Trucking News Articles

Safety is our Driving Concern
by the President and CEO of the American Trucking Assoc.

Real Safety is No Accident

Stay Away From the Dark Side
Safety in Commercial Truck Unloading

Results of Bus and Heavy Truck Testing

Roller Brake Tester For Tractor Trailers
Dynomometer Testing

Its effect on Commercial Trucking Issues

Van O'Neal and Trucker Education
Houston Community College's Commercial Truck Driving Program

New TMTA 14 Hour Rule Video

Integrated Battlefield of Trucking Litigation

Tracking the Paths of Tractor Trailers

Who Had the Right-of-Way?







Safety Is Our Driving Concern

By: Bill Graves
President & CEO, American Trucking Associations

On Wednesday, April 23 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released preliminary figures that while overall highway traffic fatalities for 2002 increased, the number of car-truck fatalities decreased for the fifth year in a row. If the preliminary numbers remain unchanged, the 2002 car-truck fatality toll of 4,902 which is a 3.5% decline over last year, will mark the trucking industry’s best highway safety improvement in nearly a decade and the first time the annual figure has dropped below 5,000 since 1995.

Although this 3.5% decline in fatalities is a positive trend, the American trucking industry believes more commonsense steps can be taken to save lives. If we all insist on increased, visible traffic enforcement for cars and trucks—especially for speeders—then we’ll continue to see the numbers move in the right direction. America’s professional truck drivers strive every day to be among the safest motorists on the road. They know that for every mile they drive, their number one priority is to be safe. In announcing the preliminary figures, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta said, “If we’re ever going to reduce the needless deaths on our nation’s highways, we’re going to need the American public to bear greater responsibility for their personal safety.” Responsibility is something that American Trucking Associations (ATA) and our members understand very well.

The highways are our workplace. Each year we drive over 400 billion miles and our motor carriers and their drivers have long accepted their important safety role. Through ATA’s Share the Road program, sponsored by Volvo Trucks, we connect directly with other motorists, teaching them how to drive safely around large trucks. Our Highway Watch program spots aggressive drivers and dangerous highway situations and reports them to authorities. We believe that these public education efforts have helped produce these low fatality numbers. We are committed to operating in the safest manner possible and will continue our efforts to save lives.
To produce its annual report on traffic fatality trends, NHTSA collects crash statistics from 50 states and the District of Columbia. This year, the decline in car-truck fatalities appears to be the only positive news in the 2002 figures. Alcohol-related deaths, motorcycle fatalities, young driver deaths, and child occupant fatalities each showed an increase over last year. In 2002, as estimated 42,850 people died on the nation’s highways, up from 42,116 in 2001. This represents the highest number of fatalities since 1990. We must all do our part to help drive these numbers down.

The day after NHTSA’s announcement, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released its new Hours of Service rule that establishes new on-duty and rest time guidelines for commercial motor vehicle operators for the first time since 1939. ATA has worked since 1997 for a rule that is a good mixture of common sense and sound science. This new rule is one that our members can work with. It will allow us to meet the real world operational needs of the trucking industry and most importantly, do so safely.

While it’s not everything that we wanted, it represents a much better rule than the one that was proposed three years ago. This rule cleared a required independent comprehensive cost-benefits analysis and reflects components of an earlier ATA proposal. This increases the amount of rest time for professional truck drivers and promotes the body’s natural 24-hour Circadian rhythms, as opposed to the current rule which is based on an 18-hour day. Most importantly, ATA believes that this rule will help improve highway safety.

Few, if any industries are more uniquely American than trucking and few bear as heavy a responsibility for the safety of others as we do. The American Trucking Associations and the more than 37,000 members that we represent directly and through our federation of industry-related conferences will continue to do our part to operate as safely as possible and save lives on the nation’s highways.






Real Safety is No Accident

by Jack Milligan

In the world of trucking, cycles come and go. You can probably count the number of carriers still in business from the 1980’s on one or two hands. What separates them from the memories of carriers past? Safety.

