View source: Jack Glenn

Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), hopes to see reforms in trucker safety involving hours of service (HOS), the adoption of new technologies, as well as a crackdown on opioid use.

These are just a few of the topics Spear addressed in a one-on-one sitdown with FreightWaves’ CEO Craig Fuller as part of FreightWaves.TV Fuller Speed Ahead.

Spear and ATA have applauded the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for its proposed changes to HOS regulations. These recommendations come after electronic logging device (ELD) mandate took effect in 2016.

On August 14, FMCSA released a Notice of Proposed Rule that outlined revisions to HOS regulations. The agency is seeking public opinion on changes in rest provisions, splitting time in the sleeper berth, allowing an off-duty break on long-haul drives, as well as extending the time for driving in adverse conditions.

According to Spear, the ATA is in support of the FMCSA proposals and wants to see regulations that promote both driver safety and flexibility.

“These flexibilities are the reality that our drivers face each and every day. The regulations have to reflect that; otherwise, they’re irrelevant,” commented Spear.

With talks of driver safety, many feel it necessary to eliminate drivers altogether. Automation has been a buzzword in the trucking industry in the last several years. While Spear welcomes the adoption of new technology, he believes technology should be focused on helping drivers, not replacing them.

“I think it’s more about driver assist, not driverless,” Spear said. ‘We’re not going driverless tomorrow. We’re not going driverless in the next 10 years.”

Spear explained that the majority of wrecks involving commercial trucks are caused by passenger vehicles. While the installation of cameras provides truck drivers with better awareness of their surroundings, a majority of the accidents happen behind the trailer. However, Spear does see a promising future ahead with the introduction of new brake technology.

“By 2022, all new cars are going to have automatic emergency braking (AEB) on them,” said Spear.

He noted that lives could be saved if both cars and trucks could communicate with each other using sensors.

“This is what our industry needs to be doing – embracing technology and the value it provides. It’s a very empowering tool,” he added.

Ultimately, driver safety starts with the driver itself. Spear is concerned with the rampant opioid crisis the U.S. faces and worries many drivers are afflicted.

Regarding opioid use, Spear said, “It doesn’t discriminate based on affluence or urban vs. rural. It’s widespread across the country. It’s directly impactful on our industry.”

He and ATA have advocated for more thorough drug tests, including hair testing for commercial truck drivers.

Spear is also concerned with the legalization of marijuana in multiple states and Canadian provinces. With drivers crossing multiple jurisdictions, some with lower standards regarding recreational marijuana, it makes it hard for the industry to stay drug-free.

“This is a litigious problem waiting to happen,” said Spear.