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Published: Friday, 1/9/2004

Troopers told to ease into trucker rules

Maj. Bob Brooks is commander of the Ohio Highway Patrol s Office of Licensing and Commercial Standards. Maj. Bob Brooks is commander of the Ohio Highway Patrol s Office of Licensing and Commercial Standards.
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Truckers who violate new driving regulations that took effect Sunday won t all be cited as a matter of course during the next two months.

However, flagrant or deliberate offenders shouldn t expect a free pass during that transition period, a top Ohio Highway Patrol official told a local trucking group yesterday.

Troopers have been instructed “to take into consideration the extent of the violation and the driver s understanding of the new rules before citing a violation or placing a driver out of service,” Maj. Bob Brooks, commander of the patrol s Office of Licensing and Commercial Standards, told the Toledo Trucking Association during its monthly luncheon at HJ s Prime Cut banquet facility on New Towne Square Drive.

And a trucker pulled over under such circumstances may be allowed to keep driving for a short distance, if doing so would allow the truck to get to a rest area or truck stop, or complete its delivery, the major said.

“Each situation must be dealt with on an individual basis,” Major Brooks said. “We want to do as much education as possible.”

New trucking regulations that took effect Sunday allow drivers 11 hours a day behind the wheel, one more than previously allowed, but reduce their legal on-duty time from 15 to 14 hours and all but eliminate truckers ability to deduct meal breaks and loading-dock waiting time from their on-duty hours.

Although regulators, truckers, and safety activists all agreed the old rules, which dated to 1939, were inadequate, the new ones have been controversial.

Safety activists lambasted the additional hour of driving time, while drivers and many companies said the rules would require more trucks and drivers to haul the same amount of freight, driving up shipping costs and putting more inexperienced drivers on the road.

Of particular concern is drivers new inability to stop the on-duty “clock” while waiting for their trucks to be loaded or unloaded at factories and warehouses.

Keith Tuttle, president of Motor Carrier Service in Northwood, said he has received some complaints about missed delivery times because of loading delays.

“We tell them, You held my truck for three hours yesterday, and because of that, your customer is not going to get their freight on time, ” he said.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said the new rules would save an estimated 75 lives and prevent as many as 1,326 fatigue-related truck crashes a year. Last week, it issued an advisory to state enforcement agencies urging them to concentrate on trucker education, rather than strict enforcement, during the first 60 days.

Certain limits have not been changed under the new regulations, Major Brooks said, and violations of those rules - most notably, the 60-hour driving limit for seven consecutive days, or 70 hours in eight days - will not be forgiven during the adjustment period.

“If they re in violation of that, that s going to be something different,” the major said.

Truck safety education is as important to the highway patrol as law enforcement is, he said earlier in his presentation.

In recent years, the highway patrol has introduced field training about trucks and drivers to its cadet training curriculum, so that rookie troopers will know what to look for when stopping big trucks, and won t feel intimidated by veteran truckers who often know when a trooper is new on the job, Major Brooks said.

The patrol also is concerned with teaching motorists how to share the road safely with trucks, he said, because car drivers are found at fault in, on average, 7 of 10 fatal car-truck collisions. The patrol has produced a 10-minute safety video for driver education courses that, among other things, promotes safe driving near trucks.



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