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SAN DIEGO — Days before the U.S. Department of Transportation announced his upcoming departure from the post, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Ray Martinez announced the launch of a project to promote advanced driver assistance systems, and outlined other agency priorities.
Martinez made the remarks in a room packed with industry executives at American Trucking Associations’ annual Management Conference & Exhibition on Oct. 5. DOT announced Oct. 10 that he will be leaving his position at the end of the month.
ADAS refers to technologies that can help improve driver safety, such as automatic emergency brakes and lane-departure warning systems. The ADAS project will be a team effort among FMCSA and industry partners, including ATA, the American Transportation Research Institute and the Technology & Maintenance Council of ATA.
The two-year project, funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, is meant to accelerate the adoption of ADAS.
Martinez explained that the partners will lead outreach and education efforts to promote the benefits of these systems, such as their potential to reduce crashes and fatalities. The education materials will be distributed to fleets, owner-operators and other drivers.
FMCSA also will account for the ADAS that are now in use and will track ADAS adoption rates. The agency will measure the systems’ safety benefits and the impact of the outreach efforts.
“This is a concrete example of active collaboration,” Martinez said.
An FMCSA spokesman confirmed that the program is not changing despite Martinez’s departure.
Martinez also outlined other agency priorities in his remarks. He encouraged commercial driver license holders, employers, review officers and substance abuse professionals to secure an online account through its Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, registration for which opened Oct. 1.
He also reminded attendees that the deadline to comment on the notice of proposed rulemaking on hours-of-service regulations is Oct. 21. The proposal would allow truck drivers more flexibility with their 30-minute rest break and with dividing their time in the sleeper berth. It also would extend by two hours the duty time for drivers encountering adverse weather and extend the shorthaul exemption by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 hours to 14 hours and increasing the distance limit in which drivers can operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
FMCSA has also been active in exploring programs that would encourage drivers — especially young people and those with military backgrounds — to join the industry. The agency announced a pilot program June 3 that would allow people between the ages of 18 and 20 who possess the U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver license to operate trucks in interstate commerce. Martinez identified veterans as a key demographic for offsetting the industrywide driver shortage. ATA indicated the industry was short 60,000 drivers as of last year.
Agency officials continue to evaluate the more than 1,000 comments participants offered after FMCSA requested input on a potential program that would allow nonmilitary drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 to operate trucks interstate.
Martinez expressed hope for a future infrastructure investment bill, although any prospect of federal cooperation on a deal seems to have vanished. He noted that DOT’s work to support infrastructure continues; the agency distributes $65 billion annually to state and local governments for infrastructure projects. He acknowledged that solid infrastructure is critical for commerce and trucking.
“We need a major infusion of infrastructure investments,” Martinez said. “It is a national issue, but it’s also a local issue.”
Martinez said FMCSA has begun a series of public announcements called “voice of safety” to educate the public about how to operate around trucks on the highways.
“We all own safety,” he said. “I can’t do it alone, and you can’t do it alone.”
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