Beyond the usual obvious quantifiers such as freight rates, interest rates, and the cost of drivers, tires and fuel, a seasoned trucking veteran would look deeper, knowing that there is more to long-term successful trucking. The trucking executive understands there are hard costs and there are the “other” costs. Notable among the “other” costs is safety. The glaring but oft overlooked common thread among the companies that are still in business is safety! Let’s face it, safety just isn’t very sexy in an age of technology and equipment design we couldn’t possibly imagine just a few short years ago.

Safety isn’t affected by cycles, you know, the “circumstances beyond your control.” Real safety is practiced year in and year out. Safety is simply the three P’s - Premeditated, Prioritized, and Proactive!

Premeditated: The trucking industry in America is fully loaded with safety resources every fleet owner can access. Just consider the safety expertise available via the numerous trade associations devoted entirely to trucking. There are qualified safety consultants throughout the industry eager to advance a fleet’s safety agenda.

Prioritized: Safety isn’t easy, and it certainly isn’t simple. However, it is attainable by simply making it a priority. Allocate the resources needed to implement a well designed and strategic safety plan. It is critical everyone in the company understands the number one priority is safety, safety, safety! Recognize and reward your employee’s efforts to advance your strategic safety plan.

Proactive: When the temptation is just too strong and you inevitably return to the economic variables in this equation, just consider the ROI on your safety investment, its exponential!

In the past twenty-five years in the industry I’ve heard hundreds of trucking executives remark, “I awake every morning knowing I’m one accident from losing everything I have!” Truer words were never spoken in today’s out of control litigious society. It appears to be a matter of “when”, not “if”! With that in mind, can you really leave it to chance? Absolutely not! Real safety can be measured and quantified any number of ways, actuarially, economically, and morally. Either way the results save dollars and lives!






Stay Away From the Dark Side

-by Bernie Price

Whenever an over-the-road truck is being loaded with an unusual or large load using a forklift truck, the observing participants should always consider the far side of the truck as "the dark side". Recently, in three separate cases, experienced individuals were either killed or seriously injured when equipment was pushed off the truck bed or fell off the forks of trucks.

We offer the following "simplified concepts" for your next safety meeting.

- Have observers consider the far sides of the truck being loaded as the dark side - they should never go there.

- Mentally draw two parallel lines traveling away from the forklift parallel to the trailers length, plus 5 yards- everything within them should be considered the dark side.

Similarly, drivers should reconsider some other "myths" around loading and unloading practices:

1)As a truck driver, you are responsible for directing the loading of the truck.

NO - You are only responsible for accepting or rejecting the way the load has been placed on your truck. If you feel you must watch what happens, stand at the rear of the truck at least 5 yards from it and where the fork lift operator can see you.

2) Sometimes you have to climb on the load to arrange or release tie downs if it is a large or unusual load.

NO - There will always be someone more familiar with the load than you are. Ask for help, or request a short job safety review before touching it. Balance points and stability change.

3) The company and the guys we work with appreciate the way we pitch in to unload trucks.

NO - As a truck driver, field operative, store man or other individual whose training and experience do not include heavy materials handling, do not volunteer your assistance when it puts you at risk.







Results of Bus and Heavy Truck Testing

ATA Associates has been very active over the last year conducting bus and tractor trailer testing in cooperation with several organizations for the benefit of their drivers and for our pursuit of hands-on knowledge.

Hours of video and technical data have been compiled and organized for plans that include training manuals, new-hire training videos, and interactive computer training programs designed to test and qualify professional drivers.
Using redundant measuring equipment, time and distance measurements were gathered that describe motion of these vehicles as they are accelerated from a stopped position, put through hard braking tests, and turned through typical corners.

A device that ATA designed, called a “trailing fifth- wheel”, was used to measure time and distance. The VC2000 accelerometer was also used to measure longitudinal accelerations to compare with the fifth-wheel data. Using electrical switches, time data was logged when the driver hit the brake pedal. The data was compared that with video showing the brake lights illuminate. A radar gun was used to compare those results as well.

