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Trucking Alliance promotes hair testing law to catch opioid abusers

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, also known as the Trucking Alliance, is promoting a new drug testing law that requires all applicants for safety sensitive jobs in the U.S. trucking industry to verify no opioid addiction or illegal drug use, for at least 30 days prior to obtaining employment.

The Trucking Alliance announced its drug test initiative at the United Nations as part of an event titled, “The Use of Technology to Promote Road Safety – The Brazilian Experience.” Brazil requires all commercial truck drivers to pass a hair test before renewing their licenses. More than 1 million Brazilian drivers have either failed the hair test or refused to renew their license since the law took effect two years ago. The UN program can be found at: http://www.itts.org.br/unitednations/ingles.html#portfolio

“Current federal drug test rules for truck drivers are failing,” said Lane Kidd, managing director of the Alliance.

He told UN attendees that in 2017, JB Hunt Transport identified 1,213 people who tested positive on their pre-employment hair test. Yet, 1,130 of those applicants, or 93 percent, passed the urinalysis. “Clearly, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s drug test statistics give a false picture, because we are using an inadequate test and missing lifestyle drug users and opioid addicts and that’s a national problem for our industry,” Kidd said.

“We have an opioid problem in our nation and from my experience, we have one in our industry, too,” said Dean Newell, vice president of safety and driver training at Maverick USA, headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. Newell also represented the Trucking Alliance as a speaker during the UN meeting. “We [Maverick] started testing for opioids in 2014 and we’ve seen a steady increase [in opioid addiction] every year.”

Opioids stay in a person’s system for a few hours, allowing opioid abusers to avoid the drug briefly before submitting to the current pre-employment drug test. However, a hair exam will detect drug use for up to 90 days, according to an Alliance news release.

“Opioids subject to drug abuse in the trucking industry include codeine, morphine pain killers under hundreds of brand names, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone marketed under such names as OxyContin, Endocet, Endodan, Percoset, Percodan, Oxy-Fast, OxyIR, Roxicet and Tylox, and the highly addictive opioids Methodone and Fentanyl. The federal DOT recently added hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone to its pre-employment drug test protocols. But the current drug test method misses these and other illegal drugs, unless the applicant has taken them within hours of the collection.

“We hope that Congress will follow Brazil’s leadership and require a drug test that proves a job applicant has not taken illegal drugs or abused opioids for at least 30 days before applying for employment,” Kidd said. He also said Congress should apply the requirement to all truck drivers before they renew their license, as does Brazil.

“Too many loopholes allow truck drivers to avoid a drug test, even after drivers are involved in a serious large truck accident.”

Newell shared Maverick’s experience that current regulations are not capturing lifestyle drug users. “We’ve had 154 drivers at Maverick who failed their hair test after they passed a urine test. Those 154 drivers are working for another company,” Newell said. “They’re running up and down the road with our families and that is not acceptable.”

Kidd added that since 2006, J.B. Hunt Transport has refused to employ 5,060 job applicants who failed a hair test, even after passing their urinalysis. Most of those applicants found jobs at other trucking companies because they only utilize the federally required urinalysis. “Apply this company’s experience to the number of truck driver job applications industry-wide and across the United States, and we have a major problem,” Kidd said.

Hair testing “will save lives and hair testing is the right thing to do,” Newell said. “Maverick wants to make sure the company is the safest it can be, and that all drivers are well trained and drug free. We have a moral obligation to our employees, but we also have a moral obligation to the public.”

The Alliance supports policy reforms to improve the safety and security of commercial drivers and to reduce large truck crashes. Carriers and supporting businesses may affiliate by invitation. Member carriers, their rankings among the 250 largest U.S. trucking companies and their headquarters are: Cargo Transporters Inc. in Claremore, North Carolina; Dupré Logistics in Lafayette, Louisiana; JB Hunt Transport in Lowell, Arkansas; KLLM Transport Services in Jackson, Mississippi; Knight-Swift Transportation in Phoenix; Maverick USA in Little Rock, Arkansas; and US Xpress in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Collectively, the companies employ 80,200 professionals in 50 states, and operate 71,000 trucks and 220,000 trailers/intermodal containers to provide transportation and logistics solutions.

 

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The Nation

9 semis involved in accident on I-80 in Nebraska

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Of the 30 crashes reported to the Nebraska State Patrol Wednesday morning, the biggest took place near Aurora, Nebraska where 11 vehicles, nine of the big rigs, were involved in a large-scale accident on Interstate 80 (Courtesy: NEBRASKA STATE PATROL)

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — At least three people were injured in a large-scale accident on Interstate 80 Wednesday morning that involved nine semi-trucks and two passenger vehicles, The Grand Island Independent reported Thursday.

The vehicles were involved in multiple crashes on I-80 between Giltner and Aurora.

The paper’s report said five vehicles took part in a chain-reaction crash and that because of the pileup, I-80 was closed to eastbound traffic for about three hours while emergency crews worked at the scene and cleared the road.

Weather conditions were a factor in the crashes.

The paper said that at about 9:10 a.m., Hamilton County received a 911 call that two semi-tractor/trailers had crashed and jackknifed, blocking eastbound traffic near mile marker 328. As troopers and officers were en route to the scene, additional vehicles became involved in a chain-reaction crash. The first crash scene involved four semis and one passenger vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee.

After the initial incident, a pair of semis that were traveling together came upon the scene and were unable to stop. One struck the other, pushing it into the Jeep Cherokee.

Both occupants of the Cherokee were transported to the hospital in Aurora, but the passenger, Jason Palmer, 29, of Indiana, was flown to Kearney with life-threatening injuries. The driver was evaluated and has been released from the hospital.

