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On September 26, 2014, about 9:05 p.m., a 2013 Peterbilt truck-tractor in combination with a 2014 Great Dane semitrailer, operated by Quickway Transportation Inc., was traveling north in the left lane of Interstate 35 (I-35), near Davis, Oklahoma. About the same time, a 2008 Champion Defender 32-passenger medium-size bus—transporting 15 members of the North Central Texas College (NCTC) softball team—was traveling south in the right lane of I-35. The college owned and operated the bus. In the vicinity of milepost 47, after negotiating a slight rightward curve at a speed of about 72 mph, the truck-tractor departed the left lane and entered the 100-foot-wide depressed earthen median at an approximate 2 degree angle. The truck-tractor continued through the median, traveling over 1,100 feet without evidence of braking or steering. The combination vehicle then entered the southbound lanes of I-35 at an approximate 9 degree angle and collided with the bus.
TO THE FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: Determine the prevalence of commercial motor vehicle driver use of impairing substances, particularly synthetic cannabinoids, and develop a plan to reduce the use of such substances.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Open Acceptable Alternate Response
Davis, OK, United States
Preliminary Report Highway HWY14MH014
Truck-Tractor Semitrailer Median Crossover Collision With Medium-Size Bus on Interstate 35, Davis, Oklahoma, September 26, 2014
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FMCSA (Open Acceptable Alternate Response)
Safety Recommendation History
Although we are disappointed that you do not plan to conduct your own driver survey, we note that you are monitoring a pilot study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) on the prevalence of synthetic cannabinoid use among CMV drivers. You also state that, once other organizations have completed similar studies and you have reviewed their findings, you will consider developing a plan to reduce driver use of impairing substance. We are interested in this research and would appreciate receiving a list of the studies you plan to evaluate that are underway by other organizations. We are encouraged that you plan to review the findings from the VTTI study, and other studies, to help you develop a plan to reduce the use of all impairing substances among CMV drivers. The actions you have described constitute an acceptable alternate approach to implementing Safety Recommendation H-15 38, which is classified OPEN--ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATE RESPONSE.
-From Michael J. Jordon, Management and Program Analyst, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: On December 13, 2017, representatives from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) met to discuss the status of 7 safety recommendations. This memorandum communicates the status updates discussed. Requested Classification: Open - Acceptable Alternate Response • FMCSA recognizes that organizations have started to conduct voluntary, self-reporting surveys as indicated in NTSB’s safety recommendation classification letter dated November 2, 2016. • FMCSA’s concern is that conducting a survey to simply determine the prevalence of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers’ use of impairing substance does not enable the Agency to implement additional, enforceable action to properly address the issue. • Research based solely on self-reported, voluntary survey data is not used by FMCSA as the basis for promulgating rulemaking. • There is no proven methodology for determining CMV drivers’ actual level of impairment caused by substance use. • FMCSA reiterates its previous position and will not expend resources to conduct a research study to determine the prevalence of CMV drivers’ use of impairing substances, particularly synthetic cannabinoids, when there is no sound methodology for conducting such a study. Specifically, a study to determine actual impairment (not just presence of a drug) of a CMV driver. • Currently, a positive U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug test initiates enforcement action, regardless of level of impairment, and test data is entered into FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. • In the absence of an FMCSA study to address the recommended action, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) has engaged with the National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence (NSTSCE) to conduct pilot research on the prevalence of synthetic cannabinoids use among CMV drivers. • FMCSA will consider the second part of the recommended action, development of a plan to reduce the use of impairing substances, upon completion of studies being conducted by other organizations and a thorough review of their findings. • FMCSA requests NTSB reclassify safety recommendation H-15-038 as “Open – Acceptable Alternate Response.”