Here is small fraction of the large amount of data gathered from the test sessions.

Tractor Trailers -
Once in motion, these large trucks tend to take a long time to stop. At approximately 34 mph it took over 110 feet to stop, whether the tractor had ABS or not. Compare this distance to that of a car, which takes about 45 feet to panic stop from 34 mph.

Another item of interest, that the collected data has shown, is mechanical lag time. That is, the time it takes the brakes to activate once the driver slams on the pedal. Results show that it takes up to 7/10ths of a second for the brakes to fully engage.

City Buses -
Typical city buses generally have the same amount pick-up whether the driver stomps on the accelerator or not. Acceleration rates were on the order of 0.1g to 0.14g. So, at an intersection (typically 60 feet wide), expect it to take one of these busses, stopped at the light, 5 to 7 seconds to clear the crossing.

School Buses -
Generally data shows that the acceleration on a 40 foot school bus is about a second quicker at take-off compared to city buses.






Roller Brake Tester for Tractor Trailers -
Dynamometer Testing

Did a brake failure occur in your tractor-trailer accident? To answer that question, ATA is excited to offer Radlinski & Associates Roller Brake Tester, brought to us by our truck expert, Phil Smith. With this portable dynamometer, the brakes on a five-axle tractor-trailer can be evaluated in detail with minimal set up. Featured measurements include:

- Brake Force - to check how well the brakes are functioning (What is the actual deceleration capability?).
- Brake Threshold Pressure - to check if all the brakes engage at the same pressure level (Even/Uneven braking).
- Anti Lock Braking System/Automatic Traction Control - to check sensors, valves and wiring.
- Rolling Resistance - to check for rubbing brakes which cut fuel economy.

A weight simulation system is available to simulate a load on an empty vehicle. An infra-red remote control permits the testing to be conducted from the driver’s seat.
Additional data acquisition includes brake forces at each wheel measured with strain gage transducers; air pressure, pedal force measurement, and axle weight. In addition, since the data is electronically stored, graphs produced can show pressure build up as the brakes reach their maximum yield giving a good indication of lag time.

Just a few examples of problems that the Roller Brake Tester has uncovered include: defective automatic slack adjusters; disconnected brakes; poor low-pressure balance between tractors and trailers, causing excessive wear and premature wheel lock-up; high crack pressures on steering axles which can lead to jackknife situations; and pinched or blocked air lines.

Give ATA a call to check out your tractor- trailer.








On January 1, 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement was initiated. One of the main objectives was the elimination of tariffs between Canada, Mexico and the United States on "Qualifying" goods by the year 1998, for goods originating from Canada and by the year 2008 for goods originating from Mexico. Commercial vehicles from the Mexico and the U.S. were to have full access to the ten U.S. and Mexican Border States.

In December 1995, citing safety concerns, President Clinton announced an indefinite delay in the NAFTA provision that would have allowed Mexican trucks to travel freely in the southwestern border states. Under current provisions, Mexican trucks are confined to a narrow strip along the border where freight is picked up by American trucks for delivery throughout the United States.

Safety concerns regarding Mexican trucks have been expressed by national safety and labor groups. The differences in U.S. and Mexico trucking safety standards could have a negative impact on highway safety.

The following are some cited examples:

- Mexican regulations do not require drivers to log their hours.
- Mexican trucks are not required to have front wheel brakes.
- Mexican regulations do not place a limit on the number of hours a driver can be on duty.
- Gross vehicle weight limit for Mexican trucks is 97,000 pounds vs. U.S. 80,000 pounds.
- Drivers do not have to obtain specific training to transport hazardous materials.
- Computerized drug, alcohol and driving records do not exist.
- NAFTA has brought to the state of Texas the biggest increase in trucking traffic. -About 80% of U.S.-Mexico Trade passes through Texas, primarily in trucks carrying goods to other parts of the United States or Canada.
- Truckers pay the price for free trade as they wait in endless lines at the border.

