COVID-19
  • A New Age of Enforcement: Adjusting to Remote and Offsite Investigations & How to Prepare By:

    Presented as part of ABA’s BISC & BusMARC 2021 Virtual Safety & Maintenance Series The American Bus Association’s Bus Industry Safety Council (BISC) and Bus Maintenance Repair Council’s (BusMARC) 2021 Virtual Safety & Maintenance Series offered a sequence of educational webinars early this year, covering a variety of industry-related topics. As part of its ongoing webinar series, the ABA hosted a virtual meeting with presenters Catterson Oh and Danielle Smith, transportation specialists with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance Division. Oh and Smith focused on COVID-19 national emergency investigative process updates including changes to the FMCSA investigative procedures due to COVID-19, recordkeeping and documentation as the result of COVID-19, and providing accurate documentation for FMCSA investigations. Changes to Investigative Procedures as a Result of the COVID-19 Health Emergency In May 2020, the FMCSA released guidance allowing investigators to conduct remote onsite investigations. These remote onsite investigations are intended to follow the same general process as offsite investigations with the exception that most of the investigation is now completed remotely. According to Oh, May 2020 resulted in a significant expansion to the FMCSA’s remote functionality. While motorcoach operators may not have seen any investigations in the last year, Oh noted that due to this expanded functionality, companies should expect a considerable increase in the number of investigations moving forward. “In terms of the offsite investigations with this pandemic, the policy with this particular type of investigation has not changed,” Oh said. “The offsite investigation will still be recommended for carriers that meet the appropriate criteria for this population of carriers.” Although carriers will not receive a rating from an offsite investigation, offsite investigations may be converted to onsite remote investigations under certain circumstances. Carriers with investigations that are converted onsite may be issued a Safety Fitness Rating. Overview of Investigation Process   Safety Investigator (SI) will conduct an initial phone call with the carrier to introduce themselves, and review the reason for the investigation and next steps.  2. SI will email the carrier an Initial Contact Letter that will go over initial documents being requested.  3. Carrier will upload the initial documents to the Safety Measurement System (SMS).  4. After SI receives the initial documents, they may request additional documents via a Document Request Letter.  5. SI may contact the carrier via phone and email throughout the investigation.  6. Once SI has completed the investigation, they will request a closeout meeting with the carrier, which can be done via phone, Microsoft Teams, Skype, or other platform.  7. Carrier may receive a Safety Rating upon completion of the Remote Onsite Investigation. According to Oh, carriers subject to investigation will receive a phone call, followed by an initial contact letter, from an FMSCA Safety Investigator (SI) introducing themselves, the reason for investigation and next steps. Once a carrier has received this letter, that carrier’s information will need to be uploaded into the FMCSA Safety Measurement System (SMS). After receiving the initial documents, an SI will review the content to determine if additional documentation is required. If additional documentation is needed the SI will issue a “document request letter.” “This is where things start kind of diverting from the normal way of doing things,” Oh explained. “Especially when you have performed onsite investigations.” An SI will start contacting the carrier via phone and e-mail throughout the investigation. In a normal onsite investigation, the SI would be with the carrier in person to answer questions and provide additional guidance.  Once the SI has completed their investigation, they will request a close out meeting with the carrier. This can be done over the phone or, more likely, in a video conferencing setting. At this point, the carrier may receive a safety rating upon completion of the remote onsite investigation.  Once the SMS has processed the information, the carrier will be able to access their dashboard, track investigation progress, check due dates and required documents, view call-to-action reminders, upload documentation, and learn to use data to increase safety performance. After the SI has reviewed all of the required documents, they will send the carrier a request for a meeting to close out the investigation. Typically, this is done onsite, face-to-face however, since the onset of the pandemic, closeouts are now performed virtually. Reinstatement After Voluntary Revocation of Operating Authority In March 2020, the FMCSA issued multiple exemptions in response to the national health emergency. One of those exemptions included waiving the $80 reinstatement fee for carriers who opted to voluntarily revoke their Passenger Operating Authority.  