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Work zone safety touted at kickoff event in nation’s capital

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Government officials and transportation industry leaders stand In the shadow of the Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge in Washington during an event designed to re-emphasize the importance of roadway work zone safety. (Courtesy: AASHTO JOURNAL)

By Sean Kilcarr, AASHTO Senior Editor

WASHINGTON — In the shadow of the Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge – Washington, D.C.’s largest transportation infrastructure project to date – federal, state and local officials gathered with other transportation industry representatives to re-emphasize the importance of roadway work zone safety, especially since 799 motor vehicle drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians were killed in work zone crashes in 2017, which includes 132 highway workers.

From a trucking industry perspective, there’s certainly cause for alarm.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said in 2017, 30.4% of fatal work zone crashes involved at least one large truck. The percentage of all fatal crashes that involved at least one truck was 12.4%.

The plan is to replace the nearly 70-year-old functionally obsolete bridge and the nearby I-295 and Suitland Parkway interchange with a more modern, wider, and safer roadway, according to the District Department of Transportation.

The bridge project – expected to open for use in 2021 – will feature the kind of work zones that can prove challenging to drivers and others during the spring and summer road construction season.

That’s the underlying reason for Newsal Work Zone Awareness Week, being held April 8-12; to reduce fatalities and serious injuries in work zones by encouraging everyone to slow down and pay attention.

The event – held in the nation’s capital on April 9 and hosted by DDOT – served as the national “kickoff event” for the 2019 safety campaign; a campaign put together through a partnership of the Federal Highway Administration, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Traffic Safety Services Association, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and other groups including the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and Associated General Contractors of America, plus individual state departments of transportation.

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement. “So please focus 100 percent on driving, be sober, be considerate of road workers and other road users and, please, obey the posted speed limits.”

The kickoff ceremony featured a number of speakers, as well as the ATSSA’s “Memorial Wall,” created to honor highway workers, motorists, and others who lost their lives in work zone crashes over the last two decades.

“As the weather gets warmer, highway workers are heading outdoors to improve our roads and keep us moving,” said Brandye Hendrickson, FHWA’s deputy administrator, during a speech at the event. “We all need to do our part and drive carefully, so that we can help keep everyone safe wherever construction is under way.”

She told the AASHTO Journal that the annual Newsal Work Zone Awareness campaign is a “good reminder” to everyone using the roads – motorists, commercial truck and bus operators, bicyclists, and even pedestrians – to “take ownership” of the work zone safety issue.

“We can get a little lax over a long winter,” she said. “But we can’t afford to do that when work zones start popping up very frequently at this time year to fix and improve the roads.”

Hendrickson also noted that, since 2005, FHWA has awarded more than $50 million in grants to develop work zone safety guidance and training and support the Newsal Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse – a database dedicated to providing the transportation construction industry and the general public with comprehensive information on ways to improve motorist, worker, and pedestrian safety in roadway work zones.

Jeff Marootian, DDOT’s director, told the AASHTO Journal that not only are projects like the Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge aimed at making the roads safe “for everyone that uses them” regardless of mode of travel but “they need to be safe for the men and women working on them as well.”

Guillermo Rivera, commander-special operations for the Metropolitan Police Department, pointed out that as work zones alter traffic patterns, motorists in particular need to use extra caution when navigating them in order to ensure the safety of workers, bicyclists and pedestrians in and around those areas.

Lyndsay Sutton – whose father, Steven Morgan, died in a November 2011 accident while working on I-75 in Florida – emphasized that same point. “Fixing potholes and lane markings make roadway travel safe,” she said. “Construction may be a nuisance, but remember, highway workers are out here for us.”

“Every day, in highway work zones from coast to coast, state DOT employees put their lives on the line making communities safer, stronger, and more efficient,” added Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director, in a statement. “Motorists owe it to those workers, their families, and the rest of the traveling public, to stay alert in work zones so that everyone gets home safely at the end of the day.”

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NTSB provides update on 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of improvements

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Of the eight closed safety recommendations, four were closed with acceptable action taken, one was closed with acceptable alternate action taken, one was closed with a status of exceeds recommended action, and one safety recommendation was closed with unacceptable action taken. (Courtesy: NTSB)

WASHINGTON — Newsal Transportation Safety Board has published an updated list of the safety recommendations associated with the agency’s 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements following the recent closure of eight safety recommendations.

Of the eight closed safety recommendations, four were closed with acceptable action taken, one was closed with acceptable alternate action taken, one was closed with a status of exceeds recommended action, and one safety recommendation was closed with unacceptable action taken.

One recommendation was closed because it was superseded by a subsequently issued safety recommendation which remains open.

The NTSB announced the 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements February 4, in which the agency detailed 267 open safety recommendations that if implemented, the panel said could help prevent accidents and the injuries and fatalities caused by those accidents.