Customs has increased its surveillance partly through "Operation Hard Line" in its war on drugs. Custom procedures and required documentation add to the complexity and time for truck drivers to enter and exit the border. New programs are being initiated to help speed up border crossing and the governors of bordering states are moving towards a proposal to adopt common safety standards.

ATA is in the process of developing an educational video that will help define and increase understanding of border crossing procedures. We have been strongly involved in the transportation industry for many years and believe growth should be tempered by safety precautions that protect the reputation of a valuable industry.

More information on the subject can be easily found at the following websites:

The NAFTA Center
U.S. Customs Service

U.S. Department of Commerce - NAFTA search






Van O’Neal Heads HCC Trucker Education

by Martin Garsee

Houston Community College has the distinction of being one of the largest community colleges in the nation. Along with HCC’s reputation for size, the equally distinctive term “quality education” accompanies the board’s repertoire of degrees and certificates they offer. HCC’s commercial truck driving program was founded in January, 1995. Van O’Neal,Chairperson of Transportation, conceived the idea of training truck drivers when the driver shortage reached alarming proportions in the 1990’s. After several years of research, O’Neal opened the school in January, 1995.

The HCC curriculum was designed after researching the DOT model curriculum and collaboration with many trucking company safety directors, trainers, and upper level management. O’Neal designed the curriculum to include lesson plans that guide the training through all critical duty processes. During the ensuing years, O’Neal lead the program to national prominence earning course certification through the prestigious Professional Truck Driving Institute. O’Neal realized programs grow only if they meet industry needs. He joined TMTA, served on the board of the Texas Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association, Houston Council of Safety Professionals, and National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools (NAPFTDS). He also has served as President of the NAPFTDS. O’Neal currently serves on the PTDI Board of Directors, and in March 2004 was elected to a new board term for NAPFTDS. He has worked with ATA Associates on vehicle stopping, starting and turning characteristics. In addition, he served as technical advisor to the “Trucking Tractor-Trailer Driver Video Series” produced by ATA for Delmar Learning. He has co-authored “Pass the CDL - All You Need to Know,” a reference source designed for the aspiring new driver. O’Neal’s program now trains over 1,500 students per year, is on the editor’s choice list of the “Best Truck Driving Schools in North America” by Truck School and is one of the largest publicly funded training schools in the nation. He has served as a conference keynote speaker, TV and radio commentator and lecturer. His presentations all have a common thread; safety on the road is paramount and trucking can be a rewarding career.








ATA Completes TMTA’s Updated “14 Consecutive Hours Rule” Video

by Ken Krueger

ATA Associates recently completed a comprehensive update of the Texas Motor Transportation Association’s instructional video, The 14 Consecutive Hours Rule. The rule, which is part of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations concerning trucker’s logbooks, was changed on January 4, 2004.

The 23 minute video program explains new rule changes and demonstrates how truckers must keep a driver’s logbook as mandated by FMCSA 395.8. This presentation is part of a 10-video series, produced by ATA Associates, concerning important trucking rules and regulations.

The complete series is available from TMTA on their website at







Integrated Battlefield of Trucking Litigation


Advanced electronic technology through the use of onboard computers, high speed data busses and satellite communication systems are changing the world of vehicle accident reconstruction. It is becoming much like the integrated battlefield operation of the military. High speed, high quality information transfer may be used in decision making at all levels.

Any passenger vehicle with an SDM has onboard event recorders that record key information about vehicle operations/activities during an accident. The general public currently has access to General Motors and Ford. Toyota is soon to follow.

Most trucks have onboard data recorders that identify what operations occurred during the vehicles last hard braking. PeopleNet provides the service of organizing and recording the onboard data in a useful way as well as transmitting the operational data in real time.

Truck driver safety technology providers such as Vorrad and Iteris are implementing trucks with technologies that can establish the position of up to 20 vehicles around the truck.

Efforts are being made to require trucks to have an OBDR (onboard data recorder) to track the driver’s hours of service.

General Motors OnStar system provides vehicle onboard diagnostics. In the event of a collision resulting in air bag deployment, OnStar will transmit information on events such as location and accident severity to real-time responders.

