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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

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Infrastructure Key to Economy, Trucking Executive Tells Obama
Friday, 04 December 2009 00:00

Investing in highway infrastructure is the quickest, most efficient way to create jobs and restore the economy, a trucking executive told President Obama at Thursday’s “jobs summit” held at the White House.

Charles “Shorty” Whittington, American Trucking Associations Immediate Past Chairman told the president the country “must make a long-term commitment to highway investment in order to give construction companies certainty that when they hire new employees or buy new equipment, the investment will pay off.”

“This can’t be achieved through a one-time shot in the arm. We need a multi-year investment,” he said in a statement.

Whittington, president of Indiana-based trucking company Grammer Industries, was ATA’s chairman from October 2008 to October 2009.

President Obama signaled at the summit, which included 130 business and labor leaders, that he will push for initiatives in federal infrastructure spending as a way to spur job growth, Bloomberg reported.

In an interview with USA Today, the president said Obama said it will not be possible to have a huge second stimulus bill, following the $787 billion stimulus package Congress approved in February.

Transport Topics, 12/4/2009

 
Alabama holds first statewide Distracted Driving Summit
Friday, 04 December 2009 00:00

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood delivered the keynote speech Thursday, Dec. 3, at the Alabama Distracted Driving Summit in Birmingham, addressing the dangerous and growing trend of distracted driving. LaHood also commended the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Transportation Centers in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa for their leadership in convening the first-ever statewide summit on the issue.

“Distracted driving is a serious life-and-death problem that took nearly 6,000 lives last year alone,” LaHood said. “There are proven strategies we can use to help combat this epidemic, but it will also take leadership and coordination to protect our communities and the traveling public. The University of Alabama-Birmingham’s summit—the first of its kind outside Washington—helps continue the national conversation on distracted driving and will put more good ideas on the table to prevent needless deaths. I hope other states will follow its lead.”

Modeled on the national Distracted Driving Summit that LaHood convened this past fall, Alabama’s summit brought together state leaders in transportation, policy, law enforcement and science to discuss how to reduce motor-vehicle crashes resulting from distracted driving through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education. The summit was cosponsored by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s University Transportation Center, part of the UAB Injury Control and Research Center, and the University Transportation Center for Alabama.

“Secretary LaHood issued a challenge to the states to move quickly to address the issues of distracted driving,” said Dr. Russ Fine, director of the UAB UTC. “Alabama's response has been gratifying, as this summit has brought together leaders in state government, transportation safety, science, law enforcement and public policy to begin that process and provide a safer driving environment for all Alabamians.”

Research findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. On any given day in 2008, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a handheld cell phone. The worst offenders are the youngest drivers: men and women under 20 years of age.

Commercial Carrier Journal, 12/4/2009

 
FMCSA fields medical questions
Thursday, 03 December 2009 00:00

In a meeting conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Office of Medical Programs aimed at addressing the questions of agency field staff and state motor carrier safety personnel about coming changes to medical certification regulations of commercial drivers, the agency’s Chief Medical Officer Bennise Lester and medical programs chief Elaine Papp both repeatedly emphasized the case-bycase nature of most areas of medical disqualification.

“The primary concerns are the driver’s physical ability to function while operating a commercial vehicle,” said Papp in response to a question about a potential federal cap on the age of commercial drivers. “Medical requirements should be performance-based and not linked to age. We’re not looking at making any changes based on age at this point.”

Similarly, regarding the subject of Body Mass Index, a measurement which expresses the ratio of fat to muscle in an individual—a BMI number above 30 is considered to indicate obesity—FMCSA medical programs director Mary Gunnels said BMI would not be a factor by itself in any testing mandate for conditions associated with obesity, such as sleep apnea. She, Lester and Papp all stressed it was just “one among many measurements associated with determining obesity,” in Gunnels’ words, and that “we don’t have a specific requirement on testing.”

FMCSA’s Medical CDL program, set for full implementation in January 2012, feeds medical certification data directly to the CDL Information System database. Combined with a reporting requirement for approved examiners linked to the medical CDL, it will be much harder for drivers whose certifications have been disqualified or lapsed to slip through the regulatory cracks.

Disclosure requirements placed on drivers upon any change in health that could affect medical certification (for instance, deteriorating vision), also will be more easily enforced by FMCSA the more information is gained from medical examiners.

“This third piece is closing the loop on fraud with the SAFETEA-LU requirement that FMCSA receive and evaluate medical long forms” from examiners, said Gunnels. “We are requesting appropriations through the reauthorization that will get that one done.”

Considering the specifics of many of the questions delivered to the agency representatives during the Dec. 2 presentation, clearly many drivers and motor carrier personnel were listening.

