required on the part of carriers to audit and manage their drivers’ compliance with the HOS rules," The Trucking Alliance brief states.

The ATA brief tracked along the same lines.

"Many ATA members and others in the trucking industry have taken advantage of the 1988 rule to adopt (automatic onboard recording device) technology over the years as a means to improve their HOS compliance, lower administrative costs in comparison with paper logs, and reduce driver fatigue," the ATA brief states.

Johnston said that quest for efficiency and ease of management has backfired over the years with record-high turnover of drivers who refused to agree to the monitoring and schedules dictated by companies using the devices.

"The problem they have is drivers weren’t going along with it. They weren't signing onto those companies. So the companies want to level the playing field – in their words. You force everybody to have them and the drivers aren’t going to have any choice," Johnston said.

OOIDA’s fight against electronic logs goes far beyond logistics on the road, according to Johnston.

"It is extremely important because it involves Constitutional rights of truckers. If they can do this they can do just about anything,” Johnston said. “We don’t think they can and we don’t think they can get away with it. And we certainly do not intend to let them get away with this one."

OOIDA has until Aug. 12 to file a response to FMCSA’s brief in support of the mandate, along with addressing the briefs filed by ATA and The Trucking Alliance along with the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.


 

Guest opinion: Summer travel offers chance to thank a trucker
Source: http://www.postindependent.com; by Kevin Burch, June 27, 2016

In addition to fireworks, barbecues and pool parties, the Fourth of July also means summer driving is in full swing. This year is especially busy, with AAA reporting that low gas prices will add to the millions already making holiday weekend road trip plans.

 
 

While most news stories tend to focus on traffic levels, fuel prices and miles driven, we should also take the holiday as time to reflect on with whom you’ll be sharing the road — namely, professional truck drivers.

Your first thought when passing a tractor-trailer might simply be to avoid this hefty vehicle next to you on the highway. But in reality, there’s much more to it. That big automobile is a vital part of the economy in Garfield County and communities all across the country. And it’s driven by one of 3.4 million professional truck drivers — men and women, mothers and fathers, young and old — who are proud of the hard work they do to move our nation forward.

Where does this pride come from? We can start with the economics and the fact that here in Colorado, nearly 80 percent of communities depend exclusively on trucks to receive their goods. And Colorado trucking companies contribute almost $400 million in federal and state roadway taxes. Additionally, more than 37,000 Colorado jobs come thanks to 12,660 trucking companies located here.

By moving nearly 10 billion tons of freight nationwide each year, trucking is indeed one of the most important barometers for the strength of the American economy. When more trucks are on the road, more freight is being transported, and more goods are being produced and delivered — and that’s good news for everyone.

The pride in our work doesn’t end with economic contributions either. Each day, in every corner of the country, all 7 million professionals in the trucking industry are making strides to do their jobs more safely than ever. Since 1975, the truck-involved fatality rate has decreased by a whopping 74 percent. In the last decade alone, the figure has dropped 17 percent, even with the industry operating an additional 2.7 million trucks and driving an additional 54 billion miles over that time.

More trucks on the road, billions more miles driven, and fewer crashes is no easy feat, but we know that this progress has improved driving conditions for trucking employees and everyday motorists alike. Going forward, we will continue to take positive steps, such as high fuel-efficiency standards, increased training that emphasizes fuelsaving driving techniques, and further improvements to safety and packaging practices.

So when your family is on the road this weekend and you pass a tractor-trailer, you’re looking at more than an imposing 18-wheeler. Instead, you’re seeing a vehicle that delivers the clothes and toys you and your children will take to the beach this weekend, the medical supplies you’ll need all year long, and much more. You’re seeing a machine driving the economy of communities across the country — not only during the summer driving season, but through the winter snowstorms, over the weekends and on holidays.

And you’re seeing an impressive truck driven by one of millions of professionals committed to safely sharing the road, delivering the products you need, and moving America forward.

Kevin Burch is the co-chairman of Trucking Moves America Forward, first vice chairman of American Trucking Associations and president of Ohio-based Jet Express. For more information on TMAF, visit truckingmovesamerica.com.


 

Colorado 1 of 6 states that doesn’t require criminal background checks for nurses
Source: http://www.denverpost.com; by Christopher N Osher, June 28, 2016

Nurses with convictions for sexual offenses, drug thefts and crimes of violence have escaped detection under Colorado’s porous system for licensing health care workers, which has far fewer protections than most states.

 
 

Colorado is one of six states that does not conduct criminal background checks on applicants for nursing licenses. The state requires massage therapists and private investigators to submit a fingerprint for checks against state and FBI conviction records to get licensed. It’s even a step the legislature decided this year to require of operators of fantasy sports leagues before they set up shop in Colorado.

To identify dangerous applicants or licensees with criminal histories, the nurse licensing system in Colorado mostly relies on self-disclosure and complaints. The process allows nurses deemed unfit for the job in other states to obtain and hold a Colorado license to work as a nurse here or in other states.

Hospitals and other health-care employers in Colorado say they perform their own checks, yet workers with criminal backgrounds continue to find employment. Adding to the problem, hospitals that learn about a nurse’s criminal acts are not required to report them to the state licensing board, so the worker can find another hospital job.

The Denver Post reviewed state nurse discipline records from 2010 to the present involving criminal activity. Among hundreds of records, The Post found dozens of cases in which nurses or applicants failed to reveal convictions and continued working, sometimes for years, as nurses in Colorado. At least seven had convictions for sexual crimes.

The number of nurses working with undisclosed convictions is likely much higher. The Post reviewed only those nurses whose criminal convictions eventually attracted the attention of the Colorado nursing board, sometimes after the nurse was convicted a second or third time or had been fired for misconduct.

"Any health care providers with access to highly addictive narcotics should have checks," state Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, who co-sponsored a bill this year that required background checks for surgical techs and assistants. “We should look at doing something."

Cory Everett, a deputy director with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, said her department likely will ask legislators in the upcoming session for authority to conduct criminal background checks for nurse licensing but cautioned such checks will require additional resources. The department investigates criminal records when complaints against nurses are made, she said.

Richard Vernon Merritt, a self-described sex addict, would seem a bad fit for the nursing profession.

He has been convicted at least five times, including for three sexual offenses. He once posed as an undercover police officer to coerce a woman into giving him oral sex. He was convicted of exposing himself to two women. He used a stolen debit card to withdraw nearly $20,000 — a felony conviction that netted him three years of incarceration. When police in Florida once tried to arrest him, he attempted to drive through a police roadblock, sending officers scattering.

At least one nursing agency fired him after female patients complained he tried to pressure them to get together with him outside a hospital, a violation of the professional code of nursing. "I made mistakes and crossed boundaries," he said in an interview.

Florida, Virginia, Louisiana, California, North Carolina, Arizona, Connecticut, New York, Maryland and Georgia have blocked Merritt from holding a license for nursing.

Yet Colorado licensed Merritt in 1999. He was able to renew that license, a process that involves filling out a questionnaire, every two years until May 2013. Colorado officials finally learned of Merritt’s past transgressions after Maryland authorities received a complaint from a hospital there that Merritt was using his Colorado license to get work as a traveling nurse.

"I don’t know if they were just lackadaisical or if or if they just overlooked it," Merritt said.

Merritt explained that he flew to Colorado in 1999 so he could fake residency to get licensed. He used that license and fake Social Security numbers to get work in Colorado hospitals and in health-care facilities in about 10 other states over a decade as a traveling nurse. Colorado is part of a 24-state compact that allows nurses licensed in one state to work in other states.

"All you need to do is supply a license that’s valid," he said.

The Colorado nursing board revoked his license in May 2013, about two months after the Maryland hospital lodged a complaint there.

Colorado requires applicants seeking a nursing license to list convictions on their applications and, after they obtain a license, to divulge to the state nursing board any new felony convictions within 45 days. As the Merritt case shows, not everyone is honest.

In April 2010, Timothy Arthur Napier, a former nurse in Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City, pleaded guilty to the felony sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl with developmental disabilities for inappropriate touching, but Napier didn’t disclose that conviction on the license renewal questionnaire he submitted to Colorado in June 2010.

Colorado officials did not know when they renewed Napier’s license that his probation officer had deemed Napier as having a moderate to high risk of re-offending. The nursing board did not find out about his conviction until it began investigating Napier after a long-term care insurer filed a complaint in October 2010. The insurer had fired Napier for forging assessments of potential purchasers of long-term care insurance the insurer hired him to conduct. The nursing board suspended Napier’s license in February 2011, about 10 months after his conviction, then revoked his license in October of that year.

Napier said he didn’t disclose his conviction to the nursing board because he knew doing so would prompt revocation of his license. He said he’s sure plenty of other nurses in Colorado hide convictions and believes Colorado needs to put in place criminal background checks for licensing to find out who they are.

"Anyway you look at it, there needs to be a fingerprint database check, period," said Napier, who said he’s rehabilitated himself and believes he’s fit to work as a nurse again. "But people also should get a second chance."

The state nursing board in 2006 began checking licensee names against the Colorado Sex Offender Registry annually. Colorado also relies on national nurse licensing databases to provide alerts when action is taken against a nursing license in other participating states. Despite those safeguards, nurses with troubled pasts still slip through in Colorado.

Two months after authorities in Wyoming charged Michael S. Carroll II with sexually abusing a 14-year-old female patient, Carroll showed up in Colorado. Carroll started working in March 2009 as a traveling nurse at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, months before he had obtained a Colorado nursing license, records show. The Colorado nursing board sent him a letter of admonition for working without a license but took no formal action. Carroll pleaded guilty to felony sexual abuse in December 2009 in Wyoming. The Colorado nursing board suspended his license in February 2010 and revoked it seven months later. Records show he had been working that year as a nurse in Colorado through a staffing agency. A jury later convicted him of sexually abusing another 14-year-old girl he knew.

Nicole Williams, the spokeswoman for Swedish, said a routine audit by the hospital caught the licensing issue, which resulted in Carroll’s firing. She said the hospital’s hiring procedures include a background check by a third party and verification of credentials. She said his criminal charges weren’t picked up in that review because Carroll had been charged only 35 days before his hiring.

BACKGROUND CHECKS VITAL

Colorado finds itself out of step with most states. During the past decade, many have put in place fingerprint criminal records checks to screen applicants, identify criminal histories and flag legal problems that surface after an applicant is licensed. In 2005, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the trade group for state nursing boards, recommended that nursing boards check state and federal criminal backgrounds on applicants and licensees.

"Nurses provide services for vulnerable people, often of a personal and intimate nature, so it is in the public interest to determine that those seeking the authority to practice nursing are qualified to do so, including in the areas of behavior, attitude and conduct," that council stated.

In 1998, only five states conducted criminal background checks on nurses; by 2014, 36 states required fingerprint criminal records checks, with an additional five requiring a review of state criminal records without any fingerprint submission. Other states are moving toward requiring such checks. Connecticut began requiring them for nurses in nursing homes and other long term-care providers this year.

Kansas put in place fingerprinting for licensing in 2009. Data provided by that state shows the program found about 29 percent of nursing students with a criminal conviction seeking a license did not disclose that conviction.

Texas began fingerprinting nurse licensing applicants in 2003 and expanded the program to license renewals. In one instance, regulators found a nurse applying for a renewal did not disclose a murder conviction. Since 2006, reports of convictions and arrests are sent to the nursing board in that state, an enhancement that has generated about 8,000 alerts.

"It definitely fits right in with our mission to protect the public," said Mark Majek, director of operations for the Texas nursing board.

After the second health scare in seven years involving a surgical tech with a communicable disease diverting drugs, Colorado this year began requiring surgical techs and assistants to submit their fingerprints for registration. But such a change did not occur for nurses, even as the case of a northern Colorado nurse accused of groping and fondling his drugged patients made news.

Thomas Mark Moore was able to find work in health care facilities after being fired amid accusations of sexual misconduct. His Colorado nursing license remained active until January even though Alaska authorities in March 2014 forced him to surrender his nursing license in Alaska because of an undisclosed drunk driving conviction. He has pleaded innocent to felony charges of unlawful sexual contact.

Nurses have greater access to narcotics and more contact with patients than surgical techs and assistants do. There also are many more nurses than surgical techs or assistants working in the state. As of July 2015, about 634 surgical assistants and 1,992 surgical techs were registered to work at Colorado hospitals. There are more than 81,000 registered and licensed practical nurses in Colorado.

The Colorado Nurses Association hopes criminal background checks will become part of the state’s practice act for nursing, which is up for renewal in 2017, said M. Colleen Caspar, the association’s executive director.

Without a change in law, it often rests upon law enforcement to notify regulators and hospitals about illegal activity by nurses.

Wheat Ridge police in June 2010 charged Tiffany Malmgren with allegedly using forged prescriptions to obtain nearly 406 days’ worth of the powerful painkiller OxyContin. When she submitted her nurse licensing renewal questionnaire a month later, she failed to disclose that arrest. Wheat Ridge authorities never notified the nursing board of her arrest because they never knew Malmgren was licensed, said David Pickett, a division chief with the Wheat Ridge Police Department.

"In this particular case, we just didn’t know," Pickett said. "We probably need to get into a position where people who have significant control of the health and welfare of others have more routine and more thorough background checks."

The Colorado nursing board didn’t learn Malmgren was fraudulently obtaining OxyContin until it received a complaint in April 2011 from another law enforcement agency after she pleaded guilty to a felony drug charge in another case. The Longmont Police Department had determined Malmgren had used multiple false names, birthdates and Social Security numbers to obtain about 3,171 tablets of OxyContin between December 2009 and June 2010 from 27 doctors. Her license was suspended in April 2011 and revoked months later, more than a year after her arrest by Wheat Ridge police. She has since died.

In one case, The Post found a nurse surrendered her nursing license in another state only to continue her nursing career in Colorado, where she ended up with numerous convictions.

Juanita Martinez, who was convicted of a felony welfare fraud charge in the 1990s, surrendered her nursing license in Wyoming in 2000 because of allegations she failed to adequately assess and document the condition of an elderly assisted-living patient who had fallen and later died. Matrinez obtained a nursing license in Colorado the same year she surrendered her license in Wyoming. The Colorado nursing board revoked her nursing license temporarily after learning she’d surrendered a license elsewhere, but then relented, and in 2002 allowed her to be licensed for nursing in Colorado on a probationary status. That probationary status eventually was lifted two years later, and she was allowed to practice as a nurse with no conditions.

"If the regulatory board shows more understanding and compassion, well after all they are nurses," Martinez said. "The courts and all boards could learn a thing or two from them."

Records show that the very year the Colorado nursing board gave Martinez a probationary license, police arrested her for allegedly trespassing on a neighbor’s property to steal a bed. She pleaded guilty of misdemeanor tampering.

In November 2008, Martinez pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. In April 2012, a jury convicted her of a felony trespass charge and of misdemeanor theft and tampering charges. In December 2012, she pleaded guilty again to violating a criminal protection order, obstructing a peace officer and driving while under the influence of alcohol.

She surrendered her Colorado nursing license in September 2013, more than 11 years after her first conviction in Colorado and about 13 years after she had surrendered her license in Wyoming for allegedly causing the death due to negligence. She said she plans to reapply for a Colorado nursing license.

"I’ve paid my debt to society," Martinez said. "Is it necessary to turn around and make me not be productive for rest of my life now?"

In another case, Heather White pleaded guilty to felony ID theft charges in 2009 and was ordered to pay $65,000 restitution. She had been stealing funds from her husband’s medical practice, where she was employed as an office manager, to obtain controlled substances illegally for her own use. She also had been stealing prescription pads to fraudulently obtain prescription drugs. In 2012, her deferred sentence in that case was set aside after she pleaded guilty again and was placed on three years of probation in a new deferred arrangement to the original case.

She never notified the nursing board of the convictions within the 45 days as required.

In 2015, about six years after her conviction, the nursing board finally ordered her to undergo a substance abuse evaluation, which concluded in September 2015 that she was "not safe to practice as a nurse with reasonable skill and safety without monitoring."

White, who did not return telephone messages seeking comment, remains a licensed nurse under the terms of an agreement with the nursing board that required her to enter into a treatment plan.


 

FMCSA Awards $32 Million to Border States to Ensure Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Enforcement
Source: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov; by FMCSA Staff, June 14, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today announced that it has awarded $32 million in financial assistance to 15 states to help ensure that foreign truck and bus drivers and vehicles involved in international commerce at or near border crossings with Canada and Mexico are properly licensed to operate on U.S. roads.

 
 

The Border Enforcement Grant (BEG) program is a federal discretionary grant program focused on reducing crashes, fatalities, and injuries by drivers and vehicles involved in international commerce by ensuring that these motor carriers, drivers, and vehicles are in compliance with U.S. commercial vehicle safety regulations, including financial responsibility, operating authority, driver qualifications and licensing, and vehicle maintenance.

The grants are awarded to state law enforcement agencies that share a border with Canada or Mexico and responsible for enforcing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations at the roadside.

FMCSA awarded BEG funds to the following states: Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities ($187,503), Arizona Department of Public Safety ($5,610,269), California Highway Patrol ($5,291,243), Idaho State Police Commercial Vehicle Safety ($97,923), Maine Department of Public Safety ($300,000), Michigan Department of State Police ($200,000), Minnesota State Patrol ($285,000), Montana Department of Transportation ($871,410), New Hampshire Department of Safety ($33,319), New Mexico Department of Public Safety ($491,215), New York State Department of Transportation ($643,240), North Dakota Highway Patrol ($256,375), Texas Department of Public Safety ($17,205,619), Vermont Agency of Transportation ($66,058), Washington State Patrol ($460,826).

For further information on the FMCSA Border Enforcement Grant Program, visit the Border Enforcement Grant page.


 

June 2016 Articles

Study sheds light on financial burden sleep apnea screening places on driver
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by CCJ Staff, May 26, 2016

A study released May 26 sheds new light on the costs borne by truckers when referred by their medical examiner for sleep apnea screening and the potential consequences of a rule that would implement industry-wide standards for screening and treating obstructive sleep apnea. The report, produced by the American Transportation Research Institute, comes with just shy of two weeks left in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s fact finding mission regarding the development of a potential sleep apnea rule.

 
 

The agency’s holding a public comment period seeking feedback to 20 questions related to the financial and logistical challenges a sleep apnea screening rule could place on the trucking industry. It’s also held several public listening sessions nationwide to gather input on such a rule.

ATRI’s report, produced via surveys of drivers, concluded that a sleep apnea testing referral made by a medical examiner can cost a trucker upwards of a $1,000 in out-of-pocket expenses — more than a week’s way, the report notes.

Of drivers who reported being referred for a sleep study, 53 percent said they paid some or all of the expenses for the test out of pocket, running at a $1,220 average. Uninsured drivers were at an even greater disadvantage relative to out-of-pocket expenses, ATRI says, with 61 percent of uninsured drivers reporting out-of-pocket expenses greater than $1,000 when seeking sleep apnea screening.

On the contrary, 32 percent of drivers with health insurance reported expenses of more than $1,000 for testing.

Other key findings from the report include:

• Among drivers reporting time away from work associated with sleep apnea screening, 41 percent indicated days off ranging from 1-30 days.

• Driver-perceived treatment efficacy varied by OSA severity. As OSA diagnosis severity increased, drivers experienced more positive CPAP treatment effects. For example, drivers diagnosed with severe OSA and being treated with CPAP reported increased amounts of sleep (84%), feeling better when they wake up (71%) and lower blood pressure (75%). Conversely, among the 91 percent of drivers being treated with CPAP — despite a diagnosis of mild sleep apnea — less than a third (32%) experienced improved sleep as a result of CPAP treatment.

• Among drivers who have had sleep studies and those who have not, there is concern about the use of neck circumference and Body Mass Index (BMI) as measures to refer drivers to sleep studies. Additionally, among drivers who have been tested, 64 percent believe that the DOT guidelines for referring drivers are too broad and that medical examiners do not follow the guidelines for referrals to sleep studies.


 

Rule to establish CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse a step closer to becoming law
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by Matt Cole, May 23, 2016

A Final Rule that would create a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for CDL holders has been sent by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, its last stop before being published as a legally binding rule.

 
 

The Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse will require carriers to report to FMCSA failed drug tests and test refusals of CDL holders.

Carriers would also be required to query the database when making new hires and once a year for existing drivers, according to the proposed rule published in 2014 by FMCSA. When querying the database, however, carriers would be required to obtain written consent from a driver before doing so and for access to information in the clearinghouse. If a driver refuses to allow the query, he or she would be barred from driving.

In addition to reporting failed drug tests and test refusals and querying for new hires, carriers would be required on an annual basis to query the database for current driver employees. They’d also be required to report traffic citations for drivers cited driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

FMCSA says the rule is intended to make sure drivers who have tested positive or refused a test have completed the DOT’s return-to-duty process before driving commercially again, and to make sure employers are meeting their drug and alcohol testing responsibilities.

For more information on the rule, see CCJ‘s coverage of the proposed version of the rule here. Changes could have been made between the proposed version and the final version of the rule, but that will remain unclear until the final version is published. The OMB has 90 days to clear the rule, then it will be published in the Federal Register with final dates of implementation.


 

Uber will pay $10 million to settle lawsuit over driver background checks
Source: http://www.theverge.com/; by Nick Statt, April 7, 2016

Uber is on the hook for $10 million after settling a California lawsuit over its misleading statements regarding driver background checks. In 2014, the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco sued the ride-hailing company for claiming its background checks were the most thorough in the industry. In fact, Uber failed to take drivers' fingerprints like many taxi companies do. Uber says it now takes extra precautions and no longer claims it has the best background check policy.

 
 

Under the terms of the settlement, which was approved by a San Francisco judge today, if Uber fails to pay the $10 million within 60 days, the company must pay an additional $15 million. That extra penalty is waived after two years so long as Uber abides by the terms of the settlement, which say Uber may only operate at airports where it has successfully received permission and cannot misrepresent fees it adds to fares. Since the lawsuit was filed, Uber has struck deals with San Francisco International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and numerous others in northern and southern California to allow its drivers to drop off and pick up passengers at terminals.

"The result we achieved today goes well beyond its impact on Uber," San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. "It sends a clear message to all businesses, and to startups in particular, that in the quest to quickly obtain market share, laws designed to protect consumers cannot be ignored. If a business acts like it is above the law, it will pay a heavy price."

"We’re glad to put this case behind us and excited to redouble our efforts serving riders and drivers across the state of California," an Uber spokesperson said in a statement. The lawsuit first arose when Gascón's office discovered 25 instances of Uber drivers with serious criminal backgrounds. In February, Uber was forced to change the name of its misleading "safe ride fee" to a "booking fee" and pay $28.5 million to settle two consumer class action lawsuits over its background check policy. The company's legal troubles are not over; in June, a separate class action lawsuit goes to trial in California over the classification of Uber drivers as contractors instead of employees.


 

How to Manage Transportation in any Environment
Source: https://logisticsviewpoints.com; by Debra Phillips, June 2, 2016

Before members of Congress left Washington, D.C. for the Memorial Day recess, one of the issues being debated was the potential of changing the Hours of Service (HOS) rules for truck drivers. An effort to reverse trucking-related provisions from a fiscal 2017 funding bill was defeated, although the topic could still be raised when the bill is debated on the floor of the House of Representatives.

 
 

A little history about the HOS- they were updated in 2011, with effective dates for some provisions delayed until July 2013. In 2015, those provisions were reversed as part of an appropriations bill. Now, the issue has come up again in Congress. Trucking companies breathed a collective sigh of relief that the recent effort to change the rules was defeated, and the industry’s lobbying group, the American Trucking Associations issued comments expressing gratitude to the Committee for its handling of this issue.

Why? Because the reality is that any change in rules for truck drivers could require trucking companies, many with razor thin margins, to undertake the costly and time-consuming tasks of reconfiguring networks. Carriers could also be looking at needing to hire more drivers for their re-configured networks, no easy task with a driver shortage of 30,000 and turnover rates at some carriers in excess of 102 percent on an annual basis.

Uncertainty about HOS rules and a driver shortage are not the only issues that trucking companies are facing today. Carriers are also adjusting to requirements for electronic logging devices and working to maintain appropriate ratings within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) scores.

So, why should you care about these issues? Because any dynamic that affects the carriers you count on to transport goods for your company impacts your business. The downstream effects of the issues mentioned earlier, potential HOS changes and a driver shortage, could be tighter capacity, making it more difficult for shippers to obtain space with quality carriers at reasonable rates. And, if you are a shipper, this is only one aspect of your job. At the same time, you are also being pressured to reduce supply chain costs on an on-going basis and improve service to customers, regardless of regulatory dynamics.

How does a company create and execute an effective transportation plan that meets customer expectations, regardless of potential market disruptions? While there is no silver bullet, there are steps that shippers can take to obtain capacity and optimize performance. And, the heavy lifting begins before a single shipment is loaded or moved.

Here are five ways that shippers can actively work to get the capacity they need with the carriers they want at rates that work for them.

1. Establish positive carrier relationships through a systematic and streamlined freight procurement process.

2. Monitor carrier data on a routine basis so that you are aware of any market changes that could impact carriers handling your freight.

3. Review up to date key performance metrics so that you realize if there is a problem with a carrier before you experience service issues.

4. Optimize loads, consolidating multiple LTL shipments into a single truckload shipment, reducing carriers and costs.

5. Gain access to the same bidding boards used by forwarders or third party logistics providers for those occasions when a spot quote is needed immediately.

Technology is a key enabler for all of these functions. Transportation management systems have long been a mainstay in helping shippers plan routes and track shipments. Today, new solutions are becoming available in the marketplace that go beyond those basic capabilities to include other functionality including procurement, carrier management and optimization.

For example, by using systems specifically designed for freight sourcing, shippers can expedite the bid process by aggregating rich data from a variety of sources. They can also improve carrier participation by making it easier to complete bid requests and providing ongoing updates to carriers regarding their status throughout the process.

Once a shipper has the right carriers on board, they can begin to develop relationships and begin addressing the other strategies outlined in this article. So, it is true- you can’t fight City Hall and you cannot control what happens on Capitol Hill. But, with good business processes and advanced technology, you can create and execute an effective transportation plan, regardless of market disruptions or DC Beltway rhetoric.


 

Less is More: Complying with FCRA’s Disclosure and Authorization Requirements
Source: http://www.natlawreview.com; by Emma R. Schuering, May 4, 2016

noted an internet search of "FCRA Settlement 2016" returned over 1,800 results. In the three months since that post, that number has grown exponentially—to nearly 55,000 results—demonstrating the current popularity of both individual and class FCRA claims. This is particularly important for employers. The FCRA’s restrictions on the use of background checks (known as "consumer reports") applies to any employer obtaining a background check on an applicant or existing employee through a consumer reporting agency, for employment purposes. Background checks can be particularly useful for employers when vetting applicants, but (1) the employer must provide proper disclosures and (2) the employee must provide lawful authorization before the background check is run.

 
 

I. Disclosure by the Employer

The FCRA requires that the employer provide a written clear and conspicuous disclosure to the applicant that a consumer report may be obtained for employment purposes. Importantly, this disclosure must be in a document that consists solely of the disclosure. If using a paper application, the disclosure should be included on its own separate page. If using an electronic application, the disclosure should be separated or isolated from other parts of the application in some discernable fashion. Additional disclosures may be necessary if the consumer reporting agency is running investigative consumer reports (consulting references personally as part of the background check) or proscribed by applicable state law.

II. Authorization by the Employee

The FCRA also requires the employer obtain the consent of the applicant or employee for the employer to have the background check run. Notably, this authorization, if obtained in writing, may be contained in the same document as the previously mentioned disclosure. The FCRA permits oral authorization, although a written or electronically obtained authorization will be more effective if the authorization is later challenged by, for example, an applicant who was denied employment on the basis of information contained in the background check.

There are additional requirements under the FCRA if an employer intends to take adverse action against an employee or applicant based on the contents of the background check. But even before the background check is run, an employer can expose itself to extensive liability, including attorneys’ fees and punitive damages, if it fails to properly disclose and obtain consent for the background check. Employers most commonly face problems when their disclosure and authorization form contains too much information, potentially violating the requirement that the disclosure consist solely of the disclosure. Many employers assume (incorrectly) that more language in the disclosure equals more protection. Employers should take care to work with their consumer reporting agency and legal counsel to ensure they are compliant with the FCRA’s technical disclosure and authorization requirements.


 

May 2016 Articles

5 Things You Need to Know About ELDs
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by Jim Park, Equipment Editor, April 2016

Fleets prepared to make the necessary changes to every facet of their operation will be more successful transitioning to e-logs.

 
 

Electronic logging devices to track driver hours of service become mandatory in December 2017. Everything you need to know about compliance is spelled out in the final rule, but here's a quick look at some of the more common sources of confusion – and a few things you'll need to consider that are not spelled out in the text of the rule. A couple of these points will be of particular interest to really small carriers and independents.

1. Self-certified doesn't mean compliant.

FMCSA has left it up to suppliers to certify that devices they offer meet all the requirements of the rule. The agency offers a rather lengthy checklist to help suppliers but does no verification of its own. The onus is on the vendor to self-certify their product, says Joel Beal of JBA Telematics. "It's the honor system," Beal explained in a recent webinar, "because FMCSA says they don't have the budget to check all of the product that's coming to market."

It's still early days, but Beal says there are already what appear to be some non-compliant devices on FMCSA's list of self-verified devices. He recommends asking the vendor to supply all the documentation they used in the self-certification process as well as all the driver documentation.

"For example, if you operate under the California agricultural exemption or the oil field exemption or into Canada [a Canadian ELD rule is forthcoming], make sure the device you choose fits with and can comply with the rules you operate under," Beal advises.

2. The required supporting documents.

This requirement could prove to be a burden to some carriers because it takes us back to the retention of paper, or it will require the manual conversion of a paper receipt to some form of digital image. Drivers are required to retain all related documentation for a period of eight days, but receipts must be submitted to the carrier no later than 13 days after the document comes into the driver's possession. The final rule states this requirement is to verify on-duty not driving time.

The rule says carriers must retain each supporting document generated or received in the normal course of business, and goes on to say that carriers need not retain more than eight supporting documents. Among them must be the earliest and the latest time indications of all the documentation.

Supporting documentation can include dispatch records, trip records, expense receipts related to on-duty not driving time, payroll records, settlement sheets, etc. They must include appropriate data to link the record to a driver and a date and trip as well as the time, location, etc. Such documents must be retained for six months.

3. There are (a few) exemptions.

The list of operations exempt from using electronic logs under the new federal mandate is short – three to be precise.

• Drivers who are on time cards, typically those that operate within a 100-air-mile radius of the terminal. Some casual drivers are exempt as well, provided they work no more than eight days out of 30.

• Drive-away and tow-away operations, typically those that deliver or ferry new or used trucks from factories to dealers or customers.

• Trucks manufactured for model-year 1999 or earlier, which may not have the electronic infrastructure to support ELDs.

4. What happens during Inspections.

At roadside, inspectors will be looking for a certification sticker supplied by the manufacturer and the handbook explaining how the ELD is used. When asked to produce the log, the driver may electronically transfer the information to the officer via email using an identifier unique to that inspection request, or via bluetooth or USB file transfer. The driver may also hand the officer printed copies of the logs if a printer is available. A fourth option is handing the device to the inspector if it is not tethered to the vehicle or if the cable is long enough to reach outside the truck.

In a facility audit, inspectors can demand six months of logs, in which case the carrier can display the logs on screen or in printed form. Inspectors can also ask to see any edits performed on the logs, meaning they will need the originals of all electronic records of duty status. They will also ask to see supporting documents (see number 2).

5. Interoperability of different devices.

Managing owner-operators’ use of ELDs could be among the biggest challenges here, but it's certainly not the only one. Allowing each owner-operator to use the ELD of his or her choice could require a lot of back-end infrastructure on the carrier’s part. On the other hand, requiring owner-operators to acquire and use your choice of ELD could pose some hiring and retention strife. Depending on how you manage it, management's decision could impose significant cost on one party or the other.

Your approach also runs the risk of compromising the arm's-length carrier/owner-operator relationship. In the replies to various comments contained in the full document, FMCSA says, "the independent contractor relationship is outside the scope of this rulemaking," so you're on your own on this front.

In a broader context, there may be reasons one brand or type of ELD might suit one division of the company better than another, or in the event of a merger or acquisition, there could be significant cost associated with "retooling."


 

Congested Roads Run Up Trucking Costs Almost $50 Billion
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by David Cullen, April 19, 2016

Traffic congestion on highways drove operational costs for trucking up by more than $49.6 billion in 2014, according to analysis by the American Transportation Research Institute released on April 19.

 
 

The research group said its findings also reveal the impact of congestion costs on a per-truck basis-- with an average increased cost of $26,625 for trucks that travel 150,000 miles annually.

In addition, ATRI said it has created a congestion-cost database "to provide granular cost information to transportation planning officials on the hours of delay and associated cost by major jurisdiction type and road level."

ATRI noted that for this analysis, it used a variety of data sources as well as a revised methodology that expanded its previous cost-of-congestion research from the Interstate System to the entire National Highway System network.

"This [data] resulted in calculated delay totaling more than 728 million hours of lost productivity, which equates to 264,500 commercial truck drivers sitting idle for a working year," the group stated.

The analysis also documented the states, metropolitan areas, and counties that were most impacted by congestion delays and subsequent increased costs.  More than a dozen states experienced increased costs of over $1 billion each due to congestion, with Florida and Texas leading with over $4 billion each.

Congestion tended to be the most severe in urban areas, with 88% of the congestion costs concentrated on only 18% of the network mileage, and 95% of the total congestion cost occurring in metropolitan areas.  The research group said that this "concentration of congestion" has been well-documented in its ongoing work that annually identifies the worst truck bottlenecks in the U.S.

"Unfortunately we've come to expect traffic congestion as a part of our daily lives, but ATRI's latest analysis illustrates what a significant productivity drain that congestion is on our industry and the economy at large," David Congdon, CEO of Old Dominion Freight Line, remarked in a news release on the research.


 

FMCSA proposes new BASIC: Beyond Compliance
Source: http://fleetowner.com; by Roy Maurer

Congress requires new ‘voluntary’ safety program for trucking

 
 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing a new safety scoring category to reward trucking companies for safety programs which voluntarily exceed regulatory requirements.

The Beyond Compliance BASIC would appear when a motor carrier is approved and participating in the program, explains a notice to be published Wednesday.

"Those companies with this BASIC would distinguish themselves from other companies when the public display of SMS is reinstated in the future," says the Federal Register notice. A prepublication copy is available here.

The proposal comes as a result of a mandate in the recently passed the FAST Act. Congress has required FMCSA to implement a "Beyond Compliance" program within 18 months of the highway bill’s enactment. FMCSA solicited public comment on the matter a year ago, and the agency determined that establishing the new BASIC by June 2017 would be feasible under the mandate. The alternative, making broader modifications to the SMS methodology, would be "more complicated and time consuming," and potentially impact the study of the SMS methodology that has also been required by Congress, according to the notice.

So FMCSA is specifically seeking comments on this proposal, and the pros and cons of the Beyond Compliance BASIC.

The FAST Act prescribes the eligibility for the Beyond Compliance program. As a result, this program is available to a motor carrier that:

1. Installs advanced safety equipment;

2. Uses enhanced driver fitness measures;

3. Adopts fleet safety management tools, technologies, and programs; or

4. Satisfies other standards determined appropriate by the Administrator.

FMCSA proposes that technologies that are not currently mandatory, such as electronic logging devices (ELDs), would be eligible until they are required, the notice adds.

A motor carrier would be eligible to apply for the Beyond Compliance program if the following criteria were met:

1. The motor carrier did not have a Conditional or Unsatisfactory safety rating;

2. The motor carrier did not have any BASICs over intervention thresholds at the time of the application;

3. The proposed technology or program must be applied to the company’s population of vehicles or drivers to adequately achieve the performance goal and improve safety;

4. The motor carrier must be an interstate carrier; and

5. The motor carrier must have graduated from the new entrant monitoring period.

In public comments submitted last year, FMCSA notes that many trucking interests, regulatory enforcement and safety groups supported such a plan so long as current minimum requirements were not compromised. The Owners Operators and Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA), however, commented  that "…this proposal is largely being driven by technology firms whose primary interest is financial, and by large carriers who have already adopted technology but have not realized real improvement to their safety scores."

The notice goes on to spell out the process for technologies and safety programs to petition for consideration in the Beyond Compliance program, and for a third party to be contracted to provide monitoring support.

The costs of the work performed by this third party would be paid by the motor carrier, the notice states. Assuming a carrier with a small number of trucks is in the program for five years, FMCSA estimates that the fee would be approximately $750. The agency expects that the costs would be "tiered" so that larger programs requiring more monitoring would incur a higher cost.

After the notice is published, comments will be accepted for 60 days on regulations.gov, docket number FMCSA–2015–0124.


 

Trucking’s Good News on Safety
Source: http://www.trucking.org; by Bill Graves, President and CEO, American Trucking Associations, February 29, 2016

What if I told you, the trucks you share the highways with are safe and getting safer, would you believe it? You wouldn’t know it from reading the news these days, but it’s true.

 
 

The trucking industry spends more than $7 billion annually on safety training and technology in order to prevent crashes and make sure that more American families, motorists and, yes, professional truck drivers arrive at their destinations safely.

Last week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration gave us the most recent look at truck safety by releasing the 2014 edition of their Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts report. The full report can be found here, and while it offers a mix of good and bad news, we believe the overall themes are positive for trucking and for motorists.

First, the report points out that in 2014, the number of truck-involved fatal crashes fell 3.7% from the previous year. That’s good, but only a small part of the story. The larger tale, and the one that is most important in our eyes is the long-term trend. Since 2004, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks had dropped 23.5%. Perhaps not coincidentally, the drop has come mostly under the current hours-of-service rule, the rule that does not restrict drivers’ use of the 34-hour restart.

Now, there are groups that will try to dismiss both last year’s decline and the long-term trend, by falsely claiming fatalities only really fall at times of economic hardship and ignoring the trend that since 1980, when trucking was deregulated, fatal truck crashes have dropped 32%, through times of economic boom and bust.

FMCSA’s report also highlights, yet again, that the most common cause of a truck-involved crash is speeding and aggressive or inattentive behavior by passenger vehicle drivers. While anti-truck groups hold out fatigue and more restrictive hours-of-service rules as a silver bullet, commercial driver fatigue is cited as a factor in less than 4% of crashes. Even if you assume some underreporting and double, or triple that figure, it doesn’t add up to the number of times passenger vehicle speeding or inattentive driving or passenger driver fatigue leads to a crash.

One other thing the report makes clear is that the riskiest time of day for commercial vehicles to be on the road is during the day – more than 60% of fatal crashes, and nearly 80% of other crashes – happen between 6am and 6pm. This is just one reason why ATA is pushing to retain the current hours-of-service rules, ones that don’t needlessly restrict the use of the 34-hour restart. Those restrictions push more traffic into daytime hours, leading to more crashes.

The news wasn’t all positive in FMCSA’s report however, and it is important to acknowledge that. The report showed that while fatal crashes fell, crashes involving property damage or injuries rose. This is an area where technology is already helping save lives by making vehicles more crashworthy, but where continued improvements in active safety systems, along with education can do more. ATA believes we will see great advances in the technical arena, with devices like automatic emergency braking, that this trend will starting heading back in the right direction soon. We also caution that fatal crash figures are very accurate, other crash figures are estimates.

ATA believes we all need to do more to reduce crashes. That includes reducing highway speeds for all vehicles, using technology to cap truck speeds and to ensure compliance with hours-ofservice rules and enforcing safe driving laws on our highways. It also includes better driver education, whether by ATA’s Share the Road Professionals or in the classroom, but we believe that by taking the right steps to address the most common causes of crashes, we will see even greater safety improvements in the future.


 

April 2016 Articles

Speed limiter rule expected in April, DOT says
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by Matt Cole, March 16, 2016

The projected publication dates of two looming trucking regulations have been delayed again, according to the Department of Transportation’s monthly regulatory update. The delayed rules include a proposal to require speed limiters and one to develop a database of truckers who have failed a drug or alcohol test.

 
 

The DOT pushed back the projected publication date for the rule to require speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks to April 22. In February’s report, the rule was projected to be published March 15. This rule could require governors on all trucks weighing more than 27,000 pounds. The proposed rule, a joint effort from FMCSA and another DOT agency, has been stuck in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget since May 2015.

A Final Rule that would implement a CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is now projected to be sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget on April 18 and published on July 28. In February’s DOT report, the rulemaking was set to be sent to the OMB on March 7 and published June 17. The rule will establish a database of CDL holders that have failed or refused a drug test and requires carriers to upload this information to FMCSA at least annually. It would also require carriers to query the database when hiring drivers.

Two rulemakings were published since the February report was issued. A pre-rule to collect data on obstructive sleep apnea and the impact it has on the trucking industry was published March 10.

The proposed Entry-Level Driver Training rule that, if made final, would implement a required curriculum for prospective truck drivers before getting their CDL, including 30 hours behind the wheel, was published March 7.


 

FMCSA shuts down drug testing firm for five years
Source: http://www.jjkeller.com; by J. J. Keller Staff, August 21, 2015

Company submitted results fraudulently

 
 

On August 18, 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a Public Interest Exclusion (PIE) decision to bar a Tennessee based drug testing company from providing services to any Department of Transportation (DOT)–regulated entity for five years.

From approximately January 2006 through March 2012, the company provided drug test results to a DOT-regulated trucking company, without using a qualified Medical Review Officer (MRO), as required by the DOT regulations. During this time period, the company wrongfully used the signature of an MRO who had not worked there since 2005 to certify test results, according to the FMCSA.

The company has been ordered to directly notify each of its affected DOT regulated clients in writing about the issuance, scope, duration, and effect of the PIE. The PIE also prohibits all employers from utilizing the drug and alcohol testing services of or doing business with the company.

In addition, the Department has notified employers and the public by publishing a "List of Excluded Drug and Alcohol Service Agents" on its website at: https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/pie.


 

Women In Trucking seeks ‘to create a truck that accommodates women’
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by Jason Cannon, February 29, 2016

Men and women don’t buy their clothes in the same departments and large men and women each even have their own stores, yet these various body types are all expected to drive a similarly spec’d truck.

 
 

Women In Trucking CEO Ellen Voie, who spoke during a meeting of the Future Truck Committee at the Technology and Maintenance Council in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, says the one-size-fitsall approach to spec’ing is likely costing companies drivers they sorely need.

"I do know there are women who can’t pass their CDL just because they can’t reach [the pedals]," she says.

The average weight of a female driver, according to Voie, is 160 lbs. versus 213 lbs. for men. The average height of female drivers is 5'4" against an average of 5'10" for men.

Voie says a major challenge for women drivers and smaller frame men is the ability to properly adjust air ride seats so they can comfortably reach controls.

"Women tell me all the time, ‘If I put the air ride seat low enough, I can’t see over the dash, but if I put it high enough I can't reach the pedals,'" she says. "The average female driver is 5'4", so that means half of them are smaller than that."

Voie adds 25 percent of women drivers say their cab is not comfortable for their body type.

"A huge complaint was sun visors," she says. "They say sun visors are useless."

Ryder is currently spec’ing some trucks based on recommendations from Women In Trucking that include adjustable seatbelt shoulder straps, improved location of the instrument cluster, adjusted height of grab-handles and better access to oil and coolant fill ports.

Vioe says she’s not an advocate for inventing a spec for women drivers considering they make up just shy of 6 percent of drivers on the road. She notes many female drivers are part of a team and the truck needs to suit both drivers of likely various size. She’s simply asking fleets and OEs to factor drivers on the smaller side of the scale more heavily in their design and spec decisions.

"We're not trying to create a truck for women," she says. "We're trying to create a truck that accommodates women."


 

Enhanced Drug Testing for Commercial Drivers Coming This Year
Source: https://www.shrm.org; by Roy Maurer, March 14, 2016

Employers of commercial motor vehicle operators will be able to conduct hair-follicle drug tests on drivers once federal guidelines—mandated for publication this year—are issued.

 
 

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, signed into law in December 2015, directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to issue scientific and technical guidelines for the use of hair-testing commercial motor vehicle drivers for drug use within one year of the law’s enactment.

According to section 5402 of the act, motor carriers shall be permitted to use hair testing as an acceptable alternative to urine testing in conducting pre-employment drug screens and in conducting random testing for the use of a controlled substance if the driver was subject to hair testing during a pre-employment screening.

An exemption from hair testing will be provided to truck drivers with established religious beliefs that prohibit the cutting or removal of hair, such as Sikhism or Rastafarianism.

Until the new regulations are issued, only urine tests are allowed. Hair-follicle testing is considered by many to be more accurate than urinalysis, as it can detect drug use over a much longer period and is said to be better at revealing chronic drug use.

Hair testing is the only drug-testing method available that provides up to a 90-day drug-use history, according to Dr. Barry Sample, director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions, a drug-testing service provider headquartered in Madison, N.J. When compared with urine testing, hair testing tends to provide a greater number of positives due to its longer detection window.

"Our hair testing detects nearly twice the number of positives as our urine test," Sample said. "Unlike urine drug testing, which may only detect drug use within the past two to three days, hair testing is able to detect a pattern of repetitive drug use for up to 90 days."

Hair testing cannot determine very recent use, however—because hair grows slowly—so it cannot be used for reasonable suspicion drug tests or post-accident testing, said Kathryn Russo, an attorney in the Long Island, N.Y., office of Jackson Lewis and one of the practice leaders of the firm’s Drug Testing and Substance Abuse Management Practice Group.

Another reason some employers prefer testing hair rather than urine is because of the popularity of devices and chemicals available on the Internet to assist people in "beating" urine tests, Russo said.

Prohibitions and Challenges

Tricky issues around hair-testing for drug use include potential violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and federal and state antidiscrimination laws, as well as retesting concerns.

"If an individual used drugs 90 days ago and then completed drug rehabilitation, he or she conceivably could still test positive on a hair test, even though he or she is no longer a current user of illegal drugs," Russo explained. "If the company takes adverse action based on the positive hair test, the applicant or employee could claim that he or she is erroneously regarded as a substance abuser when he or she is not, in violation of the ADA and comparable state laws."

Retesting brings up another issue for employers considering using hair samples for drug tests. Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont and Boulder, Colo., require that applicants and employees who test positive must be offered the opportunity to have a confirmatory retest on the original specimen, Russo said. "Retesting the original specimen may be technically difficult or impossible. We have been advised by individuals in the drug-testing industry that hair testing does not permit later testing of the original specimen, but employers should check with their own drug-testing vendors to get their technical expertise on this issue," she said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


 

March 2016 Articles

Federal vs. state authority over truckers’ breaks and pay a growing debate in aviation bill
Source: http://www.overdriveonline.com; by James Jaillet, February 26, 2016

As Congress’ work on a large aviation bill continues trudging along, a trucking-specific provision in the bill had its proponents and opponents sparring via press announcements on Thursday.

 
 

As reported previously by Overdrive, a measure in the House version of a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill would block states from enforcing mandatory paid meal and rest breaks for truckers and their carrier employers and prevent states from undertaking driver pay reform measures.

The inclusion of the provisions in the bill resurrect efforts previously included but ultimately removed from 2015’s FAST Act highway bill.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a prominent voice in Senate transportation-related work, held a press conference Thursday to decry the return of the measure, calling it a "mean-spirited provision" put forth by House Republicans. "This terrible anti-safety, anti-worker provision is a poison pill and has no place in the FAA bill.  It has no place in any bill, which is why we killed it in the highway bill," Boxer said at her press conference.

The American Trucking Associations later Thursday issued a press release stating its support for the measure, citing the 1994 Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act as clearly stating that the federal government is tasked with regulating drivers’ hours and pay, saying a "patchwork of state laws [is] confusing and inefficient" for the trucking industry.

"A single set of consistent and fair regulations is essential to the trucking industry," says ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. "Language currently being discussed by Congressional leaders would ensure that drivers operate under a consistent set of break rules, whether that driver is delivering a trailer full of water to Flint, Mich., or picking up a load of avocados in Temecula, Calif."

The provision, like in the FAST Act highway bill, was prompted by several court rulings in recent years upholding state-level enacted mandatory breaks for truckers. Notably, a 2014 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — a court one step below the Supreme Court — upheld California’s enforcement on truck operators of its meal and rest break laws.

The House version of the bill has cleared the committee level with the provision intact and is ready to be brought up for a vote by the full House. The Senate, meanwhile, has not produced its version of an FAA bill, but Boxer said she is urging Senate colleagues to exclude it from the upper chamber’s bill.

Other trucking-related groups who oppose the provision include the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Teamsters Union.


 

Cosmo and the Woman Trucker
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by Truckinginfo Staff, February 9, 2016

Cosmopolitan is not where most would-be truckers will turn for advice on launching a career behind the wheel. Just because roughly 95% of American truck drivers are male and Cosmo is a women’s magazine — not to mention one known more for its expansive coverage of beauty and sex than anything else.

 
 

Apparently, though, even the editors at that glossiest of zines have heard of the driver shortage. I can’t think why else they would feature an "as told to" post on the ins and outs of driving a truck for a living in a section titled "Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Career."

Presented by contributing writer Arielle Pardes are 13 key insights gleaned by Lindsay Slazakowski during her three-year stint as a long-haul truck driver. Slazakowski for the most part sticks to the format, talking about what she discovered working and thus living out on the road.

Perhaps most notably, she also reveals what led her to climb into a truck cab in the first place: "I always saw truck driving as a temporary job. I wanted to pay off my student loans and save up some money to go back to school, and once I accomplished those things, there wasn't much keeping me there."

I can’t speak from personal experience, having not even a CDL to my name, but based on what I’ve observed as a journalist for over 30 years of the working life of long-haulers, Slazakowski’s take on the job tracks true..

Her 13 points take in the good, the bad and the ugly of driving, including just how ugly it can get for a woman just trying to do her job. She reports that sexual harassment is all too common: "I've been catcalled by regular drivers on the road and from other truck drivers; even the customers I delivered to made overtly sexual comments toward me. Other women have reported sexual assault during training and while on the road, which is an uncomfortable reality for any woman in this industry."

Slazakowski also weighs in on other negatives to making longhaul a career, noting that the starting pay "isn’t great," the job can be very lonely if not driving as a team, that you should "forget about working out or eating well," that the job is dangerous, and, yes, "you're constantly traveling, but you don't get to be a tourist."

On the other hand, she appreciates that she was able to increase her pay "pretty quickly… When I first started driving, I was making 27 cents for every mile that I drove, which equated to around $35,000 a year — so, not great. But by the time I quit three years later, I was making $55,000 a year. Pay raises are regular, and your rate goes up if you hit goals each quarter, like making ontime deliveries, driving without accidents, staying under the speed limit, and having more years of experience under your belt."

Slazakowski also liked that the job was just about hers for the taking: "There's a huge shortage of truck drivers, so getting hired is basically as easy as getting your commercial driver's license. It's a 10-week program to get the certification, and by the time mine was over, I had a job lined up with a company."

She liked something else, too. What she calls the "beautiful moments." Slazakowski advises those included being "in charge of your own schedule and how you spend your time in the truck. You can save a lot of money, since your living expenses are minimal while you're on the road."

"And," she adds, "the views from the driver's seat beat any office window."


 

How Not to Lose Sleep Over Apnea
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by David Cullen, Executive Editor, January, 2016

There’s no federal rule in place to govern the testing and treatment of sleep apnea for truck drivers. Yet mounting evidence of the costly impact of not treating this medical condition can have on highway safety and on driver quality of life should keep fleet managers awake at night.

 
 

Thunderous snoring is the punchline of many a joke, but when the hallmark of an apnea sufferer, it’s no laughing matter. The National Institutes of Health says sleep apnea is a common, and usually chronic, disorder that causes a person to take one or more pauses in breathing or to breathe shallowly while asleep. "When you try to breathe [during sleep with apnea], any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring," NIH says.

The pauses can last a few seconds or extend for minutes and may occur 30 times or more an hour. The condition disrupts sleep in such a way that the sufferer moves in and out of deep and light sleep. That results in poor-quality sleep, leading to chronic sleep deprivation. And that brings on fatigue, revealed as excessive daytime sleepiness.

The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. Studies have found that OSA affects 2 to 4% of middle-aged adults and that drivers with OSA have an increased crash risk that can be 2 to 4 times that of the general population.

A University of Iowa study looked at what happened when individuals with an OSA diagnosis entered into "microsleeps" while on an hour-long drive in a high-tech simulator. As explained by riskmanagement firm Circadian, a microsleep is a "brief sleep episode that lasts up to 30 seconds, during which a person temporarily loses consciousness and external stimuli aren’t perceived."

That’s more than enough time for things to go horribly wrong on the road. The UI study authors reported that the OSA-afflicted drivers "showed significant deterioration in vehicle control during the microsleep episodes… The degree of performance decrement correlated with microsleep duration, particularly on curved roads." As if substantially upping the risk of a driving or a work-related accident weren’t reason enough to seek treatment, per NIH, untreated sleep apnea can also:

• Increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and obesity

• Increase or worsen the risk of heart failure

• Make arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) more likely

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute points out that beyond negatively affecting any apnea sufferer’s health, untreated OSA can be especially dangerous for truck drivers. "Excessive daytime sleepiness may negatively influence behavior, and can result in poor judgment and impairments in concentration, memory, and cognitive function."

VTTI Research Associate Erin Mabry, who co-authored a case study on the impact of apnea treatment offered by motor carriers, says such programs significantly cut accident and medical costs — and help trim driver turnover.

That was demonstrated in the study’s review of a pilot program to screen for and treat drivers for OSA set up by Schneider National. "The fleet said it wanted to address sleep apnea before any regulation came about," Mabry explains.

While being studied, the carrier’s screening led to OSA treatment for 348 drivers. The fleet saw a 48% cut in medical costs and a 73% drop in preventable accidents, Mabry says. "And they saw the retention rate for those drivers climb to two to three times that of their overall driver population. I think that shows the drivers really appreciated that Schneider offered the program to them free of charge."

