HARTFORD, CT. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Assistant Administrator John H. Hill renewed the agency’s pledge to cut the large truck crash-related fatality rate along with providing updates on rulemakings and hint of a major upcoming Dept. of Transportation anti-traffic congestion initiative.

According to Hill, speaking at the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance annual conference here at the Connecticut Convention Center, FMCSA will issue:

  • A rulemaking on the merging of commercial driver license records with the medical certification database which will be released “in the next few weeks.”
  • A rulemaking for electronic onboard recorders [EOBR] which will be released later this year.
  • A revised rule for new entrants due later this year.
  • A notice for proposed rulemaking to address the need to track carriers that avoid bad safety records by shutting down and re-opening under a new carrier name while respecting privacy issues.
  • In addition, DOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta will announce new federal programs and initiatives to reduce highway congestion and stop-and-go traffic in mid-May.

    Hill said that FMCSA remains committed to whittling down the rate of fatalities per 100 million large truck miles traveled to 1.65 by 2008. The most recent federal data in 2004 showed that number was 1.96, the lowest rate recorded since the statistics were first gathered in 1975. This means the agency must in 2008 demonstrate a 16% reduction from the 2004 data.

    “Although the raw [fatality] numbers [for 2004] are going up slightly, I want to see those numbers come down,” said Hill. “The 1.65 [fatality rate] by 2008 is still our goal. It’s within our grasp…[but] we still have a ways to go.”

    Based on the latest highway fatality data released by DOT last week, in 2005 FMCSA may have taken a step closer toward its 1.65 target. On the basis of incomplete data, the Department projected that the number of persons killed in large truck crashes increased to 5,226 in 2005, compared with 5,190 in 2004. Although this would mark a 0.7% increase over 2004, the 3.5% expansion of the U.S. economy in 2005 implies that growth in the number of truck miles traveled expanded as well. If the number of truck miles grew at a percentage higher than that of fatalities, the fatality rate would drop lower than the 2004 rate.

    See Truck fatality rate set for new record low.

    “There’s been a large focus on getting vehicles inspected by carriers as well as on the roadside,” Hill told FleetOwner. “The problem is that [fatality rate improvement is] starting to plateau. The next big step is to focus on the driver to get at the crashes.”

    A large part of the driver initiative revolves around the agency’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study, which was released late last month. The report concluded that driver related causes accounted for 87% of truck-auto crashes—more than vehicle, weather or road conditions combined.

    “This will include changes to our IT systems,” Hill said. “[We need] new information systems that target problem drivers, and rulemakings so we can guide drivers how to do things differently and focus on education and driver training.”