The Julie Cirillo Interview - Part 2

In the June/July issue of Land Line, part one introduced Julie Cirillo and provided background of the OMCHS' new program manager. Cirillo outlined her goals and fielded questions from Land Line editors Sandi Soendker and Ruth Jones. Part two features Cirillo's views on out-of-service criteria, rest area closings, backed up scales, accident causation, the trucker's hotline and more. David Longo, FHWA spokesman, was also on hand during the dialog.

Why isn't the out-of-service criteria codified?

Why isn't there more data collected for accident caustion studies?

Land Line: In the safety action plan, there does not seem to be much emphasis on gathering better data in order to determine accident causation factors … why is this?

Cirillo: We do have a proposal to do an accident causation study with National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). There seems to be a misunderstanding about the continuous collection of accident causation data. There isn't enough money in the world to continuously collect data that is focused on determining accident causation. Because these are very intense activities, they could cost up to $2,000 to $5,000 per accident to investigate. You don't need to do that continuously, because situations don't change significantly and the environment doesn't change practically at all.

You identify the cause for the purpose of focusing on what the problems are. With drivers – is it drinking, is it drugs, is it fatigue, is it a medical issue, is it incompatibility with the truck cab? Are the problems vehicular? Once you identify that's what the problems are, then that's the piece of information the agencies need to focus on. What things are you going to do to address this problem? If the problem is steering, then you do some research on the existing mechanism and how to make it better. You get that implemented and if your causation study was correct you should see a reduction in the number of accidents.

You don't need to continuously collect that data all the time. It's too expensive and you're collecting it for the purpose of identifying what programs you need to put in place to address the problem. At some point in time you may want to take another snapshot. In ten or fifteen years, you may want to look again at truck accidents to determine if there are new causes that have come up. But to continuously collect that data? It's just enormously expensive. It costs $4 to $6 million a year to collect good data. That doesn't count the cost to get the police accident report in the first place. That's only NHTSA's cost. And that's not a causation study. So, you can imagine what it would cost to do a causation study.

Land Line: Currently, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) publishes and copyrights the out-of-service criteria. The rules are decided within their committees. This information is not published anywhere else. Truckers really don't know just what can put them out of service unless they pay for it and get the book. Are we going to see this criteria codified as part of the federal motor carrier regs?

Longo: The reason why that is, is because there's discrepancies between the states. Between Tennessee and North Carolina or Missouri or whatever. These sets of inspectors have different criteria because CVSA's standard definition lists oodles of things you can violate or get put out of service for.

Land Line: Is OMCHS going to do something about this?

Longo: What we're doing is looking at standardizing what violations will most probably relate to causing an accident. I may not have said it right, but I think you understand what I mean. Then, what they'd like to do is send that out to everybody so you're not being put out of service for brake lights in Tennessee because those folks think that's more important than brakes out of adjustment.

Cirillo: It is enormously difficult if not impossible for us to make a state change a regulation if they meet minimum criteria. So, if you establish a bar and you say, ‘if any of these things happen, you've got to be out of service.' If your brake hose is flying away or your brakes aren't whatever, you've got to be out of service. Some states decide, ‘Well, that's fine but I want to be more safe.' It's enormously difficult for us to say to that state, ‘Now wait a minute, we don't want you to be more safe.' That would be counter to our mission.

We can say it to a state that is being arbitrarily capricious in their ‘got-a-dent-in-your-mirror' mirror standards, that doesn't really seem to be critical once you establish a criteria and the states buy into that. It's almost impossible for us to tell a state you can't be more safe.

Land Line: Truckers generally are aware of what states are really out in the stratosphere. But those guidelines need to be in black and white where everybody knows what they are, including the truckdrivers. It hardly seems sporting to play this game of highway safety if only some of the players know the rules.

Cirillo: You raise a good point.

Land Line: What's your office planning to do to dangerous back ups at weigh stations?

Cirillo: Where we're queuing onto the freeway?

Land Line: Right. There's a load of money spent on highway engineering and fixing congestion. The scale houses, are, however, still backing truckers out onto the highway travel lanes.

Cirillo: That's not something that we've focused on, but I hear what you're saying. I'll see what we can look into to see what the scope of the problem is. Nobody has raised that issue as a problem to me at this point. Rest areas have been raised, truck parking on the shoulder as it relates to rest areas. But queues at toll plazas – the issue of queues at weigh stations – has not been raised. I appreciate you letting me know about it.

Editor's note: Cirillo is new to the position. OOIDA has raised the issue of queues at weigh stations with officials at both the federal and state levels many times.

Land Line: Many local law enforcement entities across the nation are getting into the business of doing truck inspections. Recently we had a reader who was inspected in Riverside, CA, by a local enforcement officer. She and her husband had just delivered to a customer. She had just crawled out of the bunk. Her husband handed the paperwork to her and said ‘your turn, I'm going to bed.' She was sitting up drawing her line, drinking her coffee, and had not put the truck in gear yet. He wrote her a ticket for not having a current log and because she did not log driving where her husband had driven. And he asked the question, "Who's this other person whose name is on your log book?" Obviously he did not know what he was doing. Is this a problem that your office can do anything about?

Cirillo: Probably not, because it's probably some type of a local ordinance or local function. Again, if anybody has suggestions as to how we and others in the industry can work together to try to influence the locals … but I can't imagine inserting ourselves into that process.

Land Line: In regard to the DOT hotline, do you have a real person answering the phone?

Cirillo: Yes, we do. It's manned during the day.

Land Line: We know that there's a study in progress under the provisions of TEA-21 regarding rest areas. It looks like it will be a long time before anything is resolved. Are there any short-term solutions or temporary solutions that may be able to help truckdrivers out there trying to find a place to park and get some sleep?

Cirillo: We're trying to work with the states to get them to expand the rest areas …

Land Line: And yet they're closing them right and left. As long as it's going on and there's no place to park, you really can't solve anything else. You can't solve fatigue; you can't solve hours of service; you can't solve safety; when there's no place to park.

Cirillo: We're looking at information systems that allow truckers information – if this rest area is closed or filled or whatever. Particularly in places where you've never been before and you don't know where the next place to stop is. Our June forum on rest areas in Atlanta will address some of these issues.

We have an issue with police rousting drivers out of rest areas after they've been there X amount of time. We are going to try to take a look at it. If you or your readers have any suggested short-term solutions, we'd be glad to look at them.

Editor's note: For Land Line's report on the Atlanta rest area forum, see click here.