Todd Simo, chief medical officer of Charlotte-based HireRight, says that while truck drivers above all should be concerned about OSA as it affects their ability to work, the condition should also "concern every employer who cares about their employees. On top of that, the 20 to 60% higher accident risk of those with untreated OSA can increase the cost of accidents and litigation to the point of shutting down smaller companies."

Apnea is a condition that can lead instantly to a fatal crash but also can cause a lifetime of daily suffering while piling on longterm health risks. Screening for OSA and then providing treatment if needed is the most direct way a fleet can help drivers gain relief from the condition and go on to be safer and healthier employees.

What you can do

Fortunately, concerned fleets are finding that employment-related service providers are offering programs aimed at making OSA screening and treatment cost-effective and simple to implement. "It just makes tremendous financial sense for companies to be proactive," says Robin Ivany, general manager of one such provider, Safety First Sleep Solutions, Girard, Ohio. "This health condition creates a tremendous liability for companies, mostly because most people that have sleep apnea do not even know it."  SFSS has come up with affordable testing and treatment solutions for sleep apnea geared toward truck drivers. "We use a convenient, low-cost testing system that enables patients to be screened in the comfort of their homes," Ivany explains, "and there are sleep-therapy experts available 24/7 to assist with any questions or problems."

She says the company also offers "a cost-effective CPAP and power supply combination to provide effective FMCSA-compliant apnea treatment for use in a sleeper berth equipped truck." Ivany adds that a big part of SFSS’ effort is to educate drivers and the industry about sleep apnea.

HireRight’s Steven Spencer, managing director of transportation and health care, says a new sleep-apnea study service launched as part of the firm’s driver- health screening offering makes tacking OSA "easy and convenient for drivers and helps motor carriers maintain compliance, mitigate risks, reduce costs, and improve retention."

He explains that HireRight provides a portable testing device that can be used at home or in a sleeper berth, so a driver need not stay overnight at a sleep-study lab. The program includes "concierge-level service for both the driver and motor carrier throughout the process."

"Effective treatment can show marked change right away," says HireRight’s Simo. "And epiphanies often result. After sleeping well, those treated realize 'fatigue stinks.'"

Safety aside, he adds, "Who wants to be tired all the time?"


 

Tarping safety: 'Don’t become a statistic this year'
Source: http://www.overdriveonline.com; by Todd Dills, February 25, 2016

The author of this letter to the editor, Pete Zimmer, is a Las Vegas-based owner-operator currently leased to Mercer and running long-haul. Zimmer began his career in trucking in 1980.

 
 

It’s no secret that drivers are forced to tarp loads that are in unsafe conditions. We are climbing on top of 13’6" loads at times. We are told to go to deserted lots off the shipper’s property to tarp the load — or go onto public streets to tarp — as shippers try to release themselves of liability.

We are exposed to and deal with rain, snow, ice, heat and wind in order to tarp a load.

The "Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries" reports 25 deaths a year occur as a result of various falls, slips and trips in the trucking industry. Some shippers do furnish equipment and assistance for tarping, which is appreciated. However, they are in a small minority.

OSHA has many regulations that are not followed or enforced, and only after an accident does OSHA investigate and find faults.

Some of the OSHA regulations include that employers are to provide a “safe workplace.” Fall protection is required for different industries at 4-, 5-, 6- and 8-foot heights. Other requirements are needed at other heights. Employers are to provide equipment for workers who are exposed to working at different heights.

All shippers wanting loads tarped should furnish overhead beams and trolleys for secure points to use fall protection equipment — platforms, rolling ladders, horizontal lifelines, fall restraint systems, harnesses, etc. — in order to provide for driver safety and comply with OSHA standards.

Another option could be that materials being shipped are waterproofed with plastic and the driver is furnished with tie-down points to properly secure the load.

Then the driver could do what he is paid for: Drive.

Be careful. Don’t become a statistic this year.


 

FMCSA issues shutdown order to Calif.-based driver
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by TCCJ Staff, February 19, 2016

California-licensed truck driver Edward Herbert Crane has been issued an effective shutdown order by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration following an investigation that revealed four positive drug tests since 2012 and a crash in which he turned his truck over.

 
 

On Jan. 8, 2016, he lost control of his truck, resulting in the truck leaving the highway, striking a concrete barrier and overturning as it was reentering the roadway. Crane was cited by local law enforcement officers for failing to maintain control of his vehicle. Following the crash, Crane was instructed by his employer to undergo drug and alcohol testing and was provided with the address of a facility. He has failed to report to this facility, FMCSA says, and has refused to submit to a post-crash drug and alcohol test.

Since his first positive controlled substances test in 2012, Crane has been evaluated by multiple substance abuse professionals, but he failed to comply with the follow-up testing requirements and to obtain a certificate of completion from any substance abuse program provider, FMCSA says.

In June, Crane was disqualified from operating a truck in interstate commerce by the FMCSA.

Violating an imminent hazard out-of-service order by a CDL holder may result in civil penalties of not less than $2,750 and disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for not less than 180 days for a first offense. A second offense may result in civil penalties of not less than $5,500 and disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for not less than two years. Failure to comply with the provisions of the imminent hazard out-of-service order may also result in criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

CVSA Cites FMCSA for Burdensome Exemptions
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by David Cullen, February 24, 2016

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has taken to task the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for unduly burdening roadside inspectors by issuing carriers and drivers too many safety-rule exemptions.

 
 

"Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued notices of final disposition that hinder the roadside inspector while conducting inspections," stated Collin Mooney, CVSA executive director, in a Feb. 18 letter to Scott Darling, FMCSA’s acting administrator.

He went on to point out that in the past year, over 20 exemption applications or renewal requests were granted.

These included final rules exempting vehicle equipment, such as mounting of video devices to windshields and the transportation of metal coils, along with several affecting drivers, including records of duty status exemptions and exempting certain drivers from having to obtain a CDL.

"Due to the amount of exemptions allowed by FMCSA in the past year," Mooney continued, "an excessive burden is being placed on inspectors to ensure all active exemptions are being followed properly. Furthermore, this puts an undue training burden on agencies that must be diligent in informing all inspectors of the new exemptions and ensuring they understand and apply the exemptions properly."

Mooney contended that allowing "such a large number of exemptions" puts in jeopardy "the likelihood of achieving a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level that is expected by the current regulation."

He wrote that with so many exemptions, beyond those within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, "it is possible that roadside inspectors will no longer accurately enforce the regulations, or may stop enforcing certain regulations all together."

Mooney added that inspectors "must be able to perform their duties without the apprehension that one of these exemptions will be overlooked, and a driver or vehicle placed out of service notwithstanding an obscure exemption, or an exemption being given to a driver or vehicle that is not in the exemption group.

CVSA does not object to the exemptions on an individual basis, he pointed out, but holds that "exemptions complicate the enforcement process, causing confusion and inconsistency… which undermines the very foundation of the federal commercial motor vehicle enforcement program— uniformity. The regulations are only effective if they are clear and enforceable."

Mooney said the alliance also wants to “further encourage” FMCSA to "invite to the table" state and local inspection/enforcement partners when working on new or updated regulations and/or exemptions.

FMCSA Spokesman Duane DeBruyne told HDT that CVSA’s letter was under review by the agency.


 

February 2016 Articles

Diesel nears $2 a gallon
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by Matt Cole, February 1, 2016

A 4-cent drop in the national average price of at-pump diesel fuel in the most recent week has the U.S. average at $2.031 per gallon, according to the Department of Energy’s weekly report.

 
 

This is the lowest diesel has been since the week of March 16, 2009, and if prices continue to drop as they have, next week could potentially see prices drop below $2 per gallon for the first time since February 2005.

The most significant drop in price this week came in California, where prices dropped 6 cents, followed by the Rocky Mountain and Midwest regions, where prices dropped 4.6 cents.

The nation’s most expensive diesel is still in California at $2.399 per gallon, followed by the Central Atlantic region at $2.239 per gallon.

The cheapest fuel can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $1.917 per gallon, followed by the Midwest at $1.941 per gallon.

Prices in other regions are as follows:

• New England – $2.219

• Lower Atlantic – $1.992

• Rocky Mountain – $1.969

• West Coast less California – $2.117

ProMiles’ numbers have the average price of a gallon of on-highway diesel at $1.955 per gallon nationwide.

According to ProMiles’ Fuel Surcharge Index, the most expensive diesel can be found in California at $2.311 per gallon, and the cheapest can be found in the Midwest at $1.902 per gallon.


 

FMCSA put the cart before the horse with SFD proposal, carriers again at risk of unfair ratings
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by Jeff Crissey, January 29, 2016

The trucking industry has been clamoring for information on the Safety Fitness Determination process since before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance Safety Accountability program was rolled out nationwide in late 2010.

 
 

SFD, one of the three cornerstones of CSA’s Safety Measurement System when it was first conceived, was slated for publication in 2012, but has been delayed repeatedly. Now that FMCSA finally published its Carrier Safety Fitness Determination Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last month, the question remains: Is CSA data accurate enough to assign a carrier a safety rating?

When CSA went live, it was widely understood that it was still a work in progress. Indeed, CSA has been tweaked and revised numerous times in the last five years as FMCSA seeks to improve on the validity of the data it uses to issue carriers scores in each of the seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories. To the agency’s credit, it has listened in earnest to industry groups to improve CSA, and it should be applauded for doing so.

But CSA methodology is still under intense scrutiny from trucking industry groups and even Congress, who included language in the most recent highway bill that prohibits FMCSA from using “alerts and the relative percentile for each BASIC developed under the CSA program” from being used to assign a carrier a safety fitness rating, basically stripping CSA of its teeth.

FMCSA now must commission a study on the CSA program by June 2017 and implement any improvements and changes before returning SMS data to public view.

With its SFD Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last month, FMCSA is moving ahead with a proposed rule to assign safety fitness ratings based largely on CSA SMS data. Under the proposed rule, gone is the three-tier "Satisfactory," "Conditional" and "Unsatisfactory" rating system. The agency has misgivings that a "Satisfactory" assignment given to a carrier is a defacto stamp of approval of its operation. Instead, SFD would only be used to assign an "Unfit" designation assigned to carriers that fall under one of the three methodologies:

• Unfit Method 1: Carrier with Two or More Failed BASICs from On-Road Safety Performance

• Unfit Method 2: Carrier with Violations of the Revised Critical and Acute Regulations Identified Through an Investigation

• Unfit Method 3: Combination of Inspection Data and Investigation Results In its methodology, FMCSA defines a "failed BASIC" as a carrier’s BASIC measure that equals or is greater than the BASIC failure standard. Carriers must have at least 11 inspections with violations in a 24-month window before it could fail a BASIC. Of the seven BASICs, all but Drug/ Alcohol and Crash Indicator will be used for on-road performance measurement.

The failed BASIC threshold for four of the five included BASICs would be determined using weighted violations divided by driver inspections. For Unsafe Driving BASIC, failure would be determined by weighted violations divided by power units.

FMCSA says the SFD rule would allow it to evaluate up to five times more carriers than it does today. Fortunately, it still has time to get CSA right before a SFD final rule would allow it to assign a single "Unfit" safety fitness rating to carriers. The agency has its work cut out to make sure the data used to formulate carrier ratings are fair for all.


 

Survey Reports Truck Fleets in Good Stead Entering New Year
Source: http://www.truckingnewsonline.com; by Trucking News Staff, February 3, 2016

A Fleet Sentiment survey conducted early last month by CK Commercial Vehicle Research (CKCVR) indicates that trucking fleets are on solid ground entering 2016.

 
 

All measures of the fleet environment as reported by the 48 fleets participating in the survey show that most are continuing to see good demand levels for their services along with high equipment utilization rates. The driver shortage is one area that continues to especially challenge OTR for-hire fleets.

Other key results for the Q1 2016 Fleet Sentiment Survey:

• A smaller percentage of fleets were planning power unit purchases in Q1 2016 versus a year ago; however overall unit volume was higher. Conversely, more fleets planned trailer purchases but with fewer total units.

• A few larger fleets were planning added capacity with new trailer units but overall fleets are primarily buying equipment for replacement only.

• Reported equipment utilization is above 90 percent for trucks and more than 85 percent for trailers.

• More than 50 percent of fleets reported that they need drivers now (to either fill seats or to grow).

• About one in four fleets are already taking actions to meet the proposed GHGPhase 2 implementation.

• A third of survey respondents are currently spec’ing downspeed powertrains with another 15 percent expected to do so within a couple of years.

• On average, survey participants view OEM-integrated powertrain packages in a favorable light.

• Fleets participating in the Q1 2016 survey operate in excess of 46,000 medium- and heavy-duty trucks and more than 138,000 trailers. They represent a varied mix of fleet demographics.

"Results of our Q1 2016 survey look remarkably like the same period last year," said Chris Kemmer from CK Commercial Vehicle Research. "Fleet capacity versus demand and other fleet environment survey results matched very closely to Q1 2015."

"Early year medium- and heavy-duty equipment buying plans were somewhat uneven when compared to Q1 2015. Most respondents indicated their annual 2016 purchases would be similar to 2015; however we heard from one major fleet that is cutting purchases for both trucks and trailers at least in half, so that could definitely be a concern."


 

Storms, Storms Everywhere: Are You Prepared?
Source: http://www.truckingnewsonline.com; by Deborah Whistler, Contributing Editor, February 2, 2016

It promises to be a nasty driving week with predicted severe storm, blizzard, high wind, driving rain and even tornado warnings throughout many areas of the U.S. Truckers should be aware of potential hazardous driving conditions and follow driving and safety tips to keep them safe and warm in the wake of the storms.

 
 

Winter Storm Kayla will bring heavy snow and strong winds to parts of the Plains and Midwest this week, leading to major traffic disruptions. Blizzard watches have been issued for eastern Nebraska, southeast South Dakota, northern, central, and western Iowa and southern Minnesota, including Omaha, Nebraska, Des Moines, Iowa and Rochester, Minnesota. The National Weather Service has also placed states from the Southwest into the western Great Lakes under winter storm warnings, watches and advisories.

Sustained winds may reach 25 to 40 mph with gusts over 50 mph over parts of eastern Colorado, western Kansas, Nebraska, western and central Iowa and southern Minnesota Tuesday into Tuesday night, perhaps lingering into Wednesday. The combination of snow and wind may result in blizzard or near-blizzard conditions, at times, in these areas.

Expect travel to become increasingly difficult, if not impossible in the Rockies and High Plains today, and in areas from the Missouri Valley to the Upper Mississippi Valley Tuesday and Tuesday night.

Roads, including stretches of Interstates 29, 35, 70, 80, and 90, may be forced to close for some time in areas with blizzard conditions. And a severe weather outbreak may occur on the warm side of Winter Storm Kayla over parts of the South and Ohio Valley where there is the threat of severe thunderstorms.

Tuesday into early Wednesday, snow is expected to spread into the northern Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi Valley. Kayla then will move swiftly to the northeast through midweek with precipitation tapering off to snow showers across parts of the Great Lakes by Wednesday.

A significant storm is also taking shape in the Mississippi Valley and Deep South brings the threat of severe thunderstorms on Tuesday with the potential for some of them to turn severe in over several states, spanning from southern Illinois and Indiana to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, according to AccuWeather.com.

The strongest thunderstorms will have the potential to kick up a few tornadoes as well as damaging wind gusts in excess of 60 mph that could topple trees and bring down power lines.

The main round of severe weather from these storms will come on Tuesday, with damaging winds, heavy rain, and isolated tornadoes all expected threats. The area at greatest risk for the outbreak of severe weather lies in between Little Rock and Nashville Tuesday afternoon and early evening, including Memphis, TN, and Jackson, MS.

Strong to severe thunderstorms could also hit around Little Rock midday Tuesday and may threaten areas northward to St. Louis and southward to New Orleans.

The main threat will likely come with a squall line, which will sweep across this area packing damaging winds and bursts of very heavy rainfall. There can be quick spin-ups of tornadoes within this line of thunderstorms, meteorologists predict.

The burst of rain in a short amount of time could lead to some street flooding, forcing detours on motorists and extended travel time. Those traveling on Interstates 10, 20, 40, 55, and 59 will have to battle blinding downpours.

The line of storms will push eastward through Tuesday night, turning into a mainly damaging wind threat, with isolated tornado threats. Louisville, KY; Nashville, TN; Birmingham, AL; and Mobile, AL will be in the path.

While the bulk of the energy with this storm system will head north into Canada Wednesday, there will still be a threat for flooding downpours and strong wind gusts with storms across the Southeast. Isolated severe thunderstorms will be possible from Raleigh, NC, to Tampa, FL.

Even with weeklong advanced warnings, many truckers were apparently unprepared for the blizzard in the Northeast the weekend before last. But despite early warnings from authorities to stay off the road, some drivers (mostly truckers) took their chances and were caught out in the storm.

Dozens of drivers were stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike overnight after getting caught the historic snowstorm blanketing the East Coast from Washington to New York. The National Guard was sent out to help local police clear roadways. Another estimated 150 to 200 commercial vehicles were stranded on Interstate 77 northbound in Charleston, WV, due to the winter storm.

Whether these truckers were unaware of hazardous driving conditions, foolhardy or under pressure to drive by dispatchers, the results were the same: They were stuck in the snow overnight in frigid conditions. Following is information you need to know on how to prevent winter driving disasters.

Your Right to Refuse to Drive

At times, commercial drivers will face the decision of whether or not it is safe to drive. Of course, the driver’s decision may differ from his dispatcher’s decision. When this conflict arises it is generally the driver’s decision that will legally control who is right and who is wrong, says Paul O. Taylor, an attorney with the Truckers Justice in an article written for the Teamsters for a Democratic Union.

He cites the United States Code of Federal Regulations [49 C.F.R. §392.14] that state, in part:

Hazardous conditions; extreme caution. Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated.

However, according to Taylor, this regulation does not provide a clear test for when a driver can discontinue operations due to bad weather.

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act prohibits an employer from disciplining or firing a commercial driver because that driver refuses to drive a commercial motor vehicle on the highways in violation of Federal safety regulations. The STAA also prohibits an employer from disciplining or firing a commercial driver because that driver refuses to operate a commercial vehicle when he has a "reasonable apprehension" of serious injury to himself or the public because of the vehicle’s unsafe condition.

When You Can Refuse To Drive

Taylor says by studying cases involving drivers who were fired for refusing to drive "we can discern several rules about when a driver can refuse to drive due to adverse weather conditions."

• A driver may refuse to start work if the weather is sufficiently hazardous at or near the time he is scheduled to begin as to make it unsafe to operate a commercial vehicle on the highways.

• A driver cannot speculate unreasonably into the future regarding what the road conditions will be beyond a few hours.

• A refusal to drive due to adverse road conditions must be reasonable. The refusal should be based on the driver’s personal observations, weather reports from the radio and television, calls to the Department of Transportation or Highway Patrol, if possible, and information received from other drivers if such information is available.

• Additionally, the driver should be able to articulate for a court the precise facts that led him to believe that it would have been unsafe for him to operate a commercial vehicle on the highways.

Remedies

If an employer illegally fires or disciplines a driver for refusing to drive a commercial vehicle in dangerous weather, the driver can seek relief under the STAA, Taylor says. A driver must file a complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration within 180 days after he receives notice of the illegal discipline. OSHA will investigate a complaint filed under the STAA and thereafter issue a decision. If any party objects within 30 days to OSHA’s decision, the case will be assigned to an Administrative Law Judge for consideration. The STAA provides broad relief to an employee who is successful in proving that he was illegally disciplined or fired. A successful claimant is entitled to reinstatement, expunging of his work record, back pay, other damages, attorney fees and legal costs.

"Ultimately, the professional truck driver is the best judge of whether road conditions are so hazardous that he should not drive." Taylor concludes. "He must act reasonably under the circumstances. If he acts reasonably in refusing a to drive due to dangerous weather conditions, and clearly conveys his reasons for refusing to drive to his employer, then the employer may not legally fire or discipline him for refusing to drive because of hazardous road conditions."

Winter Weather Driving Tips

Winter demands heightened awareness and driving skills; and the ice, snow, wind and cold test each driver’s professionalism. Keep in mind these defensive driving tips taken from Schneider National’s 68-page Winter Survival Guide for drivers:

Visibility – Watch for brake lights on the vehicles ahead of you.

• Make sure your lights are on and working.

• Clean the ice and snow off mirrors, windows, lights and reflective tape.

• Use your air conditioner to help keep windows defrosted. Conditioned air is dry air.

• Watch the cloud of powdered snow surrounding your unit. There may be a car hidden in it.

• Look out for other vehicles whose only means of visibility is a 3”x3” area scraped off the windshield.

• See and be seen. Be aware of your surroundings. Look ahead, to the sides and rear.

Roadway – Watch for glazed conditions and slow down for the following:

• Be extra cautious on entrance and exit ramps. A sharp turn on a slippery road means double trouble.

• Be aware of bridges. Their surfaces freeze first and can be more slippery than the roadway itself.

• Intersections can be very icy, so start braking early for stop signs and red lights.

• Allow for the wind. Be ready for it in large open areas or when you come out from behind a hill, tunnel or an overpass. Be especially cautious with an empty trailer.

• Don’t "fall" for roads that are rain covered. Keep your speed down to maintain traction and stay off cruise control. If your wipers are on, the cruise should be off. Increase your following distance to be able to react to other vehicles getting into trouble ahead of you.

Traffic – The general driving public is not ready for winter storms. Be especially careful when you are in an area that is being hit with its first storm of the season.

• Keep in mind the importance of a good following distance (7-14 seconds) or more and your ability to recognize what the other driver might do.

Traction – Starting, stopping and steering all require traction.

• Don’t drive in the ruts of other vehicles. Their spinning wheels have probably packed the snow into ice.

• Accelerate/decelerate carefully and gradually. Remember that the tractor must pull the trailer. If the pavement is slick, the conditions are ripe for a jackknife.

• Slow down. Speed decreases traction. Slowing will increase your traction.

• Turn the engine brake off when on wet, icy or snow covered roads, when approaching bridges, on-ramps or exit ramps.

Trip Planning is Key

Trip planning is the key to safe and stress free winter truck driving, according to Jim Pitman, Temperature Control Fleet Manager with Gordon Trucking. And a big part of trip planning in the winter is monitoring the weather, he says. "There are many sources for weather: the XM radio, the Weather Channel (usually on at the truck stops), the Internet (from our Smartphone or Wi-Fi), 511 from the not-so-smart phones, and our old friend – the robotic voice of NOAA weather. Lastly, there is the old school method of predicting the weather – using the CB to get information about what the conditions are ahead."

"Take out your map, your library of safe places to park, and the weather information you gathered and plan your trip. Plan it so that you are going over the passes when the snow has melted (or at least after the plows have had a chance to work the road a bit). In bad weather, calculate your speed at 25mph – if you do better than that great. If you overestimate your speed you may run out of your driving hours or hit your 14 before you can get to a safe place, Pitman adds. "Remember that, he notes, the ‘extra two hours of driving for unforeseen traffic or weather’ only applies if it is unforeseen – "you cannot tell DOT that you did not see the winter storm coming when it has been broadcast by every news report and DOT traffic sign."

A proper Pre-Trip should be done rain or shine, but it becomes even more important in the winter, Pitman adds. "Make sure all lights work because half of them will be covered in road grime after 50 miles in the snow. Drain air from both the truck’s tanks and the trailer’s. Condensation in the airlines is the #1 cause of frozen brakes. Having a flat tire can be catastrophic when we pull off to the shoulder only to find that after we get the tire fixed we need to be winched out of the snow because the shoulder was really a mud hole covered by snow. A breakdown on the truck in sub-zero temperatures quickly turns into a life-threatening situation. Working in the breakdown department at GTI, I have had to tell more than a few drivers the bad news that no one – not even a tow – will come out to help them because the weather is bad."

Check your equipment while en route – especially before going into the storm, Pitman warns. Also, do not forget to stop after going through a patch of bad weather to knock the snow and ice off the mud flaps, ICC bumper, chain hangers, etc. "I am reminded of a run to Hutchinson, KS with a student. We were running on snow and ice and it was 30 degrees out. We stopped at the scale in Kemmerer, WY, and before going into the scale house we knocked some snow off the truck and trailer. Big blocks of ice came off the under carriage of the trailer. When we went in the scale the DOT officer was impressed and told us a story about how, only a week before, a car’s front end and windshield were damaged by a block of ice coming off the trailer and ricocheting off the tandems of the truck."

Know Your Storms

The Center for Disease Control says it’s important to know what winter storm warning terms mean:

Winter Weather Advisory: Expect winter weather condition (e.g., accumulation of snow, freezing rain, and sleet) that could cause severe inconvenience and life-threatening hazards.

Frost/Freeze Warning: Expect below-freezing temperatures.

Winter Storm Watch: Be alert; a storm is likely.

Winter Storm Warning: Take action, the storm is in or entering the area.

Blizzard Warning: Seek refuge immediately! Snow and strong winds, near-zero visibility, deep snowdrifts, and life-threatening wind chill.


 

U.S. Commercial Truck Market Expected to Grow Slightly in 2016
Source: http://www.truckingnewsonline.com; by Trucking News Staff, January 27, 2016

The U.S commercial vehicle market is expected to grow slightly this year to just over 500,000 newly registered units — up slightly from projected registrations of 498,000 units in 2015.

 
 

According to analysts at IHS Automotive, a leading source of critical information and insight to the global automotive and commercial vehicle industry, its forecast is based on pre-release truck-market data from the upcoming IHS Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicle Industry Forecast Report for first quarter 2016.

The U.S. ranked No. 2 in global new-truck retail sales in 2015, and was among 2015’s strongest gainers in unit terms, following only India. Compared to just shy of 407,000 retail sales in 2014, the U.S. retail market climbed to some 450,000 trucks in 2015, with gains in the medium-duty segments (Classes 4-7) and heavy-duty segment (Class 8) alike.

This year, heavy-truck demand is forecast to begin to weaken, following years of rising sales and weakening pressure to replace older vehicles, especially on-highway tractors. As U.S. job growth continues and the housing market picks up speed, gains in the medium-duty segments will largely offset the expected slip in Class 8 sales, for an overall flat market for Class 4-8 trucks. Looking at commercial vehicles in the broadest sense, a somewhat more positive picture emerges, against the background of forecast increases in demand for some non-truck vehicle classes, including buses and motor homes.

"As one of the largest replacement-driven, mature markets globally, the United States enjoyed a projected double-digit rise in new-truck demand and was among the regions with the fastest expansion since 2011," said Andrej Divis, director, global heavy-truck forecasting for IHS Automotive.

With more than 12.6 million commercial vehicles on the road in the U.S., the commercial vehicle parts aftermarket is large and predicted to gain momentum in 2016. The increase in demand for preventive and general maintenance parts is due to the growth in commercial vehicle new registrations since the bottom of the market was reached in the 2009 calendar year, so an increasing number of newer model vehicles are coming in for first parts’ repair/replacement cycle.

At the same time, IHS analysts anticipate demand for long life-cycle parts, such as diesel engine overall kits, will soften in the coming years as more model years 2009, 2010 and 2011 vehicles come in for their first major overhauls.

The IHS analysis of demand for both general maintenance and long life-cycle parts is based on the number of GVW 3-8 vehicles operating on the U.S. highways by the model year and applications, which determines the rate at which vehicles depreciate. Registrations of 2009 and 2010 model year GVW 3-8 vehicles were 325,000 or less.

An increasing number of 2009 and 2010 model year vehicles are coming in for major overhauls implying soft demand for long life-cycle parts, following strong demand related to first major overhauls of 2005, 2006 and 2007 model year vehicles. More importantly, if just GVW 8 vehicles are analyzed, registrations of roughly 100,000 of 2009 and another 100,000 of 2010 model year vehicles implies decreasing number of newer model vehicles coming in for first major overhauls.


 

January 2016 Articles

Smartphones are distracting, but many seem willing to accept the risks
Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com; by Ashley Halsey III, December 21, 2015

Have you bumped or crashed into something hard enough to cause a bruise or require a trip to the auto body shop? Do you struggle to recall what life was like before receiving the all-in-one communication, entertainment and source-of-knowledge device that fits in the palm of your hand?

 
 

Could there be a connection?

If you’re like most people, you recognize the haze of distraction that captures other people, but you don’t think you’re a perpetrator.

Take distracted walking, the practice of moseying around your habitat or down the street with your eyes transfixed by your smartphone.

More than 75 percent of people surveyed said distracted walking was a "serious" issue, according to a survey by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, but almost as many said it was "other people" who blundered about in an oblivious state.

A lot of distracted-walking incidents fall into the almost-comical "Oops, pardon me" category, but the surgeons group says the number of emergency room visits by injured distracted walkers doubled with the rise in smartphone use between 2004 and 2010.

Distracted driving of all sorts killed at least 3,179 people last year. But all the attention paid to the deadly consequences in recent years hasn’t stopped people from whipping out their smartphones.

A recent survey by the insurance company State Farm found that fewer people are talking on their phones while driving than in 2009. But the percentage of drivers who are texting went up five points, to 36 percent, and the number using an Internet function more than doubled, to 29 percent.

Both surveys reveal the addictive quality or Pavlovian response that comes with devotion to smartphones, almost a damn-the-danger attitude that many people can’t escape.

The surgeons’ survey found that 90 percent of people say they see people walking around glued to their phones, with 64 percent describing those distracted walkers as totally "zoning out." But only 38 percent of them admit to being zoned out themselves, a percentage that might be challenged by the evidence at almost any downtown street corner in America.

Alan Hilibrand, a surgeon who is a spokesman for the group, estimates that 60 percent of pedestrians are preoccupied with their smartphones.

Why do they continue to do it? People said they feel confident with multitasking or are too busy and want to be productive.

"Many of us simply need to force ourselves to set down our devices and focus on what’s in front of and around us," Hilibrand said.

The same sort of numbers pop up in the State Farm survey.

Almost everyone says texting while driving is distracting, but 36 percent of people say they do it. While 86 percent say dealing with social media is very distracting when behind the wheel, 21 percent say they browse it and 16 percent post their own updates.

The willingness to embrace distractions despite the perceived risk continues right down the line: reading email (23 percent do), recording video (10 percent), taking photos (19 percent) and accessing the Internet (29 percent).

In all four of those instances, more than 80 percent of people told State Farm that the behavior was very distracting, and when those who thought it was "somewhat" distracting were added in, the percentage climbed into the mid 90s.

"It’s interesting to observe how the number and types of distractions available on cellphones has grown over the years we have conducted this annual survey," said Chris Mullen, who directs technology research for the insurance company.

As the variety of things that can be accomplished on a smartphone has increased, so too has the number of people who carry one. Virtually everyone under the age of 50 has one, and in the 65 and up age group, the number of people who own one has tripled to 69 percent in the past five years.

If there is good news to be found in the State Farm survey, it is that people are less likely to pay attention to their smartphones when driving if it’s icy, snowy, foggy, rainy or dark or if they’re in a school or construction zone. But 48 percent said they are just as likely or more likely to use them on a high-speed highway or interstate.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving; 14 states and the District prohibit handheld use of smartphones while driving; and 38 states have some restrictions on their use.

But unless a driver flashes by with a phone pressed to their ear, police are hard-pressed to catch violators. Now that most phones have real-time location finders, however, police can pinpoint whether a phone was in use at the instant an accident occurred.

State Farm found that 48 percent of texting drivers said they would stop doing it if they ever crashed as a result. Forty-two percent said they would stop if they feared legal consequences or fines, and 36 percent said they wouldn’t do it if they thought police could catch them.

Another apparent calculation of the will to take risks surfaced in response to two other questions posed by State Farm.

Eighty-four percent of those surveyed said they would agree with a law that banned any physical contact with a phone, and 61 percent supported a prohibition against using a smartphone for any activity while driving.

Those laws would require police to catch the offending drivers.

But when asked whether they would support mandatory use of technology that would block a smartphone from calling or texting, support dropped to 63 percent to stop texting and 44 percent to stop calling.

There are a number of technological solutions available to voluntarily block smartphone use.

Only 23 percent in the State Farm survey said that someone who kills a person while distracted by a smartphone should lose their driver’s license. That number may have been distinctly lower only because 53 percent said the appropriate penalty was a prison sentence.


 

TEAR DOWN A FREEWAY? IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA? IT COULD HAPPEN
Source: http://www.latimes.com; by Hillel Aron, December 28, 2015

A number of West Coast freeways have been decommissioned and demolished over the years — Harbor Drive in Portland in the 1970s, the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco in the 2000s. Doyle Drive in San Francisco is currently being demolished. And the long-delayed project to remove the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a raised freeway that mars downtown Seattle's waterfront and will be replaced with a tunnel, resumed on Dec. 22 when Bertha, a giant tunnel-boring machine, finally got repaired.

 
 

But in Southern California, the freeway is king. It may be impossible to build a new freeway in L.A. County, but it's damn near unthinkable to remove one.

That may be about to change. A plan to remove a one-mile section of the Terminal Island Freeway in Long Beach and replace it with a plethora of park space is slowly moving forward. Earlier this month, the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to green-light an environmental study of the freeway closure-and-transformation project dubbed the Green TI.

"It’s funny," says Brian Ulaszewski, executive director of City Fabrick, a nonprofit design studio that's among those promoting the idea. "This would be the smallest freeway removal in our nation’s history. It should be theoretically easy. But the goods-movement industry carries a lot of weight in our local economy....The fear of change is always out there."

Ulaszewski estimates the cost of the plan at between $20 million and $50 million. That's far cheaper than freeway-removal projects in Seattle, San Francisco and Portand, thanks to the fact that the Terminal Island Freeway is at grade, meaning it travels on the same level as the streets, so no bridges or overpasses need be removed, or tunnels bored. And the length of the teardown would be just one mile.

A coalition of labor unions and business interests near the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are opposing the plan, which is still about a decade away from becoming a reality.

"When you close down this major infrastructure, or even send a message that you’re considering doing it, those start to impact decisions," Pilar Hoyos, a spokeswoman for the Watson Land Company, told the Long Beach Post. "And those decisions have serious implications in terms of jobs."

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, when combined, make up the third-busiest port in the United States. They are joined together at Terminal Island, a mostly artificial peninsula.

The Terminal Island Freeway is short, running roughly 3.5 miles, and leads from the Seaside Freeway to Willow Street. The last mile is owned by the City of Long Beach, which is why the teardown is even a possibility (Caltrans owns the rest). Only 11,000 vehicles use that section daily, and about half of those are trucks, picking up goods from the port and often dropping them off at a railway depot near the end of the freeway.

Originally the freeway was supposed to be extended all the way into East Los Angeles, which was horribly chopped up by freeway planners anyway, and where residents are still deeply bitter about what happened there.

Later plans had the Terminal Island Freeway leading to the 710 Freeway, but a nationwide movement against new freeways put an end to that idea.

Now there's a small movement of environmentalists calling for freeways to be torn down and replaced by green space.

"West Long Beach is infamously park-poor," says Brian Addison, a Long Beach writer and activist who supports the project. "For every 1,000 residents, they have [only] a soccer field of green space. This project will provide much-needed park space for an enormously marginalized population."

"If all goes well, it would be great to have this completed in 2025," Ulaszewski says. "It’s a long way away. Smaller projects have taken longer."


 

Repairing California’s bumpy roads
Source: http://capitolweekly.net; by John Howard, December 23, 2015

Six months after Gov. Jerry Brown called for a special session of the Legislature to fix the state’s crumbling roads, the potholes are just as deep, the motorists are just as irritated and the multibillion-dollar cost is just as high.

 
 

"There are a lot of discussions going on behind the scenes," said Jim Earp of the Alliance for Jobs, which represents builders and workers, part of a coalition that includes cities and counties pushing for road improvements with, at a bare minimum, a $6 billion annual price tag.

"But it’s not as if everybody is sitting around a big table staring at each other. A lot of individual conversations are going on. We had hoped to queue something up before the end of the month for January," although it was uncertain whether that goal can be met, he added.

Lawmakers want to act on the issue.

"The negotiators are reporting back that legislators in both parties think something needs to be done," said Chris McKenzie of the League of California Cities, also part of the coalition. By one Capitol estimate, state roads and local roads need some $14 billion annually in maintenance and upgrades. The price tag for new construction and with the federal roads thrown is tenfold larger.

The goal is to offer a package in 2016 to improve the worst of the state’s 50,000 miles of state run roads and 13,000 bridges, and provide new capacity in freight-clogged zones and provide a regular source of funding over time.

The sticking point – not surprisingly – is money, since any combination of new taxes and fees will require bipartisan support in the Legislature to achieve two-thirds majority votes. Another difficulty: There is concern among environmentalists about tapping large amounts of money from cap-and-trade auctions and diverting it to highway infrastructure.

Gov. Brown said recently in Paris after the international climate change talks that he was considering going to next year’s ballot – a presidential election year — for infrastructure funding, but how much and for what purpose was left hanging.

His comment caught negotiators in Sacramento by surprise.

"Going to the ballot has been ruled out," one had said, just two days earlier. They are concerned that any measure would get lost in next year’s ballot, which is likely to be crowded with propositions. Instead, they would prefer to get a bill through the Legislature with bipartisan agreement and to the governor’s desk.

There are other uncertainties, including legislative leadership changes since the earliest drafts of the transportation bill.

By one Capitol estimate, state roads and local roads need some $14 billion annually in maintenance and upgrades, and fall short of that amount by nearly $8 billion. The price tag for new construction and with the federal roads thrown is ten-fold larger.

Estimates vary wildly, but the numbers are daunting: Caltrans has a $59 billion backlog of deferred road maintenance, and an annual shortage of about $5.7 billion in its highway operations and protection program, according to statistics compiled by road improvement advocates. More than two-thirds of California roads are congested, more than half the local bridges need renovation or replacement, as do some 58 percent of state roads. Of the five cities in the nation with the worst road conditions, four are in California.

The issue is nagging one: In 2013 California was ranked 47th among the 50 states for the efficiency and performance of its roads, according to a University of North Carolina study. Last year, California was 45th, according to the Reason Foundation. During the past 15 years, it has ranked consistently in the bottom 10.

The bill would cost the average driver about $130 a year, based on a calculation of a motorist who drives 12,000 miles annually in a vehicle that gets 24 miles per gallon.

But will the Legislature and governor come up with the money? Would the voters?

"That $14 billion to maintain the state and local systems is a big number. We’ve got an $8 billion-a-year shortfall." The coalition is "hoping to get some kind of revenue increase to address the shortfall," she said.

On the table is the governor’s proposal of $3.6 billion. Road improvement advocates, led by the builders and local governments, seek at least $6 billion a year, or more.

A base line for the negotiations is a $4.3 billion special-session bill authored by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose.

There about 25 million licensed automobiles in California, and another five million licensed pickups, trucks and vehicles for hire.

To raise money, his bill, SBx1 1, would cost the average driver about $130 a year, based on a calculation of a motorist who drives 12,000 miles annually in a vehicle that gets 24 miles per gallon, reflecting a proposed 12-cents-per-gallon increase in state fees and taxes that currently total 30 cents.

By comparison, the decline in gas prices from the 2014 high of $4.25 per gallon to the current average of $3.25 per gallon saves drivers about $500 annually if the current level remains the same, according to a Senate consultant.

There are about 25 million licensed automobiles in California, and another five million licensed pickups, trucks and vehicles for hire.

The key issues that have emerged thus far in the negotiations include:

– A commitment that money destined for road improvements be put in a "lockbox" and not diverted to other projects. "They want some kind of constitutional protection that the money won’t be borrowed or taken," one lawmaker said.

– A requirement that fuel taxes be "indexed," meaning that they can be increased every three years to account for changes in the cost of living. The goal of indexing is to avoid long periods when the fuel revenues stay flat, while needed maintenance and renovation lack for funding. The increased use of fuel-efficient cars, which use less gas but operate on the same roads, also plays into the calculation.

– Establishing a program that will be effectively funded over a period of years from sources other than the state’s general fund.

– A combination of fees and taxes to provide money, including some mix of the Vehicle License Fee, transportation weight fees, registration fees, fuel levies, excise taxes and money from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions.

– Improving high-traffic roads in freight-clogged areas, with a plan to add new capacity.

"What it really comes down to is do we have the votes to get the taxes and fees? It would have to be an overall package that people that people on both sides of the aisle can support," Beall said. Democrats control both houses, but will need Republican votes to raise taxes.

A provision of his bill sets aside 5 percent of the funds generated to counties if they pass new local sales and use taxes for transportation.

The California Taxpayers Association, although favoring transportation improvements, described that provision as a "get rich quick approach over sound policy by enticing county governments to approve new taxes." The bulk of the funds would be split 50-50 between the state and the locals Lawmakers say they often here from constituents complaining about the quality and capacity of the roads.

But it’s not that this unhappiness is anything new. Here’s a description of California’s highways from two decades ago from a state panel that investigated them.

"For many Californians … Hell feels like reality as they face the daily frustrations of the State’s inadequate freeways and highways," wrote Nathan Shapell, then head of the Little Hoover Commission. Shapell’s comments were contained in a 1992 official letter to Gov. Pete Wilson and legislative leaders accompanying a commission report that was sharply critical of the state’s transportation planning and construction.


 

Congress directs FMCSA to develop 'beyond compliance' incentives for carriers
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by Todd Dills, December 23, 2015

The FAST Act highway bill signed into law Dec. 4, along with a raft of provisions that in some ways pulled back the reins on the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program's Safety Measurement System, also included a section intended to be a potential addition to the program. Headed "Beyond compliance," the section details several additional requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration over the next 18 months, the same length of time the bill gave FMCSA to address several issues with the CSA SMS and report back to Congress.

 
 

The highway bill’s "Beyond compliance" directives require FMCSA to develop and implement in that time an incentive system for carriers that gives credit either in the CSA SMS or via some other methodology in the CSA program to carriers who do one of several things in their safety investments and operations. According to the bill’s text, credits are to be required for motor carriers who do one or a combination of the following:

• install advanced safety equipment,

• use enhanced driver fitness measures

• adopt fleet safety management tools, technologies and programs

• or satisfy an as-yet-unspecified set of other "standards determined appropriate by the Administrator."

• The "Beyond Compliance" program’s inclusion in the highway bill ensures its regulatory pursuit. And the final bulleted item above leaves wide open credit possibilities.

But this isn’t the first to be heard of it. FMCSA launched a request for comments on such an initiative in April, as previously reported, following a March “Beyond compliance” discussion by the agency’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee. The committee discussed possibilities for credit-worthy activities in its September-issued letter to FMCSA. Among them were carrier use of technologies such as various collision mitigation systems, speed limiters and electronic logs; management practices, including driver training of various kinds, that promote safety; and compensation models/levels that promote safety, such as incentive programs.

MCSAC also recommended that a third party, rather than FMCSA, administer the program. Language in the highway bill explicitly enables such an option, but leaves the decision up to the agency.

Organizations that filed comments in response to FMCSA’s early-year request warned against structuring the program such that it becomes nothing more than a way of rewarding one group of carriers for doing some they already do. Of particular issue was investment in leading-edge technologies, more common among the larger fleets. Noted the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Alliance in its comments, "Although similar concepts have proven more successful with larger motor carriers in other jurisdictions around the globe, it is critical that the Beyond Compliance program be inclusive of all sectors of the motor carrier industry, including smaller motor carriers."

As required by the law, the agency pulled the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Safety Measurement System and its BASIC categories of carrier safety analysis and evaluation ...

The American Trucking Associations, while applauding attention to a potential program that would "help alter a challenging paradigm by changing FMCSA from an agency that takes an enforcement-centric approach to one that recognizes the safety benefits of incenting and rewarding safe behavior," also recognized challenges to implementation.

In addition to SMS credits of some kind, reduction of carrier Inspection Selection System scores, utilized by bypass programs and law enforcement as a marker of inspection priority at the roadside, has likewise been discussed.

Relief from existing regulations, such as bonus hours flexibility or another incentive, however, CVSA warned against: "The Beyond Compliance program should not include any relief from existing regulations or requirements. The purpose of such a program is to recognize motor carriers who go above and beyond the minimum requirements. Releasing participating motor carriers from the minimum requirements is inappropriate and in direct conflict with the purpose of the program. CVSA strongly opposes any effort to do so."


 

December 2015 Articles

$305B highway bill limits teen truckers
Source: http://thehill.com; By: Keith Laing; December 2, 2015

The $305 billion highway bill announced by lawmakers on Tuesday limits an effort to lower the minimum age of truck drivers on interstate trips from 21 years of age to 18 to veterans and current military members and reservists.

 
 

The 1,300 page measure, which was unveiled days before a Friday deadline for renewing federal transportation funding, eschews a broader proposal to lower the minimum age of all interstate truck drivers in a pilot program that was approved earlier by the House and Senate.

Safety groups praised lawmakers for placing limits on the number of teenage truck drivers that will be allowed on U.S. roads.

"By restricting the three-year teen trucker pilot program to veterans and servicemen above the age of 18, Congress greatly restricted the amount of higher-risk drivers that would be allowed to drive trucks across state lines," Truck Safety Coalition Executive Director John Lannen said in a statement.

The proposal to lower the minimum age of truck drivers was included in earlier appropriations bills that were approved by the House and Senate, igniting a fight between truck companies and safety groups that revved up as lawmakers were pressing to beat the rapidly approaching Dec. 4 highway funding deadline.

Supporters argued the idea of lowering the minimum age for truckers was a modest effort to address a driver shortage that trucking companies have complained has hampered cargo movement in the U.S.

"This amendment would strike a limited pilot program that is authorizing drivers over 19 1/2 to enter into a graduated program to obtain a commercial driver's license," Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said when the proposal was being debated on the House floor in October.

"What's interesting about the way present law is [written] is that a driver that's over the age that's being discussed here can drive all the way across the state of Missouri, for instance, but they can't drive 10 miles in the city of Kansas City because it's across state lines," Graves continued then. "It doesn't make a whole lot of sense and it actually hampers a whole lot of business out there."

Truck companies cited a shortage of truck drivers they said has reached 48,000 as they pushed for the minimum age of interstate drivers to be lowered, arguing that older truckers are retiring at a faster clip than younger replacements are coming on line.

American Trucking Association President and former Kansas Gov. Bill Graves (R) said he is "puzzled" that Congress opted to place limits on the effort to lower the mininum age for truckers, although he said he took solace in other provisions that were included in the highway bill at the behest of truck companies, such as a controversial proposal to allow drug testing for drivers via hair follicles.

"It’s good news is that Congress has created an opportunity for young veterans to transition to the trucking industry," Graves said in a statement.

"We are, however, disappointed that qualified, young, non-military CDL holders cannot have the same opportunity because we believe it is illogical to allow these younger drivers to operate in intrastate commerce in each of the 48 contiguous states, but not let them cross state borders," he continued. "It is puzzling why Congress would dispense with language from both chambers that was very similar in many respects in favor of a provision that was so starkly different."

Democrats argued while the provision to lower the mininum age for truckers was being debated that it is too risky to turn the wheels of big rigs over to teenage drivers.

"Ask any parent, they know young drivers do not always listen, even when an experienced one is in the front seat," Rep. John Lewis (DGa.) said during the House highway bill debate.

Lawmakers ultimately split the difference, limiting the lower truck driver age limit to veterans and active military members.

The Truck Safety Coalition's Lannen praised lawmakers for reaching an agreement that "removed several dangerous policies, improved upon other anti-safety measures," though he added that the compromise bill "unfortunately, included some troubling provisions."

"We are extremely thankful to the members of Congress on the Conference Committee that listened to the facts and to the people," he said. "Their hard work is evidenced by the positive changes made to the final bill."


 

5 Amazing Views in San Diego Worth the Drive
Source: http://thehill.com; By: Hyundai, September 1, 2015

With its gleaming downtown skyline set right on the water, sandy beaches galore and perpetual sunshine, San Diego is the ultimate Southern California beach city. It's also one that − in typical California fashion − is best explored by car. The city’s freeways and highways lead to some of its most famous icons and scenic spots, but your wheels will also let you venture off the typical tourist track. Slather on some sunscreen and plug your camera in to charge – San Diego's best views and vistas await.

 
 

Mount Soledad

The tall white cross visible all over San Diego is the centerpiece of a veterans' memorial atop the 822-foot peak of Mount Soledad. The memorial is one reason to visit, but for visitors in search of the city's most photo-worthy sights, the panoramic views from the mountaintop are unmatched. Follow the mansion-lined La Jolla Scenic Drive, then enjoy a steep and scenic drive up the mountain to the Mount Soledad Park turnoff. The reward − especially magnificent on a clear day − is views over the entire expanse of San Diego and beyond. See palmlined beaches and the vast blue Pacific to the west; the hillside neighborhoods of Mexico to the south; and to the north, some of the tallest mountain peaks in Southern California, with their occasional snow caps on display. You will also get an otherwise unattainable glimpse of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Schedule your drive up Mount Soledad in the early evening to watch the sun slowly setting into the ocean for added natural splendor.

Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines State National Reserve is a 2,000-acre coastal landscape of rugged, chaparral-covered sandstone shelves and steep bluffs footed by sandy beaches and an ecologically rich lagoon. Gnarled Torrey pine trees − one of the rarest pine species in the world − cling to crevices as a picturesque symbol of the state park. Cruise up Torrey Pines Park Road, a historic road that was part of the original U.S. Highway 101, until you approach the reserve and its visitor center. You're getting close when the road takes you 300 feet up in less than a mile, a stretch that will make you appreciate the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid's six-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic. Park and explore some of the eight miles of easy-to-moderate hiking trails that lead to some of the most spectacular vistas in San Diego. For golf fans, equally enticing will be the views over the famous fairways of Torrey Pines Golf Course adjacent to the reserve.

Coronado Island

When you arrive by car, Coronado Island boasts quite the dramatic entrance in the form of the 2.12-mile San Diego-Coronado Bridge that connects it with downtown. The landmark sweeps across San Diego Bay, raised on mission arch-inspired piers some 200 feet above the water and its ever-bustling flotilla. The island has a speed limit of 25 mph, so plug your iPod into your Hyundai's built-in input jack and play some relaxing tunes reflecting Coronado's laid-back beach vibe. Of special interest to Instagram-enthusiasts is the Hotel del Coronado, a national historic landmark built in 1887. Its red-shingled roofs and whimsical turrets are a distinctive backdrop as enticing as the ocean that flanks the sprawling property. Snap some shots of yourself at "The Del" and you'll be in good company − among the hotel's former guests are 11 U.S. presidents, as well as Marilyn Monroe, who filmed "Some Like It Hot" there in the 1950s.

Julian Drive

Eastward from downtown into the Cuyamaca Mountains and in about one hour you'll reach the town of Julian. With four distinct seasons, including snowy winters and mild summers, you'll find it difficult to believe you never left San Diego County. The whole town of Julian is an official California historic landmark, a designation earned by its gold mining heritage. Explore the town, wait in line for one of their famous apple pies and see pioneer-era homes, a one-room schoolhouse dating to 1888 and a turn-of-the-century two-cell jail. Apple orchards and seasonal wildflower-filled meadows add charm to this pretty mountain getaway.

Cabrillo National

Monument Cabrillo National Monument marks the approximate spot on San Diego's Point Loma Peninsula where Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed his ship in 1542, thus establishing his legacy as the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States. Visitors to the site enjoy expansive views of the harbor, skyline and Coronado Island, but the monument itself offers scenic spots aplenty. The 422-foot Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which began operation in 1855, is a visual vestige of another era, no longer functioning but open to visitors. The tip of Point Loma is also notable as the southwestern-most point of the continental United States.


 

Preventable or not? Doe avoids accident, ditches trailer
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by CCJ Staff, December 2, 2015

Softly humming the "Backhaul Blues," doubles driver John Doe peered intently through a veil of rain that somewhat limited his view of Pennington Parkway, a four-lane highway with a grassy median, posted at 65 mph. Due to the inclement weather, Doe was cruising at 45 mph in the far right lane. Traffic was light. The time was 1 p.m. Reaching for his Thermos, Doe took a swig of the cocoa and coffee mix and … what the heck?

 
 

Dead ahead, looming out of the mist, was a battered straight truck – laden with a towering tarped load of Heaven knows what – crawling along at 35 mph. After skillfully executing a passing maneuver, Doe was still in the inside lane when … Holy Monica! What is this darn fool doing? Rocketing wildly across the median from a side street, a 1971 Mercedes sedan driven at full throttle by beer-crazed teenager Billy "Burpy" Clydesdale was poised to merge with the left fender of Doe's tractor!

Armed with the reflexes of a cobra, Doe spun the wheel to the right, averting a collision but … Yikes! CRASH!!! Alas, Doe’s rear trailer had succumbed to a crack-the-whip scenario, and now rested on its side in the ditch! Unscathed, Clydesdale's Benz disappeared into the distance, trailing blue smoke.

Since Doe contested the preventable-accident warning letter from his safety director, the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee was asked to render a final decision. NSC promptly ruled in Doe's favor, noting that he'd avoided being sideswiped and couldn’t have anticipated Clydesdale's attack.


 

Minor change to DOT physical form to take effect this month, more changes to system coming
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; By Matt Cole, December 1, 2015

One part of a Final Rule published in April that made changes to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s medical examination regulations will take effect Dec. 22.

 
 

Drivers going in for their DOT physicals after Dec. 22, 2015, will notice a new Medical Examination Report Form, which features more questions about medical history.

Also included in the new rule is a requirement of medical examiners to electronically submit on the National Registry the results of medical exams once a month. Until June 22, 2018, FMCSA says drivers only have to carry the exam certificate for 15 days after the physical for proof of medical certification. After that 15-day period, law enforcement will have the records in a database they can access at roadside.

After June 22, 2018, drivers won’t have to carry medical examiner's certificates at all because examiners will have to submit exam results by midnight of the day the exam is conducted, and the results will be available to law enforcement immediately.


 

Reasons for Testing: Random Drug Testing
Source: http://blog.employersolutions.com; By Alex Bednar, November 6, 2015

Random, or "spot," drug testing is a strong deterrent to drug users because it is conducted on an unannounced basis. Using a random selection process (e.g., computer-generated), an employer selects one or more individuals from all the employees included in the employer’s workplace drugtesting program. By using a random selection process, employers ensure that there is no bias and that all employees have an equal chance of being selected, even those who have been drug tested recently. Random drug testing can be more effective at detecting and deterring drug use than preemployment testing because employees do not know when they may be selected for testing.