Carriers with a USDOT pin can login into their profile, update their registration information, and complete an MCSA-5889 form, a Motor Carrier Records Change.  Carriers without a USDOT pin, can register and request a pin number through the FMCSA website. Before submitting a request, carriers will need to file a BOC-3 (Designation of Process Agent), confirm insurance filings are up to date, and make sure that their USDOT number is reinstated and activated. Once these items are completed, the reinstatement request is going to be put on hold until the carrier has everything submitted properly. “If all is submitted and you do have to pay that fee, then you’ll get it reinstated no later than the fourth business day after the payment is processed,” Smith explained. “You can request that the fee is waived, you’re just going to submit it through EMC’s e-mail address rather than doing it through the normal process online.”  FMCSA Ratings The FMCSA issues three types of ratings. Satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory. Satisfactory means that there are safety systems in place and they all appear to be working. Conditional means that there are safety systems in place, but there are breakdowns within some of those systems. While carriers are still able to operate with a conditional rating, some choose not to do so and would rather upgrade their score. Unsatisfactory ratings mean a carrier is considered unfit and are not allowed to operate after that time.  “All of the critical violations are listed within the Read More >

Motorcoach
  • Prevost Continues Customer Focus in 2022 to Keep Business Moving Forward By:

    After a few turbulent years in the motorcoach industry, Prevost is focusing its efforts on helping its customers get back to business. In addition to offering a host of new products and business solutions, the esteemed motorcoach manufacturer is positioned as an industry partner for re-opening customers as well as operators looking to right-size their fleets. “In every conversation we have with our customers, ‘getting back to business’ is their constant focus,” said Michael Power, director of marketing for Prevost. “So, our current efforts are all about moving forward and helping the customers achieve that goal.” Dynamic Products Prevost’s latest line of products are intended to help customers streamline their operations, improve safety, and restore customer confidence in intercity coach travel and tours. Cloud One Prevost debuted the Cloud One, its exclusive and proprietary seat line designed for the North American market, at the UMA Motorcoach EXPO in February. “Riders interact with their seat more than any other part of a motorcoach,” Power said. “The seat makes an incredible impression on a rider’s memories about a trip, and we have heard that from many of our operators.” The Cloud One line was designed with ergonomics and passenger comfort in mind. It is the result of several years of research and development, with Prevost consulting with customers, suppliers, and its own industrial design team to conduct ergonomic and stress tests before settling on the final offering.  Customer workshops with real passengers helped determine seating height, cushion firmness, foam locations, seat belt placements, and other attributes. Power said the seat is designed to reduce fatigue during long trips and is optimized for taller riders. It features a more comfortable upright position, a new ergonomic headrest, and what Prevost said is industry-leading lumbar support. “The seat is immediately and visually striking when you board a motorcoach,” Power said. “And the comfort is apparent as soon as a rider sits down.” The Cloud One line is available in multiple trim options, with full leatherette or full leather with double stitching and piping. Additional tufting is available in black, ultimate, cognac, or flagship designs. Holiday Motor Coach of Idaho Falls, Idaho, took delivery of six new buses in September 2021, each featuring the new Cloud One seating line. “The Cloud One is a great fit for our clients,” said Brian Lott, owner of Holiday Motor Coach. “Our riders are relaxed, thrilled, and easily able to see the scenery outside on our trips. For athletic teams, the extra legroom space is a big plus.” Clean + Care Program A direct action against the COVID-19 pandemic, Prevost unveiled Clean + Care in 2020 and has steadily expanded the program since then. The program was designed to support operators’ ongoing needs throughout the pandemic. Among other initiatives, the program helps connect Prevost’s customers directly with access to products like driver protection systems, partitions, air filtration, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, alert decals, electrostatic sprayers, face masks and PPE, cleaning checklists, and more. Most notably, the Clean + Care program includes EnviroCare – a dual