Time's Running Out for Agencies to Comply with NarrowbandingDecember 28th, 2011
In 2004, the FCC set a deadline of Jan. 1, 2013, for public safety agencies to convert their land mobile radio (LMR) functionality to narrowbanding — a method that allows radios to use spectrum more efficiently, freeing up extra capacity for additional licenses. The mandated change will avert agencies from a more bandwidth-hungry approach called widebanding and make available additional spectrum licenses for crowded metropolitan jurisdictions. It has been a costly burden, however, for jurisdictions already satisfied with the capacity they possess and those gravely unprepared to meet the deadline.
Agencies often can’t afford new equipment, or their leaders are ill-equipped from predecessors who did nothing to prepare. In some cases, especially in rural areas, agencies are unaware of the deadline or think their failure to convert will go unnoticed by the FCC. Once the deadline passes and those who converted their equipment start narrowbanding, that equipment could interfere with LMRs in neighboring jurisdictions still in wideband-mode. The FCC has refused to extend the official deadline, which means some portion of the country will be in violation after it passes, said David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. He estimates that one-third of jurisdictions in the nation have already converted. Therefore, the remaining two-thirds are made up of jurisdictions still transitioning and poised to meet the deadline and jurisdictions that are already too behind and won’t meet it — but it’s unknown how many jurisdictions fall in the former and latter categories.
Those that miss the deadline will need to submit applications for special waiver extensions, but they can’t claim that they weren’t given enough time, said Dave Buchanan, committee chair of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council’s (NPSTC) Spectrum Management Committee.
To read the full article written by Andy Opsahl click here.
NSTB Calls for Nationwide Ban on PEDs While DrivingDecember 13th, 2011
WASHINGTON – December 13, 2011 – Following today’s Board meeting on the 2010 multi- vehicle highway accident in Gray Summit, Missouri, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for the first-ever nationwide ban on driver use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) while operating a motor vehicle.
The safety recommendation specifically calls for the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers. The safety recommendation also urges use of the NHTSA model of high-visibility enforcement to support these bans and implementation of targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and heightened enforcement.
“According to NHTSA, more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents”, said Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving.”
“No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life.”
On August 5, 2010, on a section of Interstate 44 in Gray Summit, Missouri, a pickup truck ran into the back of a truck-tractor that had slowed due to an active construction zone. The pickup truck, in turn, was struck from behind by a school bus. That school bus was then hit by a second school bus that had been following. As a result, two people died and 38 others were injured.
The NTSB’s investigation revealed that the pickup driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the accident. The last text was received moments before the pickup struck the truck-tractor.
The Missouri accident is the most recent distraction accident the NTSB has investigated. However, the first investigation involving distraction from a wireless electronic device occurred in 2002, when a novice driver, distracted by a conversation on her cell phone, veered off the roadway in Largo, Maryland, crossed the median, flipped the car over, and killed five people.
Since then, the NTSB has seen the deadliness of distraction across all modes of transportation.
- In 2004, an experienced motorcoach driver, distracted on his hands-free cell phone, failed to move to the center lane and struck the underside of an arched stone bridge on the George Washington Parkway in Alexandria, Virginia. Eleven of the 27 high school students were injured;
- In the 2008 collision of a commuter train with a freight train in Chatsworth, California, the commuter train engineer, who had a history of using his cell phone for personal communications while on duty, ran a red signal while texting. That train collided head on with a freight train – killing 25 and injuring dozens;
- In 2009, two airline pilots were out of radio communication with air traffic control for more than an hour because they were distracted by their personal laptops. They overflew their destination by more than 100 miles, only realizing their error when a flight attendant inquired about preparing for arrival;
- In Philadelphia in 2010, a barge being towed by a tugboat ran over an amphibious “duck” boat in the Delaware River, killing two Hungarian tourists. The tugboat mate failed to maintain a proper lookout due to repeated use of a cell-phone and laptop computer; and
- In 2010, near Munfordville, Kentucky, a truck-tractor in combination with a 53-foot-long trailer, left its lane, crossed the median and collided with a 15-passenger van. The truck driver failed to maintain control of his vehicle because he was distracted by use of his cell-phone. The accident resulted in 11 fatalities.
In the last two decades, there has been exponential growth in the use of cell-phone and personal electronic devices. Globally, there are 5.3 billion mobile phone subscribers or 77 percent of the world population. In the United States, that percentage is even higher – it exceeds 100 percent.
Further, a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study of commercial drivers found that a safety-critical event is 163 times more likely if a driver is texting, e-mailing, or accessing the Internet.
“The data is clear; the time to act is now. How many more lives will be lost before we, as a society, change our attitudes about the deadliness of distractions?” Hersman said.
A synopsis of the NTSB report, including the probable cause, findings, and a complete list of the safety recommendations, is available here.