 
 

Positivity Rates

Results from the 2014 Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) show that, similar to pre-employment testing, random urine drug test positivity rates are higher in the general U.S. workforce (5.7%) than they are in the federally-mandated workforce (1.5%).

Testing Prevalence

Data gathered from the Drug Testing Index shows that random drug testing is the second most common reason for drug testing – behind pre-employment. Federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workers – which include pilots, bus drivers and truck drivers – and workers in nuclear power plants are required to undergo random drug testing, as mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), respectively. Consequently, it is not surprising that in 2014, random testing made up 43.3 percent of federally-mandated drug tests and 15.5 percent of tests in the general U.S. workforce. Of interest is that in the general U.S. workforce, the positivity rate for random tests is higher than preemployment tests while, in the federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, random positivity is less than pre-employment. This may be partially attributable to the higher random testing rate in the federally-mandated workforce. Despite its intended use to maintain a drug-free workplace and to deter drug use among current employees, the majority of private sector employers elect not to perform random drug testing. Perhaps this is due to the added cost, administrative requirements or because of the perception that it can diminish employee morale. In addition, lab-based pre-employment urine testing is permitted in all 50 U.S. states, some cities and states restrict or prohibit random drug testing.

Specimen Types

Urine is the only specimen type permitted for federally-mandated drug testing programs, regardless of the reason for testing. Employers in the general U.S. workforce have the ability to use any specimen type for random drug testing. Leveraging data from the 2014 DTI in the general U.S. workforce, random drug test positivity rates were as follows for each of the specimen types:

▪ Urine – 5.7%

▪ Oral fluid – 9.5%

▪ Hair – 10.7%

Random drug test positivity rates in this population are higher than the preemployment rates for all three specimen types. The variation may be indicative of the donor’s ability to cease their drug use long enough to pass the pre-employment test, enabling them to get hired and resume their drug use, only to test positive on a random screening for which they were unable to 'prepare.'

In Conclusion

In our opinion, the very best drug testing programs, the ones aimed at creating and maintaining drug free workplaces do so by combining a variety of specimen types (urine, oral fluid, hair) and reasons for testing (pre-employment, random, etc.). Each type of specimen and reason for testing has its strengths and best-suited applications for both detecting and deterring drug use.

Random drug testing works best when combined with a pre-employment testing program that’s designed to keep drug users from being hired in the first place. Both reasons for testing should be included in the company’s employee drug testing policy, and to whatever degree is appropriate, should be openly shared with applicants and employees – as just having a program in place is an effective means of discouraging drug use.

Like pre-employment drug testing, each of the three specimen types is suitable for random testing depending on company goals, policies and budgets. Random drug testing is also effective at screening an employee population for drug use – when comparing random to pre-employment, all three specimen types produced a higher positivity rate on random drug tests.

For more information about random drug testing, or to learn more about adding a random drug testing component to your new or existing drug testing program, visit our website or contact us online.

Employers design drug-free workplace programs to protect their organizations from the adverse impacts of drug abuse and promote productivity, health and safety. Every drug testing type and method has its strengths and employers must choose which works best for their organizations. This blog series explores the different reasons for drug testing, the frequency of each and the specific pros and cons each one provides Read the introductory post to learn more about the series.


 

November 2015 Articles

A Trucker Explains Your Worst Highway Driving Habits
Source: http://www.roadandtrack.com; By: Road and Track staff; Sept. 24, 2015

Todd McCann started driving big rigs in 1997 and covers about 125,000 miles a year on America’s highways. In other words, he knows driving. (He also runs the hilarious Trucker Dump podcast.) It’s hard to imagine anyone with a better per-spective on the best and worst of highway driving than a guy who spends every day, week after week, sitting high up behind the wheel of his rig, watching cars ahead, behind, and alongside. We asked him to tell us what mistakes he sees again and again, and how we can all be better drivers. Spoiler alert: Put down your freaking phone.

 
 

This should be obvious: Pay attention.

People don't pay attention. They are in their own worlds because of cell phones. That's why they get caught riding on the right side of the road. That's why at the last-second they realize they are about to miss their turn. About 75 percent of the time when they are trying to merge onto the highway and are trying to push me over—which is ridiculous in itself—it's because they are looking up at the last second from their cell phone. They realize that they should worry about merging and you see the cell phone vanish. They put the phone down and look up at you like, "You didn’t see that."

I'm not one of these guys who thinks that if you're texting going down the road, you're a danger to everybody. If it's a quick text, I don’t see it as being much more dangerous than fiddling with your radio station, as long as there isn’t a bunch of traffic around. But I'm in Jersey right now and I see it on I-95 all the time where there's a ton of traffic and there are people cruising by on their phones. That’s just amazing[ly dumb].

Stop hanging out along my side.

Have you ever seen the signs on the back of trucks that say, "If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you?" I get what they are trying to do with that, but that rule is not entirely true. It's true that you shouldn't tailgate a truck but the sides are just as bad. I had a car riding on my right side the other day, just hanging out. That's the worst thing any driver can do. We have a huge blindspot over there. I almost ran this guy off the road because I couldn't see him. He was riding right in my tractor tires. According to that rule, he was okay because he could look up and see my mirror. But I couldn’t see him. He was nowhere to be found. I didn't see the car until he popped up in another mirror as he was going off on the shoulder. He was right along my right-hand side. What can I do?

Personally, I don't understand why anyone would want to ride beside a truck at all. When I'm in my car, even before I was a trucker, I would get around those trucks as soon as possible. The tires are almost as tall as your car. If there's a blowout, it'll tear your car up. It just makes no sense to me.

The old three-lane pass is a big problem.

That's when a car is way over in the left-hand lane and passes right in front of you at the last second to hit an exit ramp. You just dove over three lanes! And you have no idea what's over there on the other side of me. A crotch rocket could have been whipping by me at 90 mph and you would have just killed him dead. It blows my mind, especially when you see it’s a soccer mom with a van full of kids. At least if they are doing that around a car, it makes more sense. At least you can see around a car. You can't see around a truck. That's just insane.

Stupid is everywhere.

It really is. Some areas are worse than others. I think LA has taken the Fast and Furious movies seriously. They drive crazy out there, especially when the bars are getting out. It's nuts. You see crotch rockets going by you at 100 miles-per-hour, weaving in and out of traffic. The little souped-up cars do that, too. But the East Coast is bad, too. People in the Midwest seem to be more relaxed. The more crowded the area, the more stupid things you see.

Construction areas are especially scary.

If you get a construction area, no matter where you are, people are doing something stupid. Here's the thing that makes me the maddest during construction: I'll be cruising along in the left-hand lane of a two-lane highway going 50 mph because that’s what the signs say to do. I have people driving around me on the right-hand side, which is about the only time they should be doing that, but they are flipping me off. You can see the road rage because I'm in the left lane going 50. They could be doing it while they are passing the sign that says, "Trucks, left lane only. 50 mph." They are just not paying attention to the signs. They think truckers are bad drivers. We are not. Two-thirds of accidents between a truck and a car are caused by the car. People think we are the safety hazards. But we're not. We know how to drive defensively. If we drove like car drivers, changing lanes as quickly and as non-nonchalantly as they do, and slamming on the brakes, there would be a lot of accidents out on the road. There would be a lot of deaths.

Be consistent with your speed.

The fluctuating speed thing causes so many problems. People just don't pay at-tention to how fast they are going. They take their foot off the gas and then put it back on. For a truck, that's the worst, but it causes problems for everybody. I was coming up from Richmond, Virginia yesterday. There was a small Winnebago that was going 10 mph under the speed limit. It was causing all kinds of problems. One vehicle was backing up three lanes of traffic. I wish people would just pay attention.

If a trucker is tailgating you, you're probably going too slow.

If you see a truck in your rearview, the first thing you need to do is put down your phone. The second thing you need to do is look at your speedometer. The majority of the time, if a trucker is tailgating you, you're doing something wrong. My truck is limited at 64 mph. If I'm tailgating you because you're going too slow, that's a problem. I’m not talking tailgating like getting one car length behind them and flashing my lights. I'm talking three or four car lengths. Just enough to make them want to cuss me real bad. If they scoot over and get out of the fast lane, mission accomplished.


 

Free up your iPhone storage with these tips
Source: http://www.kwcg.us; By: KWCG, September 3, 2015

Remember the day when you bought your new iPhone? Probably one of the first things you did was to fill it up with a bunch of applications. And before you knew it, after months of taking selfies, capturing videos, and installing just about every social, gaming, and utility app out there, you got an alert saying your memory was almost full. If you want to free up some storage, try the following simple tricks.

 
 

Check your storage usage

First things first; before you start deleting applications at random, you need to see exactly what's hogging storage space. From your iPhone's home screen, navigate to Settings > General > Usage > Manage Storage. You'll see the amount of space you have available and how much space is being used up. After a few seconds you'll also see a list of apps, starting with those that take up the most space. The number indicates how much space the app uses in itself, and how much data is inside the app. Determine which apps you don't need and hit the Delete App button.

Clear Safari history

If you use Safari often and haven’t cleared its data in a while, your iPhone may be storing web history and data that you simply don’t need. Clearing the cache and history can, in some cases, help free in excess of 1GB of storage space on your iPhone. To do so, navigate to Settings > Safari. Then scroll down and press Clear History and Website Data to earn some additional space.

Clean up your iMessages

By default, your iPhone will store your messages forever. This takes up a lot of space, especially if you’ve received a lot of photos, GIFs, audio messages, and videos. Keeping a few romantic messages is understandable, but you can probably live without other spammy messages that clog up your storage. In addition, the iPhone allows you to keep messages for a period of time instead of forever. Simply head to Settings > Messages. Tap on Keep Messages and set your messages to delete themselves after 30 days or one year.

Don't double-save photos

You may notice that your iPhone saves two of the same image: a normal one, and a second one using High Dynamic Range (HDR), if you have turned this feature on. HDR images tend to look better than normal ones but, if you always want the HDR version, you can avoid duplicated images by turning off Keep Normal Photo in your Phone & Camera settings.

Delete offline data

Remember that time you had no Internet connection, when you saved an interesting webpage to read later? As your offline reading list grows, your storage space shrinks. To clear your reading list, open up the Settings menu and go to General > Usage > Manage Storage > Safari. Then swipe left over the words Offline Reading List and tap Delete to clear the cache.

These tips will help you make the most of what little space you have left on your iPhone. Want more iPhone tips and tricks? Contact our tech experts today.


 

FMCSA begins work on potential sleep apnea rule, studying need for screening/treatment requirements
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; by James Jaillet, October 16, 2015

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has started work on a potential rule that would set up screening and treatment requirements for drivers who by definition are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

 
 

According to a monthly regulatory report issued by the Department of Transportation, FMCSA began work on the potential rule Oct. 1. It is producing the rule as an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which, unlike standard Notices of Proposed Rulemaking, are simply intended to gather data from carriers and other stakeholders before proceeding to producing a rule proposal.

The report indicates the ANPRM will be sent to the White House late next month and be published in mid-December.

The DOT positions the ANPRM as one intended to "request data and information concerning the prevalence of moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea among individuals occupying safety sensitive positions in rail and highway transportation."

The agency will use the information gathered in the ANPRM, according to the report, to determine the economic impact and safety benefits of a potential rule to require those "who exhibit multiple risk factors for OSA" to undergo screening for a potential diagnosis and be treated if such a diagnosis is issued.

FMCSA in January issued a bulletin of clarification on sleep apnea screening following concerns from Congress, industry stakeholders and the NTSB. The main point of the clarification was simple: The decision to send a driver in for sleep apnea evaluation and treatment will be left up to the medical examiner issuing a driver's required bi-annual medical certification.

In 2013, Congress passed a law that bars FMCSA from addressing sleep apnea screening and treatment via guidance. If the agency decides to take action on sleep apnea, it must do so via the formal rulemaking process, per the 2013 law.

The DOT’s Oct. 15 report gave no insight as to when the industry can expect a proposed rule to mandate use of speed limiters on heavy trucks. The DOT still lists Sept. 21 in the report as the rule’s projected publication date, unchanged from the September-issued report.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is currently in the hands of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, who’s been reviewing the proposal since May. The DOT has not indicated when the OMB will clear the rule for publication.

The report does, however, still list Oct. 30 as the projected publication date for a Final Rule to mandate the use of electronic logging devices for all truck operators currently required to keep paper logs. Enforcement of the rule likely will take effect two years following its publication.


 

Challenging the Poppy Seed Defense
Source: http://blog.employersolutions.com; By Nicole Jupe, October 16, 2015

The "poppy seed defense" or the claim that ingesting poppy seeds is the reason for a failed drug test has long been used to challenge drug test results. A Seinfeld episode brought it into the mainstream with a story line where Elaine Benes tests positive for opium on her company’s urine drug test and blames the result on her favorite breakfast, a poppy seed muffin. In 2011, MythBusters, a Discovery Channel program told viewers that the myth was "definitely true" as producers ate poppy seed bread and bagels and then generated a positive result on an instant urine drug test. To date, there is limited research published about the impact of poppy seed consumption and opiate drug test results in controlled studies in alternative matrices such as oral fluid.

 
 

We know poppy seeds contain opiates – specifically morphine and codeine. Ultimately, what employers want to understand from drug testing experts is: Can eating poppy seeds produce a positive drug test for a job applicant or employee?

In an article published in the October 2015 Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) Special Issue of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, scientists from Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions compared the impact of the consumption of raw poppy seeds and a poppy containing food product on urine and oral fluid drug tests. For individuals performing safety-sensitive duties as well as other workers subject to routine drug testing for opiates, it is important to distinguish between dietary poppy seed ingestion and non-prescribed opiate or heroin abuse.

Study authors determined morphine and codeine concentrations using laboratory-based urine and oral fluid drug screening and confirmation methodologies after study participants ate a Ukrainian-style poppy seed roll and raw poppy seeds. By ingesting cooked and raw poppy seeds and then measuring drug concentrations over a series of intervals ranging from 15 minutes to 20 hours, the study showed a distinction between the source of poppy seeds ingested (i.e. raw or prepared) and the amount of time morphine and codeine were detected in both urine and oral fluid matrices.

"The research tells us that it is possible to test positive on a drug test for morphine – even less so for codeine – after eating poppy seed-containing products. A unique characteristic of this study is that it compared the consumption of approximately the same amount of poppy seeds in both a prepared food item and as raw seeds and included the collection of both urine and oral fluid specimens. Unlike urine, the likelihood is much lower in oral fluid. Not surprisingly, most of the positive test findings and longest detection window resulted from ingestion of the large quantity of raw poppy seeds in a very short period of time prior to specimen collection. In fact, many of the study participants found such an amount of raw seeds to be extremely unpalatable. The results from this study suggest that there is less of a ‘poppy seed defense’ from a donor who completes an oral fluid drug test after casual dietary poppy seed consumption rather than a urine test because of the shorter detection window of oral fluid," said Dr. Kimberly Samano, Postdoctoral Fellow, Quest Diagnostics.

This coming week, the Concentrations of Morphine and Codeine in Paired Oral Fluid and Urine Specimens Following Ingestion of a Poppy Seed Roll and Raw Poppy Seeds paper and its insights will be presented at the Society of Forensic Toxicologists annual meeting October 18 to October 23 in Atlanta.


 

October 2015 Articles

Trucking Industry Working to Improve Image to Attract New Drivers
Source: http://wuwm.com; By: Latoya Dennis; Sept. 28, 2015

Twenty-four hours a day, trucks crisscross the country moving many of the products we use. But concern is on the rise because not enough people are interested in driving those trucks. Efforts are underway in Wisconsin to draw more people to the industry.

 
 

Part of the challenge is to improve its image.

When you think about truck drivers, what image comes to mind? Maybe someone who’s out of shape, chain smokes and every other word is an expletive. Greg Persinger says that stereotype still rings true sometimes.

"I guess you could call us cowboys," he says. "We’re out here, we’re sleeping in the trucks just like the old cowboys did. They used the ground."

Persinger has been driving for more than 17 years. We met at a truck stop just south of Milwaukee. While we spoke, he held a cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other. Persinger says he’s noticed some changes for the better.

"They’ve cleaned up a lot of stuff, you know there’s not as much…I haven’t seen as much prostitution going on in the truck stops and the drugs, all that stuff like there used to be, So that part of its getting cleaned up" Persinger says.

But Persinger says some things will never change. "But as far as you know the way you know the drivers behave or how they look, there’s no way to change that," he says.

But the industry is working to change how it’s viewed. Dan Zdrojewski teaches truck driving classes at MATC.

"Professional, somebody who’s being hired to do a job that represents their company well," he says.

Zdrojewski says his job is not only teach students how to drive, the college is also spreading the word about the value drivers provide.

It’s wrapped several trucks with the message "America’s Real Superheroes Don’t Wear Capes."

The American Trucking Association started the campaign. Zdrojewski says it’s fighting an attitude that’s been ingrained.

"If you think about what our grandparents or what our parents have always told us, it’s been a brainwashing tactic this whole time. Generation after generation. Don’t do what I’ve done, right? Go to school, get your degree, get that office job," he says.

Across the country, the number of drivers the industry needs to hire today is 35,000 to 40,000. And in states such as Wisconsin, it’s even harder to recruit. Rob Reich is senior vice president of recruitment for Schneider International, based in Green Bay.

"We find that down south it’s a much more recognized profession than it is in other parts of the country," Reich says.

In order to introduce more Wisconsin people to truck driving, this summer Schneider this summer went on a seven-city tour in a truck honoring the military. Reich says the company is also changing the way it schedules drivers so they don’t have to be away from home for weeks at a time.

"More than three quarters of our jobs now get home at least once a week, typically on the weekends. And we feel like that’s made us a lot more attractive," he says.

To sweeten the pot even more, Reich says Schneider has upped its pay by 13 percent in some areas.

David Armon is one of the nine students enrolled in MATC’s truck driving class. He’s a clean cut guy with a salt and pepper beard. At age 45, Armon says he hopes to one day be an owner operator.

"I know they pay a good wage and I want something that is steady and you’re kind of like your own boss," he says.

While Armon is trying to get into the industry, Greg Persinger, the guy from the truck stop, he wants out. "My truck gets paid off in August of 2017, I’m done," Persinger says.

Persinger says that with so many regulations to follow and fees to pay, the business just isn’t profitable enough for him to continue. As for what he’ll do next, he says probably flip burgers.


 

Based on academic research, Volkswagen emissions scam could have killed more than a hundred
Source: http://www.ocregister.com; By: Susan Carpenter, September 29, 2015

Dozens of Californians may have died from pollution linked to Volkswagen's diesel vehicles, analyses suggest. Nearly half a million VWs each generated up to 40 times the federal limit of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, pollutants that can be particularly harmful for children, the elderly, and people with asthma and certain heart conditions.

 
 

Already, Volkswagen Group is on the hook for what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says could be more than $18 billion in civil penalties for violating the U.S. Clean Air Act with its emissions scam.

Additionally, the German automaker will be forced to pay for the repair of 482,000 affected diesel vehicles it sold in the U.S. between 2009 and 2015. And the company will need to defend itself in court from dozens of lawsuits related to the company’s use of so-called defeat device software that engages cars’ pollution controls only when they are emissions-tested.

Then there are the health consequences.

The engines that VW tweaked to run quickly and efficiently also spewed out a form of pollutant that, over time and in big numbers, can be lethal.

Nearly half a million Volkswagens each generated up to 40 times the federal limit of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, pollutants that can be particularly harmful for children, the elderly, and people with asthma and certain heart conditions.

"NOx is the critical pollutant that needs to be reduced to meet health-based clean air standards," said Sam Atwood, spokesman for the Southern California Air Quality Management District in Diamond Bar, the agency charged with protecting public health from air pollution in much of the region.

Based on academic research about the health effects of nitrogen oxides, numbers of vehicles on the road and the miles driven, the affected cars may have killed dozens of people in California and more than 100 nationally. Who those people were, individually, can never be known.

That estimate works like this: A 2005 study from researchers at Princeton, Harvard Medical School and the National Bureau of Economic Research, among others, found that each ton of nitrogen oxides emitted into the atmosphere resulted in up to nearly 1 in 10,000 additional deaths.

While estimates vary on how much additional pollution was generated by VW and Audi vehicles over the past six years, the number of cars sold over the six-year period and the average number of miles driven are known.

In all, this year it’s possible the 482,000 affected vehicles together could log 6.5 billion miles, generating between half a ton and 2 tons of excess nitrogen oxide emissions. Though those numbers would have been lower in earlier years, health experts believe the output contributed to a variety of health problems, including premature death.

While the emissions of individual vehicles do not create health effects, they do collectively, according to Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

The emissions standards established by the Clean Air Act, and violated by Volkswagen, exist to protect public health, McCabe said this month.

Other experts point out that diesel engines have posed particular health risks.

"Diesel engines in and of themselves are known to have much higher emission rates of NOx and very small particles, and that’s part of the reason why they have very sophisticated emissions control systems," said Ed Avol, professor of clinical medicine in the department of preventive medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

"The reason it’s important from a health standpoint is that drivers and the general population were being exposed to higher levels of NOx when they were out using their vehicles. That’s a problem," added Avol, an expert in respiratory health and air pollution who has spent decades studying traffic’s effects on public health.

While the number of super-polluting VW and Audi diesel passenger vehicles is relatively small compared with the 26 million registered cars, SUVs, pickup trucks and vans in California, Avol said "if you’re on the freeway, behind a diesel," it can be unhealthy.

Those most affected by a vehicle spewing such elevated levels of nitrogen oxides would be traveling immediately behind or beside it.

"That’s the air that’s being drawn into the personal passenger compartment, coming from in front of you into the car," Avol said. "Incrementally, it’s a small effect. But in absolute relative terms, you’re getting more of a dose and more exposure."

How that exposure affects one individual vs. another depends on a variety of factors, Avol said, including genetics, previous exposure, age and overall health.

"In general if you’re getting 10 to 30 or 40 times more exposure, it’s not a good thing," he added.

Nitrogen oxide exposure can be separated into the short- and long-term adverse health effects.

Short-term, breathing capacity can be reduced. And long-term effects can be more pernicious; according to Avol’s studies, lung growth is stunted in young people who live in areas with high ozone pollution, making them more susceptible to respiratory and heart diseases later in life that could shorten life span.

The pollutants issued by the vehicles in question are building blocks to other pollutants, including ozone and fine particles, called PM2.5, exposure to which has been linked to increased asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses.

"NOx (is) a powerful chemical that in the hot California sun literally cooks and creates ozone and fine particles. That constitutes a direct threat to public health," said Richard Corey, executive officer of the California Air Resources Board, during the EPA news conference Sept. 18 announcing the VW emissions violation.

"It’s no secret California has unique challenges when it comes to air quality," Corey said.

"We have a lot of cars and trucks, and we have a potent mixture of climate, topography and meteorological conditions that create some of the worst air quality in the nation."

Ozone forms best in warm, sunny weather with still winds. The top five most polluted cities for ozone in the U.S. are all in California, according to the American Lung Association’s 2015 State of the Air Report. Of those, Los Angeles-Long Beach ranks first, followed by Visalia, Bakersfield, Fresno and Sacramento. California cities also claim the top six rankings for year-round and short-term particle pollution.

Orange County received an "F" grade in the ALA report for having 10 so-called orange days for high ozone and 17 orange days for particle pollution. Orange days are considered unhealthy for vulnerable groups, including individuals with pediatric and adult asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Air agency officials estimate there are 4,000 premature deaths every year in Southern California from PM2.5 alone – from all sources, not only passenger vehicles.


 

5 Dos and Don'ts for Background Screening
Source: http://www.humanresourcesonline.net; by HR Staff, February 10, 2015

While the background screening industry is yet to mature fully in this region, Edward Hickey, Hireright’s MD Asia Pacific, lists out dos and don’ts for companies to make the process seamless, and cut time-to-hire.

 
 

While previously mostly Fortune 500 and international MNCs conducted background screening, Asia Pacific has seen greater uptake amongst local firms in recent years.

This could be partly due to the rise in cases where candidates have bought qualifications from diploma mills, or have lied about or completely forged their qualifications.

Additionally, organisations here are beginning to realise that background screening helps mitigate risk internally and ultimately, can help prevent corporate fraud and reputational damage.

That being said, the background screening industry is still far more mature in the United States, where most companies are familiar with the process and have implemented it internally.

Additionally, several government organisations, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Transportation, require companies in related industries to conduct screening.

This is partly true in Asia as well, where government authorities such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority require certain financial roles to be screened for.

As a result, background screening is common in the financial services industry here.

However, generally, employment screening is a newer concept in this region and for that reason, there’s a lack of understanding as to what the background screening process entails.

I see two clear trends emerging in this region. Firstly, we see an increased use of HR technology and a shift to mobile technology.

This capability is especially critical for the many tech-savvy candidates in Asia who use mobile as their primary device.

Government authorities such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority require certain financial roles to be screened for.

Secondly, we envision increased emphasis on the candidate experience, which can help an organisation differentiate itself from its competitors.

Why screening must be sacred

Screening best practice should take a risk-based approach regardless of employment status. Contractual and part-time staff may not be employed on a permanent basis but they have the same access to the office premises, assets and sensitive information, hence posing a significant risk.

A HireRight report in the United Kingdom found only one in three companies always independently verify the true background of new CEOs.

This is especially alarming as it’s the top management usually represent the company publicly.

A prominent example would be Scott Thompson, former CEO of Yahoo, who was found to have forged his computer science degree on his resume.

Not only did this affect Yahoo’s reputation but also would have cost them the money spent on bringing him onboard and subsequently looking for a new CEO.

According to a survey by industry association SHRM, a bad hire can cost a company almost five times the CEO’s salary.

How you can make the process seamless

It’s important to inform and educate candidates about the background screening process and why they have to do it.

The more cooperative the candidates are and the faster they supply the information needed, the faster agencies can conduct the check.

We’ve found that in some companies, there are various stakeholders involved, including the procurement team, staff who administer the programme or liaise with candidates.

A lack of communication between the various departments can cause confusion and prolong the screening process.

Hence, it is important for organisations to ensure proper and clear internal communication, to get various stakeholders on the same page.

Part-time staff may not be employed on a permanent basis but they have the same access to the office premises, hence posing a significant risk.

Partnering with a background screening specialist can also help speed up the process and reduce time-to-hire, as they would have technology in place to make the process more efficient and seamless.

Background screening checklist

Dos

• Get the candidate’s consent, informing them about the background screening process.

• Draft a screening policy for the firm, detailing the checks needed according to roles.

• Ensure compliance with relevant rules and regulations.

• Screen all employees including part-time or contract staff who have access to office facilities.

• The types of checks done should depend on the role and seniority of the person.

Don'ts

• Social media profiles should not be used as a gauge of the candidate’s capability and suitability.

• Do not immediately discount the candidates if there are adverse findings during a check. Find out if there is a good reason behind it (human error?).

• The more senior the role is, the more detrimental the effects of a bad hire, especially since the fallout can go public.

• Don’t focus only on negative findings. A background check can help locate positive aspects of candidates which can help in the recruitment selection process.

• It is useful to seek expert advice as a background screening specialist will have the legal and compliance knowledge to ensure your organisation abides by the relevant rules.


 

California adopts rule to require 10 percent reduction truck-caused carbon emissions by 2020
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; By Matt Cole, September 29, 2015

The California Air Resources Board announced last week it has re-adopted its Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which requires a 10 percent reduction in the carbon emissions of transportation fuels by 2020.

 
 

CARB originally approved the LCFS in April 2009, but it has been challenged in court by numerous trucking industry stakeholders in the years since, delaying its implementation.

CARB says the readopted version of the LCFS includes a number of modifications developed with stakeholder input, including:

• Incorporating additional cost containment in response to concerns about possible price spikes by including a mechanism to cap LCFS credit prices

• Streamlining the application process for alternative fuel producers seeking a carbon intensity score

• Improving the process for earning LCFS credits by charging electric vehicles

"[Friday]’s action builds on years of successful implementation and will continue reducing carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gases in the state," said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. "This program is a key element of California’s plans to enact Governor [Jerry] Brown’s executive order mandating a 50 percent cut in petroleum use by 2030."

The regulation is also intended to spur innovation for fuel use in the state, CARB says.

The carbon intensity of a fuel is determined by the sum of all GHG associated with the production, transportation, processing and consumption of a fuel, CARB says

The LCFS doesn’t require the use of a specific fuel, but it does require that regulated parties find a blend of fuel and credits that will meet the declining target each year.


 

September 2015 Articles

DOT to help APEC increase inclusion of women in transportation
Source: https://www.transportation.gov; By: Susan Kurland; August 17, 2015

Even before the large gathering took their seats to discuss perspec-tives on next steps for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women in Transportation initiative, there was tremendous energy in the room.

 
 

On behalf of Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and the White House Council on Women and Girls, I am happy to report that this enthusiasm is translating into poli-cy action. This session brought together an inspiring and accomplished group of women and men from across the transportation sector that is focused on achieving real results. We were fortunate to have partici-pation by senior White House officials – Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President, Chief of Staff to the First Lady, and Executive Director for the Council on Women and Girls opened the event; Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, brought this great event to a close.

The event sought ways to help more women participate in the trans-portation sector labor market, the backbone of the 21st century inter-connected global economy. Transportation is vitally important to our economy, accounting for approximately 9 -10 percent of U.S. GDP. Yet women are vastly underrepresented as employees. Also, women often lack safe and reliable transportation access to participate in the workforce generally. These same issues are also prevalent across the Asia-Pacific region, which is why the APEC Transportation Working Group is tackling these concerns.

At last month’s event, held July 28 at the White House, U.S. stake-holders previewed a framework that DOT has developed in APEC to in-crease women’s inclusion in the transportation sector both as employ-ees and as users of transportation across the Asia-Pacific region. The framework is organized into five pillars: Education; Recruitment and Entrepreneurship; Retention; Leadership on the employment side; and Safe Use & Access on the mobility side. By linking the goals of the pil-lars with concrete activities and metrics, the framework provides a roadmap to success for policy makers and industry representatives working to facilitate change.

Next, the APEC Women in Transportation team will refine the proposed framework and the present it at the APEC Women in Transportation Forum this October in Cebu, Philippines. Once endorsed through the APEC forum, DOT will work with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the US-APEC Technical As-sistance to Advance Regional Integration project to implement the framework through pilots in up to three APEC economies over the next 3 years. Stay tuned, there will be a lot more to follow.


 

The Smart Road to Younger Drivers
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; By: Deborah Lockridge, August 2015

You’re 18 years old and just graduated from high school. You can serve in the nation’s armed forces. You can marry your high school sweetheart and become a parent. If you commit a crime, you’ll be tried as an adult. But you can’t legally deliver a load hauled by a commercial truck across a state line.

 
 

One of the many provisions in the recent wrangling over a highway bill is one that would address this issue. It would create a pilot program allowing contiguous states to form "compacts" that could drop the age requirement for interstate drivers operating between those states.

Of course, that sparked headlines such as "Teen Truckers Spark Worry" and "Teen Truckers May be Coming to a Freeway Near You."

People opposed to the bill say teenage drivers are more dangerous, less experienced, too naïve... Yet they already may be sharing the road with such drivers behind the wheel of big rigs driving intrastate, as allowed in many states.

It’s true that teenagers typically don’t have the same level of judgment and experience as their older counterparts, especially behind the wheel. Statistics show drivers under 21 have a higher rate of fatal crashes. This is not something to take lightly.

That’s why any such pilot program should involve a graduated licensing system. Many states already have such graduated licenses for teen car drivers, restricting things such as nighttime driving until young drivers get more experience. The best approach to getting younger drivers behind the wheel of interstate trucks, in fact, would be more like an apprentice program.

Earlier this year, as part of our "Driver Dilemma" series on the driver shortage, I talked with Joyce (Sauer) Brenny, CEO and founder of Minnesota-based Brenny Transportation/Brenny Specialized. The 55-truck company has extremely low turnover and a stellar safety record, and it’s developed a program to hire and train 18-, 19- and 20-year olds.

Brenny’s program puts drivers with a commercial learner’s permit through 17 weeks of training before drivers do any runs on their own. They start out on short, cross-town runs and remain local drivers until age 21, and come in weekly for mentoring and feedback sessions. Even once they’re 21, a trainer goes with them on their first few over-the-road runs.

Con-way Freight has said if this measure were to pass, it would expand to younger drivers a program it already has, which hires candidates ini-tially as dockworkers, and later places them in an in-house driving school for three months before they take their commercial driver license exam.

Beyond a graduated, training-heavy apprenticeship type program, regulations allowing younger drivers could require fleets to use safety and monitoring technologies such as collision mitigation or in-cab cameras. Right now, an 18-year-old can drive a truck more than 600 miles from El Paso, Texas, to Dallas, but can’t cross the street to deliver that same load from Texarkana, Texas, to Texarkana, Ark.

Graduated licensing is proven and effective for reducing the risk of young drivers of passenger vehicles. Millions of drivers have gotten their licenses this way. With an unemployment rate for young adults nearly triple the national average, and the trucking industry facing a severe driver shortage, it’s time to try the same approach in trucking.


 

A DOT Legacy: Richard Devylder
Source: https://www.transportation.gov; by Anthony Woodham, August 21, 2015

This month, Richard Devylder, a disability rights activist and former Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation here at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), passed away at the age of 46.

 
 

Richard was an ardent proponent for increased transportation accessibility. He was born without arms or legs and grew up in a world largely devoid of accommodation for those like him. Not one to be limited, Richard was quick to find ways to realize his own independence. By the age of two he was turning book pages on his own.

What Richard might be most remembered for, besides his friendly forehead bumps and relentless optimism, is how well he understood the connection between transportation and an independent lifestyle, which drove his life’s work of transportation advocacy.

"Public transportation was number one for me to graduate from college and for me to be able to live independently." Richard was quoted as saying in 2010. "I always say, the number one thing that can make us independent to the fullest is transportation. [Without it] we can’t go to school, we can’t get to work, and we can’t live independently."

Richard first started his work in California, and his passion for disability rights quickly accelerated his career, working in the California Governor’s Office, and assuming the position of deputy director of the California Department of Rehabilitation.

In 2010, Richard’s advocacy efforts brought him to Washington, D.C. as President Obama appointed him Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation, and colleagues here at the U.S. Department of Transportation began to see just why he was so extraordinary.

"Richard was a passionate advocate who shared his personal experiences and insights to help all of us recognize the importance of full accessibility across our transportation system." Said Peter Rogoff, Undersecretary for Policy. "He was a true champion for people with disabilities across the country and he will be greatly missed."

Richard was especially passionate about Adaptive Technologies. He was able to perform daily tasks like shaving and using the bathroom with complete autonomy using these technologies, and brought his own personal growth with him to the workplace. Knowing how critical adaptive technologies were to him and those like him, he lobbied fiercely for enforcement of accessibility laws on public transit.

"I come to DOT with only one goal, and that is that access and functional needs are integrated into everything we do. And it’s no longer a question, but it’s just what we do." Richard is quoted as saying.

Along with his legacy as a great voice for those with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Transportation remembers him as a great colleague, and to those who knew him – a great friend.


 

Practical tips to keep drivers safe on the road
Source: http://fleetowner.com; By Brian Straight in Trucking Straight Talk, Aug 27, 2015

The issue of safe truck parking, while never going away, has received increased attention lately. With last week’s announcement from the Dept. of Transportation that it was creating a national coalition to – hopefully – address the problem, the time may have arrived when safe parking gets more than just lip service.

 
 

Maybe real change may be coming.

Still, until that happens – and quite frankly, even after that happens – there is no substitute for practical advice. Be aware of your surroundings; try to find a safe place to park. You probably already know the list. And if you are a fleet manager, I encourage you to review safe parking procedures with your drivers. With that in mind, I received an email the other day from the RoadPro Family of Brands. The company produces products that are designed to make life on the road easier. They also have a Pro Driver Council and Charles White, vice president of sales and marketing for the company, spoke to a few of them to get their practical tips on being safe on the road.

Here is his letter in its entirety:

Common sense and vigilance keep drivers safe on the road

Maggie Stone is used to double takes when she climbs down from the cab of her Peterbilt 379. Women truckers are a minority and women who haul livestock, like Stone does, are a rarity.

But while Stone is fine with surprising people, she wears a 9mm handgun on her hip to make sure she doesn’t get surprised. She also keeps a baseball bat in the cab and, in a pinch, there’s the electric cattle prod she uses to handle hogs and cattle.

Like many drivers — male and female — Stone worries about safety on the road. While traffic, road conditions and weather pose the greatest hazards to drivers, there are other dangers as well.

In 2009, driver Jason Rivenburg was robbed and killed in South Carolina while parked at an abandoned gas station. In response, Congress passed “Jason’s Law” as part of the 2012 Transportation Reauthorization Bill. It provides more than $6 million in federal funding for states toward the construction and restoration of safe roadside parking lots for truckers.

But the problem hasn’t gone away. Last summer in Detroit, a driver parked overnight outside a steel plant was shot and killed and his truck set on fire. Earlier this year, a trucker was robbed at gunpoint at a rest stop in Dayton.

Drivers can be targeted because they usually travel alone, often carry cash or haul valuable cargo, and their cabs contain electronics, such as CB radios, laptops and portable TVs.

Members of the RoadPro® Family of Brands Pro Driver Council offered advice on how they keep themselves and their trucks safe on the road.

"For me, a lot of it is common sense and being aware of my surroundings," said Tony Justice, a Tennessee-based driver/musician. Before leaving for an unfamiliar destination, he uses Google Earth to look for overnight parking and consults the destination dispatcher about safe places to park: "If it’s not safe to park, they’ll usually tell you pretty quick."

Drivers with regular routes quickly learn the best places to park. Others will turn to online driver forums for advice on where to park overnight. Truckers also use CB radios to inform each other of trouble spots.

While many drivers prefer to park overnight at truck stops, they’re not always convenient for pickup and dropoff schedules. Driver Tom Kyrk said he sometimes parks at Walmart stores or casinos because there is a lot of activity and the lots are well-lit. "You become aware of the areas you’re comfortable with," he said.

When at a truck stop, always park with the cab facing the same way as the other trucks in order to discourage break-ins, Justice said.

Drivers said they sleep with windows up or with window screens to prevent a thief from reaching in to grab an item or open a door. Many use seatbelts or bungee cords to lash the doors shut for extra safety. Valuables in the cab should be kept out of sight, Kyrk said, adding that he does not tell others what he’s hauling.

Problems can occur even when a truck is moving. That’s why some drivers avoid driving through high-crime areas, if possible. Stone said a man once leapt onto the running board of her truck at a light in Oklahoma City; he jumped off when she hit the gas.

Some drivers, like Stone, carry handguns or less lethal devices, such as pepper spray, for protection.

Kyrk said he would use a heavy-duty flashlight to blind an intruder. Others rely on the brotherhood of truckers for help. Honking the horn and flashing lights in a truck stop would attract attention and draw help, they said.

If the worst happens, remember a life is worth more than any truck or cargo.

"No load is worth your life. The load can be replaced, my life can’t be," Kyrk said.


 

FMCSA grants hours-of-service exemption to hazmat drivers
Source: http://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com; By: Safety and Health Magazine Staff, August 28, 2015

Washington – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted an hours-of-service exemption to truck drivers who transport hazardous materials.

 
 

FMCSA’s decision follows a request from the Arlington, VA-based American Trucking Associations, which argued on behalf of hazardous materials truck drivers. ATA said drivers were required by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to stay with cargo while stopped, which directly interfered with the drivers’ ability to obey FMCSA’s off-duty rest break requirement.

The exemption allows drivers to count up to 30 minutes of "attendance" time toward a rest break, so long as they are not performing other on-duty activities. FMCSA said the exemption will last for two years, and it warned against drivers claiming the exemption when not entitled to it.

ATA thanked FMCSA for granting the HOS request. The absence of an FMCSA exemption created “very real security risks” that now have been addressed, ATA said in a statement.

"FMCSA’s exemption request is a sensible way to ensure that drivers can adhere to both agencies’ requirements," ATA said. "With the exemption, a driver can take his or her mandated rest break while retaining the option to provide the security these shipments deserve without violating the hours of service."


 

Long work hours associated with higher stroke risk: study
Source: http://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com; By: Safety and Health Magazine Staff, August 25, 2015

London – Working long hours is connected to a higher risk of stroke and a slightly greater risk of coronary heart disease, according to a study from University College London.

 
 

Researchers examined 17 studies that followed nearly 530,000 partici-pants for an average of 7.2 years. They discovered a 33 percent higher stroke risk in people who worked 55 hours or more per week than those working 35 to 40 hours.

Stroke risk increased the longer a person worked. Working 41 to 48 hours led to a 10 percent higher risk, while people who worked 49 to 54 hours had a 27 percent higher risk.

Researchers also explored data from 25 studies tracking nearly 604,000 participants from the United States, Europe and Australia for an average of 8.5 years. Participants who worked 55 hours or more were found to have a 13 percent higher risk of "incident coronary heart disease," accord-ing to a press release.

Risk of stroke might increase due to rising health-risk behaviors, such as lack of physical activity and high alcohol intake, as well as repetitive trig-gering of the stress response, the release states.

The study was published online Aug. 20 in The Lancet.


 

August 2015 Articles

Senate Commerce Committee Introduces Bill with HOS Break Language
Source: http://www.naylornetwork.com/; By: Kerri Leininger; August 2015

Last week, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee introduced the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act (S. 1732), which is the Commerce Committee’s title for a surface transportation reauthorization bill. The six-year bill includes a provision that would make permanent the exemption given by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to the ready mixed concrete industry for the Hours of Service 30-minute break rule. The bill addresses the overall exemption process by reforming the application process for exemption requests and extends the time period for an exemption from two years to five before an applicant must reapply. Most importantly, the bill allows FMCSA to make exemptions already issued permanent.

 
 

The inclusion of this language in S. 1732 marks a huge win for NRMCA and the ready mixed concrete industry. The bill will be marked up in the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, July 15; it is expected to be a bipartisan markup. The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee still needs to introduce legislation for the transit portion and the Senate Finance Committee is still working to find a way to pay for the entire surface transportation package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced late last week that he intends to bring a highway package to the floor sometime this week or next. NRMCA, along with members of the Highway Materials Group (HMG), sent a letter to Members of Congress requesting support for a long-term, fully-funded transportation bill before the latest extension expires on July 31. Members in the HMG include the American Coal Ash Association, American Concrete Pavement Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Associated Equipment Distributors, Concrete Steel Reinforcing Institute, National Asphalt Pavement Association, National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association and Portland Cement Association. In addition, the Transportation Construction Coalition sent a similar letter supporting action on a long-term, fully-funded bill.


 

Bill Could Be First Step to Younger Truck Drivers
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; By: David Cullen, July 10, 2015

A Senate bill would instruct the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to conduct a pilot study of lowering the age at which Class A CDL holders can drive trucks across state lines.

 
 

The Commercial Driver Act (S.1672), introduced by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) and co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), would allow contiguous states to enter into compacts to standardize the licensing requirements for drivers— including those under age 21-- to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.

Not mentioned in the Commercial Driver Act is the concept of graduated CDL licensing, which calls for allowing 18- to 20-year olds to work as apprentice drivers to gain on-the-road experience leading to becoming fully licensed at age 21. Presumably, states that would take part in any standardization pilots enabled by the legislation might consider studying the apprenticeship model. The American Trucking Associations favors that approach to help draw in younger recruits for driving jobs. According to Dave Osiecki, ATA executive vice president and chief of national advocacy, age-graduated licenses are "not a new concept for passenger car drivers" and that it’s "important to conduct research on this to attract people to this industry."

Per the text of Sen. Fischer’s bill, "…participating States shall provide for minimum licensure standards acceptable for interstate travel under this section, which may include, for drivers under the 21 years of age— (1) age restrictions; (2) distance from origin (measured in air miles); (3) reporting requirements; or (4) additional hours of service restrictions."

The language of S.1672 also states that the act would not change "the authority to operate in Interstate Commerce for drivers over the age of 21, including by setting the minimum age requirement to receive a Class A commercial driver’s license at 18 years of age."

ATA said it supports the Commercial Driver Act because it helps address the growing shortage of commercial truck drivers. ATA estimates that while trucking is currently short up to 40,000, drivers, due to retirements and individuals leaving the industry, truck operations will need to recruit nearly 100,000 new drivers a year over the next decade to keep pace with freight demand. "As our population grows and our freight demands increase, we are going to need more drivers," said Bill graves, ATA president & CEO. "The Commercial Driver Act helps solve two problems by expanding the pool of eligible drivers and creating employment opportunities for younger Americans."

Making a common-sense argument in favor of lowering the interstate driving age, Graves also remarked that, "It is illogical that a 20-year-old can drive the 500 miles from San Francisco to San Diego, but not the eight miles from Memphis, Tennessee to West Memphis, Arkansas – or simply cross the street in Texarkana. Even more illogical is that a 20-year-old may not drive a truck in any state if the cargo in it originated outside the state or will eventually leave the state by some other means."


 

The gas tax is over
Source: http://www.politico.com; by Danny Vinik, July 2015

Survey: POLITICO’s transportation experts think we’ll pay for roads with a mileage scheme. They’re tired of "photo ops and gimmicks" instead of policy. And they like to walk.

 
 

As the House and Senate squabble over a way to pay for road projects and avoid the looming "highway cliff" this week, America’s transportation experts think it’s high time for Washington to take up a much bigger challenge: Rebuilding our national transportation strategy from the ground up, and finding a smart new source of money to pay for it.

With transportation-funding crises now a regular event on the Washington calendar, and Congress seemingly unable to come up with a long-term solution, The Agenda turned to a carefully selected list of more nearly three dozen leaders and experts across the public and private spheres to ask whether there was a better way for the nation to handle its crucial roads, rail, and other infrastructure.

Nearly 90 percent said the federal government should continue to play a significant role in funding highway construction, as it does now.

But when it came to what the role was – and how to pay for it – they agreed that big changes were in order. The gas tax, our main source of highway money since the 1950s, is probably doomed: Less than half believed it would still supply most of our infrastructure funding in 15 years. A third think it might never be increased again. And almost no one thought it was the best way to pay for roads.

Our roster of transportation leaders included current and former members of Congress; officials from big players like the AFL-CIO, the Chamber of Commerce, and the American Trucking Association; experts from a range of universities and think tanks; an executive from one of the nation’s largest roadbuilders; and even former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, surely the only respondent with an airport named after him.

So how do they think we should we really pay for highways? Some thought tolls were the answer. Only a tiny group preferred the gas tax. The most promising idea, to judge by the numbers, is to charge individual drivers a mileage fee. The technology is well along, and the key question is to find ways to try it out.

"[The biggest challenge facing America’s transportation infrastructure is] to find a politically acceptable way to experiment with alternative funding mechanisms, particularly vehicle mile charges," said one economist.

In addition, nearly 60 percent said the U.S. would have a national infrastructure bank by 2030, placing their bets on an idea that has struggled for attention in Congress so far.

Unfortunately, the persistent friction in the Capitol has left many of our experts despondent about Washington’s ability to solve the problem, even in the short term. "NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft traveled 3 billion miles and made it to Pluto in nine years," wrote Pete Ruane, the CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. "By comparison, it looks like it will take Congress even longer than that to fix the Highway Trust Fund."

Crumbling highways and bridges might seem like an ideal kitchen-table issue for politicians to exploit, but our respondents were especially frustrated with the politics of transportation. When asked what role the government should play in surface transportation, on lobbyist responded, "Leadership. Leadership. Leadership." Multiple respondents cited a lack of political will as the greatest barrier to a long-term infrastructure plan.

"The biggest challenge always facing America's transportation infrastructure is politicians' preference for ribbon-cutting photo ops and gimmicks like streetcars over sensible investment, maintenance, and management," said one transportation researcher.

Said another, bluntly: "It is a loser politically for most members of Congress."

Looking to the future, nearly three-quarters of respondents said the U.S. needs a complete overhaul of its federal surface transportation strategy – though they didn’t all agree on how it should look. They offered wide support for Amtrak, and for using federal gas-tax revenues for transit spending. Some preferred a radically decentralized decision process, while others clearly preferred strong federal incentives. But one message that came through is that any solution would provide crucial clarity.

"The lack of long-term certainty is crippling to projects that often take many years to move through planning, design, financing and construction," said one expert on municipal governments. "Federal transportation policy requires a new, long-term vision that responds to these changing needs and supports America’s global economic leadership."

How will driverless vehicles play into the U.S.’s infrastructure needs in the years ahead? Most respondents said they won’t. Three quarters said that less than 5 percent of the U.S. automotive fleet will be driverless by 2030. But there’s wider belief that electric cars and high speed rail will start to be a factor. Nearly a third think that at least 20 percent of the U.S. automotive fleet will be electric by 2030; half believe that the U.S. will have a world-class high-speed rail project underway in the next 10 years.

When we asked them how they’d like to commute, the top choice was walking. In reality, most drive or take public transit. That gives them, like most Americans, a direct stake in the outcome of the federal government’s infrastructure strategy. These transportation experts are well aware that a funding lapse could delay much-needed maintenance, causing traffic jams, freight holdups, and accidents. But most Americans don’t see this connection — and that ignorance, a few respondents noted, is another big reason why U.S. transportation policy is so dysfunctional.

"The easy answer is to blame Congress or politics," said Jason Pavluchuk, a lobbyist for the Association for Commuter Transportation. "But the real answer lies in the public's lack of understanding of how important our transportation system is to their daily lives."


 

Why are truck drivers at L.A., Long Beach port striking?
Source: http://mynewsla.com; By Debbie L. Sklar, July 21, 2015

Contract drivers for Pacific 9 Transportation trucking company went on strike Tuesday at the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex to protest what they call hiring practices that cheat them out of their full pay.

 
 

At least 10 people picketed and caused "very minor traffic delays on occasion" at the Tra-Pac marine terminal at the Port of Los Angeles, but cargo activity at the port was "normal," port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.

This is the sixth time Pac 9 drivers have gone on strike to challenge their status as independent contractors, instead of full-time employees, according to International Brotherhood of Teamsters officials who are working to organize the drivers.

"I’ve been a port truck driver for five years and I have never worked for a company that treats their workers like Pac 9," contract driver Pedro Martinez said. "The company refuses to recognize us as employees, refuses to provide us with safe and reliable trucks and refuses to improve our work environment."

The strike will go on indefinitely, with drivers planning to apply for work at another trucking firm, Eco Flow Transportation, which recently agreed to allow its workers to negotiate a union contract, according to Teamsters officials.

Port drivers are also in the midst of bringing their grievances to the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, union officials said.

Teamsters officials announced Tuesday that a state appeals court lifted a temporary stay on the hearings involving about 40 Pac 9 drivers. The hearings, originally scheduled for Monday, are now set to begin this coming Monday.

Teamsters officials said the drivers are presenting wage theft claims valued at $6 million, which comes out to about $150,000 for each driver.


 

Safety groups oppose changes in CDL minimum age
Source: http://fleetowner.com; By: Kevin Jones, Jul 24, 2015

ATA argues 'graduated licensing' improves safety

 
 

Should 18-year-olds be permitted to drive in interstate commerce? A somewhat technical and voluntary clause in the 1,000-page highway bill set for debate in the Senate has caught the eye of the trucking industry (generally supportive) and highway safety groups (strongly opposed).

The language is included in the DRIVE Act, the multiyear surface transportation authorization the Senate could work overtime to approve this weekend, ahead a July 31 funding deadline. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) proposed the legislation, which would let states enter into agreements to permit CDL holders under age 21 to travel across state lines. Such commercial vehicle drivers are already permitted to drive intrastate.

The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) this week repeated a call for Congress to support the compact option, suggesting it would lead to a graduated CDL program.

"Right now, an 18-year-old can drive a truck within the borders of his state, but not to deliver goods across state lines—this means a young adult could drive a truck from El Paso, Texas to Dallas—a distance of more than 600 miles—but couldn’t cross the street to deliver that same load from Texarkana, Texas to Texarkana, Ark.," said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. "This is something we can easily correct and, at the same time, move toward a graduated CDL system."

But the Truck Safety Coalition on Friday urged its supporters to contact senators to oppose the language, noting a rise in truck-related fatalities since 2009.

"Congress should be doing everything to reverse this trend, not intensify it," the group said. "This is why it is important to urge other Senators to support much needed changes to the DRIVE Act."

The coalition favors the Markey amendment, which block Fischer’s language, and says teen drivers have a higher crash risk and do not have the experience or training to handle trucks.

But ATA says the legislation would take steps toward "rationalizing" the licensing laws.

"Graduated licensing is a proven and effective for reducing the risk of young drivers of passenger vehicles—millions of drivers have gotten their licenses this way—and it has been a top policy priority for many organizations, including some that are attacking Sen. Fischer’s proposal now," said ATA Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki. "Research has conclusively shown the benefits of graduated licensing for young drivers. Some groups’ resistance to this commonsense commercial licensing proposal is as illogical as the current rules limiting interstate driving by young adults."

ATA said one of the benefits of Sen. Fischer’s proposal is that states can choose to impose a number of safeguards to ensure these young adults learn appropriate behaviors on the road.

"This is the way we should be training, not just new truck drivers, but individuals in all fields," Graves said. "States participating in the compacts this bill envisions could limit the types of cargo these drivers could haul, require extra technologies or restrict these trips to certain routes or times."

"At a time when the unemployment rate for young adults is nearly triple the national average – and our industry is looking to replace millions of soon-to-be retiring drivers as part of an aging workforce, this bill could be a tremendous boon not just to the trucking industry, but to the economy and to thousands of unemployed young people who might just find their next career," he said.

The American Transportation Research Institute will be developing a "younger driver assessment tool" to better identify traits that make experienced drivers safe and ways to transfer those behaviors to younger drivers.


 

Truckers hope I-10 closure is ‘wake-up call’
Source: http://www.trivalleycentral.com; By: Nick Wicksman, July 27, 2015

WASHINGTON — Arizona Trucking Association President Tony Bradley says one good thing may have come out of the closure of a section of Interstate 10 this week — it could point up the need to fix the nation’s infrastructure.