The agency went a step further and created what it calls the “Focused 46,” a list of 46 safety recommendations taken from the 267 addressed by the Most Wanted List,  that the agency said it believes can and should be implemented during the two-year Most Wanted List cycle.

“Closing safety recommendations with acceptable action taken, resulting in improved transportation safety, is the goal of issuing and advocating for a safety recommendation,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “Our safety recommendations are founded in the science of our accident investigations and are designed to prevent similar future accidents. Transportation safety is improved when recipients of our safety recommendations take acceptable action. While I’m pleased to highlight this success, I also have to highlight how much more work remains to be done, and, the lost opportunity to improve transportation safety with the unacceptable action taken on safety recommendation H-12-029.”

H-12-029 called for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to establish an ongoing program to monitor, evaluate, report on, and continuously improve fatigue management programs implemented by motor carriers to identify, mitigate, and continuously reduce fatigue-related risks for drivers.

In its latest correspondence to NTSB dated January 18, 2019, FMCSA wrote that it “… plans no action to establish the program ‘at the motor carrier level’ [emphasis added] as recommended by NTSB. Fatigue management information continues to be accessed via the North American Fatigue Management Program website (https://www.nafmp.com). The NAFMP website remains active and guidance concerning fatigue management continues to be accessed and used by motor carriers.  FMCSA will continue to support both fatigue-related research and the NAFMP, which includes the maintenance, improvement, and promotion of the NAFMP to encourage the voluntary implementation of fatigue management practices by motor carriers.”

The NTSB’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, now in its 30th year, identifies safety improvements that can be made across all modes of transportation to prevent accidents, minimize injuries and save lives.

Since the NTSB’s inception more than 52 years ago, the agency has issued more than 14,900 safety recommendations, and on average, more than 80 percent of them are favorably acted upon. At any given moment, the NTSB’s Safety Recommendations Division is managing the correspondence regarding an average of 1,200 open safety recommendations.

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Tyson Foods earns James Prout/Wreaths Across America Spirit of Giving Award

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Representatives of Wreaths Across America and Tyson Foods pose with the James Prout/WAA Spirit of Giving Award presented to Tyson Foods. Left to right are WAA Founder Morrill Worcester; Tyson Operations Manager Mike Blessing, James Shaw, Ryder Chambers, Kenny Elbe and Tyson Chaplain Karen Diefendorf; and Rob Worcester, who helps coordinate transportation and logistics. In front is Kenny Elbe Jr. Elbe, Shaw and Chambers are all drivers for Tyson. (Courtesy: WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA)

SPRINGDALE, Ark. and COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine— Wreaths Across America has recognized Tyson Foods as the fifth recipient of the organization’s annual James Prout/WAA Spirit of Giving Award.

WAA Founder Morrill Worcester and his son Rob – a volunteer who helps coordinate transportation and logistics for the nonprofit – presented the Tyson Foods’ team with the award on July 12 at the 6th Annual Stem to Stone event held in Downeast, Maine, where the nonprofit is headquartered.

It is also where the balsam is grown to make the veterans’ wreaths sponsored by the public and placed by volunteers each December as part of the WAA’s mission to Remember, Honor and Teach.

The James Prout/WAA Spirit of Giving Award is named in memory of James Prout, owner of Blue Bird Ranch Trucking of Jonesboro, Maine.

Prout was the first person to volunteer to haul wreaths for WAA when the program was in its infancy. The award is given annually to a deserving professional truck driver, company or organization that has supported charitable causes in a way that will affect generations to come.

Operations Manager Michael Blessing accepted the award on behalf of Tyson Foods.

“I think I speak for the entire team when I say what an honor it is to be a part of the Wreaths Across America family,” he said. “The mission is impacting lives across the country and we are humbled to play a small part to ensure the wreaths are safely delivered and volunteers are well fed and cared for each season.”

Tyson Foods, headquartered in Springdale and the 11th largest private carrier in the United States, started hauling veterans’ wreaths for WAA seven years ago with only two trucks.

In 2012, after waiting in line with many others to be loaded, they came up with an idea and made WAA an offer to help create a truckers’ lounge to accommodate waiting drivers. This commitment to the mission has continued and only increased since then.

In 2018, in addition to hauling 18 loads of veterans’ wreaths, they fed all 500-plus volunteer truck drivers that came to Maine to load wreaths, as well as all the loading crews, WAA staff and volunteers, and visiting Gold Star families. They also provided the food for the escort to Arlington send-off dinner.

“By having the Wreaths Across America logo on my truck I am a better driver,” said James Shaw, a long-time Wreaths Across America volunteer and professional truck driver for Tyson Foods. “I have an obligation to drive the best I can to represent our veterans and the work of this honorable organization that does so much good for our country.”

