Safety board in crackdown on fatigue-inducing drugs

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) wants to crack down on prescription and over-the-counter medicines that make drivers tired.

During a January meeting, the NTSB proposed establishing an approved list of drugs that may be used safely when operating a vehicle. Drivers would be prohibited from taking any drug not on the list. The proposal also calls for the development of an education program to raise awareness of the dangers of taking drugs not on the approved list.

To make certain that agencies continue to learn more about the effects of drugs on vehicle-operator performance, the NTSB also wants to "establish comprehensive toxicological testing requirements for all (or an appropriate sample of) fatal highway crashes to ensure the identification of the role played by common prescription and over-the-counter medications." The results of such tests will be reviewed and analyzed at least every five years.

NTSB has requested that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in coordination with DOT and other agencies involved in vehicle operations, establish a "clear, consistent and easily recognizable warning label for all prescription and over-the-counter medications that may interfere with an individual's ability to operate a vehicle." That label must be prominently displayed on all packaging.

Truck and bus drivers are not being singled out by this proposal. The NTSB is targeting its recommendations at the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Coast Guard.

The recommendation was partly in response to a crash in June 1998 involving a Greyhound bus and a parked truck, which hit a second truck, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The bus driver and six passengers were killed; sixteen passengers and the two occupants of the first truck were injured.

The NTSB found that an over-the-counter sinus medicine taken by the bus driver, in conjunction with an irregular work schedule, caused him to become fatigued and drift off the road in the early morning hours of the trip from New York to Pittsburgh.

FHWA is studying whether Specialized Hauling Vehicles (SHVs), including dump trucks, solid waste haulers, home-fuel delivery trucks, and cement transit mixers, should be exempt from certain weight restrictions. If they become exempt, these vehicles could be allowed on some bridges that currently prohibit their crossing.

The proposal noted: "Because of the short wheelbase, the maximum legal weight for an SHV as determined by the federal bridge formula is often below the vehicle's gross weight limit as determined by individual single and tandem axle limits."

FHWA suggests that exempting these vehicles when they're empty could increase productivity because they could then take shorter routes over bridges that were otherwise prohibited.

FHWA is expected to complete the study by June 9 and make its recommendations shortly thereafter.

Rollins Leasing Corp. last month acquired UPS Truck Leasing and also entered into a strategic alliance with the UPS Logistics Group. These moves allow Rollins to focus on its core truck leasing and maintenance business, and at the same time respond to demands for non-asset-based services. The acquisition adds over 50 facilities to the Rollins network, which now totals more than 250 sites throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Petro Stopping Centers has joined Volvo Trucks North America as an exclusive sponsor of the Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA) Highway Angels Program. The program honors truck drivers for acts of kindness, courtesy, and courage while on the road. To date, more than 650 drivers have been recognized. TCA's ultimate goal is to make the public aware of these good deeds. Volvo has been a sponsor since the program's inception in August 1997.

US Fleet Leasing has changed its name to Associates Fleet Services. The parent company, Associates First Capital Corp., changed the name of its U.S. fleet management operations to better reflect the global nature of the business. Associates also has fleet management operations in Canada and the U.K., both of which are known as Associates Fleet Services. For more information, visit The Associates Web site at www.the associates.com.

The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) is now accepting applications from employees of member companies for its Environmental Excellence in Trucking Award. (Deadline is June 1.)

The award, sponsored by Safety-Kleen, is intended to highlight the industry's commitment to environmental quality by recognizing outstanding projects or initiatives conducted by employees.

Submissions may be for an environmental initiative, program, or project touching on trucking maintenance, operations, administration, or public service. Entries will be judged on environmental impact, social significance, efficiency and cost-effectiveness, technical value, and originality. Six Roadway Express employees won last year's award for developing a unique and innovative pollution-prevention program.

For applications or more information, contact ATA Environmental Affairs at 703-838-1786 or visit the Web site at www.truckline.com.

The Truckload Carriers Assn. recently recognized Ben Eastman, a driver for Howell's Motor Freight Inc., as a "Highway Angel" for stopping at 2 a.m. to assist the victim of a drive-by shooting along I-695 in Maryland. An unknown assailant had shot the victim, a young woman, twice in the leg. Eastman called for assistance on his CB and stayed with her until help arrived.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has released the 2000 edition of the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria. Items listed in the OOS Criteria are those checked by a roadside inspector to determine whether the driver or vehicle being inspected should be placed out of service. For information on ordering, contact CVSA at 301-564-1623.

Carlisle, Pa.-based USF Glen Moore, the truckload subsidiary of USFreightways Corp., has acquired Tri-Star Transportation Inc. of Knoxville, Tenn. Tri-Star, which operates 170 tractor-trailers, posted revenues of $28 million last year - two-thirds of which came from dedicated fleet operations.

Need to know more about fleet finances? Attend one of the economic seminars given by the Institute for Truck Transportation Management (formerly the Private Fleet Management Institute). For more information, call Angie Simmons at 703-683-1300, ext. 213.