 
 

Sunday’s collapse of the eastbound span of the Tex Wash Bridge on I-10 comes as Congress debates the transportation trust fund, the $40 billion fund that builds and maintains the nation’s roads, rails, ports and other transportation projects.

Legislation authorizing the current fund is set to expire in a week — the day before lawmakers are scheduled to leave town for their August recess.

The House last week passed a short-term extension of the fund for another five months that adds $8.6 billion, but the Senate is deadlocked on its proposal for multiyear renewal.

For Arizona, federal funds provide more than 70 percent of the state Department of Transportation’s current construction budget, said department spokeswoman Laura Douglas.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, half of all roads in Arizona are in poor or mediocre condition — and 954 of the state’s 7,862 bridges are rated "structurally deficient" or "functionally obsolete."

The department does not have specifics on which projects might be delayed or affected should the trust fund run dry, but it is "developing strategies to deal with the potential funding impacts," Douglas said in a statement.

She said the Arizona transportation department "strongly supports a more sustainable and long-term fix for transportation funding."

Bradley agreed, adding that Congress should change the way the transportation fund gets money, moving toward a more "user-fee" based structure.

By one estimate, from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, Arizona would need as much as $19.5 billion to fix just the bridges in need of repair in the state.

In a statement from the trucking association earlier this week, shortly after the collapse of the Tex Wash Bridge, Bradley said ignoring infrastructure problems in Arizona could be deadly.

"Arizona drivers’ lives are at stake as they cross a structurally deficient bridge an astonishing 1.6 million times a day," he said in the statement.

In a phone interview Friday, he said there are economic concerns as well.

Bradley said I-10 is a "vital economic link we have with our surrounding states," that has a direct effect on businesses in Arizona. He said products made in Arizona have to go through Los Angeles ports to get to international buyers.

"We can’t get our products that are built here in the state to market overseas … without a significant cost increase," if there is not a modern, efficient highway system in place, he said.

That "significant cost increase" was seen in the detours drivers had to take to get around the closed stretch of I-10, which added more than 100 miles and many hours to the drive between Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Those delays will continue to be felt, as I-10 will be limited to one bridge span carrying traffic in both directions over the Tex Wash for the foreseeable future.

"If we have another failure like this, it could end up crippling our economy because we’re not able to get our products to market," Bradley said.


 

July 2015 Articles

Opinion: Our roads are just shameful
Source: http://www.sacbee.com/; By: Dan Walters; June 18, 2015

There was a time when California was teaching the world how to build first-class highway systems. Our highway engineers were loaned to other nations eager to emulate California’s network of highways and freeways.

 
 

Today, California’s state highways and local streets and roads are – or should be – a civic embarrassment, ranking at or near the bottom in state-to-state quality comparisons.

Although California motorists pay the second highest fuel taxes in the nation, we sit near the bottom in maintenance spending per mile of roadway and, therefore, at or near the bottom in congestion and pavement conditions.

As anyone who drives on California’s streets, roads and highways could attest, they are in lousy condition – in some cases literally disintegrating under the pounding of 330 billion vehicle-miles of travel each year.

The California Transportation Commission, in its most recent "statewide transportation system needs assessment," says California should spend $538.1 billion on state and local transportation improvements and maintenance in the ensuing decade, but can count on having less than half that amount.

Gov. Jerry Brown says it’s time to act on "permanent and sustainable funding" for highways. "The state’s current fuel excise tax is sufficient to fund only $2.3 billion of work – leaving $5.7 billion in unfunded repairs each year," Brown said this week as he called a special legislative session to deal with the shortfall.

It’s about time – especially since the shameful decline of our highways began during his first governorship, when he was openly disdainful of automotive travel.

But what should he and the Legislature do?

Simply hiking the state gas tax would be the simplest option. It would have to rise by a least 20 cents a gallon to cover the shortfall Brown cites, but that wouldn’t even begin to cover the larger deficit outlined by the transportation commission, which is about $25 billion a year.

Even a 20-cent gas tax boost would be opposed by anti-tax groups and would require at least some Republican votes in the Legislature. It also would be unfair since drivers of increasingly popular electric and hybrid cars would pay little or nothing.

Some have proposed a new per-mile levy, similar to one being tested in Oregon. A penny a mile would raise $3 billion-plus a year, but taking fuel consumption out of the tax equation, some critics say, unfairly benefits drivers of gas guzzlers. And there are knotty privacy issues in tracking cars’ mileage.

Whichever path is followed, the Legislature should begin by explaining, or demanding others to explain, why our fuel taxes are so high now but our spending on vital maintenance is so low.

Without some reasonable explanation, and guarantees that new roadway money won’t be squandered, drivers will be rightfully reluctant to pay more, no matter how it would be imposed.


 

Driver training rule update: Committee issues rec’s, rulemaking now in FMCSA’s hands
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com; By: Todd Dills, June 18, 2015

Following the final meeting of the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee last month, formed to help regulators produce an entry-level driver training rule, the group released this week its final recommendation to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, issuing a 106-page report covering a long list of procedures and criteria it wants included in the upcoming rulemaking. The committee is made up of representatives from the CDL training community, motor carrier and operator associations, an owner-operator and other stakeholders, and it came about last year to help hasten production of a driver training rule via a so-deemed “negotiated rulemaking” process with FMCSA.

 
 

The committee this week issued "consensus recommendation" for a regulation requiring CDL applicants be trained according to curricula specified for both Class A and Class B CDL applicants, with separate curricula for passenger, hazmat and school bus endorsements. Also, separate curricula for refresher-course training is detailed in the group’s written statement, accessible in full via this link.

The group recommended refresher training — rather than full re-training — for anyone whose CDL had been canceled, suspended or revoked and who was reapplying.

The recommended regulation, if promulgated, would also establish a registry of FMCSA-certified Entry Level Driver Training Providers, with separate eligibility guidelines for larger schools training more than three drivers per year and smaller businesses training three or fewer drivers annually.

The future for any entry level driver training rule is uncertain, however. Given the final committee vote was non-unanimous, FMCSA only "agrees to use the Written Statement in any recommended regulation," not adopt its terms necessarily in whole cloth in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

The primary issue driving the dissenting votes appears to have been a requirement in the curricula for Class A applicants to complete 30 hours of behind the wheel driving on range or road, 15 hours for Class B applicants. Notably, the National Association of Small Trucking Companies voiced its dissent in the written statement itself, worrying the "vociferous advocates" for hours-based training would only keep up such advocacy and ultimately put a burden on new drivers in the form of ever-increasing hours requirements.

Thirty hours, NASTC said, "may represent the camel’s nose under the tent. The advocates for hours-based standards refused to hold off initiating efforts to increase the number of hours until actual data from real-world experience under the 30 hours could be gathered and analyzed. This display of bargaining in less than good faith was telling and indicated to NASTC that 30 hours is only the beginning."

NASTC likewise tends to favor performance standards, it noted. A NASTC member survey conducted in tandem with the data-collection working group within the ELDTAC "demonstrated little connection between type of pre-CDL training received and driver performance. This was borne out in respondents’ actual crash data…

"It stands to reason that if one masters the basic skills and maneuvers satisfactorily in a pre-CDL environment, based on an individual’s performance behind the wheel, these new drivers would be somewhat better equipped to get through their first few years more safely and efficiently as commercial drivers. Performance in preparation generally translates into performance in action. Performance, therefore, would seem a more robust standard for entry-level driver training than hours."

The American Trucking Associations, too, dissented. ATA believes "there is no scientific basis for an hours-based behind-the-wheel training requirement," as noted in the organization’s dissent. ATA cites a 2008 American Transportation Research Institute study that concluded "no relationship is evident between total training program contact hours and driver safety events when other factors such as age and length of employment are held constant."

Committee member and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Regulatory Affairs Director Scott Grenerth believes supposed controversy over hours/performance-based standards may be less than it’s made out to be. He point to comments filed by the Commercial Vehicle Training Association, included in the committee’s statement, that "are perfectly on the point," he says. "The 10 pages of curriculum which the committee carefully put together is 10 pages of performance-based requirements" for the Class A CDL. The entry-level driver "must demonstrate competency for all of the skills covered in those 10 pages in order to be permitted to take the road skills test for their CDL license." That, at its most basic level, "is performance-based!" Grenerth exclaims.

The bare-minimum-effort requirement of 30 hours, he adds, "allows the FMCSA to have something to back them up during enforcement of training providers. Otherwise, a dishonest training provider could spend a few hours with a student, just to the point where the student could pass the road test, and claim they met the minimum requirement. There are ‘CDL mills’ doing this today. The 30-hour minimum requirement is one aspect the ELDTAC came up with to try and put an end to those types of programs."

Today’s "legitimate training programs," he believes, that "go far beyond ‘teaching to the test’ greatly surpass 30 hours and will not see that requirement as a burden."

On the subject of whether FMCSA could be expected to actually follow through on a driver training rulemaking, Grenerth had this to say: "They backed it whole-heartedly without hesitation."


 

FedEx Settles Independent Contractor Suit for $228 Million
Source: http://www.worktruckonline.com/; by Work Truck Top News, May 20, 2015

FedEx Ground reached an agreement with plaintiffs in an independent contractor lawsuit to settle for $228 million, the company announced.

 
 

The settlement resolves claims, which date back to 2000, of workers who were classified as independent contractors. The lawsuit contended in reality they were employees. The case was pending in the U.S. District court for the Northern District of California and the settlement is subject to court approval.

Just last summer, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that several FedEx Ground workers had been misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees. FedEx vowed to appeal the decision at the time.

In another case in Kansas later that year, the court also ruled in favor of FedEx Ground workers being classified as employees instead of independent contractors.

"FedEx Ground faced a unique challenge in defending this case given the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last summer," said Christine P. Richards, executive vice president and general counsel of FedEx Corp. "This settlement resolves claims dating back to 2000 that concern a model FedEx Ground no longer operates."

The company also announced that it would charge $133 million after taxes or 0.47 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2015 to increase its reserve of money to pay toward the settlement.


 

The Bizarre Case of the Chameleon Carrier
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; By Deborah Lockridge, May 27, 2015

A case of mistaken identity and murder charges in the wake of one defendant cooperating with federal investigators. Sounds like something from an FBI organized crime case – but this involved an out of service order by the DOT.

 
 

The case goes back to 2008, after a fatal crash in Alabama that resulted in the deaths of seven state prison guards. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration placed Devasko Dewayne Lewis of Cordele, doing business as Lewis Trucking Company/DDL Transport/DL Transport, under an Imminent Hazard Order to cease all operations due to serious violations discovered during a compliance review following the crash.

In 2011, Lewis and his company DDL Transport, LLC, were indicted by a federal grand jury after he lied on his application for motor carrier authority, trying to start a new "chameleon company" in what amounted to violation of that out-of-service order. He eventually pled guilty and was sentenced to several months in prison, 12 months supervised release, and a $3,000 fine.

However, around the time he pleaded guilty and before his sentencing, Lewis obtained new DOT numbers for more chameleon carriers, Eagle Transport and Eagle Trans, using the identity of friends, including Corey Daniels, who in 2014 was sentenced to 12 months of probation for his part in the scheme. After reporting to Federal prison in November 2012, Lewis continued operating Eagle Trans with the assistance of Daniels and others.

Apparently Daniels' conviction didn't stop Lewis. In January of this year, his half brother, Lacey Lewis, pleaded guilty for his part in contining to run the chameleon carriers. On May 13, 2015, Lacey Lewis was sentenced to 24 months probation.

Two days later, the federal case against Devasko Lewis was dismissed -- because on April 17, he had been sentenced to life without parole for murder, attempted murder and aggravated battery.

Lewis, according to prosecutors, conspired to murder co-defendant Corey Daniels, who had agreed to cooperate in the federal case against Lewis. Shortly after he agreed to cooperate, an attempt was made on his life. Although Daniels was the actual target, in a case of mistaken identity, his nephew, Kerry Glenn, was killed at Daniels’ residence.

Prior to the murder, Lewis had "expressed his displeasure" with Daniels’ cooperation against him in the federal case, according to the FMCSA. Published reports indicate Lewis hired a hit man to take Daniels out. That hit man, Jamarcus Clark, had also shot through the front door Daniels' mother's house five days earlier, leading to another conspiracy to commit murder charge for himself and Lewis.

According to a report in the Macon Telegraph, Judge George F. Nunn described the killing as "a cold-blooded, calculated murder."

"He was facing 12 months in prison and he hires a man to literally take out and kill the man who’s going to testify against him. ... That is hard for me to comprehend," Nunn said.


 

FMCSA Proposes Changes to CSA
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; By: Truckinginfo Staff, June 29, 2015

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Monday unveiled proposed changes to its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, including changing some intervention thresholds to better reflect crash risk.

 
 

The agency says its proposed enhancements to the Safety Measurement System (SMS) will improve its ability to prioritize and intervene with motor carriers that pose the greatest safety risk.

Changing Intervention Thresholds

The proposal would change some of the SMS Intervention Thresholds to better reflect the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories’ (BASICs) correlation to crash risk.

As part of its SMS Effectiveness Test analysis, FMCSA analyzed the correlation of each BASIC with crash risk and introduced three levels of crash risk correlation:

• High: Unsafe Driving, Crash Indicator, Hours-of-Service (HOS) Compliance

• Medium: Vehicle Maintenance

• Low: Controlled Substances/Alcohol, HM Compliance, and Driver Fitness

The proposal would maintain the current intervention thresholds of 65% for the BASICs with the strongest relationship to crash risk -- Unsafe Driving, Crash Indicator, and HOS Compliance.

However, the Vehicle Maintenance Basic would drop from the current 80% threshhold to 75%, which the agency notes will identify a new set of motor carriers to receive warning letters so the agency can address non-compliance issues before crashes occur.

The Controlled Substances/Alcohol BASIC, the Hazmat Compliance BASIC and the Driver Fitness BASIC would rise from the current 80% to 90%, reflecting their lower correlation to crash risk.

Segmenting Hazmat Compliance

The proposal would segment the HM Compliance BASIC by cargo tank (CT) and non-CT carriers. Industry and enforcement stakeholders raised concerns that large non-cargo-tank hazmat carriers have difficulty improving in the HM Compliance BASIC because they are being unfairly compared to cargo tank HM carriers.

FMCSA studied the feasibility of segmenting the HM Compliance BASIC by business type and found that for most motor carriers that operate cargo tanks, the cargo tanks make up a majority of the carrier's inspections. A carrier was categorized as a CT carrier if more than 50% of its inspections indicated the vehicles were CTs, and for most that percentage was actually much higher.

Non-CT HM and CT HM carriers have different operations and as a result they often receive different violations. After analyzing the issue carefully, FMCSA determined that segmenting the HM Compliance BASIC by CT and non-CT carriers will address this bias and improve the SMS's ability to identify HM carriers with serious safety problems.

Other changes

Other proposed changes to the SMS would:

• Reclassify violations for operating while out-of-service (OOS) as under the Unsafe Driving BASIC, rather than the BASIC of the underlying OOS violation.

• Increase the maximum Vehicle Miles Travelled used in the Utilization Factor to more accurately reflect operations of high-utilization carriers.

"These enhancements to SMS allow us to sharpen our focus on carriers with high crash rates, more effectively identify driver safety problems and hazardous materials carriers with serious safety problems, and more accurately account for carriers that are driving on our roads the most," said the agency on its website.

FMCSA encourages everyone to review and comment on the proposed SMS enhancements in the Federal Register Notice. The 30-day comment period will end on July 29, 2015. You can submit written comments on the proposed changes to the Federal Docket Management System, Docket ID Number FMCSA-2015-0149-0001.


 

Ford Adds Advanced Camera System to Super Duty Trucks
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; By: truckinginfo Staff, June 26, 2015

Ford is adding a new split-view camera system that helps drivers see around corners to its next generation of Super Duty trucks and will add rear-view cameras standard equipment on its 2018 light-duty vehicles, Ford has announced.

 
 

The next Ford Super Duty will feature the advanced camera technology that includes up to seven cameras and a new digital architecture that helps customers see more angles around a truck and trailer than ever before.

Ford plans to make rear-view cameras standard on all its North American light passenger vehicles by 2018 and front cameras available on a majority of its vehicles globally by volume by 2020.

The new available split-view camera feature helps drivers see traffic and obstacles that enter the vehicle’s path from the side by displaying a 180-degree view of the area in front of or behind a vehicle.

Split view uses real-time video feeds from 1-megapixel wide-angle lens cameras in the grille and tailgate. A tri-panel display in the 8-inch screen helps drivers understand quickly whether an obstacle is coming from either side or straight on. Split view is activated at the touch of a button and automatically shuts off when vehicle speed reaches 6.2 mph.

Ford introduced split view on the 2015 Ford Edge and 2016 Explorer in the United States and China. Front split view is offered on Edge. Front and rear split view comes standard in the U.S. on the 2016 Explorer Limited and Explorer Platinum. Front split view is coming to the all-new Ford S-MAX and Galaxy in Europe. Split view will be offered on nearly all Ford SUVs globally by 2020.

A tiny telescopic jet washer keeps the front camera clean on every vehicle with split view. Explorer also incorporates a washer for the rear camera.


 

June 2015 Articles

Many Employers Unknowingly Ask An Illegal Interview Question
Source: The background Investigator Newspaper; by The background Investigator Staff, May 15, 2015

When it comes to drawing the line between what is and isn’t appropriate to ask a job candidate, the parameters aren’t always clear, according to a new Career Builder survey released today. The survey found 20% of hiring managers indicated they have asked a question in a job interview only to find out later it was illegal to ask.

 
 

"It's important for both interviewer and interviewee to understand what employers do and don’t have a legal right to ask in a job interview -for both parties' protection," said Rosemary Heafner, chief human resources officer at Career Builder. "Though their intentions may be harmless, hiring managers could unknowingly be putting themselves at risk for legal action, as a job could argue that certain questions were used to discriminate against him or her."

The following questions are illegal for hiring managers to ask; yet, when asked if they knew if these questions were illegal, at least one third of employers indicate they didn’t know:

• What is your religious affiliation?

• Are you pregnant?

• What is your political affiliation?

• What is your race, color or ethnicity?

• How old are you?

• Are you disabled?

• Are you married?

• Do you have children or plan to?

• Are you in debt?

• Do you social drink or smoke?

The survey was conducted by Harris Poll on Behalf of CareerBuilding among 2,192 hiring managers and human resources professionals. The survey was conducted from Nov. 4 to Dec. 2, 2014


 

California Awards $15M for Alt-Fuel Trucks
Source: http://www.worktruckonline.com/; By: Work Truck Top News, May 15, 2015

The California Energy Commission has approved nearly $15 million in grants for several projects that will fund alternative-fuel armored security trucks and refuse trucks in in the state.

 
 

North American Repower LLC was awarded $3 million to demonstrate the efficiency and viability of six armored security trucks converted from diesel fuel to plug-in hybrid electric-renewable natural gas.

Security protocols usually require armored vehicles to have their engines running during each scheduled stop, which burns fuel and emits pollutants. The demonstration vehicles, which have near-zero emissions, will operate in an all-electric mode during stop-and-go usage and in hybrid-mode during continuous vehicle operation, according to the California Energy Commission.

North American Repower's vehicles will operate in Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

In addition, Transportation Power, Inc., received nearly $9 million for three separate projects: a heavy-duty electric garbage truck in the Sacramento region; an advanced battery-electric truck in San Diego County; and a heavy-duty electric yard tractor in the Central Valley.

Nearly $3 million was also awarded to Motiv Power Systems, Inc., to demonstrate an electric refuse and loader truck that will operate in the Sacramento region.

The California Energy Commission awarded the grants through its Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP), which develops and deploys innovative technologies that transform California's fuel and vehicle types to help attain the state's climate change goals.


 

Cell Phones Linked to 27 Percent of Crashes
Source: http://www.worktruckonline.com/; by Work Truck Top News, May 20, 2015

Cell phone-related crashes increased for the third consecutive year and represented 27 percent of all crashes in 2013, according to National Safety Council researchers.

 
 

The newly released estimate includes crashes involving drivers who were texting or talking on handheld or hands-free cell phones in 2013.

The National Safety Council estimates that texting-related crashes jumped from 5 percent to 6 percent during the year, while crashes involving drivers talking on cell phones remained at 21 percent.

"The incredible connectivity enabled by technology has resulted in a very dangerous environment behind the wheel," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "While the public understands the risks associated with distracted driving, the data shows the behavior continues. We need better education, laws and enforcement to make our roads safer for everyone."

The NSC said it calculates its estimate based on a model that relies on federal fatality data, observational data and research into the crash risks associated with various forms of cell phone use.

Texting increases a driver’s crash risk at least eight times, NSC said, and drivers talking on either handheld or hands-free cell phones are four times as likely to crash.

NSC created the annual estimate because cell phone-related crashes are not well represented in federal fatality data.


 

Bendix Employees Help Build Home for Truck Driver With Sick Child
Source: http://www.truckingnewsonline.com; By Trucking News Staff, May 27, 2015

Last week, more than 120 employees of Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems raised the walls of a house under construction for a Northeast Ohio truck driver and his family in need. The construction project took place at Bendix’s headquarters in Elyria, Ohio, in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity of Medina County and Help Build Hope.

 
 

The three-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,100-square-foot home is being built for the family of Andy and Kristina Phillips of Brunswick. Kristina and Andy — a full-time truck driver — have three children: Madison, 8, Connor 7, and 2-year-old Lucas, who requires extensive supportive care due to a rare brain malformation called lissencephaly.

The new home will better accommodate Lucas’ ongoing care needs than their current apartment, making it easier and safer for the family to care for him. Special modifications to the house include a motorized chair lift that was donated by Bendix.

"The support and efforts of our employees are the heart and soul of Bendix’s ongoing commitment to building communities and positively impacting our neighbors," said Maria Gutierrez, Bendix director of corporate responsibility and sustainability. "Part of our company culture is striving every day to put our social responsibility to work and make a difference, and it simply doesn’t happen without the inspiring generosity of our team members and their families."

Bendix also provided $1,500 toward roofing the home.

After building the house’s frame, Bendix volunteers inscribed messages and well wishes on beams and walls. The entire structure was then disassembled and prepped for transport to Brunswick for completion. Construction is expected to be completed by October, dependent on weather.

"We're thankful to Medina Habitat for Humanity, Bendix, and all the volunteers," said Andy Phillips. "Our family is so appreciative of what’s going on here, and this is really going to help a lot."

"It’s just amazing how many people came out here," Kristina Phillips said on the morning of the build. "It’s nice to know people are willing to donate their time."

Bendix, a leader in the development and manufacture of leading-edge active safety and braking system technologies for commercial trucks, partnered with Habitat for Humanity and Help Build Hope earlier this year to construct the walls of another home in Destin, Fla.


 

May 2015 Articles

TSA to Add Recurring Background Checks for Airline and Airport Workers
Source: http://mashable.com; by Associated Press, Apr 20, 2015

The Transportation Security Administration is tightening security rules for airline and airport workers in the wake of a criminal case in which an Atlanta baggage handler was accused of smuggling guns on commercial jets, Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Monday.

 
 

In the immediate aftermath of the December arrest, Johnson ordered a 90-day review of security measures and now the agency is closing some security gaps the review highlighted.

Among the changes announced Monday are new rules requiring real-time, recurring criminal background checks for aviation workers, including airline employees. Fingerprint-based background checks will also now be conducted every two years for airport employees who hold Secure Identification Display Area badges.

"At the beginning of this process, the [working group] explored the practicality of performing 100% physical screening of employees, which was called for by some in the wake of the gun-smuggling incident," the Aviation Security Advisory Committee report states. "The [working group] concluded that such a measure would not be a "silver bullet" solution and that there were other, more effective and less costly methods of securing the sterile areas of airports."

Johnson said airport and airline workers traveling as passengers will also have to go through TSA screening before boarding a flight. The number of access points to secure areas will be reduced to an "operational minimum," he said.

The security review and subsequent changes were made in the aftermath of a gun smuggling case involving an Atlanta-based baggage handler who was accused of helping smuggle weapons from Atlanta to New York on passenger jets.

Johnson said the security changes will greatly reduce "the potential insider threat" posed by aviation employees.


 

FMCSA still seeking truck drivers to participate in 34-hour restart study
Source: http://www.thetrucker.com; By: The Trucker News Services, 4/21/2015

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is still seeking truck drivers who typically use a 34-hour restart period to participate in its study of the "operational, safety, health, and fatigue impacts of the federal Hours of Service restart provisions," the agency said today.

 
 

The congressionally mandated study is required to have participating drivers from different fleet sizes, types of operations, and in various sectors of the industry.

"The study is designed to include a sample of drivers comprising fleets of all sizes (i.e., small, medium, and large) and operations (including long-haul, regional, and short-haul) in various sectors of the industry (including flat-bed, refrigerated, tank, and dry-van), to the extent practicable," the agency stated.

Drivers will be paid for their participation in the five-month study.

All personally identifiable information from the research will remain with the independent study team and will not be shared with the government.

Congress mandated the field study when lawmakers suspended the 34-hour restart provision put in place July 1, 2013.

That provision, which allowed use of the restart provision only once every 168 hours and required the restart to include two consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. time periods, was roundly criticized by the trucking industry, which after seeking relief from the FMCSA and not getting it, turned to Congress for help.

The suspension was part of an omnibus funding bill passed late last year. The suspension is set to end Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year.

The less restrictive rule, which allows unlimited use of the restart and doesn’t require the two overnight periods, was reinstituted when the suspension was passed.

The VTTI study is dividing participants into two groups, one following the more restrictive provision, the other following the provision now in place.

The research study is being conducted on-the-job for five months.

Drivers will be compensated by up to more than $2,000 for their participation.

Any driver interested in participating in this study or who would like to learn more, should visit www.restartstudy.com.

Drivers who have already volunteered to participate in the study are receiving updates from the study team by phone or by e-mail regarding their status as potential participants.

For additional information, visit http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/commercial-motor-vehicle-driver-restart-study.


 

10-Cent Gas Tax Increase Proposed for Road Maintenance in California
Source: http://www.planetizen.com; by IRVIN DAWID, April 20, 2015

SB 16 would also increase the diesel tax (which hasn't been raised in over two decades) by 12-cents, charge electric vehicles a flat $100 annual fee, and increase registration and license fees. First, two clarifications on no increases in the gas tax since 1994.

 
 

• The state gas excise tax actually doubled in 2010 as a result of the "gas tax swap", the swap was meant to be revenue neutral, swapping a decrease in sales taxes for increase in excise taxes. Subsequently, the state Board of Equalization has both increased and decreased the excise tax as they are required to do to "adjust" revenue [see MTC explanation.]

Motorists should expect a six-cent decrease in the 36-cents excise tax on July 1 thanks to the BOE vote on Feb. 24.

• And readers may know that motorists were hit with a so-called "hidden gas tax", which, as we've explained, was in fact neither. It was a "carbon charge" resulting from motor vehicle fuel distributors participating on Jan. 01 in the cap-and-trade program authorized in the state's landmark climate legislation, AB 32, resulting in the end of the "carbon externality" for carbon-emitting motorists. [Electric vehicle motorists were already paying the fee as power generators participated in the program since its inception in 2012.]

Which brings us to the "authentic" gas tax increase, Sen. Jim Beall's (D-San Jose) SB 16. The bill fulfills one of the three infrastructure goals mentioned by Gov. Jerry Brown in his January inaugural address: "Tackling the enormous $59 billion problem of deferred highway and bridge maintenance."

In addition, the bill will help meeting the "backlog of $40 billion in [city and county road] repairs," states Sen. Beall's press release.

According to the legislation, SB 16 creates "the Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account in the State Transportation Fund." Revenues for the new program will come from:

• $0.10 per gallon increase in the motor vehicle fuel (gasoline) tax imposed by the bill and

• $0.10 of the $0.12 per gallon increase in the diesel fuel excise tax imposed by the bill,

• an increase of $35 in the annual vehicle registration fee,

• a new $100 annual vehicle registration fee applicable to zero-emission motor vehicles [another of the many state electric vehicle (EV) fees", though new EV buyers will continue to receive up to $5,000 through the state Clean Vehicle Rebate Project]

• This bill would incrementally increase the vehicle license fee [VLF] to a rate of 1 percent, over a 5-year period beginning July 1, 2015, with the revenues above the 0.65 percent rate to be deposited in the General Fund and used for transportation general obligation bond debt service.

On that last bullet, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously (or infamously) reduced the VLF, based on a vehicle's resale value, to .65 percent from 2 percent to fulfill a campaign promise in the 2003 recall election against Gov. Gray Davis. The VLF is calculated on the resale value of a vehicle. Notwithstanding efforts to increase it, it's been stuck at .65 percent as Streetsblog's Damien Newton explains.

The Golden State is long overdue for an increase in the gas tax. The last time the tax was increased was after Californians voted to increase it after they approved Proposition 111 in June, 1990, doubling the 9-cents excise tax over a five-year period. As Sen. Beall states, the ten cents is meant to compensate for "the decline in value lost to inflation" since 1994.

Hat tip to Melanie Curry, Streetsblog California.


 

8 Things Happy People Do in the First 5 Minutes of Their Day
Source: http://www.bustle.com/; By Courtney Kocak, Nov. 24, 2014

One of life’s greatest mysteries is happy people in the morning. Most of us don’t get it. They seem to bounce out of bed with bright smiling faces while we’re still blindly grunting for our morning cups of joe. It’s not fair! How do they do it?

 
 

Well, it turns out, those delighted smiles aren’t necessarily preordained. Yes, genetics and life circumstances can account for up to 60 percent of variations in happiness, but the remainder is 100 percent up to you!

Even if your default setting is low, positivity is something we can foster in ourselves through our thoughts and actions. Comedian Groucho Marx (who had arguably the grumpiest name on the planet) once said, "Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it."

In honor of Groucho’s inspiring declaration, I did some research on what happy people do to get their days off to a cheery start. Each of us can rip a page from their handbook — and become one of the shiny happy people in the process.

1. DON’T HIT SNOOZE

You hit snooze every morning in hopes of a few extra rounds with the world’s most sensual lover: sleep. But unfortunately, scientists found that hitting the snooze button can actually make you more tired. Abusing the snooze (great name for a band) is usually the symptom of a larger issue: sleep deprivation. To solve that problem, turn in 30 minutes earlier on the reg, impose a tech curfew 90 minutes before bed — and if all else fails, hide your alarm clock out of reach! Nothing like a crack-of-dawn scavenger hunt to get you up and at ‘em.

2. START WITH AN AFFIRMATION

Say something positive to yourself — an affirmation or something you’re grateful for — to set the stage for other positive thoughts to join in throughout the day. Each day is a new opportunity to live your life to its fullest, so allow yourself to wipe the slate clean and not drag past regrets into the future.

3. TAKE A WARM-TO-EXTREMELY HOT SHOWER

Because, DUH. If you need science to tell you why this is an awesome idea, you haven’t been doing it right. A morning shower is a great time for meditation, self-reflection, or just plain zoning out. It feels so good you’ll forget the meaning of the word drought… Oops!

4. STAY UNPLUGGED FOR (AT LEAST) AN HOUR

Don’t reach for your phone!! Placing a morning moratorium on electronics is a wonderful way to buffer your awakening into the “real world.” Instead of greeting the day with emails and texts, start with a coffee and crossword, or by taking an extra 10 minutes to cuddle with your boo. It’s your moment of Zen before the inevitable bombardment. Not only will the delay serve as a mood booster, but allowing yourself a break from technology will help you feel more in control of when and how much you choose to use it later in the day.

5. SIMPLIFY YOUR MORNING ROUTINE

Adjusting from blissful slumber to the demands of the day can be a jarring experience. Do yourself some favors! Get a jump-start on the day by making a list or laying out clothes the night before. Try to sequence your tasks most efficiently (i.e., let your hair air dry while you eat breakfast), and once you’ve automated the habit, you don’t have to think about it anymore. What’s more: A relaxing, low stress morning routine sets a positive tone for the rest of the day.

6. EXERCISE EARLY

Research has tied morning exercise to better sleep, and exercising before breakfast can help keep you trim. Exercising early has other observed benefits, too — like feeling more productive, energized, and less stressed. Plus, if you get it out of the way first thing, it’s not hanging over your head for the rest of the day.

"I don’t have enough time!" syndrome is common with morning exercise, so let me suggest a perfect solution: The Under 20 Workout. Each video is less than 20 minutes, the trainer jokes around and keeps it fun, and the fast-paced workout will get your tired blood pumping!

7. EAT BREAKFAST

Fuel up and make your stomach smile. Getting your a.m. nosh on will improve your mood and reduce fatigue later in the day. Okay, yummy, you had me at "food."

8. GET ‘BUSY’

Starts with "s" and rhymes with "Tex" is definitely my favorite doctor-recommended way to make the morning — and the rest of the day — happier. An early romp with your partner will leave you feeling more upbeat and bonded, but that’s not all! You’ll also improve your immunity for cold and flu season; grow more luscious hair, skin, and nails; and decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke. Talk about a sexy panacea!


 

April 2015 Articles

Employers Running Background Checks: Top 10 Tips to Avoid Joining the Fair Credit Reporting Act Litigation "Club"
Source: http://www.jdsupra.com; by Michelle Cohen, 2/23/2015

What do Whole Foods, Chuck E. Cheese, Michael’s Stores, Dollar General, Panera, Publix, and K-Mart have in common? Each of these companies has faced lawsuits (including class actions) under the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"). Although Congress passed the FCRA way back in 1970 and litigation has focused on credit reporting agencies' duties under the law, class action plaintiff firms have recently focused on the FCRA's employer-related provisions. Several large settlements (such as Publix's $6.8 million class action settlement, Dollar General's $4 million, and K-Mart's $3 million) have spurred further litigation. While some of the alleged FCRA violations may appear minor or technical in nature, these "technical violations" still result in costly lawsuits. Employers should re-familiarize themselves with the FCRA to avoid becoming class action defendants.

 
 

The FCRA's Employer-Related Provisions

Many employers understandably want to conduct background checks on prospective employees, or current employees who may be obtaining new responsibilities or accessing sensitive information. In particular, companies in the retail and restaurant sectors, whose employees have access to cash receipts and credit card account numbers, want to guard against employees whose background checks may reveal issues of concern. Further, organizations whose employees enter homes and businesses (such as service providers – e.g., carpet cleaners, plumbers, contractors) have additional concerns about potential liability.

The FCRA is usually thought of as a federal law that regulates consumer reporting agencies, like credit bureaus. However, the FCRA also prescribes certain requirements for employers who use consumer reports. The FCRA broadly defines the term "consumer reports" as information prepared by a consumer reporting agency "bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the consumer’s eligibility for—credit or insurance to be used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes; employment purposes" or other permitted purposes. This definition draws in more than a traditional credit report. It can include driving records, civil lawsuits, and reference checks, among other information.

Disclosure and Consent

Employers may not obtain a consumer report from a consumer reporting agency unless they first make a "clear and conspicuous" written disclosure to the prospective employee/employee. The disclosure document must consist "solely" of the disclosure that a consumer report may be obtained. The job applicant/employee must provide written permission for the employer to obtain a consumer report. The FTC has indicated the disclosure form may include a signature line for the individual’s consent. (In 2001, the FTC also issued an opinion letter stating it believes such consent can be obtained electronically, consistent with the federal ESign law). The employer further certifies to the consumer reporting agency that is has a permissible purpose for the report and that it has complied with the FCRA and applicable equal opportunity laws.

These steps sound simple enough, however, litigation has ensued based upon employers’ alleged failures to comply. For instance, in the Whole Foods case in federal court in California, the plaintiffs claim the online application process included a liability waiver in the disclosure form for the background check, allegedly violating the FCRA requirement that a disclosure form not include other information. In a separate case in federal court in Florida involving retailer Nine West, the plaintiff alleges he did not receive a separate form, and that the background check authorization was on a web page with various other types of information.

Adverse Action Based on Report

If the employer intends to take "adverse action" against the prospective employee/employee (based even in part on the information in the report), the FCRA requires the employer to follow certain additional steps. The term "adverse action" includes "a denial of employment or any other decision for employment purposes that adversely affects any current or prospective employee."

Before the employer takes the adverse action, it must provide a "pre-adverse action" notice to the affected person. This notice must include a copy of the consumer report and a statutory "Summary of Rights." (This is an updated form, required since January 2013 by the new Consumer Financial Protection Board, which now has responsibility for FCRA rulemaking). The purpose of this notice requirement is to permit the individual to discuss the report with the employer before the employer implements the adverse action.

Next, if the employer intends to take the adverse action, the FCRA requires the employer to provide an adverse action notice to the individual. This notice must contain certain information, including: this is a test one

▪ the name, address, and telephone number of the consumer reporting agency that provided the report;

▪ a statement that the consumer reporting agency did not make the adverse decision and is not able to explain why the decision was made;

▪ a statement setting forth the applicant’s or employee’s right to obtain a free disclosure of his or her report from the consumer reporting agency if the individual requests the disclosure within 60 days; and

▪ a statement regarding the individual’s right to dispute directly with the consumer reporting agency the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the report.

In a case involving Domino’s Pizza employees, the company settled a class action that included allegations that it took adverse employment actions against certain individuals based on information contained in consumer reports without providing those individuals the required notice and a copy of such reports in advance. K-Mart settled a class action suit based upon allegations that the statement of consumer rights provided to individuals after a background check contained outdated disclosures, among other alleged FCRA failures.

Liability and Enforcement

Plaintiffs can pursue a private right of action against employers for negligently or willfully violating the FCRA. Claims regarding negligent violations allow actual damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. Willful violations can result in actual damages or statutory damages ranging between $100 and $1,000, plus punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and costs. The Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") has also brought actions against employers for FCRA violations.

10 Steps to Avoid Becoming a FCRA Defendant When Using Employment Background Checks

1. Review your current background check practices for prospective and current employees, including any online application materials.

2. Review disclosure/consent forms for compliance. Ensure you are presenting applicants or current employees with a simple, one page disclosure form. The form should inform individuals that you intend to obtain a consumer report for employment purposes.

3. You must obtain consent from the prospective employee/employee. You may include a line on the disclosure form for the individual to acknowledge and grant consent. Do not include other material, such as liability waivers, confirmation of at-will employment, or seek other consents.

4. If your application process is online, ensure the disclosure/consent is displayed separately, on one screen, without other content.

5. If you intend to conduct background checks periodically during an individual’s employment, state that in the disclosure and consent form.

6. Do not seek consent verbally. FCRA requires “written” consent (though FTC has stated it may be electronic).

7. Maintain backup of the disclosure and consent forms for at least 5 years from the date they were provided. (Lawsuits must be brought by the earlier of two years after the date of the plaintiff’s discovery of the violation, or five years after the date on which the violation occurred).

8. If you intend to take adverse action based on information in the consumer report, you should be providing the individual with a pre-adverse action notice, a copy of the consumer report, and the "Summary of Rights." Ensure you are using the most updated "Summary of Rights."

9. You should wait a reasonable amount of time (at least 5 days) before issuing an adverse action notice. Your company’s adverse action notice must contain the information required under the FCRA (see bulleted information, above).

10. Check state law regarding background checks for the states in which you operate/solicit employees. Some states have similar requirements to FCRA; others may further restrict the types of information you can request.

* * *

The FTC/EEOC have issued a joint statement on background checks. While many employers need to conduct background checks to avoid liability and risks to their businesses, employers also need to follow the FCRA’s mandates to avoid the deep end of litigation "pool."


 

Teamsters Sue to Keep Mexican Carriers Out
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; By: David Cullen, March 10, 2015

The issue of Mexican motor carriers operating across the U.S. border is not over, at least not in the eyes of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

 
 

The union announced today that it has filed suit with U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to block the Department of Transportation from implementing its decision to open the U.S. border to Mexico-based motor carriers later this year.

The Teamsters said that the lawsuit "contends that the DOT's final report to Congress violated the Administrative Procedures Act because its conclusion— that Mexico-domiciled carriers operate at a level of safety equal to or greater than U.S. and Canadian carriers— is arbitrary and capricious in light of the admitted lack of significant data from a pilot program Congress required DOT to conduct."

Joining the union in the suit Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Truck Safety Coalition.

According to the Teamsters, DOT opted to open the border to Mexico-domiciled trucks "despite the DOT Inspector General (IG) issuing a report which acknowledged that it had been unable to develop statistically significant data in the pilot program."

"It is disappointing that the DOT has chosen to ignore the findings of the Inspector General and is moving forward with opening the border to Mexican trucks," said Teamsters general president Jim Hoffa. "The Teamsters Union will continue to fight for highway safety; the safety of our roads cannot be compromised based on this failed program."

The union noted that in a letter to United States Trade Representative Michael Froman last week, Hoffa called for the Obama Administration "to protect highway safety and reopen negotiations over Mexican cross-border trucking as part of the ongoing Trans Pacific Partnership."


 

ATA Urges Congress to Support Drug ‘Hair Test’ Law for Truck Drivers
Source: http://www.truckingnewsonline.com; by Trucking News Staff, March 20, 2015

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) late Thursday asked lawmakers to support bipartisan legislation that would allow trucking companies to use hair testing as a highly effective tool to meet federal requirements and prevent drug users from getting behind the wheel of trucks.

 
 

"ATA is committed to improving highway safety, including doing all we can to prevent individuals who use drugs or alcohol from driving trucks," said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. "ATA was an early advocate of mandatory drug and alcohol testing of drivers before it was required, and has since promoted improvements such as hair testing and the creation of a national test results clearinghouse."

Graves said his association’s advocacy has resulted in a steady decline in the small percentage of drivers who use drugs, and he said hair testing is the next logical step.

The Drug-Free Commercial Driver Act of 2015 was introduced Thursday in the Senate by Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and in the House by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.). If approved, the new law would give fleets the option of using hair tests as an alternative to traditional urine tests, to meet federal requirements.

"Leading employers in a variety of industries around the world have recognized that hair testing is a very effective method to detect drug use," said Dean Newell, vice president of safety and driver training for Maverick USA of Little Rock, Ark. "Hair tests are difficult to evade or subvert and provide a better window into an applicant’s potential history of drug use."

A number of fleets voluntarily conduct hair tests, in addition to mandatory urine tests, to identify habitual drug users who may otherwise briefly abstain from use or otherwise attempt to "beat the test" to gain trucking employment. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office highlighted the severity of these limitations in DOT’s current urine drug testing program.

However, because hair tests have not yet been accepted by DOT to meet federal testing requirements, other fleets have been deterred by the redundant costs of employing hair testing programs in addition to the required DOT urine-based tests.

"Though the trucking industry’s positive testing rate is remarkably low, Congress should provide a means for fleets, as part of the DOT testing regime, to further identify and eliminate from the industry those who don’t share the industry’s commitment to highway safety," said Graves.


 

NHTSA uses enforcement authority to boost child safety
Source: www.dot.gov; By Mark Rosekind, March 20, 2015

When parents buckle their children into car seats they need to trust that their seat will protect as promised. That’s why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fights to keep car seats and other products with safety-related defects off our nation's roads.

 
 

Today, we’ve acted again to fine a company that failed to report a safety-related defect to NHTSA as required by law. And we’re doing so in a way that doesn’t just punish bad behavior, but also makes American children safer.

Early last year, NHTSA learned that millions of Graco car seats were made with a seat buckle that could become difficult or nearly impossible to unlatch. In an emergency, a stuck seat buckle could lead to a life threatening situation. NHTSA investigated the issue and forced a recall of more than 6.1 million affected Graco seats.

But we didn’t stop there. After protecting children by forcing the recall, we investigated whether Graco lived up to its obligation under the law to report this safety-related defect to the agency within five business days. Today, our investigation concludes with Graco acknowledging its failure to report in a timely manner and agreeing to pay a stiff fine of $3 million.

Beyond the civil penalty, the consent order Graco signed requires the company to make a $7 million commitment over the next five years to boosting child safety. If it does not, the company will be obligated to pay the $7 million as a fine. But we think parents across the country will agree that using the $7 million to make Graco's car seats safer is a better use of that money.

Under our agreement, Graco must:

• Improve its assessment and identification of potential safety defects.

• Create a scientifically tested program to increase effectiveness of child seat registration programs.

• Revise its procedures for addressing consumer safety complaints and speed the recall of defective products.

• Launch a campaign to disseminate safety messages to parents and caregivers by producing media products to incorporate in child safety campaigns.

An independent third party will assess Graco’s compliance with these requirements.

This is also a time for parents of young children to check whether or not their car seats are registered. Registering a car seat is the best way to stay informed of a possible recall affecting your child’s car seats. Parents can register a seat by mailing in the accompanying registration card or by visiting the Child Restraint Registration Page on our website.

Far too few parents register their car seats, as indicated by the fact that only 40 percent of people get their car seat fixed during a recall. That’s in comparison to an average of 75 percent for light vehicles, for which registration is required by law.

Low registration rates and recall completion rates are a big safety problem, which is why we crafted this agreement to boost public awareness of the importance of registration.

The Graco case should send a strong message to companies that they must meet their obligations under the law and that NHTSA will hold them accountable if they fail to do so — particularly in cases affecting the safety of children.

And even more important than collecting a large fine, we’re using this as an opportunity to make our kids safer. It’s another example of our commitment to use every tool available to save lives on our highways, and to use those tools in an innovative and more effective way.


 

March 2015 Articles

Why Filing Your Taxes May Be a Nightmare This Year
Source: http://www.bloombergview.com; by The Editors, JAN 20, 2015

Taxpayer satisfaction with the IRS is already at a record low. It's about to get worse.

 
 

A report last week from the Taxpayer Advocate Service -- an independent watchdog within the Internal Revenue Service -- found a cascading series of problems at the agency that are likely to make the grim task of filing tax returns even more burdensome. This year, the IRS will be able to answer less than half the phone calls it receives. Callers who do get through will likely be on hold for 30 minutes or more. Even then, agents will respond only to "basic" tax-law questions, something very close to a contradiction in terms. The agency's ability to respond to written correspondence -- the primary way it communicates with taxpayers about things such as filing errors and penalties -- is collapsing. And the hundreds of thousands of poor, elderly and handicapped filers the IRS once helped with their returns are now on their own.

Why?

Since 2010, Congress has cut the IRS's budget by more than $1 billion. The agency's workforce has been reduced by more than 12 percent. And its training budget has shrunk by 83 percent, even as it faces new burdens imposed by the Affordable Care Act, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and a surge in identity thefts. Yet still more cuts are looming. As part of the spending deal Congress reached last month, the IRS budget for 2015 will be reduced by about $346 million. The agency's commissioner told staff last week that this could mean delaying tax refunds, postponing technology investment, reducing audits and furloughing workers.

Republicans in Congress have celebrated these cuts, arguing that, among other things, the IRS's training seminars have been too elaborate, that its bonuses have been too profligate, and that it unfairly scrutinized Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Let's concede that they're right on every count. How does cutting the IRS budget help? It will lead to lower federal revenue and hence higher deficits. It will worsen service for taxpayers of all parties. It will mean a continuing subsidy for wealthy tax avoiders, to the tune of some $385 billion a year. And it will in all likelihood encourage talented workers to leave the IRS for the business world, where their skills are in demand. In other words, it will punish just about all Americans except the ones Republicans are mad at.

An obvious solution to the IRS's woes is to give it more money, commensurate with its growing responsibilities -- especially since each additional dollar allocated to the IRS for enforcement yields $6 in government revenue, and 61 percent of the public favors boosting spending for taxpayer services. A better way to hold IRS employees accountable for misconduct, meanwhile, is through improved oversight, management and performance metrics.

Of course, the best approach for everyone -- Congress, the IRS, the American voter -- would be a comprehensive tax reform that would lower rates, end most exemptions and loopholes, and drastically simplify the Internal Revenue Code. That's probably too much to hope for anytime soon. But the start of a new Congress, like the start of spring training, is a good time for excessive optimism.


 

New Enrollment Requirements for TWIC Applicants
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; January 26, 2015

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration has announced some changes to the Transportation Worker Identification Credential card program, used by truckers and other transportation workers to access the nation’s maritime ports.

 
 

Starting on July 1, applicants who were born in the United States, and who claim U.S. citizenship, must provide certain documents to prove their citizenship. They are listed on the TWIC website.

Until the deadline, TWIC applicants who were born in the U.S. may continue to certify that they are U.S. citizens by checking the box on the electronically signed TWIC application or provide documents listed on the Universal Enrollment Services website.

TSA said it is making this change to align TWIC proof-of-citizenship requirements with those of its other security programs, such as the Hazardous Material Endorsement.

Also, on Feb. 1, the TWIC fee will be reduced to $128.00, $1.75 less than the current amount, due to lowered FBI fingerprint processing charges, according to TSA.

TSA also noted that currently some TWIC applicants are experiencing delays of more than 75 days to receive their TWIC card. It said the delay mainly applies to applications that involve criminal history records or immigration status that must be verified. It is strongly encouraging all applicants to apply for their TWICs at least 10 to 12 weeks prior to when the card will be required to avoid inconvenience or interruption in access to maritime facilities.

Changes to the TWIC card are also in the works. Since TSA began issuing the new version in May 2014, only the first 14 characters of the applicant’s last name are printed on the card. This has caused some TWIC cardholders to have their credentials questioned at facilities because the name on the card does not match the person’s full name, according to TSA. It will soon make a system change to extend the last name as printed on the TWIC cards so they will carry a maxi-mum of 19 characters. TSA said is looking into ways to include full last names, regardless of the number of characters, given the limited space available on the card for printing.

More information on these changes in the TWIC program are available by calling the UES Call Center at 1-855-DHS-UES1 or 1-855-347-8371, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Eastern time.


 

CNN Reports on Synthetic Drugs
Source: http://blog.employersolutions.com; by NICOLE JUP, DECEMBER 16, 2014

Media sources across the country report tragic accounts of the dangerous consequences of taking synthetic drugs. These stories often involve teens who may assume that synthetic drugs are safe because they are sold and marketed by retailers as a "legal high."

 
 

CNN recently reported a story out of North Dakota where a group of teenagers were impacted by a "mysterious white powder." One teen was rushed to the hospital with doctors struggling to determine what caused an overdose that led to organ failure and cardiac arrest. Days later, an-other teen was dead, and the same mysterious white powder was involved.

CNN reported that "it took the state lab a week to identify that the mysterious powders were synthetic designer drugs — drugs that law enforcement in North Dakota had never heard of before." The powder was identified as 2C-I-NBOMe and 2C-C-NBOMe, drugs not yet banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The federal prosecutor said these chemicals are designed to imitate LSD and a dose the size of a few grains of salt can be enough to get high.

The DEA reports there are an increasingly expanding array of synthetic drugs available with more than 150 synthetic substances identified. The ongoing difficulty for law enforcement agencies and drug testing laboratories is that manufacturers continue to change the chemical composition of their drugs to stay ahead of the law.

Because synthetic, or designer, drugs change frequently, our laboratory and research teams con-tinue to work proactively to stay current with trends. We monitor an ever-changing list of sub-stances and add compounds to our drug test panels in response to comprehensive research on drug-use patterns and positivity.


 

Feds Detail Crime and Punishment in Five Trucking Investigations
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; January 30, 2015

The Office of Inspection General at the U.S. Transportation Department Friday released new details in five separate legal cases against six people for crimes that include falsifying truck driver drug and alcohol test results, fraudulent commercial driver’s license testing, violating Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration out-of-service orders and lying on a truck driver application.

 
 

Fraudulent CDL Test-Taking Scheme

On Jan. 21, Inocente Gonzalez and LaToya Bourne pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with an alleged widespread fraudulent commercial driver’s license test-taking scheme in New York State.

A total of 11 individuals were indicted in October 2013, including Gonzalez and Bourne.

The investigation revealed that fraudulent CDL test-taking activities had occurred at five known state test centers in the New York City area, according to the inspector general’s office. Surveillance operations, including the use of remote observation posts and pole-cameras, identified the defendants participating in the fraud scheme, including New York State Department of Motor Vehicles security personnel, an external test-taker, facilitators, "runners" and lookouts.

Conspiring CDL applicants allegedly paid facilitators between $1,800 and $2,500 in return for CDL exam answers and escort assistance through DMV processes. Fraud schemes included the use of pencils containing miniaturized encoded test answers, the use of a Bluetooth headset as a communication device to relay CDL test answers, and the use of an external test-taker positioned nearby to take the exams, according to the inspector general’s office.

Both Gonzalez and Bourne were employed as security guards at New York State DMV locations in Manhattan, New York.

In mid-January three other people pleaded guilty for their roles in the alleged scam.

Conspiracy to Violate an FMCSA Order

One man has pleaded guilty in federal court in Macon, Georgia, to conspiracy to violate an imminent hazard out-of-service order issued by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

On Jan. 21, Lacey Lewis admitted to the charge, but there was no indication when he will be sentenced.

Lacey Lewis and others were criminally charged in May 2013 in conjunction with this scheme. In October 2008, Devasko Lewis, doing business as Lewis Trucking Company, was placed under an order to cease all operations due to serious violations discovered during a FMCSA compliance review conducted after a fatal crash in Alabama that killed seven.

Devasko Lewis, assisted by Lacey Lewis, attempted to circumvent this order by continuing to operate two other companies, Eagle Transport and Eagle Trans, according to the inspector general’s office. Devasko Lewis has yet to be tried.

This was the second time Devasko Lewis was indicted on similar charges. The first time he pleaded guilty to charges and was sentenced to 90 days in prison plus supervised release.

Owner of Tennessee Trucking Company Sentenced

On Jan. 21, Dorian Ayache, the owner and operator of livestock hauler Three Angels Farms in Lebanon, Tennessee, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Nashville to three months in prison, 12 months supervised release, a $5,000 fine and was ordered not to engage in any commercial trucking.

In August 2014, Ayache, along with Theresa Vincent, owner and operator of Terri's Farms in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to violating an imminent hazard out of service order issued by the FMCSA. Both were indicted in September 2013.