The Worcesters said the trucking industry is vital in helping WAA achieve its goal of honoring fallen soldiers each year.

In addition to transporting wreaths, Tyson Foods supports the organization through fundraising efforts for Fayetteville Newsal Cemetery in Arkansas and other local veterans’ and non-veterans’ nonprofit organizations. Their WAA Fundraising Group is called Transportation Warriors – you can sponsor a wreath through their page here.

“Without the trucking community and their generous donations of time and services, our mission simply would not be possible,” Rob Worcester said. “The work Tyson has done continues to inspire the WAA team to improve the truckers’ lounge and overall experience for volunteer drivers coming to Maine to load wreaths. They are an amazing partner and true friends of the organization, for which we are grateful.”

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Bills would up insurance minimum to $4.9M, require automatic emergency brakes

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The “Improving Newsal Safety by Updating the Required Amount of Insurance Needed by Commercial Motor Vehicles per Event (INSURANCE) Act of 2019” would raise the minimum liability insurance for commercial motor vehicles from $750,000 to $4.9 million. (Associated Press: CHRISTOPHER MILLETTE/Erie Times-News)

WASHINGTON — Three Democratic representatives have introduced two pieces of legislation they say are critical to road safety.

Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García of Illinois, Hank Johnson of Georgia and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania joined the Truck Safety Coalition and truck crash victims at a press conference Wednesday to place in the hopper bills related to liability insurance minimums and braking equipment requirements on commercial motor vehicles.

García and Cartwright introduced the “Improving Newsal Safety by Updating the Required Amount of Insurance Needed by Commercial Motor Vehicles per Event (INSURANCE) Act of 2019” which the two said would ensure minimum insurance requirements for motor carriers are periodically adjusted to the inflation rate of medical costs, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Minimum insurance requirement currently is $750,000 for most carriers. Others may face higher minimum based on the type of cargo carried.

The INSURANCE Act says according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the amount of $750,000, set in 1980 would have the same purchasing power as $4,923,153.29 in 2019, if the amount was raised to account for medical-cost inflation.

Therefore, the INSURANCE Act would set the minimum at $4,923,154 and require the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to adjust the minimum every five years for inflation relating to medical care.

Most carriers purchase the $750,000 per event minimum, some carry $1 million.

A previous proposal to raise the minimum did not materialize.

On its November 28, 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) concerning financial responsibility (translated liability insurance minimums) for motor carriers, freight forwarders, and brokers.

FMCSA sought public comment on whether to exercise its discretion to increase the minimum levels of financial responsibility, and, if so, to what levels. After reviewing all public comments to the ANPRM, FMCSA determined that it has insufficient data or information to support moving forward with a rulemaking proposal, at this time and on June 5, 2017, withdrew the proposal.

Sources tell The Trucker the INSURANCE Act will never make it out of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit to which it was referred.

“Thousands of families are suffering in silence, saddled with crippling medical care costs resulting from catastrophic crashes,” García said. “The inadequacy of the current minimum insurance requirement, left unchanged for 40 years, only further prolongs the suffering and financial strain on families that have already lost so much. The INSURANCE Act ensures that families are adequately compensated to cope with their losses and prevents taxpayers from footing the bill for negligent trucking businesses and drivers.”

Cartwright said with trucks getting bigger and highways becoming more crowded, the country has experienced too many horrific truck accidents that change Americans’ lives forever.

“And since the minimum liability insurance for trucks hasn’t changed in nearly four decades, we’ve seen how victims, their families, hospitals, and our strained social safety net are forced to foot the bill for irresponsible driving,” he said. “This bill will raise that minimum, providing necessary relief to surviving victims and to the families whose lives are shattered by a truck accident.”

García and Johnson also introduced the Safe Roads Act, which would require automatic emergency braking (AEB) technology to become standard features commercial motor vehicles.

“Automatic braking systems are a simple, common-sense solution to deploy proven crash-avoidance technologies,” Garcia said. “Rep. Johnson and I agree that we should always operate on a safety-first basis. Any further delays to implement this important, life-saving technology will only result in more preventable, tragic deaths and catastrophic injuries. We shouldn’t be in the business of putting a price tag on life – passing the Safe Roads Act is simply the right thing to do.”

“Tragically, the simple installation of automatic braking systems on all commercial motor vehicles – a $500 safety feature – might have prevented these deaths and countless others across the country,” Johnson said. “America’s roads and highways should be safe for all drivers.  Taking full advantage of technologies that are available and proven to anticipate and prevent crashes will save lives.”

The bill was also referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Both the Safe Roads Act and the INSURANCE Act are endorsed by the Truck Safety Coalition and the INSURANCE Act has the additional endorsement from the American Association for Justice, the bills’ sponsors said.

 

 

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