Instant access to safety data is changing the way we do business

Although originally designed and maintained to help staff and field personnel at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) access safety information, the Analysis and Information (A&I) Online system is now on the Internet.

Anyone can search and study carrier safety records (SafeStat Online), National and State and crash data (Crash Profiles Online), the status of research to measure the effectiveness of FMCSA safety programs (Performance Measures Online), and current analyses of truck safety (Current Analysis Results).

Currently, this powerful tool is being used in ways that its builders had not foreseen, and is guaranteed to dramatically change the way carriers, shippers, insurance companies, and government agencies operate.

What's unique about the system is that, for the first time, government information about truck safety is available easily, openly, and in great detail. Only online for a few months, A&I has become one of the most popular sites in the Dept. of Transportation, with more than 1,000 visits daily, according to Dale Sienicki, project director at the FMCSA Analysis Div.

The site was built jointly by FMCSA and the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Mass.

"We've been getting a lot of response from carriers and insurance companies," says Sienicki, who adds that carriers are using the site to monitor their own safety. Insurers, in turn, are using the site to keep tabs on carriers.

Sienicki says that one benefit of having everything out in the open is that it helps carriers understand how the government rates them. "It helps them see and understand the criteria we use," he says. The site also gives carriers the opportunity to study their ratings and find any errors or omissions and have them corrected.

In fact, one common complaint is that the data is not in real time. SafeStat, for instance, is updated every six months. This can be disheartening to a carrier that has worked hard to erase a bad safety record but won't be able to prove it in an online forum for as long as six months.

Not all shippers realize that this information is available, according to Debra Phillips, executive director of the National Small Shipments Traffic Conference. "Shippers call me all the time about wanting this information so they can decide which carriers and which lanes to use. This will allow them access to all this data."

Phillips says that shippers have increased their interest in carrier safety because of instances where they've been sued after contracting with a poorly rated carrier that was then involved in a crash.

The level of detail available is remarkable. For the SafeStat portion, the Web site offers data on all four Safety Evaluation Areas (SEAs) - accidents, drivers, vehicles, and safety management - for each carrier. These numbers can be broken out, studied, and compared among carriers using the SEA value, which is based on a 0 to 100 percentile rating.

Users can call up information by many different criteria, including carrier name, state, size, and safety record. Shippers could decide to hire carriers by safety percentile and insurance companies could easily automate a process that would alert them to companies with poor safety performance.

In the future, Sienicki hopes to include information from state roadside inspections. "We're also working on focusing more on the analysis of the data," he added. "We're going to respond to feedback from our customers and give them what they need."

The Web site can be reached in two ways: through the Volpe Center at http://ai.volpe.dot.gov/ or linked from the FMCSA home page at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/.

President Clinton's proposed 2001 budget offers a record $54.9 billion for transportation improvements - $4.7 billion, or 9%, higher than the current year's $50.2-billion transportation budget. The increase will be partly paid with increased fuel tax revenues.

Among the highlights affecting trucking are:

* $1.7 billion for highway safety, 21% more than this year, including programs to get unsafe trucks off the road, reduce the number of drunk drivers, develop safer roads and vehicles, and increase seat belt and child safety seat use;

* $117 million, 6% more than this year, to prevent train collisions and reduce highway-grade crossing accidents;

* $30.4 billion to maintain highways and build new roads and bridges, including $280 million to improve border crossings and trade corridors;

* $338 million, 83% more than this year, for smart traffic signals, regional travel information networks, and other intelligent transportation systems;

* $20 million for the Advanced Vehicle Program, to develop less-polluting trucks and buses.

Trucking companies often discover contaminated soil under terminals and other facilities that they own or buy. IRS ruled several years ago that a taxpayer who contaminates property can deduct the cost of restoring it to the condition it was in before the spill occurred. The expense does not have to be capitalized, or added to the cost basis of the land.

In a recent technical advice memorandum (TAM), the IRS amplified that ruling by saying that "the cleanup of pre-existing contamination does more than restore the site to the condition that existed at the time the taxpayer purchased it. Rather, these costs constitute an improvement or betterment to the site compared to its condition when acquired. Accordingly, this portion of the overall cleanup cost must be capitalized." Although TAMs apply only to a specific taxpayer (in this case an unidentified utility), agents examining other taxpayers with similar facts often treat them the same.

Truck-Lite announced the promotion of Brian Kupchella to president and COO of the company.

Tom Tecklenburg has been named national sales director for heavy-duty products at Honeywell Consumer Products Group.

Promotions at GE Capital Fleet Services include Richard Neff to president and general manager, Small Fleet Services, and Bob Williams to senior-vp, North American operations.

Paul Horn was named president of RODI Power Systems.

The National Private Truck Council appointed James A. Noble director of safety.

Rick J. Mills becomes president of the filtration business unit of Cummins Engine, which includes Fleetguard and Nelson Ind.

CFI has promoted Chris Shilhanek to director of safety.

Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America has named John Mackey director of fleet sales for MFTA fleet and used truck sales.

Kirk Bynum assumes the responsibilities of exec. director-operations, van division, at Arrow Trucking.

Anthony T. Castor III was named president and CEO of The Morgan Group, a company that manages the delivery of commercial vehicles and specialized equipment .

Pat Clay, president of C-Line Express of Napa, was elected president of the California Trucking Assn.

David L. Miller has been promoted to vp-strategic planning for Con-Way Transportation Services.

Mark H. Breedlove becomes president and COO of Qualitor Inc., an automotive parts supply company formed earlier this year.

HighwayMaster Communications announced the appointments of three vice presidents: David Bagley, vp-network operations; Bobby Lambert, vp-information technology; Ken Vandagriff, vp-customer operations.

Jeff Rajnowski was named president of Fortune Xpress, a new owner operator-based flatbed carrier.

To better serve the growing information needs of truck-fleet managers, FLEET OWNER has expanded its editorial staff with the addition of two more editors and a pair of columnists.

Joining the magazine this month as a senior editor is Sean Kilcarr. Based in Northern Virginia, Kilcarr will pen feature articles and news reports as well as a monthly column. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he brings to our pages a broad range of industry expertise, especially in the areas of fleet operations and logistics. Most recently Kilcarr served as managing editor of two trucking publications, Light & Medium Truck and Utility Fleet Management, both published by the American Trucking Assns.

Named to the newly created position of Web editor is Tim Parry. Based in our Stamford, Conn., headquarters, Parry will develop and produce the daily editorial content for our Web site, www.fleetowner.com. A graduate of Western Connecticut State University, he brings to the position an extensive background as a news reporter, including stints with three daily papers in Connecticut: Connecticut Post, Danbury News-Times, and The Hour.

Appearing in the magazine for the first time this month is columnist Jim York, who now authors the "Safety Matters" column (see pg. 48). York is a safety and risk-management expert who currently works as a senior risk engineering consultant for Zurich Insurance. His 25-year trucking career runs the gamut from owner-operator to, most recently, director of safety programs for the National Private Truck Council.

And joining us in next month's issue is Asa Sharp, who will write a monthly column on tire-related topics. Sharp, who recently retired from Goodyear Tire & Rubber as product manager of O.E. medium commercial truck tires, is widely known in fleet and OEM circles from his 35-year engineering and marketing career with the tire maker. Sharp's contributions to trucking include years of distinguished service to The Maintenance Council and other industry groups.

TravelCenters of America's state-of-the-art fuel island automation system, ProntoPay, has a new feature that further speeds up the fueling process. Fuel receipts can now be printed right at the ProntoPay terminal, allowing participating drivers to avoid lines at the fuel desk.