FMCSA determined in June 2012 that the operations of Three Angels Farms posed an imminent hazard to public safety and issued an order requiring Ayache to cease all commercial motor vehicle operations. The order was issued due to Ayache's unacceptable safety practices, including his failure to adequately maintain his commercial motor vehicles and his failure to ensure drivers were qualified. He was also cited for accidents that occurred in 2012 that resulted in fatal injuries to horses.

In August 2012, FMCSA issued a second order against Vincent and Terri's Farm, forcing them to cease all commercial motor vehicle operations and found that Terri's Farm was merely a continuation of Three Angels Farm. Vincent, as well as Ayache, criminally violated the previous order by continuing commercial motor carrier operations under the name and authority of Terri's Farm. Vincent was sentenced late last year.

Drug Tester Debarred for Fraud Scheme

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has barred one woman from doing business with the U.S. Transportation Department after she was recently sentenced following pleading guilty to falsely certifying trucking drug and alcohol tests results.

According to the IG's office, the move by the agency on Jan. 16 against Elizabeth Pope is for a period of three years, retroactive to Aug. 6, 2014. In addition, FMCSA issued to Pope a notice of proposed exclusion and recommended a five-year public interest exclusion from conducting business with the DOT.

In December 2014, Pope was sentenced to eight months house arrest and ordered to pay $109,000 in restitution for her conviction related to the falsification of FMCSA regulated drug and alcohol testing of commercial vehicle operators.

Pope operated Eastgate Laboratory Testing Inc., a company that conducted drug testing for trucking companies in the Pittsburgh area. Eastgate administered drug tests that included pre-employment, random, and post-accident testing.

The investigation determined that between 2008 and 2012, Pope illicitly used the computer generated signature of a doctor who had once served as Eastgate's Medical Review Officer on all required FMCSA paperwork. Pope admitted to falsifying the FMCSA regulated drug testing documents to give the impression that all tests received the necessary oversight and review.

False Statements on FMCSA Required Application

On Jan. 26, Arnold Williams pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Raleigh, North Carolina, for false statements on a commercial driver employment application. He was indicted in September of last year.

The investigation determined that in January 2013, Williams was charged by the North Charleston, South Carolina Police Department with reckless homicide and possessing an open alcohol beverage container.

The arrest followed a crash of the tractor-trailer he was operating that resulted in one fatality and three injuries. As a result of the accident, Williams was terminated from his position as a driver by his employer in February 2013.

In April 2013, Williams applied to work as a truck driver for a North Carolina based trucking company and was subsequently hired. Per FMCSA regulations, drivers are required to list all previous accidents on driver employment applications, but Williams lied on his application when he listed no previous accidents, according to the office of the inspector general.


 

February 2015 Articles

Beverage Industry Increases Truck Fleet Fuel Economy by 13% in 4 Years
Source: http://www.truckingnewsonline.com; by Trucking News Staff, December 29, 2014

The American Beverage Association (ABA) has released findings from a new industrywide ini-tiative that shows the nation’s leading beverage companies will have increased the fuel econo-my of their fleets by nearly 13 percent since 2010.

 
 

The findings are the first to emerge from a new collaboration in which The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group agreed to share proprietary data on their truck fleets with the ABA. The ABA aggregates the information to determine how well the industry is doing on fuel consumption and fuel efficiency.

The data shows that the beverage industry has the largest fleet of fuel-efficient heavy-duty hybrid commercial vehicles in North America, and has increased fuel economy (miles per gallon) industrywide by 3 percent per year since at least 2010. This represents a 12.6 percent increase in fuel efficiency projected through the end of this year.

The beverage industry is driving innovations in fleet efficiency, and this unique collaboration will better allow the industry to determine the effectiveness of advances in alternative fuels, fuel conservation, hybrid technology and eco-driving techniques. Among the progress to date:

• Alternative fuels and advanced technologies (hybrid, all-electric, propane, compressed natural gas, and liquefied natural gas) currently power more than 1,700 industry vehicles.

• More than 250 service vehicles have been converted to hybrid power train sys-tems that are 20 percent more fuel-efficient.

• Zero-emission, all-electric refrigerated trucks and 150 all-electric vehicles have been added to the fleets.

• Expansion of proven fuel-saving measures such as tire pressure monitoring systems, lighter composite materials, telematics, auto-shift transmissions, improved body aerodynamics, short-route guidance systems.

The beverage industry will continue to innovate and work with others to make its fleet more fuel efficient. Among the initiatives that individual companies are involved in advancing:

• Partnering with XL Hybrids of Boston to grow the number of industry light-duty service vans fitted with the firm’s innovative hybrid engine conversion technology.

• Engaging with the National Clean Fleets Partnership Program, public/private ini-tiative between the U.S. Department of Energy and large companies to accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient and alternative fuels nationwide.

• Participating in the SmartWay Transport Partnership, a public/private collabora-tion between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the freight transportation industry that helps shippers, carriers and logistics companies improve fuel efficiency and save on fuel costs.

• Collaborating with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), a non-profit group focusing on environmentally sustainable business practices, to develop a software tool that will allow beverage industry fleet managers to identify lower-carbon fuels.


 

FMCSA Will Help Train Police on Truck Traffic Enforcement
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by Oliver Patton, January 13, 2015

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will soon launch a national program to train police officers in traffic enforcement for large trucks.

 
 

Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer at the agency, said the agency worked with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance on a curriculum covering the basics of truck safety enforcement and will launch the program February 17.

Although it might sound unreasonable that police don’t already know how to enforce traffic rules for trucks, in fact there’s a problem. Some officers are reluctant to pull over a truck due to a lack of understanding, Van Steenburg said in a presentation at the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

Police may avoid action because they are concerned about the safety of pulling a truck over, are not qualified to conduct a truck inspection or do not understand the documentation involved, said Stephen Keppler, executive director of CVSA.

It is also true, Keppler added, that when an officer does pull over a truck, the information about that event does not necessarily get entered into the appropriate federal safety database.

Both Van Steenburg and Keppler noted that trucking interests such as American Trucking Associations have long been urging the agency to put more resources into traffic enforcement.

ATA contends that traffic stops coupled with a limited inspection are several times more effective than roadside inspections.

CVSA has held that while traffic enforcement is effective, it needs to be part of a comprehensive program that includes the kind of information that can only be gathered at a roadside inspection.

The curriculum FMCSA and CVSA have put together focuses on safely conducting truck and bus stops. It includes information on types of violations and truck documentation requirements, Van Steenburg said.

The Large Truck and Bus Traffic Enforcement Train-the-Trainer Course will be rolled out in Fairfax, Va., on February 17. It also will be shown at the National Symposium on Work Zones and Large Trucks, scheduled for Jacksonville, Fla., April 13.


 

Bennett International Adding Rand McNally Technology to 2,500 Trucks
Source: http://www.truckingnewsonline.com; by Trucking News Staff, January 16, 2015

With an eye on its existing technology investments and a fleet made up of owner operators with many vehicle configurations, Bennett International Group of McDonough, Ga., says it is adding Rand McNally’s HD 100 E-Log device to its 2,500-unit truck fleet.

 
 

Bennett, a family-owned, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council-certified business, claims that technology has played a key role in delivering the service quality for which Bennett has been known across all of its businesses — from flatbed to oversized, specialty to delivery of manufactured housing and recreational vehicles.

A year ago, Bennett executives began a search to find a partner who would allow the company to use its existing technology platforms, such as Android tablets.

"We were excited about the opportunity that Rand McNally’s HD 100 devices gave us to leverage technology in which we’d already invested," said Tim Hadden, Bennett’s chief information officer. "We’ve partnered the new device with our installed tablets, allowing for us to track and trace a vehicle at any time, and use E-Logs to ensure hours of service compliance. These new features are assisting us in delivering outstanding service to our customers."

The HD 100, paired with Bennett’s in-cab Android tablets, provides immediate communication, vehicle location, load delivery data, driver performance metrics, engine data, and electronic hours of service (E-Logs) functionality. Soon Bennett will add Rand McNally’s IntelliRoute navigation for turn-by-turn directions with truck-specific routing, allowing drivers to select a load or a fuel stop, and route directly to the location.

In making a new technology decision with a workforce of owner-operators, the driver experience was particularly important in making a successful transition to a new technology. Some of the benefits for the drivers have been:

• The HD 100 can be installed by drivers in less than 15 minutes.

• E-Logs have enabled drivers to eliminate time spent calculating hours of service manually, resulting in more time available for driving.

• With more accurate E-Logs, the company can ensure that loads assigned to a driver can be completed in the time he or she has left on their driving time — maximizing the hours available for both the driver and the company.

"Our implementation with Rand McNally went as well as it possibly could. We went from zero to 100 miles per hour in just a few months with Rand McNally’s customer support with us every step of the way," said Hadden.


 

9 Tips for Better Trailer Maintenance
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by Denise Rondini, January 2015

Don’t treat your trailers as an afterthought. Give them the attention they deserve by in-specting and maintaining them on a regular basis.

 
 

When talk turns to maintenance, it’s usually the tractor that gets all the attention. While today’s trailers are designed to last longer, they still need some TLC.

The following trailer maintenance tips can help ensure your trailers are always in top operating condition.

1. Check the air. Tires are a major expense, so they deserve your attention. "Proper tire air pressure is key to tire longevity," says Mike Goor, president of Contract Leasing Corp., a trailer leasing, sales and service company. Since drivers are often too busy to check tires as they should, he recommends tire pressure monitoring or inflation systems. However, these systems need their own attention, notes John Morgan, senior product manager at Meritor. "Check the supply hose connection to the tire on a regular basis and occasionally look for leaks."

Chris Steph, Stemco Intelligent Transportation Systems business leader, suggests these three simple checks:

• Verify that the system pressure is set correctly

• Check the auxiliary battery switch (ABS)/auxiliary power fuse

• Check the system shut-off valve position.

More specifically, check regulator pressure at least once a quarter and check the power fuse monthly, since the driver warning lamp will not illuminate without power. The system shut-off valve needs to be checked every time there is a visual inspection of the trailer.

If your tires are properly inflated but you’re still seeing tire wear, the problem is probably not with the tires, says Russ Franks, field service manager for Meritor. "Unusual tire wear is an indication you have something wrong with the undercarriage, suspension, shock absorbers or axle alignment."

2. Inspect suspensions. Visually inspect suspensions looking for signs of irregular wear, tears or heat cracks on the air springs, advises Dave Vanette, new business development manager at Firestone Industrial Products. Make sure nothing is touching the suspension or interfering with its movement. Also make sure air springs have sufficient and equal pressure.

Every air suspension has a defined ride height position, “but sometimes it gets damaged or tinkered with,” Franks says. If the ride height is not correct, you will not reap the full benefits of an air-ride suspension. Make sure the ride height is not too high because it can interfere with safely navigating overpasses. If there is too little air, instead of riding on the air bag, the trailer will ride on the suspension’s bumpers, which damages other suspension components.

3. Lube it correctly. The correct lube in the right amount is essential to proper trailer operation. Grease has three characteristics, according to Donna Mosher, lubricant specialist for Eaton Vehicle Group. The thickening system, grade and performance rating are all important in selecting the right grease.

"Ninety percent of greases are lithium complex based, but some are calcium based." But don’t mix the two greases, as performance will drop. The grade of the grease speaks to its viscosity and most grease used on trailers is NLGI, which, according to Mosher, "has the consistency of peanut butter."

The performance characteristics of the grease can be harder to find, as not all grease manufacturers put it on the label. Consult with the grease manufacturer to ensure you’re getting a grease with the proper performance characteristics. Make sure you add enough new grease to purge the old grease. "It’s not that the old grease wears out, but the debris that cling to the grease make it ineffective. Adding new greases purges the dirt," she says.

4. Take time for brakes. John Thompson, sales manager at TMD Friction, suggests using the following procedure to check trailer brakes."On wheel ends with spring brakes applied, look at the angle formed by the air chamber push rod and slack adjuster. That angle should be 90 degrees. If it isn’t, the brake is out of adjustment and needs to be fixed." Morgan suggests checking drum conditions while performing brake or wheel end service. "Measure the drums to make sure there is enough material to last until the next maintenance inspection. If it’s borderline, replace it."

5. Keep it lit up. An inoperable trailer light is like waving a red flag and asking to be pulled over for a roadside inspection, according to Brett Johnson, president and CEO of Optronics International. Corrosion is the enemy of the electrical system, and the liquid road salt used to de-ice roads attacks electrical connections. "When the right steps are not taken to prevent corrosion, it can spread throughout a vehicle, significantly shortening its life and that of the electrical system," Johnson adds. Regularly inspect lamps, wires and harness systems and replace grease when needed at connection points.

6. Keep it clean. De-icing chemicals don’t just attack electrical connections. They also attack metal parts. "Routinely wash equipment after exposure [to these chemicals]," says Greg Smith, vice president of sales and marketing for Talbert Trailers. "Most importantly, wash the underside where chemicals can remain undetected." A clean trailer also allows you to more easily spot trailer problems, according to Jeff Hopper, director of sales for trailer manufacturer Direct Trailer. He recommends trailers be washed every 45 days and brought into the shop every 45 to 60 for a more thorough inspection.

While Hopper says pre- and post-trip inspections are the starting point for a good maintenance effort, "you have to do more than check the boxes on the list. The driver has to actually do a thorough and complete check." Smith also recommends checking for debris that may be caught in trailer components, being especially mindful of the hydraulic system. If the hydraulic system gets compromised it could begin leaking hydraulic fluid, which is considered toxic.

7. Don’t forget the inside. While drivers may do a great job looking at things outside the trailer, they may forget to take a peek inside. Bob Tyman, general manager of River States Truck & Trailer, a Wisconsin-based Freightliner dealer, stresses the importance of looking for things like holes in the roof and broken aluminum cross members. "Holes in the roof can cause leaks which could damage cargo" as well as letting potentially damaging moisture into the trailer.

8. Check security. Your trailer maintenance must include a close inspection of tiedown straps, chains, ratchets and winches. Look for holes, tears, cuts, snags, loose stitching or embedded particles in the straps and at securing hardware, including loose logistics tracks on the inside of the trailer or rusted winches and hooks on the outside. Washing tiedowns is not recommended, according to Ralph Abato, president of Doleco USA, a manufacturer of cargo securement products. "Washing has an adverse affect on the nylon tiedown straps and actually will cause the grit to grind into the fiber, reducing strap integrity and work load limits," he says. "Dirty is better than washing." Abato also says winches need to be regularly lubricated, and ratchets lightly oiled to keep them in good working order.

9. Prioritize prevention. When it comes to trailers, Morgan, says, prevention is important. "Look for little symptoms that if fixed prevent big damage." Or as Hopper put it, “If it moves, slides or goes up and down, it needs to be inspected on a regular basis."


 

Background Checks Beware
Source: The Background Investigator Newspaper; by The Background Investigator Team, December 2014

More than half of background investigators convicted of falsifying reports have done jail time - most in the range of three to five months.

 
 

For instance, Brian Rapier, a USIS contractor of was accused of falsifying more than four dozen reports of investigation by recording that he had interviewed a source or checked a record when, in fact, he hadn’t.

Under the charge he pleaded guilty to, Rapier faces five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. As part of the plea deal, Rapier must also pay more than $173,000 in restitution.


 

January 2015 Articles

Court Orders EEOC to Give BMW Internal Background Screening Policy
Source: http://www.openonline.com; by Open Line Team, December 16, 2014

No more hiding: On Dec. 9, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) was ordered to turn over information about its internal background check policy to BMW Manufacturing Co. LLC. The win for BMW reverses an Oct. 10 order that denied BMW’s motion to compel documents.

 
 

The original complaint, filed in June 2013 by the EEOC alleged BMW violated former employees' civil rights by using criminal background checks that had a disproportionate effect on black employees and applicants. The commission said the screenings discriminate against African-Americans, who have higher arrest and conviction rates than whites. They also claimed the BMW policy is a "blanket exclusion" without any regard for the nature and gravity of the crimes, how old they are, or whether they are relevant to the type of work being performed.

BMW initially filed its motion to compel on Sept. 17. The company said at the time that in other EEOC challenges to background checks, courts routinely granted the employer's requests for documents related to the EEOC's own use of background checks in hiring. This request was denied on Oct. 10.

BMW filed an objection on Oct. 23 saying the courts had reached the wrong conclusion.

The EEOC issued a response to BMW’s objection on Nov. 6 saying that a magistrate judge's ruling should only be set aside if it contains a "clear error," and BMW had not demonstrated that the judge's decision "contained any error at all, much less clear error."

"The EEOC’s internal practices have no bearing on [the] defendant’s administration of its policy regarding criminal convictions," the EEOC's reply said. "Therefore, the magistrate judge’s ruling was correct under any standard and was not clearly erroneous or contrary to law."

However, this most recent ruling finds that the magistrate judge’s order should be set aside.

"In the present case, the EEOC argued that the production of documents related to its criminal conviction background check policy were not relevant to the claims and defenses because the positions for which the EEOC utilized its policy were not similar to the positions at issue in this litigation," the court documents read. "However, the EEOC has not submitted its policies or the positions for which they are used. [BMW] ‘is not required to accept [the EEOC’s] position in its briefs that the two entities’ practices are dissimilar – [BM] is entitled to discovery on this issue as it relates to [their] defense[s]."

We’ll keep you updated on this story as more information becomes available.


 

Tracking miles as gas tax alternative raises fairness, privacy concerns
Source: http://www.latimes.com; by DAN WEIKEL, December 6, 2014

Standing at a Chevron station in Long Beach, Teresa Gutierrez wished she was pumping fuel into a gas-sipping hybrid instead of her hulking GMC Yukon.

 
 

She was nevertheless cool to the idea that the state might start raising money for highway repairs by replacing the traditional gasoline tax with a fee based on how far people drive. Penalizing owners of hybrids and electric cars doesn't feel right, Gutierrez said. "It defeats their green purpose."

Jesus Velez also objected as he filled the 28-gallon tank of his Lincoln Navigator. Then he realized that owners of higher-mileage cars buy far less fuel, and therefore pay far less in gas taxes. A per-mile fee "would make it fairer for everyone," he concluded.

Faced with growing shortfalls in highway funding as drivers give up their gas-guzzling cars, California officials are trying to determine if a mileage fee would be more effective at raising revenue for road projects than the state tax of 36 cents per gallon.

The mileage-based concept, which nine other states are considering, received strong support in October when Gov. Jerry Brown approved a pilot program to test the idea using a sample of motorists.

The fee structure probably would depend on what officials think drivers would accept: It could be low enough to generate only what the gas tax brings in, or it could it be set higher to catch up on a backlog of maintenance and repairs.

Beyond the dollar amount, a mileage-based system raises fairness and privacy questions.

In 2012, the U.S. Senate killed a $90-million pilot project that would have involved 10,000 cars. Rural lawmakers contended that mileage fees were unfair to their constituents, who lived far from cities or their places of work.

"There are a lot of issues that need to be looked at and explored," said Steve Finnegan, government affairs manager for the Automobile Club of Southern California. "Two things are paramount — the fees must be fair and appropriate, and their use must benefit those who are paying them."

Millions of vehicles also would have to be equipped with odometer readers, smartphone applications or global positioning technology that would transmit data to state officials or a contractor, who would then bill owners for the miles traveled.

Privacy advocates are especially concerned that — in this era of data mining and well-publicized credit card breaches — the technology could be used to learn not only how far people go, but when and where.

Already, a test involving 50 motorists in Nevada raised concerns that the recording devices could be changed to track more than total mileage.

No one disputes, however, the urgent need to raise money for freeway maintenance, rehabilitation and operations in California. All are paid for out of the gas tax, which has not been adjusted for inflation in 20 years, though the cost of highway work has swelled.

"We are on the brink of a fiscal cliff in transportation funding," said state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), author of the bill Brown signed calling for the pilot program. "We need to look at alternatives."

DeSaulnier noted that major sources of federal highway funds are drying up and that gasoline sales are plummeting as Californians drive less and fuel economy improves.

In 2004, the difference between needed and actual funding for road repairs was about $1 billion, according to Caltrans. By 2014, the gap had grown to about $6.2 billion.

Unless new revenue streams are found, transportation experts have warned, California's highways will become increasingly congested and fall further into disrepair — causing costly delays for travelers and the shipment of goods. That could reduce the economic competitiveness of California, one of the nation's main gateways for imports and exports.

"There are no other options to fund our transportation systems unless we go to a user fee," said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Governments, a regional planning agency that has considered alternatives to the gas tax for 25 years. "The federal and state governments will have to get out of the transportation business if they cannot find a way to make the funding stream whole."

If the state's pilot program is successful, the mileage fee could replace the gas tax in early 2017 under provisions of DeSaulnier's bill. Supporters of the concept know it would cost more to administer than the current gas tax, but the real trick would be setting rates that are fair to all.

A 5,000-driver demonstration project planned in Oregon next year will have a per-mile fee of 1.5 cents. To avoid some of the potential pitfalls, vehicle owners will be able to choose how their mileage is recorded and whether the state or a contractor administers their accounts.

Officials say travel on private roads or out of state will not be counted. And to accommodate civil-liberties groups, Oregon will track only the total distance driven — data that will be destroyed 30 days after payments are made. Motorists in the trial will pay the mileage fee and receive a refund of the Oregon gas tax, because pumps across the state cannot be reset to exclude the charge when they buy fuel.

In California, motorists who travel 12,000 miles annually pay about $184 in gas taxes if their vehicles deliver the national average of 23.5 miles per gallon.

If the state followed Oregon's lead and charged 1.5 cents a mile, the cost to average drivers would be about $180.Assuming the hypothetical mileage fee were boosted to 2 cents, the cost to a typical driver would rise to $240 a year.

At the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., president Jon Coupal said the organization has no position on mileage-based fees. But the devil can be in the details, he added.

"User pay makes sense," Coupal said. "Our concern is that we might end up with another level of taxation and the mileage fee does not supplant the [state] excise tax."

Truckers in other states have questioned whether such fees would be fair due to the long distances they travel. The California Trucking Assn. also has no formal position, except to say that haulers might object if they had to deal with differing fees from state to state or region or region.

Among those who would be hardest hit by a mileage fee are owners of hybrids and electric cars, such as Jason Fundenberg, president of the Los Angeles Tesla Owners Club. He questioned whether the state can protect drivers' privacy and calculate an equitable fee.

"I don't think people mind paying their fair share, if it is a fair share," said Fundenberg, who owns two Teslas. "What about vehicle weight? Miles driven? Environmental impact and a smaller energy footprint? There needs to be a fair assessment."

Cheryl Downey said that to reduce her exhaust emissions and energy footprint, two of her last three cars have been hybrids. The Long Beach resident estimated that her current vehicle, a Chevrolet Volt, has saved her more than 800 gallons and about $300 in gas taxes in two years.

Still, she said, the mileage fee is long overdue. "We use the roads and cross the bridges, but we are not paying our fair share. With protections on privacy, I am OK with it. I want good roads like any other driver."


 

Truck driver demographics approaching "cliff"
Source: http://fleetowner.com; by Sean Kilcarr, December 4, 2014

A new white paper compiled by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) indicates that truck driver demographic trends are rapidly approaching an alarming "cliff" as too few younger workers are on hand to replace a driver population rapidly approaching retirement age.

 
 

ATRI’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data found that the trucking industry is disproportionately dependent on employees 45 years of age or older, many of whom are expected to retire in the next 10 to 20 years, complicated by a simultaneous sharp decrease in the number of younger drivers, particularly those 35 and under.

"There’s not a lot of time between where we are now and the cliff," Rebecca Brewster, ATRI’s president and COO, told Fleet Owner. "This industry has relied on a loyal cohort to stay behind the wheel because we as an industry still haven’t figured out how to backfill the [driver] population with younger folks."

While this is not a new problem, Brewster argued that it is one rapidly reaching a tipping point of sorts as rising freight demand is colliding with trucking capacity limits. "Now however we have U.S. Census data to back this up," she added.

ATRI’s white paper, written by Jeffrey Short, a senior research associate with the group, noted that while the U.S. labor market has nearly recovered from the Great Recession, employment gaps still remain.

Of the 155.9 million people in the U.S. civilian labor force, 146.9 million are employed and 8.9 million are unemployed – with 92.5 million additional persons not in the labor force, a figure that has grown by nearly 2 million people over the past year, according to ATRI’s analysis of Census data.

Out of the total U.S. labor pool, approximately 7 million persons hold trucking-related jobs with 3.2 million employed as truck drivers. With freight volumes on the rise, however, American Trucking Associations (ATA) data indicates that the industry is suffering a shortage of between 30,000 and 35,000 drivers right now, which could grow to 240,000 drivers by 2022 when aligned with freight growth forecasts.

"On average, trucking will need to recruit nearly 100,000 new drivers every year to keep up with demand for drivers, with nearly two-thirds of the need coming from industry growth and retirements," noted Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist.

On top of that, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is projected to grow 21% from 2010 to 2020 – faster than the average of all other occupations.

"The average age of our current driver workforce is 52 and we're noticing fewer and fewer younger individuals applying for jobs in recent years," noted Keith Tuttle, the founder of Motor Carrier Service, Inc. and a member of ATRI's research advisory committee, in a statement.

"If the industry doesn't collectively figure out how to recruit younger drivers, we may not have anyone left to haul freight in the coming decade," he stressed. "With more and more of the nation's freight being hauled by trucks now and in the future, this is a piece of the puzzle we have to solve."

Short’s analysis indicates that perhaps the single biggest obstacle to enticing younger workers to become truck drivers is the federal requirement that interstate commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders be aged 21 or older.

"The resulting three-year post-high school gap precludes many from considering a career in truck driving," he wrote. "There are additional institutional limitations on how old you must be to participate in certain sectors of the industry as well. Examples include hazmat or long-haul trucking, where 25 years of age is a common insurance-based expectation."

Yet ATRI’s Brewster pointed out that other trends – particularly the rapid escalation of college costs and student loan debt – may help trucking companies start tackling that "gap" more effectively.

"This is where we need to make a point, particularly as the idea of the vocational education [path] is revisited across the country," she explained. "From that standpoint, the industry needs to get more ‘irons in the fire’ in the vocational area, especially in high schools. We need to show that driving a truck is a great career option for them."


 

Creating a Safety Environment
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com; by Stephane Babcock, November 10, 2014

Winners of the 2014 Volvo Truck Safety Awards believe safety starts at the top, but the driver is the most important part of the equation.

 
 

When it comes to safety, there are no prizes for second best. Without a solid safety program, a fleet opens itself up to a number of dangers, including those to their own drivers as well as the ones sharing the road. During the 2014 ATA Management Conference and Exhibition this past October, Volvo Trucks honored a pair of fleets that have excelled in safety — Ontario, Canada’s Kriska Transportation and Britton Transport of Grand Forks, N.D. — with its 2014 Volvo Truck Safety Awards.

"A fleet safety program needs to be at the core of a company’s operating plan," says Jonathan Wahba, chief operating officer at Kriska, adding that buy-in from operations, sales, human resources and the executive team is critical in order to ensure a successful program and to help drive home the safety message.

When planning a safety program, Jim Stockeland, president of Britton Transport, advises fleet managers to not be overwhelmed with the whole program.

"Instead, assess your most significant gap areas and build a plan on addressing those. Utilize the many tools that are available to support safety programs in fleets today," he says.

It is not as easy as just mandating some rules and regs, then sitting back down behind the desk. Managers need to ensure that there is a consistent application of the policy from driver to driver and customer to customer, which Wahba considers a mistake that can be common among first-time fleet managers. But, the most important part of the safety equation is the driver.

"Technology can only provide a limited amount of influence over the behavior of the driver," says Wahba. "Screening, qualifying, and selecting safety-minded drivers have to be the enterprise’s top priority."

Wahba also point to Kriska’s experience of seeing a vast majority of drivers who walk through the carrier’s front door who want to work for a carrier that has safety as their first core value.

"By ‘walking the talk’ relative to our focus on safety, we are able to recognize industry-leading levels of driver retention," adds Wahba.

Wahba and his team understand that drivers are on the front lines of Kriska’s safety program and are sure to reward those employees that represent the company’s ideology on a daily basis. Quarterly financial incentives for safety and performance, which includes ensuring no DOT reportable events and no equipment damage, are awarded, as well as recognition of million mile achievements with decals for the truck, custom clothing, and even gifts.

Not every day can be perfect, though, and there will be events that need to be addressed in a timely manner. Part of a company’s response to a safety violation must include training, according to Stockeland. When an incident does occur, immediate follow up with the driver is recommended as soon as practical, with not only a conversation but also specific video training.

"This is a time when you most likely have the driver’s attention and they are eager to improve their skills and avoid the same mistake again," says Stockeland.

While reactive training is available, Stockeland’s drivers also utilize quarterly training sessions that are internet-based to connect with drivers on specific safety issues. Technology transforms training into a real-time process for Kriska drivers, with in-vehicle technology that provides instant feedback on speeding events, hard braking, and hours of service infractions.

"We rely heavily on technology to provide real-time feedback to both the driver and office associates. In the office, our safety staff monitors the same data, as well as additional driving behaviors in order to provide coaching and training to the driver in a near real-time environment," says Wahba.

When it comes to safety, no matter how well a company trains its employees, the drivers are the face of the company when it comes to customers and other drivers on the road, according to Stockeland.

"How they act behind the wheels shapes the perspective of our industry. We require that our drivers follow our value of Purposefully Protecting Others while exhibiting habitually safe driving habits," he says.


 

December 2014 Articles

USIS contracts for federal background security checks won’t be renewed
Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com; by Christian Davenport, September 9, 2014

The Office of Personnel Management will not renew any of its contracts with USIS, the major Falls Church, Va., contractor that provides the bulk of background checks for federal security clearances and was the victim of a recent cyberattack, officials confirmed Tuesday evening.

 
 

A spokeswoman for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said the OPM informed the senator's office Tuesday afternoon that it would not renew the contracts when they expire Sept. 30.

"The news is a welcome sign that the federal government is finally beginning to hold contractors accountable for taking millions in federal money and then failing to get the job done for the taxpayer," Tester, who has sponsored legislation to overhaul the security-clearance process, said in a statement. "As OPM shifts this workload to federal employees and other contractors, the agency must ensure high-quality and timely investigations. Our national security is too important not to."

USIS said in a statement that it is "deeply disappointed with OPM's decision, particularly given the excellent work our 3,000 employees have delivered on these contracts. While we disagree with the decision and are reviewing it, we intend to fulfill our obligations to ensure an orderly transition. The company continues to provide high quality service to its many other valued government customers." OPM officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Associated Press first reported that the OPM would not renew the contracts. The OPM and the Department of Homeland Security issued stop-work orders last month after the cyber attack, which potentially exposed the records of thousands of government employees.

Since then, the two agencies that suspended the work have been trying to shift the background investigations to other contractors or do them in-house, the OPM has said.

But USIS's caseload was significant, averaging about 21,000 background checks a month. USIS, which conducted background clearances for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, has come under criticism for allegedly churning through investigations and cutting corners.

The company also faces a whistleblower lawsuit that was joined by the Justice Department and accuses the company of submitting 665,000 background checks that were incomplete.

In recent years, the OPM has scaled back its reliance on USIS, which was paid $417 million in fiscal 2010 and $320 million last year, according to the agency. During that time, more work went to two other contractors: KeyPoint Government Solutions and CACI. KeyPoint’s payments jumped from $85 million to $138 million; CACI's rose from $17 million to $46 million.

USIS has had a long history of performing background checks for the government. The company was created when it was spun off by the OPM in an unprecedented privatization plan during the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s.

It has been performing the checks ever since.

The company also has come under fire from members of Congress who questioned why the Department of Homeland Security recently awarded it a contract, worth up to $190 million, to provide field support services related to the agency's immigration system.

That contract is being protested by one of USIS's competitors.


 

New Minnesota Drug Testing Case Gives Guidance on Which State Law Controls Background Checks
Source: http://www.esrcheck.com; By Attorney Lester Rosen, August 29, 2014

A recurring issue for employers and background screening firms is which state law to apply when a criminal record is found in one state for a job in another state. Confusion can be created if an applicant is offered a job in one state, but has a criminal record in another state where the reporting requirements may be different. The proper "choice of law" can be challenging.

 
 

This issue recently arose in the context of a drug testing. In a decision issued by the Unites States District Court of Minnesota on August 19, 2014, a Minnesota resident was offered a job in West Virginia by a Wisconsin company. According to the Court's opinion, although the employer initially requested the test be performed in Wisconsin, the Minnesota resident instead was allowed to take the test in Minnesota for convenience.

The test results came back as "too diluted," which the employer interpreted as a failed test and terminated the employee. However, under Minnesota law, the employee was entitled to another test to confirm the results. The lawsuit alleges that the Wisconsin employer violated the Minnesota Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (“DATWA”) because the employer terminated the employee based on an initial test result only. Under DATWA, an employer may not terminate or refuse to hire an employee based on an initial screening result unless the employer verifies the result through a confirmatory test. Minn. Stat. §181.953, subd. 10.

The issue before the Court was whether the Minnesota drug testing law controlled a Wisconsin company that was providing employment in West Virginia, despite the fact the employee lived in Minnesota when he took a drug test in Minnesota. The employee contends that under Minnesota law, the employer was "doing business" in Minnesota and therefore subject to the Minnesota drug testing rules.

The Court reviewed the Minnesota law and determined that Minnesota had a presumption against the imposition of extra-territorial application of Minnesota law on other states. The court noted there was no language in the law that attempted to apply it to out of state activities and that it was unreasonable to construe the phase "doing business in" as applying to an out of state employer providing out of state employment.

It would appear that even if the Minnesota law attempted to regulate out of state employers, the Court indicated that such a broad approach would likely be unconstitutional because it could violate the Commerce Clause of the United States constitution by creating numerous conflicts among state laws. The Court also indicted that applying Minnesota state law to out of state employers filling out of state jobs could violate due process issue since an employer could not be arbitrarily subject to Minnesota law unless there was sufficient contacts with the state. However, the Court noted that it did not need to reach that issue since it already held the Minnesota law did not apply in the case before the court.

This decision underscores Employment Screening Resource's (ESR) long held interpretation of state background checking laws by focusing on the state where the employment is to occur. In this case, even though the Minnesota resident took the drug test in Minnesota, both the employer and the job were in other states. Although first looking at the law of the state where the employment occurred is a commonly used industry rule of thumb, there can be exceptions. For example, in the Minnesota case, if the employer was also based in Minnesota, it may have been a closer issue.

In a 2010 blog, ESR noted another court decision in an employment discrimination case where there were variations in law between jurisdictions. In that case, the highest court in New York ruled the case could not proceed in New York under New York laws since the “impact” of the employment decisions occurred in another state. See: http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2010/07/09/new-case-from-new-york-gives-potential-guidance-on-issue-of-which-state-law-applies-for-reporting-criminal-records/.

The complexity in determining whose law applies underscores again that background screening and drug testing are extremely complex and heavily legally regulated professional services and go far beyond mere data retrieval. Background checks are subject to ever increasing litigation, legislation, and government regulations, and employers are well advised to seek service providers that understand these complexities.

The case can be located at: http://hr.cch.com/eld/fc6430067bf110008a6ae0db5501c0ed01.pdf


New ATRI Research Finds Industry's Operational Costs on the Rise Again
Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com, Dan Murray, September 24, 2014

Arlington, VA – The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) today released the findings of its 2014 update to An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking. The research, which identifies trucking costs from 2008 through 2013 derived directly from fleets’ financial and operational data, provides motor carriers with an important high-level benchmarking tool and government agencies with real world data for future infrastructure improvement analyses.

 
 

The average marginal cost per mile in 2013 was $1.68, an increase from the $1.63 found in 2012. After the Great Recession and a sharp decline in fuel prices resulted in decreased industry costs between 2008 and 2009, costs steadily rose through 2010 and 2011, with a slight decline in 2012. The increase in average operating costs in 2013 is attributed to the ongoing driver shortage and the resulting wage increases by motor carriers to ensure retention of experienced, qualified drivers.

"Carriers have experienced significant increases in equipment and labor costs, as well as second-level line items like tolls and health care benefits. Given tightening capacity and strengthening freight demand, ATRI’s operational costs report enables carriers to evaluate business opportunities wisely," commented Andrew Boyle, Executive Vice President of Boyle Transportation and a member of ATRI's Research Advisory Committee.

Since its original publication in 2008, the Operational Costs of Trucking reports continue to be one of the most requested ATRI reports among industry stakeholders. In addition to average costs per mile, ATRI’s report documents average costs per hour and includes cost breakouts by industry sector. Also new this year, ATRI is publishing a one-page fact sheet with the key findings of the report.


10 Behaviors That Could Kill Your Career
Source: https://www.linkedin.com; By Jack Welch, November 10, 2014

Careers rarely follow a smooth, linear trajectory. If you're experiencing a stalled or faltering career — and most of us do at some point or another — take a good look in the mirror. Are you guilty of exhibiting any of these common behaviors? These ten career-killing pitfalls can mean the difference between an upward ride and a downward spiral at work. If you recognize your own behaviors here, make it your mission to change them — before you have to. In time, you're likely to see your career move from a stall to a soar.

 
 

• Misfiring on performance or values — Overcommitting and under-delivering.

• Resistance to change — Failing to embrace new ideas.

• Being a Problem Identifier vs a Problem Solver.

• Winning over your boss but not your business peer group.

• Always worrying about your next career move versus focusing on the present.

• Running for office – it’s totally transparent to everyone but you!

• Self-importance — exhibiting a humorless, rigid attitude.

• Lacking the courage and conviction to push back on the system.

• Forgetting to develop your own succession plan for when you get promoted.

• Complacency — you’ve stopped growing.


November 2014 Articles

EPA Chief Hails Fuel Efficiency Rules For Trucks
Source: http://www.kpbs.org/news; by Erik Anderson, October 7, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's chief was in San Diego on Tuesday, celebrating fuel efficiency gains by the nation's trucking fleet. Gina McCarthy told truckers with the American Trucking Association that tougher standards are reducing the industry's carbon footprint.

 
 

The EPA chief also hailed ongoing discussions that will likely lead to even more stringent guidelines.

"This is the time when we're free to sit down and do a lot of work with the industry itself, to identify what technologies are available and how we can utilize the technologies that are coming on board to establish standards for fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas reductions, that are reasonable and achievable," McCarthy said.

The American Trucking Association trade group said trucks will haul more than 70 percent of the nation's freight this year.

Meanwhile, McCarthy also announced the federal government is spending more than $8 million on various clean water projects along the U.S.-Mexico border.


 

Safety & Compliance: Beware these background screening pitfalls
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com/; By Deborah Lockridge, April 2013

If you're not careful about how you disqualify driver applicants based on background checks and felony convictions, you could land in hot water.

 
 

If you haven't taken a look at your driver hiring and screening procedures in a while, it's time for a thorough review to avoid running afoul of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

"There is a renewed emphasis on allowing people the opportunity to correct bad information, and if you're going to use public information to deny people employment, you need to make sure you're following the right protocols," explains Lana Batts, a longtime trucking industry expert and co-president of Driver IQ, a new firm that provides hiring information for the trucking industry.

There are two main areas of concern here: how you're using information on felonies, and whether you're sending the required "adverse action" letter to candidates who were rejected based on background checks.

Felonies

If you automatically disqualify any potential driver with a previous felony conviction, you could get yourself into trouble with the EEOC.

Last year, the EEOC issued new employment guidelines on hiring applicants with criminal records.

Automatically disqualifying someone because they have a felony on record could violate discrimination laws, because a greater proportion of minorities have criminal records.

There are two ways you need to address this:

• Be able to prove that you are only banning criminal conduct that is directly related to the job requirements; and

• Do one-on-one interactions with the potential employee and consider that individual's specific information about the nature of the crime, the time elapsed and the nature of the job.

"You have to give them the opportunity to explain what happened," Batts says. "If you did something when you were 21 and you're now 50 and nothing's happened since, you're probably an honest citizen. You need to have some reasonable time frame in there."

R. Eddie Wayland, attorney with King & Ballow, which has offices in Nashville and San Diego, says when it comes to previous convictions, in addition to time lapsed, "you have to run it against the job requirements and you have to do an individualized assessment. You talk to him and say, ‘OK, you were an ax murderer, but now you're out, why should we hire you?'"

"Whether you agree with it or not, a lot of this is just going through the process," Wayland says.

The EEOC recommends removing checkboxes asking, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" from employment applications, Wayland says. Some states and cities have passed ban-the-box laws prohibiting it.

If you keep such a question on your application, he says, make sure there is a place for "If yes, please explain," and have some type of disclaimer language assuring the applicant that checking the "yes" does not automatically disqualify him or her from consideration.

Adverse action letters

Tied into this whole idea of making sure applicants have a chance to explain things on their record is the post-adverse-action letter requirement.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act doesn't just cover credit; it also covers background check information. Under this law, you have to allow an individual to object to data or correct information you're using for hiring decisions if that information comes from a public source. To help accomplish this, companies must issue a pre-adverse-action letter and post-adverse-action letter.

Companies subject to Department of Transportation regulations have an exemption from the pre-adverse action letter regulations, if all the dealings with the applicant are done over the phone or via electronic means.

But if you decide not to hire that individual based on that background check, you have to issue a letter explaining why. That gives the individual a chance to respond if there are problems with the information.

Many trucking companies believe they are also exempt from the post-hiring requirement, but that's not true, say Batts and Wayland.

"Some fleets will say, ‘I just hired a more qualified candidate, so I don't have to send the letter,'" Batts says. "But if you've still got 10 trucks empty, you still have openings," and the government will not accept the "more qualified candidate" excuse.

Wayland points out that the penalty for each violation of the law ranges from $100 to $1,000.

"'We've always done it that way’ is not a defense," he says. "'Everyone else does it that way’ is not a defense."

Increased scrutiny

The post-adverse-action letter is not a new requirement, Batts says, but there's increased scrutiny of it at the federal level.

"It all comes back to you have to give somebody the chance to explain," Batts says.

"I think there's a very interesting coming-together of two agencies that are saying, ‘You'd better look out.'"

Last year, HireRight, which the industry knows for its DAC driver screening services, agreed to pay $2.6 million to settle charges that it did not take adequate steps to verify the accuracy of criminal background checks as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The company did not admit to wrongdoing, but the Justice Department alleged that poor quality control led HireRight to include erroneous information in its reports, such as criminal offenses that had been expunged, multiple reporting of the same offense, or reporting information for the wrong person.

The increased scrutiny is not specifically directed at trucking, Batts says, "but given that trucking has such high hiring rates, because of the turnover, you've just got to make sure you're doing it right."


There's A Huge Shortage Of Truck Drivers In America — Here's Why The Problem Is Only Getting Worse
Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/, MAMTA BADKAR AUG. 4, 2014

America is experiencing a shortage of truck drivers.

 
 

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates that the U.S. is short 30,000 truck drivers. Factors driving the shortfall include regulations, relatively low pay, and the fact that fewer young people are interested in getting into the profession.

Ninety percent of carriers said they couldn't find enough drivers who met department of transportation (DOT) criteria, according to a study cited by the ATA.

The turnover rate at large truckload carriers was 92% annualized in Q1, putting it above 90% for the ninth straight quarter, according to the ATA. This compares with a low of 39% seen four years ago but is lower than a 130% average in 2005.

Turnover refers to the rate at which drivers leave the industry and are replaced. The ATA reports this quarterly and annualizes the rate. "One-hundred percent turnover doesn’t mean that every driver left," ATA chief economist Bob Costello says.

"If you keep a driver for 90 days, the rate generally drops in half. However, there are a group of drivers that churn, and they generally stay at a carrier for a short length of time (just weeks or a couple of months). Many drivers stay with a carrier for years."

"Industry carriers are rotating through the same drivers — meaning drivers jump from carrier to carrier with no great influx of new candidates into the driver pool," Gretchen Jackson, manager of recruitment at Con-way Truckload, told Business Insider in an email.

Costello says the cold weather could have limited turnover, which could rise as the economy improves and higher freight volumes put more pressure on the market.

What's causing the shortage?

Many large and small carriers didn't survive the financial crisis and independent cntractors lost their equipment, and it became harder for these businesses to obtain the credit they needed to invest in capital.

"This situation forced drivers to look for other work where they were able to be home more with their loved ones and be a part of the day-to-day life of a family," Jackson said. "Drivers saw what they missing being out on the road for 2-3 weeks and many made the decision not to give that up."

Drivers are now leaving because of industry growth, retirements, and the switch to other industries.

"We see our over-the-road (OTR) drivers leave to join other industries, particularly construction or less-than-truckload (LTL) truck driving, which provides a different type of schedule and work style than OTR driving," Jackson said. "Drivers want to make more money, and they want more home time, so they leave OTR truck driving for careers that can give them that."

Changes to the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations in 2013 are also reducing driver productivity, Costello said. "As a result, carriers have to add more trucks and drivers to haul the same amount of freight, thus exacerbating the shortage."

And then there are the barriers to entry. Seven percent of drivers cause Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) problems for trucking companies. "While not all 7% will be pushed out of the industry overnight, over time, CSA and the related pre-employment driver screening program facilitated by the government will exacerbate the driver shortage," Costello writes.

Something's got to give

At the end of July, Swift Transportation, the largest truckload carrier in North America, complained of a truck driver shortage in its Q2 earnings release. "We were constrained in the truckload and (central refrigerated systems) segments by the challenging driver market. Our driver turnover and unseated truck count were higher than anticipated," according to the press release.

The company says it will now invest in drivers and that it will spend more on wages. Salaries, wages, and benefits rose $14.2 million to $238.1 million in Q2, compared with $223.9 million a year ago. This was "due primarily to increases in workers compensation expense, the number of non-driving employees, and an increase in driver wages per mile due primarily to a change in driver mix across our various segments."

Swift says it will pay higher wages and better training to attract more truck drivers.

Con-way's Jackson shared similar sentiments, saying driver retention would now be key. "Overall, the industry needs to adjust compensation levels to match the jobs at hand." She also thinks trucking companies need to reach out to younger generations and show them that driving a truck is "a legitimate career option."

The truck driver shortage is expected to surge to 239,000 by 2022. And the ATA estimates that the industry needs on average 100,000 new drivers each year over the next decade.

"It’s a buyers’ market, you might say, for drivers, and they know that any other carrier is waiting to scoop them up for the right price," Jackson said.


Tips For Trucking Beginners
Source: http://www.thetruckersreport.com/; By Truckers Report Staff

Truck drivers are an essential part of the shipping industry, transporting goods and raw materials to retail locations, distribution centers, warehouses, and front doors. Becoming a truck driver offers access to a steady source of income and freedom for those who enjoy being on the open road. Drivers have a responsibility to the company they work for, pedestrians, and other drivers on the road to drive in a responsible manner. For new drivers just breaking into the industry, there is a lot to learn in order to be a proficient driver and find steady work.

 
 

Trucking School Tips

• Check with local trucking companies before choosing a trucking school to ensure the education offered is thorough enough to meet their standards.

• Truck driving schools with accreditation by the United States Department of Transportation offer scholarships, grants, and loans that can help truck drivers offset the cost of education.

• Ask questions to determine the quality of education a school offers. One on one training programs, small class sizes, behind the wheel training, job placement assistance, and access to late model equipment will assist with becoming a proficient driver.

Tips for Finding Jobs

• Consider getting truck driving education from a big company which has its own school. After graduation, new drivers have guaranteed employment.

• Self employed truck drivers are more vulnerable to economic downturns. Taking accounting and business classes will be helpful to making the business a success.

• Recruiters, placement agencies and job boards can help new truckers find career opportunities. Online job boards allow truckers to search opportunities by state or certification.

Fuel Saving Tips

• Speeding not only increases the risk of getting into an accident, it also increases aerodynamic drag and uses more fuel. Maintain a consistent speed, use cruise control when appropriate, and avoid quick accelerations.

• Pay attention to how cargo is loaded. The higher the height of the load, the more drag placed on the truck and the more energy it consumes.

• Idling is a big fuel waster. Plan your route to avoid traffic congestion and drive the truck to warm it up. Idle reduction facilities are also available at many public truck stops.

Safety Tips

• The higher vantage point of a truck allows truck drivers to keep an eye out for aggressive drivers on the road and avoid them.

• Maintain a respectable distance from vehicles in front of you, larger trucks need more time to stop. Keep an eye out for vehicles which may pull in front of trucks then suddenly slow down or break.

• Before heading out on the road pre-inspect the vehicles: breaks, windshield wipers, horn, mirrors, tires, reflectors, oil levels, fuel levels, and that cargo is secured. If any problems are noticed, they should be reported to dispatch and handled before getting on the road.

Accident Preparedness Tips

• Highway construction zones are a major area of concern for truck drivers. Slow down when entering a work zone, adjust mirrors, allow plenty of room to maneuver, and stay alerted to your trucks blind spots.

• Always wear a seat belt. If an accident does occur, a seat belt will keep you from being ejected from the seat and help maintain control of the truck.

• Join the local state trucking association to stay up to date on state and federal regulations and gain valuable contacts for jobs and assistance.

Miscellaneous Trucking Tips

• Maintain good physical health is part of being a part of a truck driver’s job. Regular exercise and adequate sleep will help drivers avoid fatigue when driving long stretches of empty highway and loading and unloading cargo.

• Avoiding use of alcohol and controlled substances will help drivers maintain clean driving records to keep their license. It will also help truckers pass random drug and alcohol tests conducted by their trucking company.

• A long and successful truck driving career is dependent on a new driver’s work ethic. Keep an excellent driving record, increase communication skills, maintain a professional image and arrive with cargo on time.


October 2014 Articles

On the Job Stress May Lead to Substance Abuse
Source: http://www.rightstep.com/; by Right Step, July 4, 2013

There are many factors which contribute to a person’s risk for addiction and substance abuse. Genetics may be one risk. A family history of substance abuse does not determine that a person will wind up in some form of addiction, but studies reveal that heredity can be a contributing factor. Another significant risk factor is environment. While environment can sometimes refer to the influence of others, research also shows that high-stress work environments can likewise play a role.

 
 

Some jobs are by their very nature environments of stress and anxiety. Soldiers, first responders, emergency room staff, and even deep sea fishermen are just a few who face high stress as part and parcel of the job description. Other jobs are made stressful by high pressure employers or unreasonable work expectations. Whatever the exact cause, when stress becomes a daily regimen, the likelihood that workers will look for an escape valve goes up exponentially. Mental health research shows a strong correlation between anxiety and substance abuse. Workers with an anxiety disorder are two times more likely than non-anxious workers to abuse substances.

When the work-related stress follows a person home, the temptation is great to use alcohol or drugs in order to "get away" or quiet the anxiety. Long-term stress is also linked to depression. People who feel they are under constant pressure sometimes stop feeling happy not only at work but everywhere. Substance abuse can be a way that the person reaches out in search of elusive feelings of happiness. People wrongly assume that the substance which makes them feel good temporarily will help them to stave off depression, when actually substance abuse deepens depression.

Signs that stress and anxiety are too present in a person’s life include:

1. Exaggerated reactions to people and situations

2. Irrational concerns

3. Constant tiredness

4. Quickened heart beat

5. Feeling jittery

6. Hot flashes.

The answer to high stress work environments is not to use substances to mask the situation. The appropriate response is to learn healthy ways of managing stress. Rather than a glass of wine each night after work, take a walk. Sit down with your daily schedule and take control rather than giving in to a sense of being driven by events and outside forces. These are just a couple of stress coping skills.

When a person is abusing substances in order to handle stress, they will probably benefit from sitting down with a behavioral health professional that can help them to recognize maladaptive responses as well as teach them new strategies for managing daily stress. Nearly 20 million Americans are dealing with anxiety and stress, lots of it related to work. Since there is no way to live a stress-free life, learning to cope with stress in a healthy way is a must for us all.


 

4 Best Practices for Thorough Criminal and Public Record Checks
Source: http://www.hireright.com/; BY HIRERIGHT, FEBRUARY 3, 2014

Background checks would be simpler if one all-encompassing database housed every piece of relevant information an employer needs to make an informed hiring decision. But, unfortunately, that resource does not exist.

 
 

Nor is there a standardized checklist an organization can follow to ensure its searches return all the information necessary to fully evaluate a given candidate. Too many factors are at play in each situation for that type of list to be effective.

However, there are some general considerations that can offer much-needed guidance as an organization contemplates a background check that includes criminal and other public records:

1. Scope and depth should reflect nature of position. It’s fairly obvious that an executive would likely merit a more extensive search than a mail clerk, but what if such distinctions weren’t as clear?

To better determine what, where, and how far back to look during a background check, organizations should carefully consider criteria like:

• The level and profile of the position

• How much access the position has to assets, customers and data

• Potential effect on safety and security

• Financial/fiduciary responsibilities

2. Timing. There can be a wide variance in how long it takes some sources, like county courts, to return search results, which is one way having an experienced employment screening provider by your side can help. Such a partner can help you decide what searches you should request to minimize the time required for a background check. In some instances, there may be alternate sources of data that provide faster results.

3. Consistency across job levels. Another critical issue to keep in mind is that a background check should be consistent across similar positions. If you’re simultaneously recruiting multiple customer service representatives at the same level, for example, the scope and depth of the search should be the same for all applicants. This allows you to consider the same information across the board and helps protect against claims of discrimination and possible legal action.

4. Legal and regulatory compliance. You should remember that a number of laws, regulations, and even guidance can affect how criminal and other public records are used as part of an employment background check. In 2012, for instance, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance regarding how it believes employers should use criminal record information to make hiring decisions. According to this guidance, employers should consider the nature, severity and how recently a crime was committed – as well as its relevance to the open position – before deciding not to hire an applicant.

This is why you’d be well-advised to engage with your legal counsel to better ensure your background screening program is compliant with applicable laws and regulations.


Understanding the Driver Shortage
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com/, Jim Beach on September 23, 2014

NASHVILLE -- For truckload carriers, the number one problem is the driver shortage, and there may be a number of factors behind this according to John Larkin, managing director and head of transportation capital markets research at Stilfel, Nicolaus & Co.