Final Rule banning hand-held cell phone, texting releasedNovember 23rd, 2011
Today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a final rule specifically prohibiting interstate truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating their vehicles. The joint rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is the latest action by the U.S. Department of Transportation to end distracted driving.
“When drivers of large trucks, buses and hazardous materials take their eyes off the road for even a few seconds, the outcome can be deadly,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “I hope that this rule will save lives by helping commercial drivers stay laser-focused on safety at all times while behind the wheel.”
The final rule prohibits commercial drivers from using a hand-held mobile telephone while operating a commercial truck or bus. Drivers who violate the restriction will face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle for multiple offenses.
Additionally, states will suspend a driver’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) after two or more serious traffic violations. Commercial truck and bus companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving will face a maximum penalty of $11,000.
In September 2010, FMCSA issued a regulation banning text messaging while operating a commercial truck or bus and PHMSA followed with a companion regulation in February 2011, banning texting by intrastate hazardous materials drivers.
While driver distraction studies have produced mixed results, FMCSA research shows that using a hand-held cell phone while driving requires a commercial driver to take several risky steps beyond what is required for using a hands-free mobile phone, including searching and reaching for the phone. Commercial drivers reaching for an object, such as a cell phone, are three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event. Dialing a hand-held cell phone makes it six times more likely that commercial drivers will be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event.
“While it’s a very important rule, and certainly, something we applaud the Secretary for initiating, I don’t know it will have much of an impact since most companies already have policies prohibiting drivers from using cell phones while they are driving,” said United Motorcoach Association President/CEO Victor S. Parra. “So from that standpoint, I don’t think it’s going to really alter policies that much.”
In fact, many of the largest truck and bus companies, such as UPS, Covenant Transport, Wal-Mart, Peter Pan and Greyhound, already have company policies in place banning their drivers from using hand-held phones; however, Norm Littler, VP, regulatory & industry affairs, for the American Bus Association said even with these rules in place the carrier could still be held liable under the new rule.
“The thing we express some concern over is the employer liability,” said Littler. “If a driver violates company policies as well as the new rules and uses a handheld cell phone, the way the rule reads it would still mean the company could be liable under FMCSA rules for the violation and subject to a potential fine.”
Having a clear and concise written rule in place stating that hand-held cell phones and texting is against company rules and making certain that all drivers have read the policy and signed off on it is the best course of action for carriers to protect themselves should an incident occur, Littler added.
“As with anything, have your policies in place, revisit them, make certain that they are adjusted as necessary, test them and make certain you have evidence that everybody in your company is aware of them and have read and agreed with them,” he said.
Nearly 5,474 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009. Distraction-related fatalities represented 16% of overall traffic fatalities in 2009, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration research.
The final hand-held cell phone ban rule can be accessed here.
NTSB Safety Recommendations H-11-26 through -27October 12th, 2011
NTSB SAFETY RECOMMENDATION
National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, DC 20594
October 12, 2011
NTSB Safety Recommendations H-11-26 through -27
The National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:
Prohibit the use of both handheld and hands-free cellular telephones by all commercial driver license holders while operating a commercial vehicle, except in emergencies. (H-11-26) [This recommendation supersedes Safety Recommendation H-06-27.]
Apply the vetting criteria of the New Applicant Screening Program to the information submitted by all new entrant motor carriers. (H-11-27)
The National Transportation Safety Board also reiterates the following recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:
Seek statutory authority to deny or revoke operating authority for commercial interstate motor carriers found to have applications for operating authority in which the applicant failed to disclose any prior operating relationship with another motor carrier, operating as another motor carrier, or being previously assigned a U.S. Department of Transportation number. (H-09-34). Develop an evaluation component to determine the effectiveness of your New Applicant Screening Program. (H-09-21)
The complete recommendation letter is available here.
Additional clarification to the narrowbanding Dear Colleague Letter of April 12 from Administrator RogoffMay 6th, 2011
Based on transportation industry feedback, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) decided that additional clarification was required to the narrowbanding Dear Colleague Letter (April 12) to reduce further the possibility of confusion pertaining to the FCC’s “equivalency efficiency requirement” for land mobile radio systems,beginning January 1, 2013.
On April 19, 2011, FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff released a follow-up letter. To read Administrator Rogoff’s Dear Colleague letter click here:
Small Bus Transit Systems come up big in Management Commitment to SafetyApril 22nd, 2011
Management commitment is exemplified by resource allocation, planning efforts and the development and adoption of safety and security policies that flow across all agency activities. Management’s commitment to safety, security, and emergency preparedness programs starts at the very top of the agency, including its transit board or oversight entity, and ensures polices and/or protocols are developed to support communication up, down, and across the agency. Employee participation and accountability are critical to success. Effective policies are developed with input from agency stakeholders, including managers, supervisors and front line employees, and endorsed by the highest levels of leadership including those responsible for monitoring and oversight of the transit system. It is critical that management’s role in safety, security, and emergency management is clearly identified and includes ongoing involvement in support of the safety and security functions.