ionizer system which naturally and automatically cleans and sanitizes contaminants, bacteria, viruses, in the air and on interior surfaces. The EnviroCare system releases ions into the air, producing positive and negative ions from water and oxygen molecules. These ions continuously decompose pollutants, reducing their concentration throughout the bus. When the process is complete, the ions turn into water vapor and return harmlessly to the air. “We want to arm our operators with not only the greatest level of cleaning, but also the peace-of-mind that comes from passenger safety,” said Kevin Dawson, vice president and general manager of services for Prevost. “EnviroCare allows passengers to get on our buses with a level of confidence that’s very similar to airline industry. We’re cleaning the air as you’re going down the road, regardless of how many passengers are in the coach.” The Hampton Jitney of New York was an early tester of the EnviroCare system, according to Geoffrey Lynch, president.  “Like other operators, we have been doing all sorts of enhanced cleaning, fogging, and disinfecting,” he said. “When we heard about EnviroCare, we immediately sent a coach up for installation. Customers really appreciate the extra level of cleanliness, and the hospital-grade sanitization. It helps us market our services to school groups and travel groups that might still be hesitant to travel on motorcoaches.” Prevost eMirrors Prevost also recently debuted eMirrors, the first electronic side mirror system in the North American motorcoach industry. This stand-alone system replaces a coach’s traditional mirrors with cameras and monitors. The eMirrors system minimizes blind spots and increases drivers’ field of view. It provides great visibility, even in pitch-black driving conditions.  “The eMirrors are a perfect example of Prevost seeking solutions that will help bring new drivers into our industry – thereby helping our customers get rolling at full strength again,” Power said. “They boost driver confidence by allowing for better maneuvering in tight spaces, and can even reduce fatigue over time.” Furthermore, the lightweight system improves fuel economy by up to 3 percent and can eliminate the need for costly replacements due to broken mirrors. The Hampton Jitney was one of the first companies to install eMirrors on its coaches. “I think eMirrors are eventually going to be a standard option in every vehicle on the road, not just motorcoaches,” Lynch said. “They save a lot of money on dinged mirrors, and just add to the level of safety on and around a coach.” Driver Assist Power said the Driver Assist system, while not a brand-new platform, is another initiative meant to boost driver confidence and improve passenger safety. Driver Assist fully integrates radar, camera and brake technologies and combines these technologies to work together, gathering and sharing information, functioning simultaneously to create driver assistance aimed at reducing incidents and lowering operational costs.  “The industry lost a lot of drivers in the past few years,” Power said. “Technologies like proximity sensors, collision warnings, and advanced braking systems are very important for new drivers Read More >

Transit
  • CuVerro Shield™ by Aereus Technologies Brings Antimicrobial Copper to Transit By:

    With a plethora of disinfecting and antimicrobial solutions entering the transit marketplace in the wake of COVID-19, a time-tested technology is reemerging for agencies looking to restore faith in public transportation – antimicrobial copper. Aereus Technologies partnered with Olin Brass to produce and distribute the CuVerro Shield™, a solution of antimicrobial copper alloy which kills 99.9 percent of bacteria upon contact. In addition to the solution’s utility in the healthcare, education, and hospitality markets, Aereus representatives see the CuVerro Shield making a major impact on transit buses, stations, and trains. “The recent pandemic has caused an increase in the use of sanitizing products on buses and in everyday life,” said Terry Frank, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Aereus Technologies. “In some cases, sanitizing agents are damaging transit vehicles as well as exposing riders to potentially harmful chemicals. Antimicrobial copper is naturally recyclable, non-chemical, non-consumable, and generally is not found to be harmful to humans or causing allergic reactions.” “Importantly for electric vehicles (EVs)  in transit,” he added, “is that antimicrobial copper adds almost no weight, and its one-time application is permanent for the life of a vehicle.”   