 
 

Speaking at session on the subject at TMW Systems’ annual user conference here Sept. 22, Larkin said Increasing pay is seen as one way to attract drivers, but Larkin thinks the problem fleets have recruiting and retaining drivers goes beyond pay. Besides, fleets that offer generous pay packages are having just as much trouble keeping drivers as other fleets.

The numbers are staggering: While the driver supply has grown somewhat over recent years, the demand has far outpaced that supply, with the shortage projected to hit 240,000 by 2020. As for pay, Larkin said that for drivers, "the demand is not as price elastic as people think."

Other factors contributing to the shortage include an aging population, micro management and regulation, and the lifestyle long haul drivers must lead.

Demographics and an aging population is a problem for all industries, not just trucking. The U.S. population is projected to grow at less than half of the current rate of 1.1% in coming years and the size of the core workforce is a declining portion of the population. The "younger generation is not large enough to backfill an aging population," Larkin said.

And today, "younger people are less likely to be truck drivers" he said, so the core working population is not well suited for trucking. He noted that about two-thirds of Americans now enroll in college as opposed to a much smaller percentage in earlier decades, and the likelihood of someone with a college degree joining the driver ranks is far less than someone with a GED. "We may send too many to college," he said, and not enough into the blue-collar ranks.

Another demographic problem is that people just out of high school have not developed enough maturity wise to be given the keys to a large truck – their decision-making skills are still lacking. Most trucking companies don’t want drivers younger than 25 years old, but by that age, the motivated, high-quality workers will have already taken more desirable blue-collar jobs.

"There’s a disconnect within that five years from when they graduate high school to when they are ready to drive a truck," Larkin said.

And then, there are the regulations. In addition to the current crop of regulations covering truck drivers, there are several more in the works. For instance, a rule mandating electronic data recorders is expected to be finalized soon. Other proposed rules would require new forms of drug testing and testing for sleep apnea.

"All of the regulations do one of two things," Larkin said. "Either reduce the driver pool or reduce the productivity of the drivers currently in the pool."

The lifestyle long-haul truckers must lead discourages many from entering the profession. Working in the industry is a more "defined process" now, and drivers feel they have a lack of freedom to make their own decisions. Their routes are dictated, resting periods dictated, they are told where to fuel, their speed is controlled and there is constant monitoring. The so-called level of job fulfillment has declined, Larkin said, and there is almost no decision-making left for the driver.

Other lifestyle factors make the job less desirable: drivers endure poor sleeping conditions and are at an increased risk of sleep disorders. The average trucker is more obese than the average American, with more than 50% of drivers obese. There are other health problems; unhealthy diets also mean that 50% or more of drivers have diabetes. The end result: on average, drivers live 16 years less than the average American with a life expectancy of 61 years compared to 77 years for the average American, Larkin said.

And there is a wage gap which had widened over time to about 12% between truck drivers and the average American.

It’s well documented that turnover in the TL segment is close to 100% for most companies while only around 10% for LTL carriers. And of that turnover, only 16% is non-voluntary, with industry growth and retirements accounting for three-fourths of the turnover at 36% and 37% respectively.

What to do?

Are there solutions? Larkin said there probably isn’t one thing companies can do, but suggested that a revised pay scheme might help. The current pay scheme, with drivers being paid by the loaded miles they drive, is good for the more productive drivers, but there are too many factors affecting the hours driers actually drive that are beyond their control.

A fixed salary means the driver knows he is guaranteed a certain amount, but on the negative side is the fact that some drivers won’t perform as well as others.

Other pay schemes have their positives and negatives as well. Hourly pay, for instance, encourages drivers to work more hours but not necessarily work more efficiently.

Perhaps a modified mileage scheme could help, but it is a complex problem, Larkin said.

Fixing the lifestyle would help as well. For instance, provide drivers with some nights in a motel to improve their sleep. Offer a social environment for drivers, a sense of community. Promote healthy lifestyles by encouraging exercise, healthy eating habits and help them quit smoking.

And get drivers home on a regular basis. Larkin said some companies are using relays successfully to get drivers home more regularly, but that can’t work in all instances due to the irregular-route nature of the truckload business.

Better roads and less congestion would relieve some of the frustrations driver face each day. Intermodal can help. But the ultimate solution to the driver problem, Larkin said, may be driverless trucks. Initially, the trucks would still have drivers in the cab, but in a more hands-off capacity.

In conclusion, Larkin noted the problem is complex and will require a number initiatives to solve.


10 Tips for New Truck Drivers
Source: http://www.roadmaster.com/; By KC Petermann

We’ve compiled a list of 10 great tips for new truck drivers. These tips come directly from experienced Roadmaster employees.

 
 

Get advice from people who know the business!

1. Become Friends with your Dispatcher: Dispatchers are your lifelines to loads, which in turn equals miles and miles directly affect your paycheck. Get to know them, get to know what they like. Pay your dispatcher compliments. My dad always told me you will get farther with a teaspoon of sugar than a gallon of vinegar.

- KC Petermann, School Director

2. Make your own Food on the Road: A crock-pot is a great tool for making meals while driving. Simply put your meal in an oven-roasting bag and pour some water around the bag (just a little). It cooks just like at home, saves money, is healthy and makes little to no mess. When done, just throw out the bag.

- April Barnes, Instructor/ Examiner

3. Never refuse a load: Refusing a load can leave a bad image of you and your work ethic. By not refusing a load you show the company that you are valuable and dedicated and will help the company when needed and besides you just never know what kind of load is waiting for you when you get where your going (it might be a 3000 mile load, you never know)

- Steve Loftus, School Director

4. Make Diet/Exercise Plans: New drivers need to keep a steady diet plan, keep it light on the carbs for 6 days and treat yourself on the 7th. Exercise twice a day for 15 minutes, once before your shift and once during the mid day break.

- Lance Storz, Admissions Representative (previous instructor and owner operator)

5. SAFETY FIRST. Always get out and look before backing up. Better to explain why your load was late than to explain why you wrecked your boss’s truck.

- Pat Felty, Admissions Representative

6. Love your Safety Department: Recognize that your Safety department is always looking out for your best interest. The Safety Department unfortunately is viewed like a police officer. When you need an officer, you love them, when they tell you that you did something wrong they’re horrible people. Always remember that your safety department has nothing to gain by your loss or failure. Your continued success and compliance is what they are most concerned with. They will always be in your corner!

- Dan Donner, School Director

7. Explore your Company: Every Company has different divisions that you are able to move through to improve your experience. Certain companies have a different division that requires certain skills, this allows you to change divisions and gain more experience instead of changing jobs (the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence). By doing this you show value and dedication to your new employer. It allows you to stay with your current company, maintain seniority and gain experience valuable to future endeavors.

- Steve Loftus, School Director

8. Hard work really does payoff: Success is measured by what you put into your job. Do a mediocre job and you’ll get a mediocre return. Strive for more and you’ll get more. Your efforts never go unnoticed in the transportation industry. Every fleet manager, dispatcher, or terminal manager will go the extra mile for that driver that gives 110%. Operations always know whom they can count on for the important jobs or priority promotions.

- Dan Donner, School Director

9. Get the Experience you Need: Over the Road (OTR) is the key to fast tract your career as a professional driver. The major carriers want drivers as soon as they are professionally trained, and will give them the OTR experience they need to be successful. Remember; If the Wheels are Turning, YOU are Earning!

- Gary Johnson, School Director

10. Be Prompt and on Time: Your timeliness will set the tone with you and your carrier, so be on time always. It’s always better to be an hour early than one minute late. Call ahead – advance your pickup with the customer, advance your drop with the receiver. It could mean the difference in you getting to your next load 12 hours early and another load on your paycheck this week. It could also bring you the critical loads that pay more. Run the truck like you were the owner/operator.


Background Screening Best Practices for the Trucking Industry
Source: http://www.hireright.com/, BY HIRERIGHT ON JULY 13, 2009

The trucking industry has historically experienced a shortage of quality drivers, with fierce competition to hire the most qualified candidate before a competitor reached him or her first. But in the current economic climate, the driver shortage has all but disappeared, resulting in a larger-than-ever driver applicant pool. Working with tighter resources and a desire to hire the best candidate to fill a driver’s seat, companies are finding it easier to justify taking a closer look at potential employees.

 
 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established regulations pertaining to background investigations on commercially licensed drivers (CDLs), outlining minimum screening requirements companies that hire CDLs must follow. Now more than ever, companies should consider a screening program that goes beyond the minimum compliance requirements to maximize their return on screening investment.

Motor carriers who develop a rigorous screening program based upon the following best practices may also protect themselves from penalties associated with non-compliance, cargo theft and risks associated with negligent hiring or retention litigation. These guidelines can also help to maintain regulatory compliance and secure a safer workplace.

Background Screening for Compliance

Prior to employment, the FMCSA requires a motor carrier to obtain three-year driving and employment histories on each driver. The Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees drug and alcohol testing programs on mandated employees, including CDLs. The DOT requires employers to conduct a pre-employment drug test and obtain a three-year drug/alcohol violation history.

Additional regulations set forth by the FMCSA and the DOT require employers to monitor their employees on an ongoing basis. Motor carriers who fail to conduct this screening are subject to penalty fines. While a variety of factors are considered when fines are assessed, record-keeping fines begin at $500 per day and the fine for knowingly falsifying records is $5,000.

In addition to meeting compliance requirements, employers should conduct additional background checks to protect themselves from potential litigation and reduce liability. Employers who screen applicants for a history of criminal activity, violence and fraud may be afforded certain protections from accusations of negligent hiring or retention.

A solid, comprehensive screening program helps to demonstrate due diligence and may insulate an employer from a host of potential problems. Approaching screening within the trucking industry in four stages enables an employer to progressively eliminate undesirable or under-qualified candidates at each stage and focus the investment of energy and resources on the best candidates for employment.

Candidate Pre-Screening: Eliminate Candidates Who Do Not Meet Basic Criteria

The FMCSA requires employers of commercially licensed drivers (CDLs) to obtain both a three-year employment and driving history. Sources such as the DAC Employment History File and CDLIS, provided by HireRight, help motor carriers fulfill these requirements quickly and efficiently while providing comprehensive yet objective information.

Another check that should be conducted initially is an SSN check, which examines the applicant’s Social Security Number and confirms that it is in a valid range, searches to determine whether the number belonged to an individual reported as deceased, and provides state and year of issue. Finally, a database criminal check allows an employer to conduct a broad criminal record search before progressing to a more targeted county criminal search.

Core Screening: Expand Screening and Learn More About a Candidate

MVRs from each state reported by the CDLIS report from the Candidate Pre-screen stage will complete the required three-year driving history. When one or more of a driver’s previous employers does not participate in the DAC Employment History File, manual requests must be sent to those employers to complete the required three-year employment history.

Information collected should include employment dates, positions held and rehire status. This confirms previous employment claims to help ensure desirable experience, or reveals discrepancies in provided information. Another critical step in the core screening process is expanding the criminal records search on an applicant. Employers can efficiently determine where an applicant has lived and automatically request county criminal record searches for these locations by using a name and address TRAC report to obtain an applicant’s address history.

Conditional Screening: Meet Requirements for Drug, Alcohol and Health Screening

The Department of Transportation (DOT) 49 CFR Part 40 regulates drug and alcohol testing programs for mandated employees. Part of the requirement includes obtaining a three-year drug/alcohol violation history prior to employment. Using the HireRight DAC Employment History File to search for drug/alcohol violation histories alleviates the burden of obtaining past violation results.

DOT 49 CFR Part 40 also requires a pre-employment drug test on mandated CDL drivers, so it is important to partner with a provider that has a drug/alcohol testing program that meets the needs of companies employing DOT-regulated drivers to fulfill all DOT compliance requirements. Special features include post-accident service, statistically valid random selection and training courses and materials. Drug testing services should include specimen collection, laboratory testing and review by a certified Medical Review Officer.

Insurance premiums for workers’ compensation policies continue to skyrocket. Performing a workers’ compensation search will help identify previous conditions or injuries, enabling an employer to make reasonable accommodations and participate in applicable state second injury funds if necessary. Employers who search workers’ compensation reports before making a final hiring decision can also afford themselves an extra level of protection from professional claimants.

Ongoing Screening: Maintain Compliance Plus a Safe and Productive Work Environment

The DOT requires motor carriers to randomly select a certain percentage of their drivers each year and test them for drug use or alcohol misuse. Selecting a screening partner with an established random selection program ensures random testing is statistically valid and that it meets the required annual percentages. In the event of an accident, a driver may need to be tested for drug or alcohol use. Determining whether or not a test is required can be challenging so make sure the testing program includes emergency or post-accident service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The FMCSA requires an annual review of each driver’s motor vehicle report. Beyond meeting the annual MVR review requirement, enrolling in a monthly monitoring service that returns MVRs for drivers with changes to their driving record adds an additional layer of protection against violations that occur throughout the year. These monitoring services provide faster notification to the employer, eliminating surprises discovered with the annual review. Early detection of undesirable driver behavior will allow employers to take corrective actions or offer safety training that can reduce the risk of future accident involvement.

Implementing Best Practices for the Trucking Industry

Because of the regulations surrounding background screening in the trucking industry, it’s important to choose a screening partner that specializes in services designed to maintain compliance while protecting against liability due to negligent hiring. While these best practices offer general recommendations, HireRight can create screening packages for each level based upon individual company needs or specific job category requirements.


September 2014 Articles

7 EARLY WARNING SIGNS OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE ON THE JOB
Source: http://safetydailyadvisor.blr.com/; by ckilbourne, October 31st, 2012

Do your supervisors understand the early warning signs of a substance abuse problem? They should. If they don’t, it’s time for a training session.

 
 

Surveys show substance abuse remains one of the most serious issues facing U.S. businesses, with more than 6 million active alcoholics employed and a price tag of $276 billion a year. More than 70 percent of all current illicit drug users aged 18 and older are employed. With such a dangerous and widespread problem, it’s important to recognize substance abuse on the job before it leads to an accident.

Warning Signs

Here are some early warning signs that can alert your supervisors to the possibility of substance abuse on the job:

1. An otherwise inexplicable fall-off of work efficiency in terms of volume, accuracy, or promptness is often an early warning sign of substance abuse problems.

2. So is frequent tardiness—often explained with increasingly elaborate, but hard to check, excuses.

3. Excessive use of sick days is also a common warning sign of substance abuse. These absences often occur on a Friday or a Monday.

4. Some employees with drug or alcohol problems may come to you and ask to use vacation time—right away.

5. Another indication that you might be dealing with an employee substance abuse problem is an increased involvement in accidents and near misses and/or an increase in the employee’s error rate.

6. Yet another hint of the problem may be heavy use of breath sweeteners. Alcoholics, particularly those who drink during the working day, are heavy users of various sorts of breath mints to kill the smell of alcohol.

7. Other early warning signs of substance abuse problems may involve physical and mental characteristics or changes, such as mood swings, decline in grooming, staggering, dozing off on the job, etc. Supervisors should be aware that one or two of these signs alone does not necessarily indicate an alcohol or drug problem, but a combination of several signs indicates it is time to speak with the employee about the possibility of a substance abuse problem.


 

THE 10 DOS AND DON'TS OF CONDUCTING EMPLOYEE BACKGROUND CHECKS
Source: http://www.forbes.com/; by Mikal E. Belicove, 10/26/2012

Most people might find it unseemly were you to run background checks on your potential dates prior to asking them out. But the same does not hold true when hiring a new employee. While taking a chance on a blind date might result in a bad evening, there’s absolutely no doubt that making a wrong hiring decision can haunt your company, your other employees and your client base. That doesn’t even take into consideration the cost and time expended in finding a replacement for that poor hiring decision and in a worst-case scenario, the potential for a lawsuit should the employee that you failed to properly vet prove to be unethical or dishonest.

 
 

The practice is so important that nearly seven out of 10 organizations (69 percent) claim they conduct criminal background checks on all job candidates, according to a 2012 background check survey from the Society for Human Resources Management. That survey shows another 18 percent conduct such checks on select job finalists and only 14 percent say they don’t research candidates for criminal records.

Chris Dyer, founder of PeopleG2, a leading provider of human capital due diligence services, understands the complex challenges inherent to talent management decisions. What he offers here are his Top 10 list of dos and don’ts when it comes to protecting your business against bad hires.

Do be broad and thorough. Look at an expansive spectrum of information, which includes consideration of an applicant’s education, employment, and criminal history, driving history, social media and so much more. Companies lose great candidates when they look at only one specific item. They may also be the target of an Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) investigation for excluding applicants who have a criminal records, no matter what the charge or how long ago the offense occurred.

Don’t use the "box." The EEOC and many local counties are making efforts to ban the "box," which is that question on applications that reads, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" Instead of immediate discrimination, interview and consider all applicants equally. Then you can run a broad and thorough background check.

Do follow the law. Based on the way the background check is conducted, you will be required to have a legal release form completed by the applicant, inform that person of his/her rights, and provide that applicant with a copy of the report, as well as adverse actions communications.

Don’t bend the laws. There are so many opportunities to conduct a background check the wrong way, which means as an employer, you must take great care to follow the rules. The rules concerning background checks vary based on federal, state, local and job-specific laws. Check with your company’s legal counsel if you’re unsure of how to proceed.

Do be consistent. Ensure that the process for all applicants is consistent. Two applicants applying for the same job should have the same searches and investigations run on them. Different job types may require different levels of investigation, but for the same job title, make sure you keep your process uniform to avoid charges of discrimination.

Don’t fail to communicate. If and when you find something on a background check that may impact the decision to hire an applicant, you should — at a minimum — engage in a conversation with the applicant. So many misconceptions, mistakes, and reporting errors can be resolved by conducting that face-to-face communication.

Do locate patterns. Positive and negative patterns are the best way to evaluate your applicant. A single good act or bad act should not be the defining measure of a person or of their job ability. Considering consistent patterns of behavior is a defensible way for employers to make hiring decisions.

Don’t seek out only the negative. Background checks are inherently viewed as a way to pinpoint negative information. Use a background check to also locate positives that will help you choose between two well-qualified candidates.

Do use a professional agency to process your background check. Great screening companies will do a far better job of locating the information you want. They have the experience and processes to be accurate and efficient. They also prevent you from viewing data that might be a violation of state or federal law.

Don’t run a limited search yourself. You can’t find everything online. So much of the concrete — legally obtained — data for a background check can only be conducted by a licensed background check firm.


ASK THE EXPERTS: REASONABLE SUSPICION DRUG TESTING
Source: http://blog.employersolutions.com/, By PABLO BOLANOS on JULY 17, 2014

Question: If I suspect my employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work, what can I do?

 
 

Employers who implement pre-employment drug testing programs do so to protect their businesses from the impact of drug abuse before making hiring decisions. As a result, they help to strengthen the integrity of their workplace while promoting a safe and stable environment for their employees. As an employer, if you’re looking to have an even more profound impact on employee safety, well-being and productivity, there are advantages to developing on-the-job drug testing programs.

Reasonable suspicion drug testing leverages well-defined company policies, with varied drug testing specimen options. Federally-regulated workplaces are provided with a definition of what reasonable suspicion testing is and the steps that should be taken to administer these tests. For non-federally regulated businesses, creating the guidelines, policies, definitions and training can sometimes prove to be challenging. As such, we have created a list of best practices to follow when implementing a reasonable suspicion drug testing program.


REASONABLE SUSPICION DRUG TESTING
Source: http://www.questdiagnostics.com/; By Quest Diagnostics, 5/30/2014

Reasonable suspicion drug testing determinations are sometimes the most challenging aspects of a drug-free workplace program, yet can have a profound impact on safety, well-being and productivity.

 
 

When an employer is subject to federally regulated drug testing, the modal agency that they are covered under provides a definition and often the steps that should be taken to administer a reasonable suspicion test. For non-regulated testing, an employer has the ability to create their own definition of a reasonable suspicion test. However, the Department of Labor and states where the employer does business may have input so be sure to check all state laws before implementing the program. An employer should plan for how to make the determination regarding who and when to test, how to document the reasonable suspicion activity and what actions will be taken. Here are some best practices to follow as you consider reasonable suspicion drug testing for your workplace.

• Make sure your employees know that they are subject to reasonable suspicion drug testing.

• All supervisory personnel should receive a minimum of two hours of training on reasonable suspicion signs, symptoms and documentation. Recurrent training is highly recommended to keep your supervisors educated and prepared.

• Determinations should always be made based on current information. If the employee's previous actions have been documented, including that information in the current documented observation is acceptable. However, in the absence of current signs and symptoms, a reasonable suspicion drug test would generally not be merited on a past incident.

• It is strongly encouraged that at least two supervisory personnel concur that there is reasonable suspicion for a drug test. This protects both the supervisor and the employee.

• We often hear the words 'specific', 'contemporaneous' and 'articulable' in reasonable suspicion drug testing determinations because these words indicate that the observer has a specific and current concern that can be described. For example: John came to work today late. He clocked in and then fell asleep in the break room. When I woke him up, he was not startled to see me. He looked at me and went back to sleep. There was a strong odor of alcohol.

• The employee under suspicion should not be allowed to drive themselves to the collection site (or elsewhere) without a negative drug test result.

Reasonable suspicion drug testing can play an important role in helping to create and maintain drug-free workplace programs. When properly administered, it is a fair and reliable testing method that can help to both dissuade and detect drug and alcohol use.


August 2014 Articles

FMCSA'S ANNE FERRO STEPPING DOWN IN AUGUST
Source: http://www.ttnews.com/; by Eugene Mulero, 7/28/2014

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration chief Anne Ferro will step down from her post next month, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced July 25.

 
 

"Anne has been a true leader in safety throughout her time at DOT," Foxx wrote in a memo to DOT staff. "She has made it more difficult for companies that jeopardize the public’s well-being to stay in business and easier for consumers to make informed choices when choosing a shipper or buying a bus ticket."

UPDATE, JULY 29, 10 a.m. EDT: Ferro is scheduled to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security on July 29 at 3 p.m. EDT. It will be streamed live at the committee's website.

Ferro said she is leaving the agency to become president and CEO of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators in August. Appointed in 2009 by President Obama, she had been the agency’s longest-serving administrator.

In a note to FMCSA staff, Ferro touted her push to "ensure that companies and drivers are more accountable for their actions, strengthened our oversight of high-risk carriers, created better tools for our law enforcement partners, and opened up a new world of useful data to educate both businesses and consumers alike."

The White House will be expected to announce Ferro’s successor in the coming weeks. There’s no clear indication yet about her replacement. But whomever the Obama administration nominates, she or he will very likely face several senators who oppose the agency’s recent hours-of-service rules. Current FMCSA deputy administrator Bill Bronrott would be an obvious choice to lead the agency in an acting capacity until an administrator is confirmed.

Ferro was in Wilmington, Ohio, July 25, speaking at Expedite Expo, where she gave no indication she was about to step down, reported the Wilmington (Ohio) News Journal. "She gave no indication at all as she was addressing the companies in the expedite trucking industry," said Lawrence McCord, the president and CEO of On Time Media LLC, which produces the annual Expedite Expo.

According to her official DOT background, Ferro said she championed highway safety and efforts to turn the agency into an ideal place to work in the federal government.

But during her tenure, the agency also adopted new HOS rules that took effect last year. The rules, which mandate truckers who reach a maximum of 70 hours of driving in a week to account for a 34-hour restart between their workweeks, largely were opposed by the trucking industry.

Ferro’s defense of the rules prompted strong opposition. A few weeks ago, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) called for her resignation. Jim Johnston, CEO of OOIDA, said Ferro had a "clear bias against truckers and the trucking industry." OOIDA represents the interests of professional truck drivers and small-business trucking companies.

On July 25, Johnston said, "We would like to congratulate the Administrator on her new position and wish her well as she leads the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. … She is well known for having unprecedented personal outreach and engagement with truckers in all the years that we have worked with the agency."

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves said Ferro was a "passionate advocate" for the agency. "We wish her well in her new role at the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and look forward to working with her on commercial driver licensing issues," Graves added.

Before coming to FMCSA, Ferro was president and CEO of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, and Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administrator before that. She earned degrees from St. John's College in Maryland, and the University of Maryland.

AAMVA said via Twitter, "We look forward to her leadership and expertise starting on August 25th."


 

DOT EXPANDS PROGRAM TO HELP VETERANS GET TRUCKING JOBS TO ALL 50 STATES, D.C.
Source: http://www.thetrucker.com/; The Trucker News Services, 7/25/2014

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced today that its waiver program that helps experienced veterans and active duty personnel transition into civilian jobs as commercial truck and bus drivers has been expanded to all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

 
 

"Our nation’s veterans deserve good-paying jobs when they return home from serving overseas and we are proud to help," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Thousands of active duty service members and veterans have already transferred their skills to jobs driving trucks and buses through the Military Skills Test Waiver Program and we look forward to helping even more now that we’ve expanded to all 50 states."

On June 27, Alaska became the 50th state to participate in the FMCSA Military Skills Test Waiver Program. Begun in 2011, the Program grants state licensing agencies, including the District of Columbia, the authority to waive the skills test portion of the commercial driver’s license application for active duty or recently separated veterans who possess at least two years of safe driving experience operating a military truck or bus. Waiving the skills test expedites the civilian commercial drivers licensing application process and reduces expenses for qualified individuals and operating costs to state licensing agencies.

The effort is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces Initiative to promote expanded employment and career development opportunities for veterans and military spouses.

Today’s announcement also includes two additional expansions of the program.

First, the eligibility period for qualified individuals to obtain an FMCSA Military Skills Test Waiver has been extended from 90 days to one year, nationwide.

Second, commencing with Virginia residents, returning military service personnel who possess a state-issued Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate due to a limb impairment will automatically be recognized as equivalent to an FMCSA-issued SPE certificate and allowed to obtain an interstate commercial driver’s license (CDL). FMCSA encourages other state licensing agencies to establish comparable equivalency SPE programs.

"Commercial drivers fulfill a vital role ensuring that America’s economy continually moves forward," said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "Service members who have clocked countless miles safely working behind the wheel of a military vehicle will now have more time and opportunity to find long-term employment in the commercial driving industry. Reducing the burden of finding civilian jobs is one of the best ways we can thank members of our military and their families for their service to our nation."

From 2010 to 2020, the need for heavy-vehicle drivers is expected to grow by more than 17 percent – faster than the national average for other occupations.

To date, more than 6,000 current and former military personnel – including Reserves, National Guard, and U.S. Coast Guard service members – have taken advantage of FMCSA’s Military Skills Test Waiver Program, which has been conducted in close cooperation with the Department of Transportation, Department of Defense and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA). Additional information, including a standardized application form accepted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, is available at: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/commercial-drivers-license/military.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.


TRUCKING TRENDS THAT DRIVE INNOVATION: ZF UNVEILS THE INNOVATION TRUCK, NEW TRUCK EQUIPMENT PROTOTYPES
Source: http://www.fleetequipmentmag.com/, By Jason Morgan, Jul 30, 2014

With the rapid evolution of heavy-duty truck equipment, we here at Fleet Equipment often wish we had a crystal ball or the ability to generate the 1.21 gigawatts that makes time travel possible to foresee the trucking industry future. While we’re still working on that, we have the next best thing: The opportunity to take a sneak peek at the latest equipment technology. At a recent global press event, ZF pulled back the curtain on its latest equipment advances, culminating in the debut of the Innovation Truck.

 
 

The Innovation Truck is a futuristic concept on wheels. A joint realization of ZF Friedrichshafen AG, ZF Lenksysteme GmbH—a joint venture of ZF and Bosch—and the telematics specialist Openmatics s.r.o., the tractor-trailer prototype, which measures 25.25 meters with semi-trailer and trailer, highlighted how OEMs, logistics companies and truck drivers can benefit from the innovative integration of advanced transmission, steering and telematics systems. The result is a truck that can be maneuvered into position remotely via an Android tablet app.

Standing outside of the truck, drivers can open the app, tap and hold either the displayed diagramed cab or trailer image and pull the cab or trailer left or right in order to steer and move the truck. Cameras installed around the truck provide visibility to the opposite side. At the event, ZF representatives passed around the tablet. Journalists took turns driving the truck, expertly cutting the trailer angle to keep the load within the cones as we backed the trailer into position.

The autonomously realized Innovation Truck is primarily based on three system components. The new ZF-TraXon automatic transmission system for heavy trucks is used on the input end—more precisely, the TraXon Hybrid variant, which has an electric motor integrated into the bell housing that delivers 120 kW of power and 1,000 Nm of torque. A dry clutch is installed in the hybrid module, enabling all hybrid functionalities to operate purely electric maneuvering. The system’s high-voltage battery has sufficient capacity to complete multiple maneuvers with zero local emissions.

Equipment advances are driven by trucking trends, which Fredrik Staedtler, head of commercial vehicle division, outlined at the event: Reduced CO2 emissions standards; total cost of ownership; reliability; connectivity; and globalization. "Volatile markets strengthen uncertainty. That’s a challenge that ZF is prepared for," Staedtler said. "For OEMs and their key components, the focus is on cost. For suppliers, this raises the question of being cost leaders or technology leaders."

ZF’s strategy is to secure a technological leadership position with benchmark products that offer competitive advantages. Added value comes from volume, Staedtler explained, allowing enough scope for differentiation. It was a theme that ran through a number of ZF’s unique prototypes.

The modular TraXon automatic transmission, for example, showed off the next step in automatic transmission evolution with a dual-clutch module. With this module and the "top three" gearshift strategy, the 11th and 12th gears utilized dual-clutch that shifts without tractive force interruption in the three highest gears. When driving the truck and focusing on the road ahead, it was a surprise to look at the display and see that the truck was already in 12th gear, as all three shifts are performed under load and are barely perceivable.

ZF also showcased new solutions for the cabin suspension. One system features an active roll stabilization system on the front stabilizer. A special control unit, which receives signals on the driving condition from sensors, controls the cabin suspension by means of a hydraulic actuator. The respective vehicle conditions are recognized within a split second and the driver’s cabin is then actively stabilized. Additionally, there was a prototype of its independent front suspension that also sported rack-and-pinion steering, making operation feel more like a nimble light-duty truck as opposed to a lumbering heavy-duty tractor.

So what does this mean for our North American market? Currently, ZF supplies shocks, clutches, chassis components and steering parts such as solo and tandem steering pumps, as well as steering shafts and gears. While several of the products shown at the event were in the prototype phases, there’s no North American release info available for products such as the TraXon transmission. However, at the tail end of the media event, news broke that ZF was in a preliminary, non-binding proposal with TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. If the merger were to come to fruition, it would create the world’s second-largest auto-parts supplier by sales. Only time will tell when ZF will bring its latest equipment solutions to North American shores.


COURT APPROVES SETTLEMENT IN NEW JERSEY BACKGROUND CHECK LAWSUIT
Source: http://www.ttnews.com/; by Transport Topics, 5/30/2014

A New Jersey federal court on May 29 approved an $870,500 settlement agreement between New Jersey-based New England Motor Freight and a group of 7,000 truck drivers who alleged in a 2012 lawsuit that the carrier denied them employment after conducting criminal background checks and obtaining credit reports and driver history records without their authorization.

 
 

The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit was a driver who the carrier did not hire because it conducted, without his authorization, a background check that erroneously identified him as a convicted felon, said the driver’s attorney, Matthew Dooley of Sheffield Village, Ohio.

"That particular problem unfortunately is not uncommon in this day and age with so many people and so many common names," Dooley told Transport Topics.

Dooley said the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that drivers be notified that a carrier plans to conduct background or credit checks, and afterward the carrier is required to provide an applicant with a written copy of a "pre-adverse action notice," giving the would-be employee an opportunity to respond to the findings that caused the driver to not get the job.

"We were advised that some of the procedures that we were following did not follow the protocol of the Fair Credit Reporting Act," Thomas Connery, chief operating officer of New England Motor Freight, told TT. "We have since identified and corrected these deficiencies in our processes."


July 2014 Articles

The future begins today: Technology that will revolutionize trucking is already here
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; by Jack Roberts, July 10, 2014

It's a cold, rainy morning in Aachen, Germany. I'm on the tail end of a two-week jaunt through Europe that began with Daimler's introduction of a self-driving truck and wrapped up Wednesday with ZF showcasing a host of innovative new products and technology. It's been an informative trip, although I'm ready to feel the hot Alabama sun on my shoulders and eat a plate of ribs.

 
 

I've said it before: Europe is the center of automotive and truck design today. This trip, along with an earlier visit to Meritor in May, have only affirmed that. And that means, like it or not, changes — and big ones — are coming to the North American trucking industry.

We've now reached the payoff point with the explosion of computing technology that began in the 1990s. The Internet, GPS, smartphones, virtual reality, social media, miniature electronic control modules, instantaneous data transfers and processors are now combining to introduce technology that will fundamentally change the way trucks and fleets operate.

The first hints of this coming technological transformation are plain to see here in Europe. Meritor's innovative "intelligent axle" is Exhibit A. Daimler's Autonomous Truck is Exhibit B. And then there's ZF: its new Traxon AMT and Smart Truck Maneuvering system stole the show this week. But the company also introduced a host of intelligent chassis and ride control systems that use electronic sensors to actively smooth ride quality and enhance steering response no matter the weather or road conditions.

And these aren't just cases where engineers are designing these systems simply because they can. In each case, this technology is being actively pursued and invested in to solve specific problems. Moreover, if you're a truck OEM or top tier component supplier, you simply can't afford to sit on the sidelines in this Technological Arms Race. There's too much at stake. So make no mistake: This technology and the changes they will bring with them are coming, to one degree or another.

Do I think that in 10 years truck drivers will be obsolete and rolling robots will be hauling our goods from state to state? No.

Do I think that in certain cities 10 years from now a truck driver stuck in heavy traffic will be able to turn control of the truck over to an onboard computer and rest while the vehicle drives itself through the congestion? Absolutely.

Do I think that if you're wondering where your Amazon package is you'll be able to turn on your computer and see exactly where in the world it is at the given moment? No question.

Do I think a driver faced with a tight and hazardous backing situation will be able to climb down from the cab, walk to the back of the truck and use his tablet computer or smartphone to precisely and safely guide the trailer to exactly where he wants it? Without a doubt.

Do I think that fleets struggling to find drivers will embrace technology that will allow a driver in a lead truck to steer an electronically controlled convoy of two or three vehicles across country with no drivers in the trailing vehicles? Yes.

Do I think the driver in that lead truck will be a highly trained, highly paid and highly valued transportation specialist? Without question.

All that said, let me offer a few final Euro-Technology thoughts before I wander out in the rain to find a good German beer and some weinerschnitzel:

1. I firmly believe Volkswagen is coming — via acquisition — to the North American truck market. There is no way the suits in Mannheim are looking on at the advances being made by Volvo, Daimler, ZF, Meritor and a whole host of their continental competitors and thinking, "Nein! We don't want to sell our trucks and technology in the United States!" VW wants in. The only question is how they'll decide to enter.

2. You may long for simpler trucks and engines that could be torn down and rebuilt under a shade tree. But the trend lines are clear: Vehicles are getting more complex. Which means that our industry — on both the fleet side and OEM side — has got to start proactively dealing with a technician shortage that is only going to get worse as these technology enters production and becomes commonplace.

3. That said, it may be time to start considering establishing a new type of technician: A Vehicle Software Technician, for lack of a better term. But as trucks transform into computer-controlled rolling robots, we're going to need specialists who can analyze, troubleshoot and repair the myriad of onboard electronics that are essential for uptime. In any event, it seems likely to that as vehicles grow more complex, it may make sense to establish specialty tracks for technicians: The concept of a guy working on an engine one minute, putting brake shoes on the next and installing a fifth wheel after that may be archaic and hurting shop productivity.

4. Don't panic! Change is coming. But it's not going to hit all at once. There will be headaches. But there will also be concrete advantages. But guys who deal with the learning curve, understand and embrace these new systems are going to be a hell of a lot more valuable to fleets in the near future than guys who don't.

5. Finally, keep in mind that there's money to be made in all this. Lots of money. And the fleets that figure out how to leverage all this new technology to their benefit will be the ones making it.


 

How To Conduct Background Checks The Right Way
Source: http://www.autorentalnews.com/; Christopher Michael Mason, July/August 2013

As business owners, we must remain confident in our ability to ferret out less qualified employment candidates through interviews and job skill evaluations. But what's the role of criminal and motor vehicle record background checks?

 
 

While they may not drive most of our hiring decisions, careful thought should be given to how, when, and under what circumstances these checks are conducted as well as how they should influence employment decision-making. The criteria should be clear and consistent. And all of this should be decided long before a job position is posted.

Failing to conduct necessary checks can lead to catastrophic consequences and overwhelming liability, and conducting them improperly can just as easily, too. The solution is to give background checks the serious consideration they are finally due.

DIRE CONSEQUENCES

In 2010, Texas-based nonprofit Lutheran Social Services (LSS) uncovered a two-year embezzlement scheme by one of its employees that cost LSS — and indirectly the public that it endeavors to serve — nearly $50,000. The employee-perpetrator gradually absconded with the funds through hundreds of falsified expense reports over a two-year period. Sadly, the fraud was preventable.

LSS normally conducted criminal background checks. And before LSS hired the perpetrator, she had twice been convicted of fraud crimes, one against a nonprofit organization. An unfortunate happenstance allowed her to slip through LSS's normally-diligent screening process. A criminal report was run, but it was merely dropped into the applicant's file before it was ever reviewed. Management was unaware of it until it discovered the employee's embezzlement years later.

This event, while disappointing, is a mild example of the damage that ill-intentioned employees can cause. The potential risks can be far worse. In one of the more notorious examples, a trucker with an extensive history of criminal sexual misconduct and assault was hired without a criminal background check by his new employer. He later raped and assaulted a hitchhiker while on duty. He was convicted of the crime, and his employer faced a $4 million verdict for negligent hiring.

These are extreme cases — few overlooked criminal reports or decisions to forego criminal checks will lead to such dire results. But they could. When they do, the costs can be astronomical, not only through immediate financial losses, but also from the resulting negative publicity.

This is not to say that criminal and motor vehicle background checks are without their risks, or that employers should conduct them without any forethought. Both federal and state laws regulate, to some degree, the methods that employers may use to screen job applicants. Failing to follow these legal requirements can pose as many risks as not conducting criminal and motor vehicle record (MVR) screening at all.

BAN THE BOX?

In recent years, many state legislatures and legal reformists have ascribed to the "ban the box" movement, which strives to prohibit employers from using the dreaded "have you ever been convicted of a crime" inquiry on their employment applications. The theory behind the prohibition, which some states have adopted, is that many employers rely too heavily on broad assumptions that all those convicted of a crime, regardless of severity and circumstance, are unfit for employment. Legal reform would seek to minimize such all-inclusive hiring prohibitions. This "ban the box" movement echoes the sentiment expressed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) through its most recent Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the "EEOC Enforcement Guidance"), issued in April 2012.

The EEOC has long taken the position that employers who rely too heavily on blanket stereotypes about past criminal actions may unwittingly discriminate against minority applicants, who face disproportionate conviction and incarceration rates. Over the past several decades, numerous cases provide support for claims against employers who do so under a "disparate impact" theory — the notion that a certain employment practice that has the effect, regardless of intent, of negatively affecting certain racial classes may be unlawful and could lead to civil liability.

In more concrete terms, employers with overbroad criminal background screening practices may face legal claims and liability if those practices disproportionately screen racial minorities from employment positions.

CONSIDER THE CRIME

Neither the EEOC Enforcement Guidance nor typical state laws ban the use of criminal background verifications outright. These authorities merely provide limitations that employers should follow when deciding how and when to use these screening tools.

For instance, the EEOC Enforcement Guidance, reduced to its essence, advises employers to thoughtfully consider the nature and gravity of the crimes being evaluated, the amount of time that has passed since the commission of the crime and the relationship between the crime and the posted job position. We intuitively understand and agree that a recent past conviction for check fraud should properly be screened for an applicant seeking a trusted money-handling position. The same can hardly be said of a 20-year-old minor drug offense conviction for an applicant seeking an entry-level administrative support position.

Similarly, state and federal laws provide restrictions on the use of MVRs and employer handling of those reports. The primary applicable federal enactment that employers must consider is the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) of 1994. The law restricts state motor vehicle departments from disclosing driving records without individual consent, or certification that the records are being used for a delineated purpose, such as for employment purposes.

While the DPPA permits an employer to access these records lawfully, an employer's failure to keep private information in these records, such as Social Security or driver identification numbers, may expose the employer to liability under the DPPA or a variety of state laws.

PROTECTING CREDIT PRIVACY

Perhaps the most shocking detail for employers new to MVR and criminal background screening is that these criminal and driving history reports are generally subject to laws protecting individual credit privacy.

When an employer retains a third-party agency to conduct background screenings for employment purposes, the agency in most cases will be considered a "consumer reporting agency," and its reported findings are generally treated as a "consumer report" for purposes of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Conversely, criminal background and driving history information secured by the employer through its own investigation will generally not be considered a consumer report under the FCRA.

The FCRA requires an employer to provide notice to, and the consent of, individuals for whom it is securing any consumer report (including those reports limited to criminal and driving history information), when obtained from or through a consumer reporting agency (which is defined broadly).

Adverse action notices also must be sent to a job applicant prior to rendering an employment decision, based on adverse information in the consumer report. Criminal record checks should not pull records that are more than seven years old at the time of the record check. Failure to comply with the detailed Federal Trade Commission regulations concerning the FCRA could subject an employer to substantial liability.

UNDERSTANDING LIABILITY

Despite the certain need for MVR review and evaluation, there remains no bright-line legal rule dictating when a driving record is troubled enough to exclude an individual from a driving position, aside from the obvious expired, canceled or suspended license scenarios. The Department of Transportation standards also must be rigorously applied when we talk of commercial drivers. But what about other drivers with valid licenses who routinely handle non-commercial vehicles for their employers?

As many employers recognize, regardless of MVR reviews, they generally will be held legally liable for the negligent on-duty driving of their employees under a legal doctrine known as respondeat superior.

This does not mean that they should dismiss the importance of MVR reviews. At times, employers also have been held liable by juries when an employee operates an employer's vehicle off-duty, or for personal tasks, usually under a negligent hire or negligent entrustment theory. In either situation, whether under a respondeat superior or negligence theory, the prospect for liability and significant punitive damages jumps dramatically if the employer had access to information that might reveal a history of driver shortcomings by the employee. Some of the largest awards have come in cases where the driver had a past history of reckless or drunken driving, or in cases involving inattentiveness because of cellphones or texting. In recent years, these types of inattentive driving cases have resulted in monstrous awards, including a $21 million jury award against a nationally recognized company whose driver caused a motor vehicle accident while talking on a cellphone.

Certainly improved driving policies and training, and strict enforcement against violators, will help employers reduce these risks. So, too, can rigorous MVR review. Particular attention should be paid to recent past driver misconduct involving reckless, drunken or distracted driving.

GOOD PRACTICE RECOMMENDATIONS

With these legal obstacles, employers face risks at every turn when navigating the hazards of criminal background and MVR checks for employment purposes. But these risks should not roadblock these important screening tools. Instead, careful thought and planning in advance can help minimize the risks. Simple steps that may reduce these risks include:

bullet Delaying inquiries into criminal histories until after a conditional offer of employment
  has been extended to the applicant.
bullet Preparing formal FCRA and MVR authorization forms and securing the applicant's signed
  consent before searching for criminal and driving history information about the applicant.
bullet Devising meaningful and constructive employment procedures for relevant use of criminal
  background and MVR reports.
The employer should know, long before a job is posted, which of the possible reports are
  job-related, and the company should adopt standards for considering criminal background
  and driving records histories relevant to the specific job at issue.
bullet Planning the handling of adverse reports in conjunction with the third-party
  screening agency to ensure that proper notice is provided to an applicant consistent with the requirements of the FCRA.
bullet Developing proper record protection and retention policies to ensure that confidential
  information contained in criminal and driving record reports is properly protected.
bullet With these measures firmly in place, employers can maneuver their practices onto
  safer courses and avoid unnecessary liability.

Smart Hiring Decisions: 5 Ways To Improve Your Hiring Process
Source: http://info.meritresources.com/, By Sarah Charlier; Sep 10, 2013

In today's job market, a company is only as good as its ability to attract and retain good employees.

 
 

According to US News and World Report, the primary reason (68%) of customers and/or clients leave a company is due to an attitude of indifference expressed by a single employee that they have interacted with while conducting business. So it is essential to hire employees who have the proper knowledge, skills, abilities and who are engaged to provide excellent service, produce superior work, and who are committed to the future of your business. We all know this, right? But do you have a process for making the smartest possible decisions?

The key to making smart hiring decisions is to establish and follow a consistent selection plan that you can put in your Employment Backpack. The following five steps are vital to making smart hiring decisions.

1. Analyze your needs. Develop and utilize a job description that identifies the essential functions of the job and the requirements to perform those functions. The information from the job analysis is fundamental to developing the job description for the new employee. The job description assists you to plan your recruiting strategy for hiring the right employee.

2. Establish a recruitment strategy. Once you have identified the qualities a candidate needs for successful performance in the position, you need to select the optimal places to identify and attract candidates. This can include both internal and external sources. At this meeting, your recruiting strategy is planned and the execution begins. Teams that have worked together frequently in hiring an employee can often complete this step via email.

3. Develop interview questions. It is essential that your questions legally obtain information that provides you an insight into the candidate's ability to not only do the job but also to determine if they are the best fit for your workplace culture. Make sure each question has a specific purpose and asks only for relevant information related to the job and your organization's values. Click here for a good list of sample questions that you could include in your interview. Here are a few questions that you could consider asking in the interview:

How would your coworkers describe your work style and contributions in your former job?

What are the three to five expectations that you have of senior leaders in an organization where you will work successfully?

Tell us about an occasion when you believe that you delighted a customer, either an internal or an external customer.

When you work with a team, describe the role that you are most likely to play on the team.

How would coworkers describe the role that you play on a team?

When working with people, in general, describe your preferred relationship with them.

How would reporting staff members describe their relationship with you? What would they like to see you do more of, less of, start, and stop?

Provide an example of a time when you went out of your way and jumped through hoops to delight a customer.

Tell us about a decision that you made that was made based primarily on customer needs and input.

4. Conduct the interviews. Ask the same series of questions of each candidate and take notes on a separate sheet of paper from your employment application. Ask your questions in an open ended style using descriptive/actions words or phrases to give the applicant the opportunity to provide you with meaningful responses.

5. Evaluate information gathered and make a decision. Take precaution to ensure that preconceptions or personal views do not distort your judgment. Check two or three professional references for each final candidate. Conduct any background checks only after the employment offer has been extended.

Use the hiring process to get your organization moving in the same direction. Hiring the right employee enhances your work culture and pays you back a hundred times over in increasing employee morale, fostering positive and forward thinking planning, and accomplishing challenging goals.

As always, we welcome your feedback! Feel free to contact us at Merit if you have questions about how you can improve your hiring process.


FMCSA revises regulatory guidance on RODS from logging software
Source: http://www.thetrucker.com/; by The Trucker News Services, 7/10/2014

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has revised its regulatory guidance concerning records-of-duty status (RODS) generated by logging software programs on laptop computers, tablets and smartphones.

 
 

The agency said in a Federal Register notice Thursday that the revision of the guidance clarifies the relationship between the FMCSA's policy concerning the use of logging software programs and the agency's Jan. 4, 2011, regulatory guidance concerning electronic signatures by removing the requirement that drivers print and sign paper copies of RODS generated through such logging software, provided the driver is able to sign the RODS electronically at the end of each work day and display the electronic record at the roadside.

The 2011 guidance that allowed electronic storage of records and digital signatures did not include Hours of Service logs.

The Federal Register notice said drivers will be required to have the prior seven days of electronically signed logs available to be viewed on the device's screen during an inspection.

Law enforcement can request printed copies of the logs, and the driver must be given an opportunity to print the current and prior seven days, the FMCSA said.

If an electronic signature is not used, the driver will be required to print the electronic logs and manually sign them daily. Drivers will also be required to retain the prior seven days of manually signed logs – just as required now.


June 2014 Articles

SMART PHONE SECURITY GETTING TOUGHER
Source: http://www.truckfleetmgt.com/; by Truck Fleet Management, 5/30/2014

More drivers are using personal smart phones on the job, a trend that can cause problems for businesses if the devices are lost or stolen, fleet and technology experts said. But even if drivers are using company-issued phones, the issue of protecting data has not become a top concern for commercial fleets.

 
 

Perhaps luckily for them, technology that will soon be adopted by smart phone makers will "lock down" lost or stolen phones.

The ubiquity of smart phones has compelled some manufacturers to help protect users. Member companies of the Washington-based wireless industry group CTIA in April signed a "smart phone anti-theft voluntary commitment," in which they pledged to offer "a baseline anti-theft tool that is preloaded or downloadable."

About 10 months before the agreement, a group of law enforcement representatives and lawmakers in California urged companies to implement the kill switches, citing an "epidemic" of smart phone thefts.

Federal legislation to require kill switches also has been introduced. The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, introduced in the House by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) and in the Senate by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in February, would require that all mobile phones sold in the United States include a kill switch. In California, the Senate has passed a bill that would require a kill switch to be enabled when a phone is purchased. As of press time, the measure was under consideration in the state's House of Representatives.

A group of law enforcement agencies and lawmakers said that 1.6 million people were "victimized for their smart phones" in 2012, accounting for the majority of robberies in U.S. cities. In 2013, that number nearly doubled to 3.1 million, according to an estimate by Consumer Reports, which said it derived the number from a survey of adult Internet users.

The kill switch, scheduled to be available in the latter part of next year, will be capable of remotely wiping the user's data if the smart phone is lost or stolen, according to the companies. It will render the device inoperable, and only a user with a password or personal identification number will be able to activate it.

The switch also will prevent reactivation without the user's permission and reverse the inoperability if the smart phone is recovered, according to the agreement.

Lost or Stolen Phones

According to a survey by Avast Software, 25% of users polled — more than 6 million people — lost their phones or they were stolen, said Juraj Chrappa, a senior product manager with the company, which is based in Prague, Czech Republic, with U.S. offices in Redwood City, California.

Chrappa said Avast offers locating apps for about 25 million devices that use Google's Android operating system, as well as protection from malware. The survey results — which were specific to Android users — indicated that fleet drivers were among those whose devices have been lost or stolen. Avast did not have specific numbers, he said.

Some of the locating and theft-deterring features Avast offers are included in free applications, available at the Google Play store, Chrappa said.

For example, a user can lock the device and also locate it on a map. The former can be done by sending an SMS message from another phone, Chrappa said. To do that, the user must be able to access a personal computer, log in at myavast.com and click on the "locate" function. This method relies on the GPS chip in the smart phone.

For certain features that turn a pilfered phone against the unauthorized user — by taking his or her picture or triggering ambient audio recording that might provide a clue to its location — Avast charges a fee of $1.99 per month or $14.99 per year, Chrappa said. Avast is consumer-focused, though the company is assessing the small-business market, Chrappa said.

The equivalent feature on an iPhone is the Find My iPhone app. Apple Inc.'s "activation lock" feature, available on devices with iOS 7 operating system, requires the user's Apple ID and password before Find My iPhone can be turned off or the device can be erased and reactivated, Consumer Reports said.

Complicating the issue for some fleets is the sheer number of phones in drivers' hands. Renzenberger Inc. is a Lenexa, Kansas-based company that transports rail crews to trains and rail yards in 20 states using about 1,200 vans. Some 1,500 Renzenberger employees are carrying company-issued phones at any given time, and loss of phones is not uncommon, Chief Information Officer Steve Heinking said.

The company issues its drivers a ruggedized "feature phone" — a more basic phone rather than a smart phone, but with some special functions for the job. The phones, manufactured by Sonim Technologies, in San Mateo, California, feature push-to-talk and "lone worker/man-down" safety services, according to Sonim's website. They also carry a three-year warranty that includes coverage of accidental damage.

Heinking added that besides their company-issued phone, many drivers carry at least one personal phone, and sometimes more. If one of their personal phones doesn't have service in a particular area, they switch to another one, Heinking said. They also will use their personal phone if they lose their company-issued device, he said.

The company could pay $5 per month per phone for tracking capability, Heinking said, but he judged it less expensive to pass on that option and apply the money to purchasing replacement devices when needed.

Safelite AutoGlass, in Columbus, Ohio, issues the Samsung Galaxy Note II to its field personnel. Touted as a smart phone that provides "a tablet experience," it is sometimes referred to as a "phablet." Safelite employees who replace damaged or broken windshields and windows in vehicles use the device to log their work activities and manage billing and payment processes, said Melina Metzger, Safelite's public relations manager. She said that the company takes no extra steps to protect the devices from damage, loss or theft because they tend to be used in settings, such as a vehicle owner's driveway, where those risks are limited.

Boyd Bros. Transportation, in Clayton, Alabama, and J.B. Hunt Transport Services, based in Lowell, Arkansas, are allowing or encouraging drivers, as well as countless independent contractors, to use their personal mobile devices for work purposes.

Boyd Bros. is finding that many of its drivers are turning in company-issued scanners used for proof of delivery and other documents, because they're using their own smart phones to capture and transmit document images, said Elaine Maund, vice president of information systems. Boyd Bros. ranks No. 100 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada.

Pat Wheeley, document processing manager for J.B. Hunt, No. 4 on the for-hire TT100, also said the carrier is encouraging drivers to use their smart phones, noting "almost everyone" has one.


 

Lab-based vs. Instant Oral Fluid Drug Testing
Source: http://www.employer-solutions-resources.com/; By LANDON TODD, March 21, 2014

Compare oral fluid drug testing options and identify the advantages of each testing technology

 
 

Drug testing has proven to be a powerful weapon in the war on drugs. It is effective in recognizing people who need help and deterring others from using drugs in the first place. There are a number of ways to perform a drug test, but oral fluid has emerged as a popular alternative to lab-based urine testing. When researching which drug testing method to choose, it's important to address three critical questions:

bullet Does it accurately detect the drugs in question?
bullet Is it legally permitted in the locations requiring testing?
bullet Will it meet the unique business needs and circumstances of the testing program?

This white paper explores the differences between lab-based and instant oral fluid testing. We answer these critical questions as well as offer suggestions on how to implement an effective workplace drug testing program using these methods.


