Spending endless hours behind the wheel of a semi-tractor trailer and eating at truck stops and rest areas makes maintaining good health difficult for truck drivers in West Virginia and around the country. The U.S. Department of Transportation reported in 2014 that long-haul truck drivers smoke cigarettes and suffer from conditions like diabetes and obesity at rates that are more than double those found in the general population, and a report released on Jan. 10 by the University of Utah School of Medicine has linked poor health among commercial vehicle operators with significantly higher accident rates.
Truck drivers in West Virginia may have heard about a rule called Minimum Training Requirements for Entry-Level Commercial Vehicle Operators. It was supposed to take effect on Feb. 6. However, a Jan. 20 memorandum from President Donald Trump effectively delayed its implementation.
In what appears to be an effort to reduce the number of fatal accidents on roadways in West Virginia and elsewhere across the country, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed a new set of guidelines regarding cell phone use while behind the wheel. According to an NHTSA official, distracted driving is a contributing factor in a recent rise in the number of traffic fatalities nationwide.
In early December, Republican lawmakers were successful in preventing the advancement of legislation that was intended to keep exhausted truck drivers off the roads. West Virginia motorists should know that there will be even more attempts to roll back safety rules for truckers. The American Trucking Associations, which has stated its intent to try to block state regulations that will mandate more rest breaks for truckers beyond those required by federal statutes, believes that there should be one nationwide rule governing work hours for interstate truck drivers.
Since 2007, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has sponsored a week-long event aimed at reducing the number of roadway accidents involving commercial trucks. During Operation Safe Driver Week 2016, which was held in October, truck drivers received more than 11,000 citations or warnings for unsafe driving behavior. After collecting data from about 3,000 law enforcement officials in West Virginia and throughout the U.S. and parts of Canada, the CVSA found that moving violations and speeding were the most common citations given to truck drivers.
Truck drivers in West Virginia may be looking at more flexible regulations regarding on-duty and drive-time hours when autonomous trucks become part of the industry, but the American Transportation Research Institute says that infrastructure must be upgraded before the vehicles can become a reality. This includes better signage, smoother highways and devices for communication between highways and vehicles, and the organization believes that the costs should be borne by government rather than by private industry.
West Virginia motorists who are concerned about highway safety may want to know about the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's Brake Safety Week that was held in mid-September around the country. More than 2,300 trucks received brake violations and were placed out of service while almost 2,700 trucks were removed from the road for violations not related to brake systems. According to a representative of the CVSA, Brake Safety Week was implemented to stress to motor carriers and drivers the importance of brake health and safety. The non-profit organization conducted a broader inspection in June. In that event, nearly half of the out-of-service orders related to faulty brakes.
West Virginia residents should know that although an additional four states voted during the November elections to legalize marijuana, the U.S. Department of Transportation will still prohibit use of the drug for truck drivers as long as it is classified as a Schedule I drug. According to the a representative of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, before the DOT can make any amendments to the regulations regarding drug testing for truckers, the changes would have to be initiated by the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.
West Virginia truck drivers may want to know that the U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld a federal mandate that requires most truck operators to use electronic logging devices to keep track of hours of service status. The mandate will become effective on Dec. 18, 2017, and truckers who are currently required to use paper logs are required to transition to ELDs by that date. Exempt from the requirement are pre-model year 2000 trucks.
The annual International Roadcheck event sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance took place in June in West Virginia and around the country. The nonprofit organization reports that 62,796 inspections were conducted, 42,236 of which were the comprehensive North American Standard Level I inspections.