From the Accident Report, NTSB/HAR-16/01, Multivehicle Work Zone Crash on Interstate 75, Chattanooga, Tennessee, June 25, 2015, adopted October 17, 2016: Previous NTSB investigations have examined the issue of drug use among CMV operators, where the drug use (such as cocaine or marijuana) was in the probable cause or was a contributing factor (NTSB 2003; 2001; 1994). Most recently, the NTSB investigated a crash in Davis, Oklahoma with four fatalities where the CMV driver crossed the median, entered the opposite lanes, and struck a medium-size bus (NTSB 2015b). The probable cause of the Davis crash was the failure of the truck driver to control his vehicle due to incapacitation likely stemming from his use of synthetic cannabinoids. As a result of the Davis crash investigation, the NTSB issued Safety Recommendation H-15-38 to the FMCSA, which called on the agency to: H-15-38 Determine the prevalence of commercial motor vehicle driver use of impairing substances, particularly synthetic cannabinoids, and develop a plan to reduce the use of such substances. On April 11, 2016, the FMCSA responded to this recommendation, indicating that it would not expend resources to determine the prevalence of CMV driver use of synthetic cannabinoids because it believes there is no sound methodology for conducting such a study. Further, the FMCSA stated that study results are unnecessary, because it can begin working with stakeholders to develop a plan to discourage and reduce the use of impairing substances, including synthetic cannabinoids. The proposed plan entailed asking an existing subcommittee focused on developing a voluntary driver health and wellness program to “consider addressing the issue of CMV driver use of synthetic cannabinoids in the lifestyle choices segment.” The wellness subcommittee was established by the FMCSA motor carrier safety and medical advisory committees. The FMCSA’s intention to include a section on impairment within the driver health and wellness program does not satisfactorily address Safety Recommendation H-15-38. As evidenced by the limited research in this area, very little is known about the use of impairing substances among CMV drivers, especially for those substances that are not part of routine drug test procedures. Feasible methodologies are available to examine the prevalence of CMV driver drug use, as indicated by the examples discussed below. The NTSB continues to maintain that these data are needed to define the scope of the problem, to establish a baseline, to prioritize countermeasures, and to evaluate the effectiveness of countermeasures over time. The Chattanooga investigation provides yet another example of why it is important to determine the prevalence of CMV driver use of impairing substances. Therefore, the NTSB reiterates Safety Recommendation H-15-38 to the FMCSA and classifies it OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE. Some organizations have already recognized the need to collect data on the prevalence of the use of impairing substances among CMV drivers. The FMCSA could benefit from lessons learned from these efforts. For example, in 2007, the Oregon State Police, in cooperation with law enforcement partners and the ODOT Motor Carrier Transportation Division, initiated “Operation Trucker Check” to improve transportation safety through detailed truck inspections and detection of impaired drivers (ODOT 2007a; 2007b). ODOT requested voluntary and anonymous urine samples from 491 drivers; only four drivers declined. The urine specimens of 9.65 percent of the drivers (47 of 487) tested positive in at least one drug category. The ODOT study presents one approach to examining the prevalence of drug use among CMV drivers, though it was not designed to obtain a national representative sample. In addition, SAMHSA has designed and developed a study protocol that could determine the incidence of various drugs in specimens collected in accordance with 49 CFR Part 40. The study protocol consists of testing de-identified specimens using an initial testing procedure at US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)-certified laboratories, performing confirmatory testing, and completing data analysis to determine the positive rates for each drug.
-From T.F. Scott Darling, III, Acting Administrator: FMCSA shares the NTSB's concern about the disconnect between the broad prohibitions on drug use in 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 392.4 and limited drug testing, which leaves a gap that the users of synthetic drugs or any other substances not tested for under 49 CFR 40.85 could take advantage. However, the gap that exists is due to factors that are beyond FMCSA' s ability to control. Specifically, designer drug manufacturers are able to modify synthetic cannabinoids so that these substances no longer test as a Schedule I or II drug faster than (1) the U.S. Department of Drug Administration (DEA) can schedule a particular formula as a controlled substance and (2) the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can develop controlled substances testing protocols to detect their presence for use by FMCSA and others agencies. What is not beyond FMCSA 's control is the ability to develop a plan to discourage and reduce the use of impairing substances, including synthetic cannabinoids, which is addressed in the response to safety recommendation H-15-039. FMCSA will not expend resources to conduct a research study to determine the prevalence of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers' use of synthetic cannabinoids, particularly when there is no sound methodology for conducting such a study. Furthermore, the results of a study are unnecessary because the Agency can begin working directly with its stakeholders to develop a plan to discourage and reduce the use of impairing substances, including synthetic cannabinoids. FMCSA requests the NTSB close safety recommendation H-15-038.
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