Unsafe border buses
Source: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/, By Matt Potter; Feb. 19, 2014

A little-noticed report by the inspector general's office of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has found that software problems lasting almost a year, from September 2012 through August 2013, prevented U.S. state officials from uploading conviction reports of Mexican bus drivers. "The resulting backlog of conviction data could potentially delay enforcement action against some Mexican drivers that should be disqualified for moving violations, such as driving under the influence or excessive speeding," the audit said.

 
 

In addition, the report, issued late last November, called out what it says is a deficient safety-inspection program that "does not adequately address bus inspection frequency or identify actions to eliminate inspection obstacles." Noting "considerable bus traffic travels through United States-Mexico border crossings," auditors said that, "most bus volume occurs at nine primary crossings in six counties located in California and Texas — representing 96 percent of bus entries and 94 percent of passenger entries. The highest volume county — San Diego, CA — represents almost half of all border entries."

Annual average U.S.-bound bus entries in fiscal years 2011 and 2012 through the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa border gates, the report said, was 99,952, carrying a total of 687,164 passengers.

The auditors also found that the carrier safety administration's inspection plan "does not specify whether weekend inspection coverage is required or how often inspectors should be on duty at high-volume crossings — some of which are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week." In particular, while "the plan notes the limitation produced by inadequate lighting at certain crossings, most notably at San Ysidro, CA, it does not identify potential actions to address this obstacle, such as adding portable lighting at these crossings."

Compounding the problem, the audit said, was lack of agreement between the safety agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for "standard inspection protocols for safe and efficient bus inspections across the border." Auditors found that "of the 27 passenger carrier crossings, only the Hidalgo, Texas, crossing had a written agreement with CBP establishing policies and procedures for inspecting vehicles and drivers and placing them out of service."

Following issuance of the findings, safety-agency officials said they were fixing most of the problems and had begun talks with Customs and Border Protection on an inspection agreement, to be done by the end of this year. "However, [the carrier safety administration] stated that challenges, such as finite space at border locations, may prevent the Agency from achieving a final written agreement despite its best efforts."


Data Broker Disciplined for Lack of Verifications
Source: the Background Investigator Newspaper; By the Background Investigator Team; April, 2014

The FCT announced that Instant Checkmate of San Diego has agreed to settle charges it failed to verify the identity of people purchasing backgrounds reports that were marketed to landlords and employers.

 
 

Instant Checkmate runs a website that lets users search public records on people, including addresses and arrest records, along with birth, marriage and divorce records. Because Instant Checkmate billed itself as providing background reports to landlords and employers, the FTC said the company qualified as a consumer-reporting agency. That means it is required to take reasonable steps to ensure that those using the reports have a legitimate business need, the commission said.

The company has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $525,000.

In a statement, Instant Checkmate said it is a "responsible company" that has helped millions of consumers "check" out their "mates" – and described its public records search services as helping to form and strengthen personal relationships. "The few ads that concerned the FTC ran briefly over two years ago and are not representative of Instant Checkmate's advertising", it said.


May 2014 Articles

Hiring People You Won't Have to Fire
Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-mcbean/hiring-people-you-wont-ha_b_4768510.html; by Bill McBean, 04/13/2014

I should have fired my first employee long before I did. If there was one area where my inexperience really showed when I started running my own business it was in not firing people who should have been let go. I naively believed that, more or less, everyone was like me and my friends -- ambitious, hardworking, friendly, and ethical. And, in fact, most people are like that, but not everyone. Even so, when I came across an employee who wasn't, rather than firing him or her, I lost sleep over it, procrastinated and made excuses for not doing it.

 
 

Today, I'm much different. If I find an employee who can't meet performance expectations, but it still a quality individual, I make the assumption that we made a mistake putting him or her in the position and try and work something out internally. We might, for example, move the employee to another department, or create a position that will utilize his or her strengths and, at the same time, benefit the entire company. Quality employees with the right attitude are not always easy to find, so once we've invested time and resources in one of them, we try to keep them. Employees are an asset, and like any other asset, they should be maximized, for their benefit as well as the organizations.

On the other hand, any employee who ignores how we want the job done is out the door pretty quickly. This also applies to anyone we catch lying to customers, other employees, or managers. Similarly, any employee who stirs up trouble, has a negative attitude, or is constantly complaining needs to leave, and I believe in helping him or her do so. I also don't lose any sleep over firing employees like this -- it's very cut-and-dried. As a matter of fact, in today's business environment, your policy has to be cut-and-dried if you don't want to find yourself in court.

Of course, at the end of the day, the objective is to hire people who you won't have to fire. And for that to happen, you have to implement good hiring and good firing policies, so that your employees will know what's acceptable and what isn't. Doing so consistently will enable you to hire people who are just as ambitious, hardworking, friendly and ethical as you are -- people who won't have to be let go. Here are some lessons I learned that can help you and your company hire and retain those kinds of people and keep you out of the "firing line."

1. Never hire anyone you wouldn't invite into your own home.

2. Always look for people who have a positive attitude, because bad attitudes are like measles -- they're both contagious.

3. Never hire any job candidate who isn't willing and able to pass a drug test.

4. Be relentless when you're doing background checks. I've always believed that bad employees should be working for my competitors.

5. Search out and destroy whatever makes employees and managers feel they are on opposite sides, and stress those things that unite them, such as common success and more money.

6. Great businesses, like sports teams, are built on the premise that everyone must do what is expected of them, and the best way to assure that happening is to conduct regular performance reviews. Of course, not everyone likes to have their performance measured, but the bottom line is that it makes everyone perform better.

7. You and your managers are the only ones who can set policy -- you can't even let your top performers do it. If they don't want to do what you expect them to, they have to go, and you can't make any exceptions. I know this is easier said than done, but once you started letting the tail wag the dog you've lost control of your company.

8. Before you promote any employee to a supervisory or management position, make sure he or she is proactive by nature. If they're not, no matter how well they're doing their current job, they will fail in their new positions.

No one likes to fire people. It is, though, a reality of business, and no matter what you do, every once and a while you're going to have to let someone go. But the sooner you draw up solid criteria for hiring and firing employees -- and implement them, no matter how painful it might be -- the less frequently the problem will come up, and the smoother and more successful your business will be.


 

Colorado Bill Would Require Background Check And Skills Test
Source: The Background Investigator Newspaper, Volume 14, Number 3, March, 2014

Colorado lawmakers are hiring renewed debate over whether to join 44 other states in requiring private investigators to maintain state licenses.

 
 

Democratic Sen, Linda Newell has sponsored a measure that would mandate background checks and skills tests for people doing business as private eyes. This is the second tear in a row Newell has raised such a proposal, saying the current system attracts unscrupulous investigators.

To protect consumers, the state requires plumbers, barbers and members of other trades to carry licenses, she told fellow lawmakers in a hearing last week. But "private investigation involves surveillance, investigation into people's private lives, database searching," she said.

Another measure, meanwhile, is pending in the House to do away with the current voluntary state licensing system for private eyes that was established in 2011. Colorado currently has only about 86 investigators who pay about $1,000 a year for voluntary licenses.


Senate bill blocks background-check firms from reviewing own work
Source: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/, By Jack Moore, 2/28/2014

A new bill introduced in the Senate would prevent contractors who conduct background investigations for the government from reviewing and approving their own work.

 
 

The Preventing Conflicts of Interest with Contractors Act would block the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the background check process, from contracting with companies to perform final quality reviews if those same companies are also responsible for conducting initial investigations.

"Letting federal contractors review their own work is like letting the fox guard the henhouse," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the sponsor of the bill and the chairman of a Senate subcommittee with oversight of the federal workforce, in a statement. "This common-sense bill will put national security ahead of profits, hold federal contractors more accountable and make our nation safer."

Last fall, the Justice Department joined an employee's whistleblower lawsuit, alleging that USIS, the government's largest private provider of background checks, improperly signed off on hundreds of thousands of investigations that had never been properly vetted — a practice the company referred to as "dumping" or "flushing" records, according to the suit.

USIS also performed background investigations of both National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, although DOJ's complaint is not related to either of those investigations. The company has maintained the alleged dumping of cases is contrary to the company values and has put in place a new leadership team and increased oversight.

Earlier OPM decision could be overturned

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta announced in early February that, going forward, only federal employees would conduct final quality reviews.

At the time, about 50 USIS employees performed final quality reviews under a $288 million support-services contract with the agency even though the company also holds a $2.46 billion contract with OPM to conduct the initial fieldwork on those investigations. OPM officials alleged that the company "misused" the first contract "to obtain information about OPM's oversight efforts and evade detection of its alleged fraudulent activities for more than four years," according to a report published earlier this month by Democratic members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Tester's bill, which has been co-sponsored by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska), writes Archuleta's decision into law. Otherwise it could be reversed by a future OPM director.

"It's good news that the administration has taken swift action to strengthen accountability in the past several months, but we have to do more," McCaskill said in a statement. "This legislation will further boost accountability and remove conflicts of interest by ensuring the same contractor won't be able to both conduct background checks, and conduct a final review of that same background check process."

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed into law the OPM Inspector General Act, another bill aiming to shore up gaps in the security-clearance process. The bill, versions of which had been introduced in both the House and Senate, allows OPM's IG to access additional funding to conduct audits and investigations.


FMCSA Finally Mandates ELD Requirement
Source: operatingauthority.com; By Erick Belk; March 13, 2014

The FMCSA has released a revised proposal containing a mandate requiring electronic logging devices to be placed in all interstate commercial buses and trucks.

 
 

The proposal is attached to an already existing proposal from February of 2011 – the FMCSA halted work on the original proposal in 2012 when a federal judge ruled that the regulation mandating electronic logging devices did not keep the devices from being used to harass drivers. The purpose of the revised proposal is to mitigate the paperwork required of carriers, implement hours-of-service regulations, and protect drivers from harassment.

The new proposal outlines the technical requirements for ELD as well as laying out a mandate for drivers using record of duty status. The proposal also includes mechanisms to ensure that drivers are not harassed, including requiring carriers to allow drivers access to their logs as well as requiring all ELDs to have mute functionality while drivers are sleeping. Companies that fail to comply with these regulations could face fines of up to $11,000.

The FMCSA has touted the security included in the proposal, stating that electronic logs would only be released to law enforcement and FMCSA officials in the case of crash investigations, roadside inspections, and compliance reviews.

According to the FMCSA, the new regulations could save up to 20 lives per year in addition to preventing 434 injuries, saving the country an estimated $394.8 million dollars per year.

The next step for the proposal includes publishing it in the Federal Register. From there the public has 60 days to comment on the proposal before it is considered by the agency. Should the agency approve the proposal, the requirement would not kick in for another two years. During that time carriers would be allowed to continue operations as normal until two years after the proposal is approved.


Motor carriers continue to receive DOT Scam Letters
Source: Caltrux Magazine by Caltrux Team, April, 2014

This week, a handful of members reported that they are continuing to receive more Department of Transportation scam fax letters. The letters are asking motor carriers to provide them with their banking information. If you receive a DOT letter requesting information, please make sure to validate the letter prior to sending out any information. CTA staff reported the information to DOT and will continue to keep members up to date.

 
 

Samples of these letters can be found online at: http://files.caltrux.org/files/2413_0001.pdf.


April 2014 Articles

Fifteen ways to improve your driver recruitment and retention
Source: http://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/MDMT/MDMT0213; by Mary Lou Jay, February 2014

The days when driver recruiters could sit back and wait for a steady stream of calls from applicants are long gone.

 
 

"Recruiting today has to be more of an offensive play as opposed to the traditional approach, where you were screening people as they came in," said Cary Watkins, vice president of sales at Moments Notice Truck Driver Leasing. "You've got to be very creative and think outside the box."

Moments Notice, for example, recently held a day-long phonathon, with all its office workers calling driver candidates in targeted cities who had been culled from various databases.

Are you doing what's necessary today to recruit and retain drivers?

1. SELL THE JOB. "One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is having recruiters who have no sales training: they have no idea how to sell and proactively close," said Kelly Anderson, president of Impact Training Solutions, Inc. Untrained recruiters tend to "spray and pray" – spray out all the information about benefits and pray that something sticks. What recruiters should be doing from the start is building relationships, asking applicants about themselves to determine what aspects of the job and its benefits will most interest them.

2. USE THE RIGHT TOOLS TO CONNECT WITH YOUNGER CANDIDATES. "The younger generation of technology and immediate response", said Watkins. "They want a mobile app for their phones. They want to do everything by computer, and when they hit send they want an answer back five seconds ago. If they don't get that answer, they'll keep rolling until they find what they want. So you have to be very quick and be on top of those guys."

3. USE SOCIAL MEDIA EFFECTIVELY. Facebook and other social media are essential to recruiting today. "While it's an extremely powerful tool if used correctly, it can also be extremely dangerous," said Watkins. "You have to be very knowledgeable about what you're doing before you get behind the wheel with social media." He recommends seeking advice from companies that specialize in social media marketing. If someone complains on Facebook about Moments Notice, Watkins uses it as an opportunity to address issues openly. "Everyone can see the correspondence and see how we address things instead of just covering them up," he said. Anderson suggests establishing a separate Facebook page for a spouse support group, where people who understand the challenges of having a truck driver spouse can talk with each other.

4. TARGET YOUR ADVERTISING AND TRACK RESULTS. "There's no cookie cutter approach to advertising for drivers," said Anderson. "It's based on where a company is located and the type of job they're offering, because that changes the demographic of the driver pool. You have to advertise based on that demographic." Companies that want to target older, more experienced drivers may find newspaper and magazine ads helpful. For younger candidates, it's the Internet and social media. Tracking the origin of leads is essential. "Typically, recruiting departments don't know where their calls are coming from and they don't know where their hires are coming from. So they don't know which of their recruiting dollars are working and which are not working," said Anderson.

5. STRESS JOB SECURITY. "We're going to have to make the professional driving employee a more attractive occupation to young people by letting individuals know that, unlike manufacturing, you won't hear words like ‘near-shoring' or ‘off-shoring' in transportation," said Jim Ward, president and CEO of D. M. Bowman. "Individuals who come into this business who are professional, effective and keep their credentials up to date have a very bright future. They can start a career with a high school degree or GED and make more money than most individuals graduating with an undergraduate degree these days."

6. REACH OUT TO VETERANS. Young men and women coming out of the service are committed individuals who are used to being away from home. Many have no direction and are looking for a new career. Recent changes in federal rules have made it possible for veterans to substitute two years," experience driving military trucks for the skills portion of the CDL test. Take advantage of that opportunity. "When I worked as a manager/recruiter, we would go to the local army base and hold educational seminars related to trucking for their transportation group. When these guys got out, they'd call their friends in the trucking business," said Anderson.

7. TRAIN YOUR OWN. "We're seeing a resurgence in student recruiting," said Anderson. "The ATA did a recruiting/retention benchmark study and found that 56 to 58 percent of fleets said they either had or were planning to start a student training program." Training programs could help funnel young people into the profession at a younger age, before they decide on other careers. Watkins would like to see federal regulations changed to allow for a national internship program for young people aged 18 or older with a high school diploma or GED. "They would be in the classroom and out on the road, working in unison with a qualified, registered mentor," he said. After successfully completing a two year internship, they would be given a full class CDL with two years" experience and training under their belts.

8. TELL THE TRUTH. "If you tell applicants that you're a safe company and they check your CSA score and see that you have horrible record, they're not going to give you a second thought," said Watkins. Employees won't remain with a company if they find that pre-employment promises were untrue. "You can build a bad reputation among drivers that weighs very heavily nowadays because of social media like Facebook," Watkins added.

9. DON'T HIRE YOUR PROBLEMS. The typical qualification process – where companies check driving and criminal records – doesn't yield enough information, according to Anderson. "It doesn't tell you anything about their behavior, and it is behavior that drives their accidents, their compliance and their longevity with the company," he said. He recommends using behavior screening assessments (like those offered by JoBehaviors) and hiring only candidates with the top ratings.

10. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS IMMEDIATELY. Once you've found good drivers, you want to keep them. Fleet managers should reach out to new drivers before and during training. Instead of feeling like an outsider, they now feel welcomed – and are more likely to stay long term.

11. HELP NEW DRIVERS. Although money isn't the primary reason drivers give for choosing a company, it's now among the top five. The problem is that newly employed drivers may fall behind financially in the early weeks on the job because of training periods and paycheck holdbacks. Rather than a sign-on bonus, which doesn't pay out for months. Anderson suggests offering an immediate transition bonus or a minimum pay guarantee for a driver's initial week. "Drivers would feel the benefit of the decision they made to come to the company immediately, not 60 down the road," he said.

12. CREATE CAREER PATHS. Anderson noted that young people today look for upward mobility and for jobs that challenge them while offering recognition for good performance. He suggests that companies create career paths for drivers so they can rise from student driver to experienced driver, to driver trainer after they meet certain criteria. "They would be a lot of pride in that, especially if they had a jacket and a truck that said they were a driver trainer," he said.

13. MAKE THE JOB MORE PREDICTABLE. "When you look at fleets that have very low turnover rates and few recruiting issues, they have incredible predictability," said Anderson. "The drivers know about what they're going to make every week, they know about when they're going to head out and about when they're going to be home." "How well you manage the things that you can control will have an absolute impact on how well drivers accept the things that you can't control," he added. Inconsistency of pay can also be a turnoff for new drivers. "The more variability you can take out of their pay, the greater the probability of satisfaction with the company," Ward said.

14. GIVE FLEET MANAGERS MORE TRAINING. Most fleet managers are promoted to a managerial job, but never receive training. "What do they know about being a leader?" Anderson asked. Companies that invest in coaching fleet managers on working with the employees under them gain a huge return on that investment, with drivers demonstrating improved productivity, better customer service and higher retention rates.

15. TREAT DRIVERS WITH RESPECT. "The entire shipping community is going to have to be more diligent as to the manner in which they treat the professional driving employee," said Ward. The more that community does to elevate drivers to the level of professionalism that they deserve, the more likely the shipping community is to have the drivers it needs.


 

Ferro Discusses Split Sleep Study, CSA, Hours of Service, Electronic Logs at MATS Fleet Forum
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com/, by Deborah Lockridge, April 01, 2014

MATS, LOUISVILLE -- While encouraging audience members to file their comments on recently proposed legislation for mandatory electronic logs and the agency's research into new-entrant requirements, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro last week also noted that the agency is going ahead with a pilot study of split sleep, a provision of revised hours of service regulations that has been sorely missed by some team operations.

 
 

Speaking at the Mid-America Trucking Show Fleet Forum event prior to the Mid-America Trucking Show last week, Ferro noted that the agency does respond to feedback and criticism, whether it's from the trucking industry or oversight agencies like the General Accountability Office or the DOT's own inspector general.

Talking about the Compliance, Safety, Accountability enforcement program, Ferro said, "We've got a strong program out there but it's a program that can always improve. We have an analysis from the GAO, that said we're using too much data … and the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) did a scathing analysis and said we're not using our data enough. We're in a little big of a Goldilocks situation."

"Congress has mandated that we reduce commercial motor vehicle crashes, regardless of fault," Ferro emphasized.

One thing you can expect to see, she said, are some changes in the DataQs system, which is used for challenging inaccurate CSA data. When a state violation is dropped, she said, the agency will remove those points from the fleet's CSA scores.

In addition to CSA, another one of FMCSA's recent changes that has drawn industry criticism is last year's new hours of service regulations, particularly the changes to the 34-hour restart.

Ferro addressed criticisms that the changes requiring rest from 1-5 a.m. during the restart are harmful to drivers who regularly drive the night shift.

"Even a nighttime scheduled driver tends to flip back to nighttime sleep when they're off," she said. She said research has shown that daytime sleep is the least recuperative. Night sleep is best, and split sleep is in between.

"Split sleep could be a better option for drivers overnight than what we have today," she said. Recognizing this, she said, and that soon-to-be-mandated electronic logging devices could help police driver behaviors, "we are moving ahead with a pilot study of split sleep to see how you can reintroduce some of that flexibility" that some in the industry lament losing under the latest HOS regs.

The agency is working with the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the National Association of Small Trucking Companies to craft a pilot study.

Another thing the agency is studying, she said, is the correlation between payment method and safety. Paying someone by piecework (by the mile) pushes individuals to do more in the same time. Add lengthy unpaid detention times to that, she said, and it can make the situation worse.

"So we are also doing a study on different methods and models of driver compensation. We'll probably have preliminary results on that near the end of 2015."

As head of the Maryland Motor Truck Association before becoming FMCSA Administrator, Ferro said, "I heard time and time again that the key is to get to a level playing field – if the agency is requiring this they need to make sure folks aren't cutting corners.

"We need to continue to work harder to make sure the ones that are cutting corners have what they need to know to get better, the incentives to get better, or the enforcement actions to get them off the street."

However, Ferro noted that "the rules -- the theories, the research and the data analysis behind those rules -- are realized on the road with that driver, that carrier, that piece of equipment. We need to be familiar with the industry and how it's operating within those rules."

To get a better sense of that, she said, last fall she did a ride-along with a small business owner-operator, an overnight trip ("he was kind enough to stay in hotel while I stayed in the truck.")

"I was trying to do more listening than talking as he shared the impact of the hours of service rules, what it was like operating in an environment of tremendous unpredictability."


Driver turnover falls at 2013′s end, still above 90%
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/, CCJ Staff, March 17, 2014

For the eighth consecutive quarter, the turnover rate at large truckload fleets was above 90 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, though the rate did fall six percentage points to 91 percent, according to data released last week by the American Trucking Associations.

 
 

The drop also marked the second straight quarterly drop, ATA said, but the rate is still "elevated," said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

"We saw turnover at fleets with at least $30 million in annual revenue bottom out near 50% at the depths of the Great Recession and have increased steadily since," Costello said. "The rate appears to have flattened out at an elevated level for the moment. However, it could easily increase as tightness in the labor pool should continue, and even worsen, as the economy improves."

The turnover rate for all of 2013 for large truckload fleets fell two percentage points from 2012 to 96 percent. That number is still well below 2005′s all-time high of 130 percent, ATA said.

Turnover rate at small truckload fleets — defined as those with $30 million or less in revenue — fell to 79 percent in the quarter and averaged 82 percent in the year.

Costello said he expects economic growth in 2014 and trucking industry growth in particular to put pressure on both the driver market and the driver shortage.

"At the moment, we already have 30,000 unfilled jobs for drivers in the trucking industry," Costello said. "As the industry starts to haul more because demand goes up, we'll need to add more drivers – nearly 100,000 annually over the next decade – in order to keep pace."


Per DOT, speed limiter rule could come this year
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/; By James Jaillet, March 17, 2014

Spurred by a request from the American Trucking Associations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has indicated it plans to produce a rule requiring the use of speed limiters in heavy trucks this year.

 
 

According to the Department of Transportation's monthly report on significant rulemakings — released last week — the rule is slated to be sent to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx for approval May 21 and then be forwarded to the White Houses' Office of Management and Budget June 26.

The DOT report did not indicate what the speed may be, but it did say the rule could be published as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Oct. 1.

The rulemaking process is a joint effort with the National Highway Traffic" Safety Administration, the DOT report says, and would apply to trucks with a GVWR of more than 26,000 pounds.

Roadsafe America also petitioned the agency to produce the rule, and NHTSA requested public comment on both its petition and ATA's. DOT's report says "thousands of comments supporting the petition's request" came in, propelling the agencies to act on them.

The rule, says FMCSA, "would decrease the estimated 1,115 fatal crashes each year involving trucks that would be subject to the speed limiter rule.

We believe this rule would have a minimal cost, as all heavy trucks already have these devices installed, although some vehicles do not have the limit set," the DOT report reads.

FMCSA Associate Administrator for Policy Larry Minor said at the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee in February that the rule could even be "retroactive," and the agency would explore whether the speed limiter requirement would need to apply to new trucks only or all trucks, meaning retrofit on older equipment would need to be provided.

In a legal case in 2012, a judge ruled speed limiters are unsafe and a violation of rights.

Todd Dills contributed to this report.


DOT asks county highway departments to conserve road salt
Source: http://fox6now.com/, By Beverly Taylor, March 5, 2014

MILWAUKEE (WITI) – The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) issued revised guidelines to county highway departments on Wednesday, March 5th aimed at keeping state and federal highways safe for winter travel, while helping ensure an adequate supply of road salt for the remainder of this winter.

 
 

Salt supplies are low — and the WisDOT supplies the salt. But contracts with county highway departments do the plowing and salting on the state highway system.

Now, WisDOT is saying keep up the level of service on interstate highways, but…

"We're suggesting is some of the other highways say, like a 164, highway 83, different highways like that in areas of 38 and 31 — that they use a little lower level of salt, reduced by about a third to help extend out the supplies that we have remaining," said Michael Pyritz, DOT Communications Manager.

It's an all-in effort to extend the remaining salt supply through the rest of the winter. Average salt use on the State Highway System is about 500,000 tons per year. At the beginning of this season, 775,000 tons of salt were available and about 135,000 tons remain. Plus, the salt supply is not evenly distributed across the entire state. Pyritz says WisDOT has to do a little maneuvering to make sure everyone has enough.

"In fact, we're even transferring within different regions of the state. Some of salt that will be coming into the Milwaukee area I believe is coming out of the Prairie du Chien area. So we're reaching out to different locations within the state and arranging to have that material brought here into the southeast region," said Pyritz.

Along with impacting plowing and salting activities, WisDOT says this bitterly cold and snowy winter means motorists also need to be especially alert for potholes. The extreme cold has resulted in frost depths of five feet or more in many areas, causing a variety of problems including pavement tenting or heaving.

Potholes form when moisture enters cracks in pavement and the water freezes and expands. Warmer temperatures and traffic can then loosen the pavement causing pieces to break free. Compared to an average winter, this season has seen a 60 percent increase in the number of winter storm events. As moisture from repeated snowfalls melts, enters pavement cracks and freezes, it creates the perfect conditions for potholes.


March 2014 Articles

FMCSA to publish final rule on safety violation patterns Wednesday
Source: http://www.thetrucker.com/; The Trucker News Services, 1/21/2014

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Wednesday will publish the final rule on Patterns of Safety Violations that will give the agency the ability to shut down a bus or truck company if the company, or a company officer, has a history of purposely violating federal regulations.

 
 

The FMCSA said it intended to apply the rule in egregious cases in which it finds that a motor carrier has committed a pattern of unsafe practices, even if that particular investigation alone does not result in a downgrade of the carrier's safety fitness rating.

"The proposal would further strengthen the FMCSA's ability to take unsafe trucks and buses off the road if the agency finds that a carrier purposefully employs officers with a history of blatant disregard for safety," an FMCSA spokesperson said when the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was issued in late 2012.

"Under the proposal, if FMCSA suspects that an officer of a truck or bus company has demonstrated a pattern of avoiding regulatory compliance or ignoring civil penalties for safety violations the agency would investigate the carrier's management structure and its operations to determine if it is deliberately concealing safety violations or a negative safety history. If a pattern of unsafe practices is found, FMCSA would suspend or revoke the company's authority to operate."

The final rule allows the FMCSA to take appropriate action if a motor carrier or person acting on its behalf engages in inappropriate conduct when he, she or it, either individually or on behalf of another motor carrier, fails to or conceals failure t (1) comply with statutory or regulatory safety requirements; (2) comply with FMCSA, state or local orders intended to redress violations of federal regulatory safety requirements; (3) pay civil penalties for violations of regulatory safety requirements; or (4) respond to enforcement actions arising out of violations of regulatory safety requirements. According to the final rule, failure to respond to an enforcement action includes, but is not limited to, failure to respond to a notice of claim, participate in binding arbitration, respond to a demand for records, or respond to FMCSA correspondence if required.

Violation of any one or more of the four actions is grounds for agency action, the final rule said. The final rule also sets for steps for motor carriers to request and administrative review of an order of suspension or revocation of operating authority, but those reviews would be limit to challenging errors of fact and/or law.

It also sets for the procedure for a motor carrier as well as intervening persons to file petitions for rescinding the agency order once corrective action has been taken and the agency is satisfied those corrective actions are appropriate.

Use of the rule against a typical carrier would require the state-level relicensing and re-registering of an average of 10 commercial motor vehicles.

The FMCSA said it estimates the rule would have been applied six times in the year preceding publication of the rule, which would have created total societal costs of $192,000.

The new rule complements a rule adopted by the agency in 2012 to apply out-of-service orders to reincarnate or chameleon carriers and to consolidate their enforcement histories. The new rule goes one step further by authorizing a complete revocation of the motor carrier's authority to operate. The FMCSA said in the NPRM that it had determined that each year a small number of motor carriers have attempted to avoid regulatory compliance or mask or otherwise conceal noncompliance by submitting new applications for registration, often under a different name, to continue operations after being placed out-of-service.

In developing the new rule, the agency cited an Aug. 8, 2008, fatal bus crash in Sherman, Texas, that the FMCSA said highlighted the danger posed by motor carriers and other persons who avoid regulatory compliance or mask or otherwise conceal noncompliance. Seventeen motor coach passengers died, and the driver and 38 other passengers received minor-to-serious injuries. The investigations conducted by FMCSA and the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that the motor carrier was operating without authority and a reincarnation of another bus company that had been previously placed OOS for safety violations and that both companies were under the control of the same person.

Based on these findings, the FMCSA instituted a vetting process for for-hire passenger and household goods carriers that involves a comprehensive review of registration applications to determine whether the applicants are reincarnations or affiliates of other motor carriers with negative compliance histories or are otherwise not willing and able to comply with the applicable regulations.

Although the vetting process was a significant improvement to the previous registration review and regulatory compliance process, it is not a complete solution to the problem of regulatory avoidance because it does not impose sanctions, and, therefore, deter, the motor carriers or individuals who engage in or condone egregious disregard for safety compliance," the FMCSA said.


 

Make Customer Issues Your Zen Master
Source: The Background Investigator, by CRAIG CADDELL, Jan, 2014

There are a lot of little things that can go sideways in the verification process: not calling back at the right time, not picking up the phone when someone wants to give you a reference interview, chasing the wrong person for the verification, etc. Any of these small misstep made on a critical hire can take on much larger significance and the next thing you know your client is on the phone to you- and not in a good way.

 
 

The venerable Zen master, Suzuki Roshi was known to occasionally "wake up" his pupils with a whack of his stick not unlike the Rafiki character in The Lion King. I don't know about you, but when I get a client calling to tell me how something has gone wrong, I feel the touch of the wake up stick. How you respond to this moment counts. Here are three tips for how to handle your next wake up call.

1. Respond immediately in the affirmative. Let your client know they have your full attention and that their issue is now your highest priority. I am not suggesting you just say this, I am saying that it should be your new highest priority.
2. Gather the facts before you make a judgment. Chances are you have a process in place that makes sense and the issue is more likely a misperception than an error. The standard who, what, where, when, how and why questions are a good starting point.
3. Never sell yourself short or throw someone else under the bus. Those are fear responses that get in the way of solving the problem and ensuring it does nor reoccur. Take the time to analyze the facts, engage your team without accusation, and allow the cause of the issue to surface.

Once an issue is out in the open all you need to do is communicate honestly what happened and how you will prevent it from happening again. If it is an error, own it, solve it and don't make your customer pay for it –literally. If it turns out to be a misperception, you can lead your client through the facts that gave rise to it while getting them what they need as quickly as possible. You may even want to offer them your gratitude for what they taught you about your business.

Craig Caddell is a noted screening industry expert on verification and reference operations.


DOT Budget Includes Freight, Infrastructure
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com/, by Oliver Patton, March 4, 2014

President Obama's budget for the Department of Transportation calls for new performance measures and a $10 billion freight program as well as his four-year, $302 billion infrastructure program.

 
 

The DOT proposal is part of an overall 2015 budget that emphasizes middle-class tax cuts and closing of loopholes for wealthier taxpayers. It calls for $3.9 trillion in spending on receipts of $3.3 trillion, and a deficit of $564 billion.

The budget appears not likely to go anywhere in Congress. House Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said it spends and taxes too much.

About half of the infrastructure program, $150 billion, would be paid for by a rewrite of the corporate tax code designed to close loopholes and reduce the overall corporate rate from 35%. This provision is similar in concept to the proposal by Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, to raise $126.5 billion over eight years for the Highway Trust Fund.The DOT budget includes reforms intended to modernize the permitting process for infrastructure projects. It would expand a system for tracking permits and reviews, and create an Infrastructure Permitting Improvement Center to take responsibility for implementing reforms.

Included is $4 billion for a new competitive surface transportation program intended to create incentives for states and local governments to go after ambitious performance improvements.

Other highlights:

bullet The $10 billion freight program is intended to eliminate bottlenecks and improve freight
  efficiency.
bullet New performance measures to focus funding on maintenance of existing infrastructure.
bullet $1.25 billion per year for the TIGER competitive grant program (Transportation Investment
  Generating Economic Recovery).
bullet More funding for transit and passenger rail.
bullet $14 billion in discretionary resources for air, maritime, rail safety and pipeline and
  hazmat transport. Included here is $40 million to support safe transport of crude oil by truck and rail.
bullet About $1 billion to support the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

American Trucking Associations criticized the Obama budget because the highway funding proposal is just a one-time infusion.

"Today's proposed budget misses the mark when it comes to the transportation needs of the U.S. economy," said ATA President Bill Graves in a statement. "It provides no real funding solutions for the long-term health of our infrastructure."

ATA contends that the best and quickest way to raise the money for highway investment is to raise the fuel tax, but there is no political will in Washington to do that.

Graves also objected to the budget's support for railroads.

"This budget proposes to re-direct funds from road and bridge projects that would improve capacity and ease bottlenecks to underwrite projects for an industry that continually crows about how self-sufficient it is," he said.


Tougher efficiency standards for trucks makes sense
Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/; By Editorial Board, February 24, 2014

SOME OF President Obama's unilateral actions may raise legitimate concerns, even for those who believe this Congress is noxiously unproductive. But his demand that cars and trucks use less fuel raises no such question. The president's plan rests on a ¬rock-solid legal foundation. It's also the right thing to do while lawmakers dither on climate change.

 
 

Last week Mr. Obama said his administration would use the powers it has under various laws to press for tougher efficiency standards for heavy trucks. A relatively small number of these massive vehicles produce about a quarter of the transportation sector's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the White House. That doesn't mean truckers are particular climate villains; the country depends on them to bring 70 percent of the nation's freight tonnage to market, and big trailers use a lot of fuel. But if they can reduce fuel consumption and emissions at little or no cost, they should.

That's where the Obama administration is stepping in. Many truck upgrades will pay for themselves over time in saved fuel. But truckers might be discouraged by the upfront investments required. Truck manufacturers might be reluctant to invest in fuel-saving technology without assurance that the market will recognize its value. Neither group has to account for the environmental costs of excessive fuel use, absent government intervention of some kind. So the government has set standards that require efficiency improvements across the country's heavy-truck fleet, and the president wants those standards toughened, with final rules coming next March.

As the Obama administration hashes out its regulations, flexibility will be needed. The government should set reasonable top-line efficiency goals without meddling in how manufacturers meet the mandates, whether by using new engine lubricants, producing better tires or making tractors and trailers more aerodynamic. That approach might not satisfy the electric-car or alternative-fuel lobbies, but it would result in efficiency upgrades at minimum cost. On the other hand, special tax credits for alternative-fuel vehicles and infrastructure, which the president also supports, waste taxpayer money.

In fact, the best approach to global warming would be for the government to tax carbon dioxide emissions commensurate with their harm and then get out of the way. That would be more efficient than setting fuel efficiency standards; it would wring carbon out of the whole economy, not simply out of the transportation sector, starting with where it is cheapest to do so. But Congress would have to approve such a plan, and lawmakers remain determined to resist the obvious on climate policy.

Until that changes, the president is right to use the anti-emissions weapons the law offers him, carefully but with determination.


Two strikes, you're out: how to change driver behavior with critical event data
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com/, By Aaron Huff, February 27, 2014

Anxiety. It's that desperate, defenseless feeling a motorist gets when the large truck in the rear-view mirror suddenly appears larger than life. It's also what keeps fleet owners and managers awake at night, wondering when the next accident will be, and what they can do to prevent it. There is reason for anxiety. One of the most costly and potentially fatal type of crashes, the rear-end collision, is one of the most frequent.

 
 

According to 2011 crash statistics, 43 percent of large truck crashes involved another vehicle. Of these, 23 percent were rear-end collisions. That amounts to nearly 10 percent (0.43 x 0.23) of all truck crashes.

One way to safeguard against rear-end collisions and other accidents is to identify high-risk behaviors and intervene to eliminate repeat offenses. Mobile fleet management systems, for instance, can issue instant alerts for speeding and rapid deceleration or "hard braking" events which are leading indicators for accidents.

The 2011 truck crash figures, published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in October, 2013, show that speeding was a leading cause of 23 percent of truck accidents. Aggressive driving (6 percent) and following too closely (5 percent) also made the list.

Christenson Transportation, a dry-van carrier based in Stafford, Mo., is using the TPC 7600 system from Rand McNally to monitor its 100-truck fleet. Whenever speeding or hard braking events occur, its drivers receive a message in the cab on their TPC 7600 display.

An e-mail alert is also sent to operations. Drivers will soon be getting a phone call.

"We immediately contact the driver and discuss that event," says Barry McGowen, vice president.

McGowen estimates that about 80 percent of the fleet's hard braking events occur in low-speed situations, like in parking lots, when drivers are bobtailing. The alerts show the vehicle's speed at the time drivers hit the brakes.

Low speed and low risk situations merit a phone call. "We want them to know that we see everything," he says. "Basically, after about two events they know we are on top of the situation and they will quit doing whatever they were doing."

Hard braking events at highway speeds are a more serious matter. At Christenson Transportation, the first event gets the driver a warning. The second offense can cost a driver his job.

Christenson has seen hard braking events decline by about 75 percent since it started using the technology from Rand McNally. Today, about 90 percent of its drivers do not have any events on their records. Those with one event are unlikely to make the same mistake twice, he says.

Christenson also uses the TPC 7600 to monitor drivers' speed relative to the posted speed limits. If a driver is going 60 mph in a 55 mph zone in Ohio, for example, the in-cab computer beeps and tells the driver "you have exceeded the speed limit by 5 mph. You've got 6 seconds to correct." If the driver does not slow down, an e-mail alert is automatically sent to management.


February 2014 Articles

Bad idea for Target not to ask for criminal history
Source: http://www.thepolypost.com, By Andrea Jimenez; November 5, 2013

An article on the Huffington Post published on Oct. 29 stated Target was planning to dismiss criminal background questions in job applications.

 
 

The final decision on whether to do so is still being discussed.

An emailed statement was released from Target's spokeswomen Molly Synder and said, "Target is an industry leader in developing a nuanced criminal background check process that gives qualified applicants with a criminal history a second chance while maintaining the safety of our guests, team members and protecting our property."

Although Target is willing to give individuals a second chance, the fact of the matter is, how can an employer trust an individual who has robbed a bank to work as a cashier or an individual who has gone to jail for using prescription drugs to work in the pharmacy?

Criminal background checks are administered for a reason: to prevent future destruction and to protect the safety of the community.

Target's decision was inspired by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's signing of the "Ban the Box" legislation. The legislation seeked to ban the box on a job application that prompts an applicant to check it if they have committed a felony or misdemeanor.

The legislation goes into effect next year and will make it illegal for Minnesota employers to ask a job applicant's criminal history before beginning an interview.

According to the Huffington Post article, last year the "Ban the Box" legislation was recognized by the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and it "clarified that a potential employee should not be turned down solely because of a prior conviction."

With that in mind, an individual with a molestation conviction should not be offered a job as an elementary school teacher.

If the conviction does not affect the demands of the job then, sure, why shouldn't an ex-offender have an opportunity to work and make a living?

However, it's unnecessary for Target to remove its criminal history question on a job application because once a candidate is chosen for an interview he or she will have to address the question anyway.

Whether the employer chooses to hire an individual with a criminal history is their own decision.

"Banning the box" will allow individuals with a criminal history the opportunity to be interviewed and acknowledged for their skills and qualifications-first, but ultimately most employers do not have interest in hiring an offender.

Amof.info, a website established for the cause of keeping background checks, states 39 percent of all background checks have at least one serious flag. This is why pre-employment screening is an essential tool.

As a society, it is our responsibility to recognize potential harm, especially in the workplace and especially where customer service exists.

Caroline Syms a writer for The Michigan Daily, wrote an opinion titled, "Do the crime, pay the time" stating, "When an individual breaks these rules and is convicted of a crime, they must face the consequences- no matter what."

As humans, we make mistakes and sometimes those individuals who have made mistakes are indeed remorseful of their previous wrongdoing, but employers have the right to know the history of the person they could potentially hire.

Needless to say, what about those who abide by the law, apply for a job and are not hired because the employer decided to hire the prior offender? It does not seem fair for the individual who has done nothing criminally wrong.

Target's approval of this legislature will only serve as an initial blinder for Target from individuals who have criminal backgrounds.

The "Ban the box" movement does not change the outcome of the situation; all it does is repress and delay the real problem until the interview phase of the hiring process.


 

Due Diligence and the Martoma 'Conundrum'
Source: http://online.wsj.com/, by JONATHAN LENZNER, Feb. 4, 2014

How could a kid expelled from Harvard get into Stanford and land a job at a prominent hedge fund?

 
 

As jurors in lower Manhattan this week debate Mathew Martoma's guilt on insider-trading charges, the trial, which heard closing arguments on Monday, has raised another question: How was Mr. Martoma—after being expelled from Harvard Law School for forging a transcript—accepted by Stanford Business School and then hired by a prominent hedge fund?

Mr. Martoma changed his grades to As and submitted the false transcript in his application for a clerkship with a federal judge in 1999. After Harvard discovered the offense and expelled him, the former Ajai Mathew Thomas changed his name to Mathew Martoma. As this story spilled out in the lead-up to his criminal trial, many began asking whether Stanford and his former employer, SAC Capital Advisors, bothered to look at Mr. Martoma's history. And if background checks were performed, why did they miss these red flags?

The Martoma "conundrum," as it has been dubbed in the media, reflects a frustrating paradox in the growing due-diligence industry. With advances in Internet search technology and a proliferation of investigative firms, why do we continue to see high-profile cases in which an employee's prior transgression or act of concealment embarrasses a well-known company or university?

In recent years, executives at Yahoo,YHOO -0.36% Veritas Software and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as a number of university administrators and coaches, have been fired or pressured to resign for misrepresenting their credentials. Last July, for example, Leslie Cohen Berlowitz, the longtime president of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was forced to resign for falsely claiming on federal grant applications that she held a doctorate from New York University.

Surely a prospective employer would have wanted to know that Mr. Martoma previously created a forged document that deceived prospective employers, including federal judges, and then created a fake email and computer forensic company in the attempted cover up.

Unfortunately, there are many reasons why exclusive institutions end up hiring employees with misleading credentials. In some cases, top companies and universities hire individuals without conducting any background inquiry. In other cases, the background check fails to uncover information that should have been found through due diligence.

Some companies choose not to conduct due diligence because of the common false assumption that a prior employer must have run a background check that produced no negative results. That choice can lead to a situation in which an unethical executive rises to the top without ever being properly screened.

Often a single background check isn't adequate or reliable. Take Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old former Navy reservist and computer contractor who killed 12 people on Sept. 16, 2013, before being shot and killed by police. In 2004, Alexis was arrested for malicious mischief for shooting out the tires of a car but was nonetheless granted security clearance in 2008. In 2010, he was again arrested for a gun-related offense but did not lose his security clearance.

This sort of lax oversight of employees is not uncommon. While some employers follow thorough processes before hiring an employee, many do not conduct subsequent background reviews after the individual is hired.

Moreover, less-sophisticated investigative firms often conduct low-budget, glorified Google, GOOG +0.60% searches, which may not catch a name change or other nuances. Many government and industry databases and sources cannot be effectively searched with Web search engines. To adequately scrutinize a target's history, investigators must be aware of and have access to specialized databases, many of which are obscure or expensive to access. Some valuable sources of information, such as court records in certain jurisdictions or county regulatory actions, are still not available online, requiring an in-person visit to the courthouse or agency. Even investigative firms with adequate resources may miss clues and leads that can provide valuable "second level" information. Some run searches and simply provide the client with a memorandum that mirrors the database results. That is the equivalent of a physician handing you the raw data from your blood labs and EKG.

The risks and limitations of due diligence grow when the hiring employer needs information overseas. An unsophisticated investigator may not grasp the sensitivity of data privacy laws in other countries and how they differ even among neighboring nations. Employees today often have footprints and history in multiple countries, and employers who limit their due-diligence searches to domestic jurisdictions may be setting themselves up for an embarrassing headline down the road.

Advances in technology have given employers false confidence. Anyone can pay to have their history on Google "scrubbed." In Mr. Martoma's case, it is unlikely that SAC would have uncovered his name change—and subsequently his misconduct at Harvard—by simply searching online. Yet with a more thorough due-diligence search, Mr. Martoma may not have ended up at the hedge fund—and the firm would have had one less headache.

Mr. Lenzner, a former federal and Manhattan prosecutor, is the executive vice president of Investigative Group International Inc.


FMCSA to Shut Down Carriers Based on Executives' Past Safety Violations
Source: http://www.ttnews.com/, by Transport Topics, 1/22/2014

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has finalized a rule to allow officials to shut down trucking companies based on patterns of safety violations by the company or its leaders.

 
 

Under the Patterns of Safety Violation rule, FMCSA will be able to revoke a carrier's operating authority if the carrier or a company officer "has a history of purposely violating federal safety regulations," the agency said in a Jan. 17 statement.

"The rule is one of the new enforcement tools that the agency has developed in recent years to target high-risk carriers that endanger travelers by avoiding or covering up their negative history of safety compliance," FMCSA said, adding that it will only use its new power in "egregious" cases.

The rule fulfills a mandate Congress gave FMCSA in transportation law MAP-21.

When the agency first proposed the rule in 2012, trucking industry representatives supported the concept but warned that the vague guidelines perhaps allow officials to enforce it too broadly. In response, FMCSA added clarity to the final rule.

FMCSA published the final rule in the Federal Register Jan. 22. It will become effective Feb. 21.


DOT clears the road for smart cars
Source: http://thehill.com/, By Keith Laing, February 03, 2014

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has approved vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems that advocates say will reduce the number of auto accidents in the U.S.

 
 

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the decision on Monday, saying that allowing vehicles to become more connected was a safety jump in line with the introduction of the seat belts or air bags generations ago.

"Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the life-saving achievements we've already seen with safety belts and air bags," Foxx said in a statement. "By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go while ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in the global automotive industry." The DOT has been testing cars with vehicle-to-vehicle technology since August 2012.

Acting National Highway and Traffic Safety Administrator David Friedman said the tests proved that allowing vehicles to communication with each other would drastically improve the safety of driving.

"V2V crash avoidance technology has game-changing potential to significantly reduce the number of crashes, injuries and deaths on our nation's roads," Friedman said in a statement. "Decades from now, it's likely we'll look back at this time period as one in which the historical arc of transportation safety considerably changed for the better, similar to the introduction of standards for seat belts, airbags, and electronic stability control technology."

Smart transportation advocates cheered the DOT's decision on Monday.

"Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and young adults in the U.S., with approximately 33,000 people killed and 2.3 million injured each year on America's roads," Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) President Scott Belcher said in a statement. "While the auto industry has made great strides to reduce fatalities and injuries after a crash, the next giant leap is to enable real-time communication between vehicles and with the world around them so crashes can be avoided in the first place."

The Washington, D.C.-based Association of Global Automakers said they were also on board with the deployment of vehicle-to-vehicle technology, but they cautioned that other devices could interfere with the systems if they are allowed to operate too openly.

"Through the auto industry's research partnership with NHTSA, we've already seen the promise connected car technology holds to significantly reduce automobile crash fatalities and injuries," the global automakers' President Michael Stanton said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to work with NHTSA and other stakeholders to ensure V2V technology becomes successful in the marketplace.

The automakers alliance said the Federal Communications Commission was currently considering allowing vehicle-to-vehicle technologies to operate on the same frequency band as "unlicensed Wi-Fi devices."

Stanton said that could cause unforeseen problems for drivers.

"We're concerned that opening up the 5.9 GHz frequency band to other wireless users could cause harmful interference and affect the integrity of the V2V safety communications," Stanton said. "Communication delays of even thousandths of a single second matter when dealing with auto and highway safety. That's why we are working with the Wi-Fi industry to find out if this spectrum can safely be shared."


GAO Urges Revisions to CSA's Safety Measurement System
Source: http://www.ttnews.com/, By Jonathan S. Reiskin, 2/3/2014

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report said the federal government should revise part of its Compliance, Safety, Accountability program because of limits on access to needed data.

 
 

The Feb. 3 GAO report said the Safety Measurement System, a key part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's CSA, faces challenges because "most regulations used to calculate SMS scores are not violated often enough to strongly associate them with crash risk for individual carriers."

GAO, a congressional investigative agency, also said "most carriers lack sufficient safety performance data to ensure that FMCSA can reliably compare them with other carriers."

American Trucking Associations praised GAO's findings and urged FMCSA to make changes to the program.

"The GAO's review of FMCSA's Compliance, Safety, Accountability program was comprehensive, thoughtful and balanced," ATA President Bill Graves said in a statement. "While ATA has long supported CSA's objectives, we can't help but agree with GAO's findings that the scores produced by the program don't present an accurate or precise assessment of the safety of many carriers."

ATA asked FMCSA to remove all carriers' scores from public view in light of GAO's review.

FMCSA designed the CSA program to collect data from safety inspections and then produce assessments of carrier and driver safety performance, both on an absolute basis and relative to similar carriers and drivers. A premise of CSA is that the SMS scores would be useful in predicting which carriers and drivers are likely to be involved in accidents.

FMCSA defended the CSA program, but said it will consider GAO's proposals.

"While we are always looking for ways to improve our safety oversight methods, and will carefully consider the GAO's latest recommendations, research shows that CSA is already more effective at identifying motor carriers with a greater risk of crashing than the system we replaced in 2010," spokeswoman Marissa Padilla said.

The Transportation Department's inspector general also is analyzing this issue.


January 2014 Articles

CDL/Medical Card Merger Deadline
Source: http://49cfr.com/, North American Transportation Consultants Inc., December 31, 2013

By January 30, 2014, all commercial drivers’ license (CDL) holders must provide to their state licensing agency information on the type of driving they perform as well as the status of their medical examiner’s certificate.

 
 

Beginning January 30, 2012, a CDL holder must provide a self-certification document addressing the type of commercial driving he/she performs to his/her state driver-licensing agency (SDLA). They must also provide a copy of their valid medical certificate. The driver will need to certify that he/she operates in one of the following four categories:

bullet Non-excepted interstate
bullet Non-excepted intrastate
bullet Excepted interstate
bullet Excepted intrastate

Each state has its own specific form that addresses the self-certification requirement that must be completed by the driver. If the driver is in the non-excepted interstate category, he/she is also required to provide a copy of their valid and current medical examiner's certificate. A state-licensing agency may also request a copy of the medical card for non-excepted intrastate drivers. Check with your state for additional details.

A driver may have a current valid medical certificate but if the driver has not filed that medical certificate with the state the drivers CDL must be designated as non-certified. The states are in various stages of compliance with the merger program but all are required to be fully operational by January 30, 2014.

NOTE: Beginning on or after May 21, 2014, the carrier must verify that the driver was certified by a medical examiner listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners as of the date of medical examiner's certificate issuance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What happens if a driver does not turn in these documents to his/her state-licensing agency by January 30, 2014?

A. The state-licensing agency will notify the driver that his/her CDL has been downgraded to a non-CDL class.  All CDL privileges will be removed from the license.           

Q. Is this a one-time task or does the drivers have to turn in a new self-certification form and medical card every time he/she gets a new physical?

A. The  new medical card must be turned in each time the driver gets a new card, but the self-certification is only turned in when a driver:

bullet Applies for a CDL;
bullet Renews a CDL;
bullet Applies for a higher class of CDL;
bullet Applies for a new endorsement on a CDL;
bullet Or Transfers a CDL from another state.

Q. Once the driver turns in the self-certification and a copy of his/her medical card does he/she have to continue to carry the card?

A. Yes. The driver is required to continue to carry the medical card and provide   a copy to his/her motor carrier for placement in his/her driver qualification file. This is required until January 30, 2014.

Q. As a motor carrier, how will I document that the driver has a valid medical card if one isn’t required in the driver’s qualification file?

A. As of January 30, 2014, this information will be included on the driver’s driving record. Motor carriers will be required to obtain a copy of the driving record that includes the driver’s current medical card status and place the documentation in the driver’s qualification file.

Q. Will drivers have to carry the medical card after January 30, 2014?

A. As of January 30, 2014, when a driver’s current medical information is on his/her driving record, the driver won’t need to carry the medical card. However, when a driver gets a         new medical   card and gives it to the state licensing agency, it will take the agency up to 10 days to update the driver’s record. During that interim period, drivers and employers will need           to use  the medical card as proof of certification, and can do so for up to 15 days after it was issued. Once the employer verifies that the driving record was updated, the driver no longer has to carry the card.

Q. How about non-CDL holders who operate commercial motor vehicles between 10,001 and 26,000 pounds?           

A. Non-CDL holders are required to continue carrying their medical card, and their motor carriers are required to continue maintaining a copy in each driver’s qualification file.

Q. Do I continue to put the drivers’ medical certificate in the driver file?  

A. For   CDL holders, beginning January 30, 2012, a copy of the medical certificate is no longer required to be in the DQF. However, the motor carrier employer must meet this requirement by obtaining the CDLIS motor vehicle record, defined at 49CFR § 384.105, showing the drivers certification status and place that record in the DQF.


Focus on Alcohol Testing, The Importance of Periodic Proficiency Training
Source: http://content.yudu.com/Library/A2bdv8/DATIAFocusSummer2013/resources/44.htm, by Bailey and Adam Bell, Summer 2013

The Department of Transportation (DOT) mandates Breath Alcohol Technician (BAT) training every five years, but effective training is an ongoing process, not just an inconvenient event that must be ended every 5th year. Periodic Proficiency Training refers to instruction delivered above and beyond DOT's mandates, enabling service providers to exceed requirements and hone their skills on an annual or bi-annual basis. The type of ongoing training described here greatly enhances the competency of BAT's, creating a powerful defense in the case of a disputed test.

