SAFETY BOARD TO URGE MEASURES FOR TRUCKERS AGENCY TARGETS FATIGUE, DRUGS

SAFETY BOARD TO URGE MEASURES FOR TRUCKERS AGENCY TARGETS FATIGUE, DRUGS

The National Transportation Safety Board this week will recommend that heavy trucks be equipped with on-board devices that track the number of hours a driver spends behind the wheel.

James Kolstad, chairman of the safety agency, also said the board will urge the government to test truck drivers for illegal drugs when they stop at roadside weigh stations.The recommendations follow the release earlier this month of a board study that showed fatigue was the leading cause of accidents in which truck drivers were killed.

The study also revealed that 33 percent of the dead drivers had evidence of drugs or alcohol in their bodies.

Mr. Kolstad made his remarks in a speech to the Transportation Table, a speakers' forum sponsored by The Journal of Commerce. He said the truck safety recommendations should be released formally later this week.

In other developments, Mr. Kolstad also said the safety board will make a push on a "fairly new" subject: cruise ship safety.

While 80 percent to 85 percent of the vessels in the booming cruise industry have their home ports in the United States, they are registered under foreign flags and thus not subject to strict U.S. documentation, manning and safety standards, he said.

"Accidents are occurring that we know nothing about because there is no requirement to report," said Mr. Kolstad.

The board's truck study, which Mr. Kolstad called the most comprehensive ever done, looked at 182 tractor-trailer accidents that occured between October 1987 and September 1988. The board released the results of the study Feb. 5 but deferred recommendations.

Mr. Kolstad said the board now would recommend installation of on-board devices that record when a truck is running and when it is stopped.

"Fatigue in all modes of transportation is a concern," he said. "We find it in aviation, in rail and in spades in the trucking industry."

The board's recommendation for drug testing at weigh stations comes less than two months after the Department of Transportation began its own sweeping

drug testing program.

The DOT regulations require pre-employment, random and post-accident testing but do not mandate roadside checks.

"We found a link between fatigued drivers and drivers who used stimulants to stay awake," Mr. Kolstad said.

In the cruise ship industry, the chairman said he is concerned about language difficulties among multi-national crews, the training of ship officers and the absence of certificated doctors aboard some passenger vessels.

Mr. Kolstad said he has asked the Coast Guard to seek "more legislative authority" to inspect foreign registered cruise ships. He also said the board will go to Congress seeking authority to investigate cruise ships in international waters.

"The American public deserves the same kinds of examination at sea as occurs in aviation, railroad and highway accidents," he asserted.

If Congress is reluctant to legislate in this area, Mr. Kolstad said, ''We'll go to the International Maritime Organization; if not, then we're back to square one."

On other issues, the chairman said his "highest priority" is to strengthen and improve the training of the board's safety inspectors.

Training time is difficult to schedule, he said, because of the increase in the number of accidents the board now investigates. The agency's staff size shrunk from 400 in 1980 to 324 in 1984 and has held at that level.

Mr. Kolstad also said the board would establish a "Ten Most Wanted List" of recommendations that would have the greatest impact on transportation safety.

The recommendations will be publicized widely and replaced and updated over time, Mr. Kolstad said.