Big brother is watching. There is a significant amount of information being collected on the events of an accident. As computer technology improves and expands into increased data collection, the organization/integration of this information will surely occur.

The use of this information is having an increased roll in the reconstruction of accidents. Many questions will be raised as to how this information should be used, who has the rights to the information, and how the information can be used to improve vehicle driver training.
ATA has presented this technology story to numerous national organizations (TLC, Liberty Mutual, NAPFTDS) in the form of an interactive DVD. This DVD is available free of charge upon request. To receive a copy call Anita White, Marketing Coordinator, at 281-480-9847 or e-mail at







Tracking the Paths of Tractor Trailers

In the reconstruction of accidents involving big trucks, vehicle location data provided by fleet tracking technology is often in the mix of available evidence. Because fleet tracking systems typically rely on the global positioning system (GPS), the usefulness of this tracking data in accident reconstruction is subject to the limitations of GPS data in general and of a given dataset in particular. Most GPS systems are advertised as having 5-meter (+ 16 feet) accuracy. In ATA's investigations of a variety of traffic accidents where fleet tracking data have been available, physical evidence from the accident scene typically corroborates 5-meter accuracy for the tracking systems involved. In some cases, physical evidence has demonstrated that such systems can produce position fixes with 1-meter accuracy or better.

Even when GPS data are accurate within 1 meter, however, it must be remembered that these data describe only the location of the GPS antenna, not the whole truck. This fact can be especially problematic with articulated vehicles such as tractor-trailer combinations. When an 18-wheeler is involved in an accident when turning or crossing through an intersection, establishing the position and orientation of the trailer in the intersection is often the key to understanding the accident. While the path of a trailer will, of course, be related to the path of a tractor-mounted GPS antenna, the two paths are not the same and, in fact, are usually significantly different from each other.Fortunately, if the dimensions of the tractor and trailer are known, and if the position of the GPS antenna on the tractor is also known, a variety of techniques, on either the computer or the drawing board, are available to derive the path of the trailer from the path of the tractor.


Who Had the Right-of-Way?

ATA has been involved in numerous cases where the pivotal question was, "Who had the right-of-way?" Some investigations are more difficult than others in determining lighting and walk signal sequences. It can also be challenging to determine the code governing the right-of-way. Some walk signals and lighting sequences change depending on location and what time of day it is. ATA uses a variety of techniques to verify lighting sequence accuracy as well as case facts once the schematics of the intersection in question have been received.

A case involving a pedestrian in a wheelchair being run over in a crosswalk by a semi-tractor making a right turn is an example of an investigation that required advanced stoplight sequence timing techniques, as well as other technology to reconstruct the accident. To answer the question of “who had the right-of-way?”, ATA had to ascertain whether or not the pedestrian entered the crosswalk during a “Don’t Walk” signal.

Using a three step accuracy verification process, the site was documented by 3D digitizing equipment, survey equipment and Google Earth. Next, the crosswalk signal was evaluated and there was a total time of 11 seconds from the beginning of the walk signal to the appearance of the solid red “Don’t Walk” signal. Additionally, video camera footage showed a truck pulling up to the intersection and stopping before the pedestrian reached the crosswalk (Image 1).

Subsequently, video analysis and acceleration tests were done to determine at what time in the video camera footage the walk signal began. Once the walk signal timing was established, ATA used Input-Ace software to place the tractor-trailer and the wheelchair pedestrian in 3D space. This provided timing and location of the pedestrian at any point during his route. After establishing the location of the pedestrian at the moment before he entered the crosswalk, ATA successfully demonstrated that when he entered the lane, the “Don’t Walk” signal had been on for 3.5 seconds (Image 2).

Using video camera footage and police photographs, ATA established 3-D graphics, vehicle accelerations, location of incident units throughout the video camera footage, light timing sequences, and walk signal sequence. Due to utilizing a variety of techniques and capabilities, ATA was able to successfully demonstrate all case facts, and determine that the truck had the right-of-way.


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