 
 

With a five-year lapse between trainings, some knowledge may be forgotten. It is not uncommon for a BAT to conduct testing for a year or more before being confronted with a positive test result. When they encounter an unfamiliar situation, BAT's can panic and commit compounding errors that make a bad situation worse. Providing an opportunity for ongoing practice is essential for maintaining BAT competency.

There are many benefits to Periodic Proficiency Training, including:

bullet Reinforcing consistency. One of the key elements of a successful program is consistency
  of operation. Engaging in Periodic Proficiency Training helps ensure that your staff is doing things the same way (and the correct way) every time.
bullet Providing a second opportunity for BATs to acquire info missed in initial training.
  When training adults, it is important to remember that there will be moments when the subject matter is not being given their full attention. Sometimes students are pulled from the classroom for phone calls or other matters and important information can be missed.
  Periodic Proficiency Training can provide students with an opportunity to acquire information that might have been missed the first-time around.
bullet Offering a chance to make sure staff is current on the DOT procedures and with any
  rule changes. Rules and procedures for breath alcohol testing and specimen collection have undergone changes over the years. An ongoing Periodic Proficiency Training
  program can ensure that your staff's knowledge of DOT rules and regulations is up-to-date and that they are following the proper procedures.
bullet Addressing errors that may have happened in your facility. Periodic Proficiency training
  can help prevent errors, especially improper procedures that have become ingrained into your corporate culture. Sometimes the wrong ways of doing things gets pass down from
  employee to employee, in particular with new hires. Once established, these erroneous procedures can be hard to eliminate. Periodic Proficiency Training can address and
  correct these errors before they become an issue during an audit or legal proceeding.
bullet Protecting your business from liability. Providing training to your staff that exceeds the
  DOT requirements is an investment in the future. Mistakes can cost your customers. Providing test results that are not defensible will cause clients to seek more competent
  service providers. Periodic Proficiency Training can give your BTAs the skills they
  need to do the job right the first time, every time. Without a doubt, repeated errors can cause you to lose business.

Forms of Proficiency Training

Periodic Proficiency Training can be delivered using a variety of methods including, but not limited to: lecture-oriented classes, role playing, newsletters, and non-mandated error-correction training. No matter which method you use, it is important to have some way to verify students' mastery of the information. This can be in the form of written exams or hands-on exercises. It is important to maintain documentation of proficiency exercises and training.

A lecture-oriented presentation is the standard method of instruction. A Periodic Proficiency Training class should not just be a rehash of your existing Instrument Proficiency lecture; rather it should contain new content with new materials and focus on unusual occurrences, coupled with company-specific needs.

One of the best ways to prepare your staff for managing difficult situations is to have them experience the situation in a safe and controlled setting. Role-play can provide an opportunity for students to practice handling a difficult subject or collection. Reviewing the proper language to use during stressful situations can prepare your staff to respond properly. It is essential that role-play training is properly monitored to ensure that your policies are being followed consistently.

Utilizing electronic solutions such as video conferencing or an e-newsletter can be a good choice for delivering Periodic Proficiency Training to staff that spread out over multiple locations. This is a method of training that can easily be delivered as frequently as needed. The flexible nature of this technique allows content to easily be adapted to cover any recent rule changes or problem areas.

Tip: Send a newsletter with questions about your instrument's display messages. BAT responses will identify problem areas right away.

Material to cover

Periodic Proficiency Training should focus on obstacles to completing a valid test (including positive test results), since these are the scenarios that happen less often.

bullet Equipment issues. Every BAT should be familiar with the displays and void codes
  of the equipment on which they were certified. This is why, in many cases, the best training comes from the manufacturer of the EBT device. Some examples include:
  a) Printer not working/changing paper in the printerm
  b) Accuracy check failed
  c) Battery power failed (device will not turn on)
  d) Air Blank is greater than zero
  e) Instrument will not take a sample of breath
bullet Procedural issues. With mandated training occurring only every five years, it is not
  uncommon for details to be forgotten or overlooked. There are many situations that a BAT may only have to address once or twice in a five-year period. If there are competencies
  that are not being utilized often, uncommon issues. Training should include role-play examples of communicating with the donor and maintaining composure. Sample topics include:
  a) How to deal with a positive test result
  Tip: Make sure you wait the entire 15 minutes during the mock test, letting the instrument prompt the BAT through the confirmation test. If you don't, BATs will not know what the proper displays should look like.
  b) How to deal with insufficient breath/manual samples
  c) How to conduct a confirmation test only (screening was done in a different location or on a different device)
  d) What to do (or not to do) during the 15-minute wait period
bullet Subject/Donor issues. Test subjects can also create unique challenges BAT collectors,
  either inadvertently or by being uncooperative. This is another area where role-play will be of value. Invent testing scenarios involving one of the obstacles mentioned below
  and act out the scenarios with your BATs. One of the easiest things to introduce to your procedures is the use of scripted statements wen explaining the test to the donor/employee.
  Go over these scripted statements in your training. Example issues included:
  a) Donor doesn't want to sign Step 2
  b) Donor is uncooperative
  c) Donor cannot provide an adequate breath sample
  d) Test results are positive (yes, it's worth a second mention)

Probably the most important Trainer Tip we can provide is to make certain that BATs understand every display on their EBT instrument, not just the ones that come up during negative, uneventful tests. The instrument displays are programmed to prompt the BAT through the process and the BAT must take the time to read and understand these prompts to complete a successful test.

Periodic Proficiency Training can be extremely advantageous to your organization. With ongoing training, you can be confident that your Breath Alcohol Technicians will be competent to freeform their duties correctly, every time.


Rise in truck crash-related fatalities sparks debate
Source: http://fleetowner.com/, by Sean Kilcarr, November 15, 2013

An increase in truck related highway fatalities recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2012 versus 2011 is firing renewed debate regarding the industry's safety profile.

 
 

NHTSA reported a 3.7% increase in overall large-truck fatalities, which includes: an 8.9% increase in fatalities among truck occupants; a 4.8% increase in fatalities among occupants of other vehicles; and an 11% decrease in fatalities among individuals who were not in a vehicle. Overall, fatalities involving large trucks represented 4% of all highway deaths in 2012, up from 3% in 2011.

Overall highway deaths inched up 3.3% to 33,561 in 2012 – some 1,082 more fatalities versus 2011 – which is the first increase since 2005, the agency said, though it stressed that the raw number of fatalities is at the same level as 1950.

NHTSA also pointed out the majority of those increased highway-related deaths – about 72% – occurred in the first quarter of 2012, mainly involving motorcyclists and pedestrians.

Still, the upward trend in truck-related fatalities concerns safety advocates. "Obviously these are not good results and we are not happy about it," Steve Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), told Fleet Owner. "However, we still are experiencing historical lows in truck-related fatalities. [But] it does tell us that we need to do more and we have some work to do."

Yet the American Trucking Associations (ATA) contends that NHTSA's analysis of crash data is too generalized where trucking is concerned, leading to a potentially distorted picture of the industry's safety footprint.

"Data released today lumps tractor-trailers in with millions of smaller, non-freight-hauling vehicles whose crash rates are higher than in the trucking industry," said Bill Graves, ATA's president and CEO, in a statement. "The federal government should not be so casual with its terminology and should provide further information and clarity to the public."

He added that the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found earlier this year "noticeable differences" in safety trends between different truck sizes, with medium-duty generally performing worse than heavy-duty trucks. "In addition, the results indicated disparities between interstate and intrastate motor carriers," Graves said.

CVSA's Keppler also stressed that it's premature to draw firm conclusions yet from NHTSA's initial fatality data report.

"It is hard to make any significant assessments without looking further into the numbers [as] the NHTSA numbers released today don't have a significant breakdown yet," he emphasized.

"Since the majority of truck-related crashes are multi-vehicle crashes, we can't tell from the data whether this rise is due to truck driver or car driver error," Keppler added. "What we can tell is most of the fatality rise is with the car drivers. To get a better sense on this we really need to delve further into the numbers to try and make sense of this."

However, he noted that an examination of traffic enforcement data over the last few years seems to indicate a rise in drivers being cited for the more serious infractions, which could be one reason driving the increase in truck-related fatalities.

"This rise is coupled with a decrease in overall violation totals, which exacerbates the issue," he explained. "One could interpret this to mean that drivers are operating more aggressively and/or irresponsibly, or that enforcement is concentrating more on those problem behaviors. In reality is probably is a combination of the two."

NHTSA reported several other findings from its latest analysis of highway fatalities as well:

bullet Early estimates on crash fatalities for the first half of 2013 indicate a decrease in deaths
  compared to the same timeframe in 2012.
bullet Fatalities among pedestrians increased for the third consecutive year,
  some 6.4% increase over 2011. The data showed the large majority of pedestrian deaths occurred in urban areas, at non-intersections, at night and many involved alcohol.
bullet Motorcycle rider fatalities increased for the third consecutive year,
  increasing 7.1% over 2011. The agency noted 10 times as many riders died not wearing a helmet in states without a universal helmet law than in states with such laws.
bullet Deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers increased 4.6% in 2012, taking 10,322 lives
  compared to 9,865 in 2011. The majority of those crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or higher – nearly double the legal limit.
bullet The number of people killed in distraction-affected crashes decreased slightly from
  3,360 in 2011 to 3,328, while an estimated 421,000 people were injured, a 9% increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011. NHTSA stressed, though, that it is
  just beginning to identify distraction-related accidents, and is continuing work to improve the way it captures data to better quantify and identify potential trends in this area.
bullet Nighttime seat belt use continues to be a challenge.
  In nighttime crashes in 2012, almost two-thirds of the people that died were unrestrained.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland did highlight what he called "progress" in several areas, noting for example that 13 states and Washington D.C. experienced reductions in overall traffic fatalities, led by Mississippi (48 fewer), New Jersey (38), Georgia (34), Alabama (30) and Utah (26).

In addition, he said 18 states and Washington D.C. showed decreases in drunk-driving deaths, with New Jersey reporting the greatest decrease (30 fewer) followed by Colorado (27), Utah (20), Oklahoma (17) and Virginia (17).

"As a public health and safety agency, any increase in the number of deaths is cause for concern," Strickland said in a statement. "While we're seeing some unfortunate trends, we're also seeing progress in some parts of the country."

That falls in line with what other safety experts are thinking in regards to NHTSA's latest highway fatality figures.

"Any increase in highway fatalities is disturbing, especially for the families involved. That is why the safety community has to keep doing what they do each and every day," David Kelly, former Acting Administrator of NHTSA and now president of safety consulting firm Storm King Strategies, told Fleet Owner. "Hopefully, this one year increase will be just that, a one year increase, and we can get back to building on the progress on the last decade."


Texting, dialing raises crash risk, but not just talking on cell, study finds
Source: http://www.thetrucker.com/, By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, January 2, 2014

A sophisticated, real-world study confirms that dialing, texting or reaching for a cellphone whiledriving raises the risk of a crash or near-miss, especially for younger drivers. But the research also produced a surprise: Simply talking on the phone did not prove dangerous, as it has in other studies.

 
 

This one did not distinguish between handheld and hands-free devices — a major weakness.

And even though talking doesn't require drivers to take their eyes off the road, it's hard to talk on a phone without first reaching for it or dialing a number —things that raise the risk of a crash, researchers note.

Earlier work with simulators, test-tracks and cellphone records suggests that risky driving increases when people are on cellphones, especially teens. The 15-to-20-year-old age group accounts for 6 percent of all drivers but 10 percent of traffic deaths and 14 percent of police-reported crashes with injuries.

For the new study, researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute installed video cameras, global positioning systems, lane trackers, gadgets to measure speed and acceleration, and other sensors in the cars of 42 newly licensed drivers 16 or 17 years old, and 109 adults with an average of 20 years behind the wheel.

The risk of a crash or near-miss among young drivers increased more than sevenfold if they were dialing or reaching for a cellphone and fourfold if they were sending or receiving a text message. The risk also rose if they were reaching for something other than a phone, looking at a roadside object or eating.

Among older drivers, only dialing a cellphone increased the chances of a crash or near miss. However, that study began before texting became more common, so researchers don't know if it is as dangerous for them as it is for teens.

Engaging in distractions increased as time went on among novice drivers but not among experienced ones.

The National Institutes of Health and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration paid for the research. Results are in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

David Strayer, a University of Utah scientist who has done research on this topic, said the findings that merely talking on a phone while driving was not dangerous is "completely at odds with what we found."

The study methods and tools may have underestimated risks because video cameras capture wandering eyes but can't measure cognitive distraction, he said.

"You don't swerve so much when you're talking on a cellphone; you just might run through a red light," and sensors would not necessarily pick up anything amiss unless a crash occurred, Strayer said.

As for texting, "we all agree that things like taking your eyes off the road are dangerous," he said.

At least 12 states ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving and 41 ban text messaging. All cellphone use is banned by 37 states for novice or teen drivers, says the National Conference of State Legislatures, citing information from the Governor's Highway Safety Administration.


 

November 2013 Articles

California to Revamp Terminal Inspection Program
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com, By Evan Lockridge, November 8, 2013

Trucking operations based in California or with terminals there are going to get a break from one the state's regulations staring in a couple of years. Gov. Jerry Brown last month signed legislation, AB 529, amending the Biennial Inspection of Terminals Program.

 
 

Currently BIT requires inspectors with the California Highway Patrol to inspect every truck terminal, including paperwork and equipment, once every 25 months. There are about 70,000 regulated motor carriers in the Golden State.

"It is a time-consuming process every two years of going through a BIT inspection," says Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs and communications for the California Construction Trucking Association and its interstate conference, the Western Trucking Alliance. "It is like an audit and people lost sleep over it. If you don't pass your BIT inspection, they will be right back out in a couple of weeks and you are going to pay the entire BIT fees all over again in order to get that re-inspection done."

Beginning in January 2016, such inspections will happen not less than every four years. CHP inspectors will use a system similar to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Compliance Safety and Accountability program, targeting carriers for additional enforcement and to determine where CHP will send inspectors.

"If you are a good operator, why should you have to go through this every two years? It's that simple," Rajkovacz says. "It's about efficiencies, but it's also about putting the resources into targeting the bad actors instead of targeting everybody equally."

Rajkovacz says one of the things his group has been assured of is that California will have a crash indicator and will use a motor carrier's actual crash history and roadside inspection data. This, he says, is much more effective than inspectors visiting each and every operator in the state every 25 months. In addition, he says, California does establish fault in commercial motor vehicle fatal involved crashes, something the trucking industry has complained that CSA doesn't do.

Between now and when the new program is up and running in just over two years, Rajkovacz says, CHP will go through a rulemaking process to set up the new system.

"There is going to be a whole rulemaking process involving the trucking industry in helping craft what this will be," he says. "It is going to be modeled after what the Feds do, but it doesn't mean they [CHP] have to adopt everything the Feds do." In fact, he says, what will be happening in California should lead to successful tweaking of CSA.


FTR: Regulatory initiatives remain biggest headwind for trucking
Source: http://fleetowner.com, By Sean Kilcarr, November 8, 2013

Decent U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 2.8% in the third quarter, a 3% overall rise in freight volumes this year, minimal increases in trucking costs, and three years of relatively stable – though high – diesel fuel prices may be all outweighed by the impact of a series of regulatory efforts should they all come to pass in the near future.

 
 

That's the conclusion the consultants with FTR Transportation Intelligence shared with reporters during the firm's quarterly State of Freight webinar this week.

"The big deal of course is the regulatory situation," explained Noel Perry, FTR's senior consultant and president of research firm Transportation Fundamentals. "The FMCSA [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration] keeps adding more requirements to the industry, and while their impact won't be as bad as projected in 2014 and maybe 2015, it will probably be quite bad or even worse in terms of the impact on industry productivity long term."

The FMCSA is already being urged by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to step up the pace of its regulatory efforts, even as the trucking industry continues to deal with productivity losses engendered by changes made to hours of service (HOS) back in July.

Yet it is the potential regulatory avalanche now facing trucking – a total of some 26 potential initiatives in all – that could really clip the industry's wings, FTR's Perry said.

"We are easily facing the largest collection of regulatory changes in the history of this industry, from ELDs to mandatory speed limits and safety fitness ratings," he noted at FTR's annual freight conference back in September. "Hours of service (HOS) reform has been the single biggest shock to the system, reducing trucking productivity by 3% nationwide."

Based on the current pace of regulatory efforts, Perry noted during this week's webinar that he believes there's a 30% to 40% probability that trucking will suffer from another "regulatory shock" equal to what's happening with HOS reform now in late 2014.

Other observations Perry made about the U.S. economy and the trucking industry this week include:

  • bulletGDP growth of 2.8% in the third quarter, which follows 2.5% in the second quarter, is good news but remains "small," in his view. "The economy is picking up a little steam but growth remains muted. We still expect GDP to be in the high 2% to low 3% range for 2014," Perry said.
  • bulletThe overall government impact on the economy and trucking remains negative, with the 16 day government shut down that occurred in October expected to shave half a point off GDP in the fourth quarter.
  • bulletFederal government debt is now 107% of U.S. GDP, though the pace of deficit spending slowed significantly in 2013. "This means we won't go bankrupt in 2014 so there will be no urgency by either political party to make substantial efforts to reduce the deficit," Perry noted. "But we need to watch this closely: we're not as bad as Greece, but we're worse than France and Italy now" in terms of total government debt as a percentage of GDP, he warned.
  • bulletThe truck freight environment has been "stable" for two years, with fuel prices stable for the last three years and expected to remain so thru 2016. "It's been a very 'unvolatile' time for trucking, but is this the 'new normal'?" Perry said. "My strong recommendation now is to remain very flexible: we could now see some rapid up and down swings."
  • bulletHistorically, Perry said a recession typically occurs five to seven years after an economic recovery period. By that logic a recession is due between 2014 and 2016. "I'm not saying that will happen; this is just what the historical data tells us," he stressed. "It's just something to keep in mind."
  • bulletThe trucking industry is operating today with smaller margins of "surge" capacity, meaning it won't take much of an uptick in freight demand to spur rate increases. "Right now carriers are able to operate and meet demand with current capacity, so rates haven't moved much," Perry said. "But if we get a [freight] surge, rates will rise dramatically." Right now FTR is forecasting a 5% rise in freight rates for 2014.

Demand for Trucks Hits Pre-Recession Levels. So Why So Gloomy?
Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/, Bob Tita, November 6, 2013

Demand for the heavy-duty trucks in North America shifted into higher gear in October, as order volume was the highest in seven years.

 
 

Orders for 26,300 trucks were logged in October, a 13% increase from a year ago and up 38% from September, according to market forecaster ACT Research. It was the best month for big trucks since December 2006, the last peak year for truck sales in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

But you won't find much cheering in the offices of North American truck makers such Navistar International Corp. NAV 0.00% and Paccar Inc. PCAR +0.57%, the maker of Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks, or truck-engine maker Cummins Inc. CMI +0.20%

"Given the recent caution around fourth-quarter build plans, it does not appear that equipment manufacturers are yet revising build schedules to reflect one month of better order activity," said David Leiker, an analyst for Robert W. Baird. "October typically sees a sequential improvement from the low summer months."

Overall, truck demand in 2013 has been disappointing. Heavy-duty truck sales this year through September are running at an annual rate of about 242,000 trucks, following 2012 when sales of 272,571 trucks were well short of expectations at the start of the year. In recent years, momentum in the truck market has been a string of stop-and-go lights with short-lived upturns followed by months of weakness.

The big boom and bust swings in the truck sales that defined the market prior to 2007 have been replaced by a grinding pace where demand is largely limited to replacing worn out trucks. The overall size of the heavy-duty truck fleet in the U.S. is virtually unchanged from 2003-2013, according to J.P. Morgan.

The truck market went through a severe slump from 2007 to 2010 when heavy-duty truck production fell about 70% from peak volume in 2006 of about 376,000 vehicles. Ever since, truck manufacturers have cited the increasing age of the U.S. truck fleet as proof that better times are just around the corner.

But anemic U.S. GDP growth in recent years hasn't provided much incentive for buying trucks. Freight volumes and rates have been sluggish. Strong rebounds in industries such as automotive and energy have been offset by excruciatingly slow improvement in truck-dependent sectors such as construction.

Truckers also have figured out how to squeeze more productivity from their fleets by reducing the miles that trucks operate with empty trailers and packing trailers more efficiently with smaller cartons.

Chronic shortages of truck drivers, tight access to credit and rising prices for new trucks also have kept a lid on fleet expansions. With a price tag of about $130,000 for a heavy-duty truck, many trucking companies are reluctant to replace trucks until it's absolutely necessary.

Next year, truck makers will take another crack toward reaching the 300,000-truck threshold that has eluded the heavy-duty market since 2006. ACT Research forecasts heavy-duty truck production next year at 280,000 vehicles, a level predicated on U.S. GDP growth of 2.5%. If GDP comes in at just 2%, production would likely slip to 265,000 vehicles.


Think your industry resists innovation? Try disrupting the trucking business
Source: http://bluesky.chicagotribune.com/, Jason A. Heidemann, November 12, 2013

In Utah, a portion of I-70 between Salina and Green River is so desolate that a motorist will travel more than 100 miles without access to services. But even on this deserted stretch of landscape, Echo Global Logistics — a transportation and logistics company responsible for moving approximately 8,000 shipments per day — can pinpoint the location of one of its truck drivers.

 
 

"We implemented a tracking technology that tracks the driver by his cell phone number," says CEO Doug Waggoner. "(It) tells our system in real time where he is. They don't have to call us, and we won't call them."

In supply-chain and logistics, typical problems include a shortage of capacity on trucks, a shortage of drivers, trucks at destinations with no cargo for the return haul and vehicles not in the right place at the right time. Many in the field have trouble keeping a pace with shifting technology.

"It's an old-school industry," Waggoner says. "There are thousands of companies in our industry that (still) do business with paper and telephones."

It's a field ripe for innovation, and in Chicago, long considered a transportation mecca, some companies are challenging industry inefficiencies and helping their clients do the same.

"Innovation has a place all over what we do," says Jeff Silver, co-founder and CEO of logistics-services provider Coyote. "As our employees interact with their customers and carriers, we ask them to approach every interaction as an opportunity to understand what the problems are that those companies are having and to think about innovative ways in which we can help them solve those problems."

A relaxed work environment helps. Coyote has few offices and opts for an open setting both in terms of dress (employees wear jeans and shorts) and ideas. The Logan Square-based company has its own internal IT department that writes all of its own software and embraces smart phone technology. It also has a vice president of innovation, Bill Driegert.

"We have a deliberate structure set up to make sure we are innovating," Silver says. "When we commit to doing something we do it no matter what and very often that takes a creative solution to a problem."

Technical innovation is one of the core principles at River North-based Load Delivered, a third-party logistics firm focused on the food and beverage industry. CEO Robert Nathan was only 25 when he founded the company in 2008 as a place where technology would fuel innovation.

"When we bring on new talent, it doesn't matter if they're 22 years old and right out of college or if they've been in the industry for awhile," Nathan says. "We want them to challenge our system, the way our process works."

Load Delivered's entire management team is under 30 and has a corporate structure that includes committees that blend management with recent hires so that innovation happens throughout. One resulting innovation is a mobile app called Load Finder that enables the company to communicate with its carriers.

Meanwhile, Waggoner says innovation at Echo Global Logistics is baked into the company's startup mentality.

"The way we define innovation is when we can do something that changes the fundamental economics of our business," Waggoner says. "It's one of those things that moves the needle and makes a step-change difference." That means ensuring a portion of capital is set aside for the purpose of building a better mousetrap.

It also means heavy reliance on talent. It recently acquired Boston-based truckload brokerage Open Mile Inc. and kept its brightest innovators. "We think of it as an acqui-hire," says Waggoner. "We got a lot of talent out of that, and it's beneficial to our company to supplement with new ideas."

Yet Waggoner admits that bringing clients and customers into the 21st century is difficult. "When you talk about a company that is 30, 50 or 100 years old," he says, "you can imagine how complex that environment that becomes."

Nathan agrees. "There's so many talented developers here and abroad that you can take a yellow pad and really build whatever you want," he says. "Disrupting an industry, that aspect of innovation is challenging."


October 2013 Articles

California Adds Funding for Cleaner-Burning Trucks
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com, By Truckinginfo Staff, September 27, 2013

The California Air Resources Board announced millions more in funding for state programs to help truckers comply with the state's emissions regulations.

 
 

CARB voted to move $8 million from other clean vehicle projects into its Truck Loan Assistance Program. The program helps small-business fleet owners finance truck upgrades required under the CARB's In-Use Truck and Bus Regulation. Since 2009, this program has provided about $210 million in private financing to help truck owners purchase cleaner trucks, exhaust retrofits and truck efficiency upgrades.

The Legislature also recently provided another $18 million for Truck Loan Assistance Program.

In addition, funding for this year's Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project was increased by $10 million to $15 million. This program provides vouchers of up to $55,000 to help California fleets purchase cleaner, advanced technology trucks and buses. CARB expects vouchers to become available at participating dealerships beginning in December.


FMCSA expands out-of-service order ability, increases fines for violations
Source: http://www.ccjdigital.com, By James Jaillet, October 1, 2013

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration — in compliance with the MAP-21 highway funding law finalized last year — has increased fines for several violations of its regulations and widened its authority to issue out-of-service orders, per an entry in the Federal Register Oct. 1.

 
 

The new rules, made final Oct. 1, allows the agency to place an entire carrier out of service for operating vehicles "without or beyond the scope of registration," according to the regulation, whereas previously only the unregistered vehicle itself could be placed out of service.

The changes also include an amendment to a rule that shortens the time period in which new entrant carriers undergo a safety review from 18 months to 12 months. Other amendments include increasing the minimum required for broker bonds to $75,000 and extending the requirement to freight forwarders and removing the "ability to pay" wording from the list of factors FMCSA takes into account when assessing civil penalties for violations relating to to commercial motor vehicle safety regulation and operators.

Language has also changed regarding employer knowledge of an unlicensed driver and driver traffic violations from "the employer knew" to "the employer knows or should reasonably know."

Here's a summary of the fines that have increased under the rule changes:

  • bulletViolation of FMCSA's reporting, recordkeeping and registration requirements: Now $1,000 (from $500) for violating reporting and recordkeeping requirements, $10,000 (also from $500) for non-passenger carrier registration violations.
  • bulletTransporting hazmat without appropriate registration: Now maximum $40,000 (from $20,000)
  • bulletFailing to obey a subpoena or an order to appear or testify: Now $1,000 to $10,000 (from $100 to $5,000)
  • bulletOperating after being declared out-of-service: $25,000 maximum (each day treated as a separate offense)
  • bulletOperating a vehicle hauling hazmat after being placed out-of-service: $75,000 maximum (each day treated as separate offense); if violation results in death, serious illness or severe injury of anyone or substantial destruction of property, maximum penalty moves to $175,000
  • bulletEvading regulations; Knowing and willful violations: Now $2,000-$5,000 for first time offense, $2,500-$7,000 for subsequent

USIS, Background Check Firm That Vetted Snowden And Alexis, Sued By Its Own Investigators Over Workload
Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/, By DAVE JAMIESON, September 21, 2013

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Investigations Services, the private firm now under congressional scrutiny for its background checks of federal contractors, has been sued by employees in California who claim the company enforces unrealistic timelines for security clearance investigations, according to court documents.

 
 

An inspector general for the Office of Personnel Management told Congress in June that the office was investigating the firm, also known as USIS, in part over its vetting of famed surveillance leaker Edward Snowden. This week, multiple news outlets reported that USIS said it had also performed a 2007 background check on Aaron Alexis, who shot to death 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday. There is no evidence that USIS had bungled the vetting of Alexis.

USIS was part of the Office of Personnel Management until it was privatized in 1996. The for-profit firm is now the leading outside provider of background investigations to the federal government, performing more than half of OPM's security checks, according to the office of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chair of the Senate subcommittee that oversee contracting. In a statement Thursday, McCaskill said the vastness of USIS' role in vetting federal contractors was "frightening."

In two class-action lawsuits filed in California, former USIS employees claim they weren't given enough time to adequately perform their investigations, leading them to work off the clock or through unpaid breaks. (The complaints can be viewed here and here.) The plaintiffs in both lawsuits are seeking to recoup wages they say the firm owes them. One alleges that he was fired partly for complaining to management that the workload at USIS was unrealistic.

A spokesman for USIS said the firm declined to comment on the litigation.

In a suit filed last year in California Superior Court, former USIS employee Tom Wilson claims he worked "many hours" of unpaid overtime each week due to the tight constraints laid out by USIS management. Wilson alleges that the time given for investigations was incompatible with the government's own baseline requirements for background checks. USIS, he says:

...routinely and illegally assigned [him] ... cases, tasks, and duties, and deliberate set completion time requirements and limitations inconsistent with the performance of those tasks according to published company and United States Government policy, and then restricted the number of overtime hours the Employer would pay, thus forcing [him] to work without pay, under threat of termination.

According to the suit, Wilson's job was to poke around and interview employers and acquaintances of people who were to be "entrusted with United States National Security Matters." The job entailed preparing "long, detailed reports" on his subjects and "transmitting them to USIS." Completing the reports on time required an extra 10 to 20 hours of unpaid work each week, Wilson claims. Although he was given a company car and credit card for gas, he says he wasn't compensated for the time he spent traveling to interview people.

"On more than one occasion [Wilson] complained to his USIS Supervisors about the number of hours he and other Employees were compelled to work, due to unreasonable time limitations," the suit says. Wilson alleges that USIS "terminated [him] in May of 2012, in part, in retaliation for said complaints, and his discussions with other employees expressing similar complaints."

The lawsuit is still pending.

In another lawsuit filed in California in 2011, former USIS employee Catalina Ricaldai claimed she was pressured to work through her legally entitled lunch breaks because of the heavy workload. Ricaldai said she was expected to get all her work done within 40 hours each week.

According to one filing, Ricaldai said "it was not possible for [her] to take 30 minutes of off-duty time during the day because it was the culture of the job to get as much testimony as possible." She also said that "any time off was considered a waste and a failure to correctly zone the geographic area" for doing background interviews.

That class-action suit was settled for $900,000, with $10,000 going to Ricaldai, according to documents.

According to data put together by Bloomberg, USIS received $253 million under its contract with OPM during fiscal 2012. In 2007, a team that included private equity firm the Carlyle Group sold the Falls Church, Va.-based company to Providence Equity Partners for about $1.5 billion, according to a Bloomberg profile of USIS. USIS was previously OPM's Federal Investigations Division, a federal agency that employed 700 people. It was privatized as part of a broader, Democrat-backed effort in the mid-1990s to save money by trimming civil service.

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, USIS was given free access to federal databases not enjoyed by competitors. "By any account, this government-sponsored, private corporation was given advantages and incentives not available to other private start-up corporations," the Congressional Research Service report states.

In June, Patrick McFarland, the inspector general for OPM, testified in a congressional hearing that his office had begun a probe of USIS's background checks in 2011.


Federal Truck Safety Program Will Continue Despite Shutdown
Source: http://www.truckinginfo.com, By Truckinginfo Staff, September 30, 2013

Federal truck safety programs will continue to operate despite a partial government shutdown that took effect at midnight. Other Transportation Department activities will be curtailed, however.

 
 

Congress had until the end of Monday to agree on a plan to continue funding government operations.

The Senate on Monday afternoon rejected a House plan that would continue funding for three months but also would delay Obamacare for a year and repeal the tax on medical devices that provides some of the funds for the health care law. Late Monday night the House and Senate were in a game of what many on Capitol Hill and cable news were calling "political ping-pong" as there was an attempt to reach a last-minute solution. When the clock struck midnight, nothing had been agreed to, at least formally.

The shutdown will have no immediate impact on Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration activities. Because the agency's money comes from multi-year appropriations through the Highway Trust Fund, rather than general revenues, it would not have to lay off any staff.

"FMCSA has sufficient balances of liquidating cash to operate for a limited period during a lapse of annual appropriations," DOT said in an analysis of the pending shutdown.

The same applies to the Federal Highway Administration.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates truck equipment, would have to furlough employees, as would the Office of the Secretary, the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, the Inspector General and the Surface Transportation Board.

You can see many of the parts of the federal government that are open, closed or somewhere in between, from CNN.


September 2013 Articles

To some truckers, DOT rules to combat fatigue are tiresome
Source: http://www.mcclatchydc.com, Ben Kamisar; August 2013

WASHINGTON — For commercial truck drivers such as Charles Ryser, when the wheels aren't turning, you aren't earning.

 
 

Until July, Ryser and his father – who drive in a team from a base in Forsyth, Ga. – worked on their own terms. Charles took the day shift, while his father, David Ryser, got behind the wheel at dusk.

But because of a Department of Transportation attempt to cut down on fatigued drivers, Ryser now has to comply with rules that lead to more downtime and force him to switch shifts regularly with his father, breaking him from his rhythm.

"How is that safe, if you have someone trying to alter their sleep pattern on a dime?" he asked.

Like it or not, the rules are here to stay, as efforts to roll back the changes pushed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an arm of the Department of Transportation, have failed. Earlier this month, the DOT won a key legal victory after the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the vast majority of the rules. The American Trucking Associations and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, the two main groups that strongly oppose the rules, said that any further legal challenges were unlikely.

The rules were crafted in December 2011 to restrict driving hours more tightly. The biggest change comes from restructuring the "restart" that truckers use to reset their weekly count; the DOT says the revision effectively lowers the maximum average workweek for truckers from 82 to 70 hours.

In the past, a workweek could reset anytime after a trucker took 34 consecutive hours off. Now the clock can be reset only once a week and if time off includes two consecutive periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. The regulations also add a mandatory 30-minute break after eight hours of driving, while reinforcing that truckers still may not drive more than 11 hours a day.

The new restart, advocates say, is aligned with the body's natural tendencies to sleep at night. The DOT estimates that the rule will help prevent 1,400 truck crashes, 560 injuries and 19 deaths per year, while affecting only the less than 15 percent of truckers who drive the most hours.

The DOT doesn't keep truck-specific figures in a way that allows for direct comparison, but a broader category that comprises trucks and buses showed 320,000 crashes in 2011, leading to about 4,000 deaths. While it's difficult to pinpoint how many truck crashes are due to fatigue, a study sponsored by the DOT concluded that 13 percent of commercial drivers who were involved in serious crashes were fatigued at the time.

But opponents argue that all truckers, not just those with extreme schedules, will feel the ripple effects.

"What they are doing is applying rigidity where there actually needs to be flexibility," said Norita Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association. "Not all driver's jobs and businesses are run the same, and not all people run the same in regards to their body clock."

In the case of the Rysers, shipping delays can create unexpected downtime, potentially forcing them into restarts they'd rather not take. They flip their shifts to avoid that scenario.

Now that the rules are permanent, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association plans to focus on a push for increased new-driver training. Currently, long-haul truck drivers don't have mandatory training outside of the commercial driver's license test.

Not everybody is hesitant about stricter regulation.

In fact, Henry Jasny, the vice president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, doesn't think the rules go far enough. His group pushed to move the clock back to pre-2003 regulations, with no restart and a 10-hours-per-day driving limit.

"Today the American public is less safe because this dangerous rule puts the economic profit of the trucking industry ahead of public safety," he said in a statement released after the court decision.

Trucker Charles Ryser thinks it's a misconception that drivers don't have downtime. Given the unpredictable nature of loading times, he's been delayed for hours waiting for a shipment; that's time he can use to rest.

"We have way too many variables out here on the road," he said. "We've got accidents, delays in shippers and receivers, traffic jams."

Drivers occupy one of the exemptions to federal overtime laws, and many get paid per mile. In the DOT's analysis of costs and benefits, the new rules are an overall positive, providing a net benefit of $205 million annually. While costs were easier to predict, estimating the overall value of the law proved difficult, as the agency highlighted the unpredictable nature of the benefits, including reduced fatigue, coupled with the long-term health benefits of added sleep.

"Studies show that working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes and a number of serious chronic health conditions in drivers," said Anne Ferro, the head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. She added that the agency had reached out to industry stakeholders and included some of their recommendations in the final rules.

But Dave Osiecki, the senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs for the American Trucking Associations, isn't buying the health estimates, which he referred to as "highly speculative."

"The government has created hundreds of millions of dollars of health benefits on paper that are very hard to believe will ever be achieved," he said. His group led the legal push against the regulations.

Professor Jose Holguin-Veras, the director of the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation and the Environment at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said that conclusively determining the costs and benefits was exceedingly difficult.

"This is one of those issues that is very, very tough, because you have a tradeoff between productivity and safety. You have all those things intersecting," he said. "There is not a clear best solution."

With the new rules in place, Charles Ryser said, he'd been forced to add downtime, something he'd hoped to avoid when he joined a team with his father. He said his truck could be out of service up to an extra 12 hours a week, translating to lost revenue.

Congress asked the DOT to update its drive-time regulations in 1995, but the rules have been subject to a constant legal battle since they first came out in 2003.


HireRight, USIS Nailed Again - Big Time
Source: http://www.thebackgroundinvestigator.com, Steve Brownstein; June, 2013

Federal inspectors have been conducting a criminal investigation for more than a year of the company that performed a background check on Edward Snowden, the former systems analyst who leaked some of the nation's most closely held secrets to the media, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

 
 

USIS, the largest contractor involved in conducting security background checks for the federal government, is being scrutinized over allegations about a "systematic failure to adequately conduct investigations," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) said during a special congressional hearing. Those allegations aren't related to Mr. Snowden.

Federal officials confirmed the investigation Thursday and added that there also may have been problems with USIS's 2011 security background check of Mr. Snowden, 29 years old, who fled to Hong Kong to avoid prosecution for admittedly taking years of classified documents while working as a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor at a National Security Agency office in Hawaii.

Later that year, inspectors at the Office of Personnel Management—which oversees more than 90% of the government's security background checks—launched the continuing contracting-fraud investigation of USIS.

Patrick McFarland, inspector general for the Office of Personnel Management, said that there appear to have been problems with the USIS investigation of Mr. Snowden in 2011, though he didn't provide any details. The 2011 background check of Mr. Snowden was a re-investigation for his security clearance.

"We do believe that there may be some problems," Mr. McFarland said during the hearing.

USIS, a Falls Church, Va., company owned by private-equity firm Providence Equity Partners LLC, has more than 7,000 employees and conducts 45% of OPM investigations done by contractors, officials said. Last year, USIS received $200 million for its work, Ms. McCaskill said.

In a statement, USIS said it turned over records last year in response to a subpoena from the agency's inspector general, but that it had never been informed it is under criminal investigation. With regards to Mr. Snowden's security check, the company said it wouldn't comment on confidential investigations.

The nation's background-check system has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of Mr. Snowden's revelations.

The federal agency spends more than $1 billion a year to conduct 2 million investigations of people seeking security clearances for jobs doing everything from cleaning offices at the State Department to working as covert operatives overseas. Most of that money goes to contractors like USIS.

Of the roughly 2 million investigations in 2012, more than 770,000 involved people requesting new or continued access to classified information.

The system has been plagued by massive backlogs and delays of more than a year for completion of investigations. Current and former investigators have complained the process is antiquated and focuses more on making sure applicants properly fill out a 127-page application form than on thorough background checks.

On Thursday, Mr. McFarland warned that the investigative process is so flawed that it poses a security risk. "There is an alarmingly insufficient level of oversight of the federal investigative-services program," he told lawmakers. "A lack of independent verification of the organization that conducts these important background investigations is a clear threat to national security," he said.

One concern for lawmakers is the pressure on contractors to quickly complete cases to bring in more money for their firms.

Since 2007, 18 people have been convicted of falsifying records while conducting background checks, officials said. Eleven of those were federal workers; seven were contractors.

Formerly a branch of the federal government, U.S. Investigations Services LLC was spun out of the Office of Personnel Management in 1996. It was renamed USIS after it was acquired by private-equity firms Carlyle Group LP CG -3.17% and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe in early 2003 for about $1 billion. Those firms flipped the Falls Church, Va., company to fellow private-equity firm Providence four years later for about $1.5 billion.

Providence, which specializes in buying and selling media, telecom and data companies, has since combined USIS with pre-employment-screening firm HireRight Inc., corporate-investigations firm Kroll Inc. and others under the name Altegrity Inc.


California Legislature Kills $10 Fee for Search of Public Court Records
Source: http://www.courthousenews.com, MARIA DINZEO; June, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A trailer bill that would have severely limited press and public access to court documents has died in the California Legislature, after widespread editorial condemnation from the state's newspapers. The defeated proposal was put forward by the Administrative Office of the Courts and would have resulted in a charge of $10 per file to look at court records.

 
 

While court administrators pushed the fee as a way to raise revenue, freedom of information advocates said the proposal would in practice wall off the public record. The political and editorial fallout resulted in a self-inflicted wound for court bureaucrats, with legislators blasting the fee and those that proposed it.

"Most agreed that it would be horrible public policy," said Jim Ewert, General Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, a group that lobbied fiercely against the proposal. The fee was part of a trailer bill, a form of legislation that trails in the wake of the budget.

During an early hearing on the trailer bill, Bob Blumenfield, chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, lectured the bureaucrats on their fiscal conduct.

"While the state grappled with the budget crisis, court administrators have sometimes acted fiscally irresponsible even though fiscal responsibility was the mantra of the day," said Blumenfield.

The search fee took a few twists and turns as it was caught up in the deal-making that comes with California's budget.

Neither the Senate nor the Assembly had shown support for the search fee, Ewert pointed out, but very late in the process the Senate inserted a vague "press exemption" into the proposal. But no specific language defined the exemption, how it would be applied nor who was entitled to invoke the exemption.

A Senate budget subcommittee then approved the fee with a press exemption. While the fee failed in the Assembly's budget committee.

On Monday evening, a joint budget conference committee representing both chambers voted to accept the Assembly version of the bill, which meant the fee proposal, after weeks of wrangling and criticism, was dead.

"That's one of the great mysteries," said Ewert of how the exemption came to be inserted into the trailer bill. "All I can speculate is that the Assembly wanted to protect every person's ability to obtain this information very important information and not just the press," said Ewert.

The defeat of the fee followed a statewide blast from newspaper editorial pages. The Monterey County Herald, among many, pointed out the importance of access to court files.

"A $10 fee would be devastating to newspapers and other news operations, especially relatively small ones such as The Herald. Newspapers this size review dozens of new court files each month in search of potential stories -- many of them about important public business."

The opposition came not only from newspapers but from groups that look up historical records, such as the Sonoma County Historical Society.

"I write to oppose the proposed $10 fee to search California court records," wrote Jeremy Nichols, president of the historical society, in a letter to Senator Noreen Evans. "Our 500+ members cannot afford to pay $10 for every court record they see for their volunteer work or personal research."

Open government advocates such as the Society of Professional Jounalists and Californians Aware also criticized the search fee. Cal Aware's Terry Francke referred to it as "fee-jacking."

In the Legislature, the fee landed in a minefield of criticism.

In his extraordinary lecture to court officials, budget committee chair Blumenfield referred to the court administrative office's history of wasteful spending.

"We've seen a failed computer system with cost overruns of nearly $500 million wasted," Blumenfield told the officials. "In the process, the courts took millions from trial courts which actually sacrificed access to justice to keep the failed computer project running."

He also referred to another administrative office financial controversy that is in the making. "This year the court system will likely enter an agreement to spend $100 million more than we should to build a new courthouse in Long Beach."

"For these reasons," he concluded, "the courts have had a bumpy road in the Legislature."

The fee idea also came as one in a series of policies and initiatives by the administrative office that have been criticized for shielding the office from transparency.

The administrative office has, for example, proposed rules that would delay access to court records until they have been officially accepted, a process that can take weeks and destroys the news interest in a new court filing.

The office has also denied information requests by an association of judges that says the administrative office is "transparent as the Iron Curtain."

"Over the last year, efforts to obtain public records from the AOC have been routinely ignored, denied, delayed," said the Alliance of California Judges. The administrative office's reaction to requests for information, said the Alliance, "is an assault on the basic notion of open government that as Americans we expect of those who are funded by public dollars."

Judges in the Alliance criticized the search fee as a "ham-handed" idea that was "apparently created in non-public meetings by unidentified AOC staff and others."

Legislators evidently heard those complaints.

As part of the budget, they are telling the Judicial Council to conduct all of its business in open, public meetings. The push to open up those meetings applies directly to the way the search fee was generated, through a series of council committees closed to the public.

Specifically, the legislation includes a provision saying that no later than October 1st, the Judicial Council "shall adopt a rule regarding open meeting requirements." The rule applies to "any committee, subcomittee, advisory group, task force or similar multi-member body that reviews issues and reports to the Judicial Council."

It also requires telephonic access to anyone who requests it and requires public notice.

Ewert with the newspaper association said the death of the search fee is a good sign for press access, in a bleak time when the national administration is pursuing the records of journalists.

"I think it bodes well for press access," said Ewert. "Especially in light of recent events with respect to the Associated Press and the federal Department of Justice going after phone records. It's renewed a focus on the trust the public has in the press to provide accurate and truthful information about government activities. Now with this decision the press will be able to do that with respect to the courts."


ATA applauds FMCSA for reasonable rest break guidance
Source: http://www.thetrucker.com, The Trucker News Services; August 2013

ARLINGTON, Va. — Today, American Trucking Associations applauded the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for clarifying that due to a recent court ruling, both categories of short-haul drivers would not be subject to the 30-minute rest break provision of the new Hours of Service rules.

 
 

That includes CDL and non-CDL holders who operate within 100 air miles of their normal work reporting location and non-CDL drivers who operate within a 150 air mile radius of the location where they report for duty.

Those two groups will not be subject to the new 30-minute break requirement.

In its Aug. 2 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the 30-minute break requirement for short-haul drivers, but only referred in its opinion to non-commercial drivers license holders who operate within 150-mile radius of their reporting location.

Notably, the court's ruling doesn't officially take effect until 52 days after the decision (unless a party files for rehearing), but FMCSA said eliminating both CDL and non-CDL short-haul drivers from the 30-minute break requirement went into effect Aug. 2.

"In its first step to implement the court's recent Hours of Service ruling, Administrator Ferro and FMCSA have taken a reasonable enforcement approach concerning the rest break provision for both types of short-haul drivers as the agency drafts a revised rule to comply with the court," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. "We're pleased that FMCSA is moving forward to provide swift, reasonable relief to drivers who operate locally."


US Trucking Group Wins a Little Ground for the Road Haulage Industry
Source: http://www.handyshippingguide.com, August 2013

US – In this month's trucking related news, authorities took a small step away from the current health and safety culture, which many believe is sometimes overzealous, whilst a final Court ruling regarding Hours of Service was made. One of the promises made by incoming Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was to eliminate unnecessary red tape in an effort to save businesses time and money and now, by changing the regulations on Commercial Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIR's), his administration says he can save those in the road haulage industry an estimated $1.7 billion annually, while still maintaining the Department's high safety standards.

 
 

Current federal regulations require commercial truck drivers to conduct pre- and post-trip equipment inspections and file a DVIR after each inspection, regardless of whether or not an issue requiring repairs is identified. DVIR's are the 19th highest paperwork burden, based on the number of hours needed to comply, imposed across all federal agencies and only 5% of reports filed include defects.

Under the proposed change (available to read in full here) commercial truck drivers would continue conducting pre- and post-trip inspections, however DVIR's would be required only if defects or deficiencies were discovered by, or reported to, the vehicle's driver during the day's operations. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro, commented:

"We can better focus on the 5% of problematic truck inspection reports by eliminating the 95% that report the status quo. Moving to a defect-only reporting system would reduce a significant paperwork burden facing truck drivers and save the industry billions without compromising safety."

In June 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) eliminated a comparable requirement for truck drivers operating intermodal equipment trailers used for transporting containerised cargo shipments. By eliminating a requirement for drivers to submit ‘no defect' inspection reports of intermodal equipment trailer, cost savings to the intermodal freight industry is estimated by the Transport Department to be $54 million annually, without any adverse impact upon safety.

Federal regulations decree that every commercial vehicle in the US undergoes a thorough annual safety inspection conducted by a certified commercial vehicle mechanic. In addition, state and federal inspectors conduct unannounced, random inspections of commercial vehicles at terminals, weigh stations, truck stops along the roadside and at destinations. Vehicles that fail random safety inspections are immediately placed out of service and not allowed to operate until the identified safety problems are addressed. In 2012, approximately 3.5 million random inspections were conducted.

Comments from the industry on the proposed rule changes were generally favourable with the American Trucking Associations (ATA), which as the largest trade association in the country represents a large tranche of the road haulage community, putting a realistic point of view, yet obviously looking for more concessions for the future. CEO and President Bill Graves, commented:

"ATA appreciates the Obama Administration's proposal to provide relief on a longstanding paperwork-related burden in the trucking industry, and we look forward to working with Secretary Foxx to implement it in the near future. Though this step will provide modest relief to professional drivers and motor carriers, ATA is optimistic this signals Secretary Foxx's willingness to provide reasonable and appropriate relief to the industry and he will quickly act to provide relief on more substantive issues. ATA believes in sensible, data-driven regulations, and we hope we can count on Secretary Foxx to be guided by evidence and scientific research to review, and if necessary, revise the rules of the road for our industry."

The 'more substantive issues' which Mr. Graves' Association has in its sights include the thorny subject of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's 'CSA' crash statistics analysis programme, which many truckers consider unfair, holding as it does the professional driver, at least in part, responsible for any accident which involves a truck. In March the ATA accused the FMCSA of lacking common sense saying accident data should be based on police reports, many of which find the trucker blameless for incidents involving private motorists. This results in the trucker incurring penalty points under the CSA scheme, despite being cleared of responsibility by the authorities.

The ATA was also present when the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its long-awaited ruling on the trucking group's challenge to the most recent revisions in the hours-of-service rules; striking down a provision requiring short-haul drivers to take 30-minute off-duty break, but leaving the bulk of the rule unchanged. While the 30-minute, off-duty break requirement for short-haul drivers was revoked, the Court upheld the new limitations on the use of the restart, and the requirement that the 30-minute driving break be free of all on-duty activity, despite the Court agreeing with the truckers that the FMCSA's justification for the rule had serious flaws.

The Court decided the bulk of the case in favour of the FMCSA, deferring to the safety organisation's expertise whilst expressing some doubts over conflicting evidence and commenting, 'trucking industry associations and safety-oriented public interest groups are often at long odds with each other', which is putting it mildly. Whilst the Court recognised the right of the ATA to petition against the earlier Court ruling it dismissed three public interest group petitioners saying, 'they have chosen to ride the jurisdictional coattails of [an] individual co-petitioner'.

Crash statistics also had a part to play in the appeal and, at the end of the day, it seems the FMCSA's federal status was the factor which decided the Court to accept both its figures and arguments as opposed to those presented by the ATA, at least in most cases. When acceding to the ATA petition in part (in a decision which can be read in full here), the conclusion of the American Court is couched in the wistful and somewhat homely language we have grown used to from the US judiciary in civil cases, denying the trucking group whilst obviously not too impressed by the FMCSA defense, concluding:

"It is often said the third time's a charm. That may well be true in this case, the third of its kind to be considered by the Circuit. With one small exception, our decision today brings to an end much of the permanent warfare surrounding the Hours of Service rules. Though FMCSA won the day, not on the strengths of its rulemaking prowess, but through an artless war of attrition, the controversies of this round are ended."


August 2013 Articles

Federal Grants to Expunge Criminal Convictions
DOL program for ex-offenders raises hiring questions
Source: http://www.shrm.org, Dana Wilkie; July 2013

In the coming two years, more than 5,000 U.S. minors and young adults could have their criminal records expunged with the help of $26 million in federal grants, which means that their future employers may never know about their convictions.

 
 

Or, if employers do find out about the erased convictions—and today's technology makes this possible—that raises the question: Do laws or regulations prevent them from discriminating against applicants because of their criminal history?

The U.S. Department of Labor, on June 26, 2013, awarded $26 million in Face Forward grants to 28 organizations that help rehabilitate youth offenders so they can find jobs. Grant recipients, the DOL said, will work with nonprofit legal services to expunge juveniles' conviction records if the youths finish their programs.

Expungement removes from the justice system all information about criminal history—including fingerprints, trial records, and related electronic files or paperwork. Participants in the recently funded programs may be as young as 16 or as old as 24.

The programs that win grants must provide two years of services—"everything from literacy training or language instruction to individual or group counseling, service-learning opportunities, GED preparation, mentoring and training that leads to industry-recognized credentials for in-demand occupations," DOL spokesman Egan Reich explained. The grants are expected to serve 5,662 offenders who've never been convicted as adults or convicted of sex-related offenses other than prostitution. Judges decide who's eligible for the program, and even offenders with violent criminal histories may be considered.

Protected Status?

Having a criminal record is not a protected status under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it comes to employment. However, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published guidelines in December 2012 stating that "an employer's use of an individual's criminal history in making employment decisions may, in some instances, violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under" the act. The guidelines don't carry the weight of law, but employers still need to be careful when hiring to avoid discrimination lawsuits, advised Jonathan Segal, a partner in the employment group at Duane Morris LLP.

"They don't want rules like, 'We don't hire anyone with a conviction or felony,' " said Segal, who last year testified before the EEOC about the guidelines, on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management. "They want three factors considered: the nature and gravity of the offense, the time that's passed since the offense or completion of the sentence, and the nature of the job sought."

The EEOC guidance says that employers can't automatically exclude a job applicant because of a criminal conviction except for "targeted exclusions." These exclusions are permitted to prevent, say, "a rapist from being a rape counselor," Segal said.

"Let's assume you're applying to work in a hotel," he said. "If you have any violent convictions in the last seven years, they're not going to hire you because you'll have unrestricted access to residents' rooms. That's a targeted exclusion."

Expunged Records Is Gray Area

The EEOC guidance doesn't speak specifically to expunged records, and that makes employers' responsibilities in this area murky, Segal sai