One of the semi drivers, Jeffrey Clark, 56, of Colorado, was also transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The paper reported that as traffic was stopped for the first crash scene, another semi jackknifed while attempting to avoid the stopped traffic. Moments later, another crash occurred a short distance to the west involving two more semis and a minivan. No injuries were reported in those crashes.

In total, there were nine semis and two passenger vehicles involved in the incidents near mile marker 328.

The State Patrol said within 24 hours after the storm began, troopers handled 166 motorist assists, responded to 30 crashes and assisted other agencies with 17 incidents. Motorist assists can include slide-offs, flat tires, etc.

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The Nation

White House ends California talks on mileage standards

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Democratic Sen. Tom Carper said the Trump administration's negotiations with the State of California over fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards have been "superficial and not robust at best, or duplicitous and designed to fail at worst." (Courtesy: U.S. Senate)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration broke off vehicle mileage standards talks with California on Thursday, moving the two closer to a possible court battle that threatens to unsettle the auto industry.

The White House said in a statement that the administration, which wants to freeze mileage standards, would now move unilaterally to “finalize a rule later this year with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles.”

California officials and the Trump administration each accused the other of failing to present any good compromise proposal in the mileage dispute, which comes as President Donald Trump feuds with the Democrat-led state over his proposed border wall and his threats to take back federal money.

The administration announced last year it wanted to freeze what would have been tougher, Obama-era mileage standards for cars and light trucks. It would be one of a series of rollbacks targeting Obama administration efforts against pollution and climate change.

Under the administration proposal, the standards would be frozen after slightly tougher 2020 levels go into effect, eliminating 10 miles per gallon of improvement to a fleet average of 36 miles per gallon in 2025.

As part of the proposed mileage freeze, the administration threatened to revoke California’s legal authority to set its own, tougher mileage standards, a waiver granted that state decades ago to help it deal with its punishing smog. About a dozen states follow California’s mileage standards.

Lawmakers and automakers have urged the two sides to settle, warning that a split could divide the auto market, bring years of court battles and raise costs for automakers.

“This administration’s negotiations with the State of California over fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards have been superficial and not robust at best, or duplicitous and designed to fail at worst,” Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat in the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement late Wednesday, as the formal negotiations breakdown loomed.

“Litigation is not the best option here. It wastes time, money, creates uncertainty for American automakers, and harms the environment,” Carper said.

California officials say the administration never offered any compromise and that it broke off any contacts around December.

“We concluded at that point that they were never serious about negotiating, and their public comments about California since then seem to underscore that point,” said Stanley Young, spokesman for the state’s air board.

It’s the latest shot by the White House in its escalating feud with California. The Trump administration earlier in the week said it planned to cancel nearly $1 billion for California’s high-speed rail project and would seek the return of $2.5 billion more. Gov. Gavin Newsom said it was political retribution for the state’s role in leading a 16-state lawsuit against Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to get funds for his proposed wall at the southern border.

Since it takes several years to design vehicles, automakers have been planning to meet higher mileage requirements under Obama-era standards, as well as those in other countries.

For now, “essentially the industry is ignoring what Trump wants to do,” auto-industry analyst Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant Research said. “We know at least until this thing gets settled in the courts, we have to deal with California and the other states and have product that can sell there as well as products that can sell overseas.”

 

 

 

 

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Ohio governor’s administration proposes gas tax increase

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Ohio's Department of Transportation director, Jack Marchbanks, introduced the governor's $7.43 billion transportation budget proposal to the House Finance Committee. (Courtesy: OHIO DOT)

CINCINNATI — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration on Thursday recommended increasing the state gas tax by 18 cents a gallon beginning July 1 and annually adjusting that tax for inflation to provide sufficient funding for maintenance of roads and bridges.

Ohio’s Department of Transportation director, Jack Marchbanks, introduced the governor’s $7.43 billion transportation budget proposal to the House Finance Committee. The gas tax included in the two-year budget would be adjusted annually with the consumer price index to ensure sufficient funding going forward, Marchbanks said.

He said revenue raised the first year, by increasing the current 28-cent tax to 46 cents, equates to roughly $1.2 billion and will be split between the department and local governments.

Marchbanks told legislators that without more revenue in the face of the “impending transportation crisis,” there will be no funds for any highway improvement projects in the state and roads will deteriorate. Statistics show that deteriorating road conditions lead to more crashes, which lead to more fatalities, he said.

“Governor DeWine understands that maintaining the integrity of our roads and bridges is not only important to our economy; it is important to the health and welfare of our citizens,” Marchbanks said.

If the Legislature approves the recommendations, the proposal would provide the department in fiscal year 2020 with $750 million additional dollars in revenue to pave roads, fix guardrails, fill potholes, clear snow and ice, maintain bridges, and improve safety, Marchbanks told the committee. He said it also will provide local governments with a significant increase in the funding, including $1.6 million for every county in the state.

Marchbanks has previously said that contracts for road maintenance that totaled $2.4 billion in 2014 may drop to $1.5 billion in 2020, and a $1 billion gap remains in the department budget.

A transportation crisis is looming despite “all of ODOT’s multi-million dollar cost-saving efforts to make our agency leaner and more efficient,” he told committee members Thursday.

The department realizes that asking Ohioans to pay higher fees for roadway use is “no small task,” but hopes that most will understand the importance of responsible and sufficient transportation funding, the director said.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Tom Balzer, president of the Ohio Trucking Association, and Grace Gallucci, president of the Ohio Association of Regional Councils, commented on a potential tax increase in testimony to legislators this week.

Balzer said that the state and local governments have immediate transportation needs, and the gas tax raises immediate revenue.

Gallucci pointed out that while questions remain about whether the gas tax is the fairest way to assess users of Ohio roads, it is a way to get needed money right away.

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