Aereus Technologies started in 2014 with an emphasis on studying copper ions as a biocide (a substance intended to kill or control harmful organisms), but the company quickly migrated toward studying how copper might be used to fight superbugs (antibiotic-resistant bacteria) in the healthcare industry. Many studies have successfully shown that copper ions are highly effective at killing many superbugs. From that knowledge base, Aereus developed proprietary techniques to deploy a solid layer of copper on surfaces in a permanent, low-cost, and aesthetically pleasing way. Aereus partnered with Olin Brass, the manufacturer of CuVerro Shield alloys. CuVerro® was already the first solid surface material to be granted “antimicrobial public health claims” status by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and was also approved to make public health claims with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) in Canada. Aereus incorporated its technologies to deploy Olin’s registered alloy. This partnership opened the door for CuVerro deployment on projects previously thought too expensive for the registered copper alloys, including the public transportation sector. “Our CuVerro Shield process allows us to apply a 150-micron solid functional layer of antimicrobial copper alloy to any existing part – plastic or metal – thereby reducing the operating costs significantly from prior generations,” Frank said.  How Antimicrobial Copper Works When a bacteria cell meets with a copper surface, the bacterium recognizes copper ions as an essential nutrient, permitting the ions to enter the cell. This ruptures the bacteria cell’s outer membrane and interferes with its normal functions, causing cell death.  Furthermore, the copper ions impede the bacteria cell’s cell respiration/metabolism. This can oftentimes cause irreparable DNA damage to the cell, making it unlikely for the bacteria will develop any future resistance to the alloy. Moving to Transit Aereus connected with MS Transit Solutions (MSTS), a consulting and representation firm for the mass transit industry.  MSTS specializes in Buy America manufacturing consulting, sales and marketing representation, proposal preparation, and strategic marketing services and planning for companies considering entry into the mass transit market. For some companies, MSTS provides general engineering services consulting, project and program planning and implementation, project management, and legacy product sourcing. “Aereus had clearly done their homework in developing antimicrobial-copper-based stanchion/handrail coverings,” said David Barrett, strategic consultant for MSTS. “This product was tested, certified, and ready for market.” With MSTS’s help, agencies around the United States began reviewing antimicrobial copper stanchions for their own operations. “We are finding acceptance in transit based on word-of-mouth,” said Mike Slugocki, president of MSTS. “When agencies see that a functional layer of copper can be applied to stanchions, seat handles, and other high-touch surfaces on a vehicle, they see that it can be a gamechanger. The copper is always functioning and working, whether or not someone touches it.” The solution’s lightweight application can be a major benefit for an industry focused on weight related to vehicle efficiency, Slugocki said. “If you are buying a new bus and applying a functional copper layer to its stanchions, it only adds 12 grams per linear foot of weight – or about 6.5 pounds to the weight of a new bus,” he said. “It automatically translates to less fuel consumption, less tire wear, and longer-lasting vehicles. Further, recent testing has shown that Kydex® Thermoplastic resin can be used to make retrofittable two-piece stanchion covers with a CuVerro Shield solid surface. Tests have shown that this combination of engineered materials showed compliance to CMVSS/FMVSS and Docket 90A ASTM 162 and ASTM662, FRA & NFPA 130.” Testing for Transit The CuVerro Shield (along with two other copper-based products) participated in a pilot study designed by local health and transit agencies, and sponsored by Teck Resources Limited (Teck), exploring the feasibility of antimicrobial copper in public transportation.   Teck is one of Canada’s leading mining companies, with operations in Chile, United States, and Peru as well. Teck is a significant copper producer, along with other metals, and is set to become one of the world’s major producers of copper when its Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 Project in Chile comes on line in 2022. In November 2020, Teck partnered with TransLink (the transit agency serving Vancouver, B.C.), Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction Canada, and the University of British Columbia to test antimicrobial copper coatings on high-touch transit surfaces on buses and SkyTrains in Vancouver. This project, fully funded by Teck, was the first of its kind in North America. “There is no commercial benefit for Teck from the increased use of antimicrobial copper, because the amount of metal used in these applications is minuscule compared to our overall production,” said Catherine Adair, manager of community development for Teck. “The Copper & Health program is part of our Corporate Social Responsibility program – with a goal of using copper to improve the health and safety for our communities. Read More >