Recently, 112 of the Bus Safety and Security website’s registered users responded to FTA regarding how they felt about management’s commitment to safety in the transit bus industry. Responses focused on leadership values, resource allocation, roles and accountability, communication and team building as they relate to bus safety.
- Is Visible. Sixty six percent of respondents agreed that “A safety policy statement is prominently displayed in facilities and in agency documentation.”
- Involves Involvement. 77% said that “Clear lines of safety responsibility have been established and safety roles assigned.”
- Can be Counted. Seventy five percent of respondents said that “Management participates in setting measurable safety targets and supports safety performance measurement systems.”
- Has Goals. As shown in the figure “Safety Goal Meetings per Year”, 73% of respondents said that “safety goal setting activities take place” 1-3 times per year. Nineteen percent said that safety goal setting activities take place 4-6 per year, while 8% said 7-10 times per year.
- Stays Regular. 74% of respondents agreed that “management conducts regular and routine safety performance reviews.”
- Helps Clean Up. Ninety percent said that “management is actively involved in incident/accident (including near misses) reviews and follow-up.”
- Stays Accessible About Safety. 93% of respondents agreed that “it’s easy to report a safety issue to management.”
- Believes in Safety Planning. Eighty nine percent of respondents said that “the chief executive/general manager has endorsed the agency’s safety plan and procedures.”
- Keeps Its Eye on Safety. As shown in the figure “Safety Observations per Month”, 13% of respondents said their management conducted “safety ‘walk-abouts’ and on-vehicle observations per month”, 47% said 1-3 safety observations per month, and 40% responded that their management conducted more than three safety observations per month.
- Have the Technology. Sixty percent of respondents agreed that “sufficient resources have been provided in the form of budget and personnel to implement each safety program element.”
- Are Investments. 77% of respondents said “management commits resources to enhance system safety knowledge and skills at all levels of the organization.”
- Learn from the Best. As shown in the figure “Training Opportunities per Year”, 26% of respondents said “management encourages and provides resources for employees to actively participate in safety training opportunities, including professional and trade association workshops” less than one time per year. Fifty seven percent responded that there were between one and four safety training opportunities per year, and 17% said there were between five and nineteen safety training opportunities per year.
- Trickles Down. Eighty one percent of respondents agreed that “safety goals and objectives are clearly identified and communicated to employees.”
- Starts from the Base. 77% said that “management regularly and actively solicits input from employees and passengers to ensure management is aware of safety concerns.”
Shared values are the glue that holds an agency together and in line with its mission. Leaders can never hide their values. Written or not, employees will quickly learn where a leader stands on critical issues such as safety, security, employee welfare, and customer satisfaction to name just a few. Why is it so easy to see shared values? Because they will be evident in employee actions, the discussions that are permitted, what constitutes risk, and who is involved in decision-making. As with most values, when it comes to safety, actions always speak louder than words. Leaders demonstrate their value in safety by making it easy for employees to make the right decisions. Making values visible is the best way to “walk the walk.”
New National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS)April 20th, 2011
Tomorrow, April 20, Secretary Napolitano will visit New York City to announce the implementation of the Department of Homeland Security’s new National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) to replace the color-coded threat advisory system.
FTA Administrator Rogoff releases Dear Colleague letter on FCC Mandated Narrowbanding RequirementsApril 13th, 2011
On April 12, 2011, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Peter Rogoff released a Dear Colleage Letter explaining the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated Narrowbanding requirements that will take effect January 1, 2013.
“The FTA reminds transit operators that the FCC began a series of proceedings, beginning in 1992, to address the issues of Narrowbanding, also referred to as “Refarming.” These requirements, announced in December 2004, mandated that all non-Federal public safety licensees using 25 kHz radio systems migrate to narrowband 12.5 kHz or lower channels by January 1, 2013.”
Please see the related download to read Administrator Rogoff’s entire letter.
Dear Colleague Letter from Administrator Rogoff Explains Impact of a Government Shutdown on FTA OperationsApril 8th, 2011
Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Peter Rogoff released a Dear Colleague letter to explain the procedures that FTA would use to implement an orderly shutdown should Congress be unable to pass a funding bill.
FTA meets with its MOU Partners to discuss the future direction of the Bus Safety and Security ProgramMarch 22nd, 2011
On February 24, 2011 FTA met with its partners to the Bus Safety and Security Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Participants included Representatives from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA). The purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for the MOU Partners to discuss the current state of the Bus Safety and Security Program as well as its future direction. The group identified opportunities for increased coordination and collaboration as well as initiatives the will enhance assistance to the transit bus industry.
The full summary of this meeting is below. Read the rest of this entry »