Speed Limiters, ADAS, and Hair Testing Heavily Discussed at FMCSA’s Safety Summit
Washington D.C. – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Truck Safety Summit was held on Wednesday.
The virtual Truck Safety Summit featured eight sessions and dozens of panelists and speakers with the stated goal of fostering a “collaborative dialogue between FMCSA, industry, law enforcement, and safety advocates to help improve safety for all Americans.”
Panelists Advocate for Advanced Driver Assist Systems and Speed Limiters
Much of the dialogue between invited panelists focused heavily on the latest technologies such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and Level I and II automated driving systems (ADS).
A theme woven through the event by numerous panelists was that these technologies, if integrated properly, could serve to curb commercial motor vehicle (CMV) accidents and save lives on America’s roadways.
Acting Administrator Jim Mullen hosted the event and moderated the first panel of the morning featuring Chris Spear, president of the American Trucking Associations (ATA); Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association; Steve Owings, co-founder of Road Safe America (RSA), and Dan Furth, president of National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC).
Spear applauded the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Secretary Elaine Chao, in particular, for “expanding automated guidance” and embracing innovations such as 5.9 GHz spectrum to speed vehicle connectivity.
“ATA really truly believes the innovation will also harness existing commercial off-the-shelf technology solutions including electronic logging devices (ELDs), cameras, automatic emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive speed control,” Spear said.
As expected, Owings strongly advocated for speed limiters to be mandated in all commercial big rigs.
He said he believed doing so would be a possible “magic bullet” to immediately reduce both the frequency and severity of CMV-involved crashes.
“That is the most obvious and clear change that we believe needs making in this country,” Owings commented. “They just need to be turned on and used. Big companies in this country use them now because it is profitable.”
Listen to “Real Truckers”
As Transportation Nation Network (TNN) reported on Monday, only three invited panelists actually have distinguished careers behind-the-wheel.
Pugh, a former owner operator for more than two decades, urged regulators to listen to the voices of “real truckers.”
He highlighted the need to address “poor working conditions, overzealous enforcement and inadequate driver training.”
Pugh also was the only panelist of the day to specifically take aim at the ELD mandate.
“It’s no secret that most drivers don’t like ELDs,” he said. “ELDs have created more stress, more cost, and more fatigue. There’s simply no safety justification whatsoever for the ELD mandate.”
However, the ELD mandate was not an area of focus during the Summit, despite the fact a bombshell academic study on the topic released in February of 2019 concluded crashes involving commercial big rigs actually increased after the implementation of the mandate.
Hair Follicle Testing
Another major and recurring area of conversation was hair follicle testing.
Spear, Owings, Furth, and other carrier executives advocated for the USDOT to allow hair follicle testing in lieu of a urinalysis in the pre-employment screening of truck drivers.
Spear called it a “proven science” and stressed the need to make sure those who are impaired are taken off of the road.
Furth was asked if NTTC’s 220 carrier-members would readily embrace the change, if allowed.
“I think our guys would move to it immediately,” he responded.
Pugh was the only panelist who raised questions about hair testing.
Specifically, he expressed concern that it may disproportionately negatively impact certain ethnicities and result in positive tests for people who may have used drugs reaching as far back as six months.
Secretary Chao Addresses Attendees
Sec. Chao also appeared via a pre-recorded message in which she said the Safety Summit was “another example of how much this Administration values the trucking industry.”
“We want to hear what you have to say,” Sec. Chao said. “We stand with you and we’ll continue to work with you to make our roads safer.”
TNN will have much more from the Safety Summit in the coming days so make sure to stay logged on to TransportationNation.com.