The Office of Medical Programs will conduct a repeat webinar Dec. 16. To participate, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with “medical webinar” in the email subject line. For more information, call (202) 385-2375.

eTrucker.com, 12/3/2009

 
Trucker age, weight limits not on FMCSA radar, for now
Thursday, 03 December 2009 00:00

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has no immediate plans to institute specific weight or age limits, the agency’s medical division announced Wednesday.

On Oct. 2, FMCSA webcast a roundtable discussion on issues facing commercial drivers, including medical certification. During the discussion, many questions were answered by Benisse Lester, M.D., who was introduced Monday as the agency’s new chief medical officer.

The discussion was facilitated by Elaine Papp and Maggie Gunnels of FMCSA’s medical division.

Answers to questions included the following:

  • FMCSA isn’t considering an age cap on commercial drivers, the panelists said, but the agency’s future proposed rule changes includes plans to consider age as a guidance factor.
  • Similarly, the experts clarified that no federal weight limit exists for drivers, though obesity is something medical examiners should consider during DOT physicals.
  • Regarding the health privacy act better known as HIPAA, medical information belongs to patients and can’t be automatically pulled by motor carriers, the panelists said. Drivers have the ability to sign a release of medical information in employment agreements.

Several health statistics on Americans as a whole were presented, along with hints on age.

“With aging, there is a natural increase in occurrence of (disease and conditions),” Lester said.

The panelists, however, shied away from outright bans based on weight and age.

“Medical requirements should be performance based and linked to safe operation,” the panelists said.

OOIDA has expressed concerns about several Medical Review Board proposals and has participated in the board’s public meetings, which have included failed attempts to link a driver’s body mass index to driver safety and an age cap for commercial drivers, among other controversial topics.

Panelists clarified Wednesday that the Medical Review Board is advisory in nature and does not have authority to formally propose or adopt new rules for commercial drivers.

OOIDA’s Tom Weakley watched Wednesday’s discussion and said he appreciated the clarification of the Medical Review Board’s role.

“It’s important to understand that the Medical Review Board only makes recommendations and does not make regulations,” said Weakley director of operations for the OOIDA Foundation. “They are of course considered and aren’t to be taken lightly, but they are not automatically accepted by FMCSA.”

The panel’s discussion of sleep apnea revealed that regulations already require DOT physicals to include checks of potential apnea symptoms, Weakley said.

“It’s already in the regs,” Weakley said. “They certainly emphasized that the medical officer, especially after the registry of medical examiners is enforced, will be trained to look for those things. I hope that puts a damper on this push to have mandatory sleep apnea testing.”

Several questions sent to the panelists were related to sleep apnea, body mass index and last year’s recommendation by the agency’s Medical Review Board that drivers with body mass indexes of 30 or greater undergo expensive sleep apnea exams.

In addition another roundtable on general driver health information slated for Dec. 16, FMCSA will soon host another forum specifically related to driver fatigue and sleep apnea, Gunnels said.

Land Line Magazine revealed a long relationship between one Medical Review Board member and the sleep study industry in November.

OOIDA’s Melissa Rohan, who attends the Medical Review Board’s quarterly meetings, said the roundtable seemed to be meant to educate those unfamiliar with trucking.

“Clearly this is in response to the poor media they’re getting,” Rohan, OOIDA associate director of government affairs.

FMCSA’s medical examiner registry is set to be implemented in January 2012. The agency is in the process of proposing rule changes for diabetes, vision and musculoskeletal conditions, panelists said.

Land Line Magazine, 12/3/2009

 
DOT Stimulus Spending Tops $6 Billion
Wednesday, 02 December 2009 00:00
Weekly pace increased to about $400 million in week ending Nov. 20

The Department of Transportation’s infrastructure project spending under the stimulus law reached $6.3 billion through Nov. 20, up from $5.9 billion a week earlier.

The latest report on the Obama administration’s Recovery.gov Web site said DOT had authorized $31.6 billion to be spent as of that date, up marginally from $31.1 billion as of Nov. 13.

DOT reimburses states when bills come in for projects covered by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Most of DOT’s spending has been for bridge and highway repairs, or new road and bridge infrastructure that could be rapidly completed, though some approved projects will take years to complete.

Other DOT spending has gone to transit operations and airport needs. More DOT grants this winter will go to freight and passenger rail systems to increase the use of intercity passenger trains and launch some high-speed corridors.

The latest spending level is up from $5.3 billion as of Oct. 30, and $5.6 billion through Nov. 6. That weekly pace of about $300 million in new disbursements increased to about $400 million in the week ending Nov. 20.

DOT’s Federal Highway Administration administers most of the department’s stimulus spending, and said it has already approved construction projects totaling 79 percent of its ARRA budget. Through Nov. 27, FHWA separately said it has paid out about $4.5 billion.

Journal of Commerce Online, 12/2/2009

 
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