Researchers urge ‘alternative’ safety compliance methods

ARLINGTON, Va. – Is there a better way to monitor safety compliance of bigger fleets?

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) thinks so.

The research arm of the American Trucking Associations says there’s plenty of evidence that trucking carriers – specifically larger companies – would improve their safety performance under a ‘alternative" enforcement system.

A new study conducted by ATRI questions whether current "traditional" regulatory requirements, safety metrics and evaluation tools accurately depict a carrier’s safety performance.
The report suggests that the industry can further reduce truck- involved crashes, injuries and fatalities by looking beyond compliance reviews, safety audits and roadside inspections.

ATRI researchers developed what they call a "metaphorical tool box" of alternative compliance (AC) options. It includes:

Electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs and fatigue management programs; commercial driver drug and alcohol testing using hair samples; simulator-based training; mandatory speed limiters/governors; forward collision warning systems and lane departure warning systems; and roll stability control as well as and tire pressure monitoring systems.

"Although not an exhaustive list, these are the types of tools that could populate an AC program," states the report, which also shows the benefits of such programs when incorporated with Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores.

Among the findings, ATRI discovered that, while crash rates are notably lower following compliance reviews (CRs) for small fleets, "this safety benefit diminishes (and even disappears) as fleet size increases."

Between 2004 and 2008, carriers with 1-5 power units experienced a sizeable reduction in crash rates following a CR (51% average). Carriers with 6-20 and 21-100 power also saw noticeable crash rate reductions, though only by 32 and 18 percent respectively.

Larger carriers, however, seemed to benefit least from a CR. Carriers with fleet sizes of 251-1,000 units and 1,000 or more had crash rate reductions of five percent or less.

By 2007, both large and very large carrier groups had experienced higher crash rates after receiving a CR intervention, according to the report.

"Based on these and other analyses, it is suggested that larger fleets may benefit more from AC than their smaller counterparts," states ATRI, which is proposing a pilot study to further assess differences between crash rates by carrier sizes and the impact that different AC tools would have on safety.

"This report is the first of its kind to package the (returns on investment) into a toolbox of proven solutions," said Steve Williams, CEO of Maverick Transportation and chairman of the ATRI board. "Department of Transportation certification of an ‘alt compliance’ program can help our industry move from incremental to exponential safety improvements." 

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