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NTSB recommends tighter driver hiring standards

As part of its final report on a June 2015 multi-vehicle crash near Chattanooga, Tennessee, involving a tractor-trailer, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration modify regulations related to motor carriers' driver pre-employment checks. NTSB concluded that the carrier, Cool Runnings Express, did not have the truck driver’s entire driving history, including previous accidents, which limited its ability to assess his safety performance and potential risk. The driver also was found to have used methamphetamine without a prescription.

NTSB issued four new safety recommendations to FMCSA as a result of its investigation:

  1. Provide information to motor carriers about using hair testing as a method of detecting the use of controlled substances in some circumstances;

  2. Modify the pre-employment check requirements in 49 CFR 391.23(a) to include the annual review requirements in 49 CFR 391.25(b)(2), meaning that the carrier must:

  • Consider the driver’s crash record and any evidence that the driver has violated laws governing the operation of motor vehicles; and

  • Give great weight to violations -- such as speeding, reckless driving, and operating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs -- that indicate the driver has exhibited a disregard for public safety;

  1. Evaluate carriers' use and opinions of the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) and identify and address any barriers affecting the use of the PSP, such as the value, accuracy, and timeliness of the information, and the cost of and incentives for using the program.

  2. Collect and publish best practices for pre-employment investigations and inquiries within the trucking industry.

NTSB also renewed its call for FMCSA to determine the degree to which drivers use "impairing substances," particularly synthetic cannabinoids, and develop a plan to reduce their use.

A full report on the crash will be published in several weeks. For a summary of NTSB's findings and recommendations, click here.

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