Along the Road
Public Information and Information Exchange
Along the Road is the place to look for information about current and upcoming activities, developments, trends, and items of general interest to the highway community. This information comes from U.S. Department of Transportation sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let's meet along the road.
USDOT Seeks Innovators for Inclusive Design Challenge
On April 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation opened Stage I of the Inclusive Design Challenge, a national prize competition seeking solutions to make future automated vehicles more accessible to people with disabilities. Stage I of the challenge will be open for submissions until October 30, 2020. The Inclusive Design Challenge seeks innovative solutions that will enable people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities to use automated vehicles to access jobs, healthcare, and other critical destinations. During two stages of competition, teams will compete to earn a portion of a $5 million prize purse.
Teams from academic and research institutions, the business sector, and technology companies are invited to submit entries. Solutions may include hardware or software ideas intended to enable independent use of automated vehicles by people with disabilities. Stage I of the challenge requests written proposals describing the design solution. Up to 10 semifinalists will be selected and awarded $300,000 each based on their proof-of-concept ideas. In Stage II, semifinalists will compete for a portion of the remaining prize funding by developing prototype demonstrations of their concepts. USDOT anticipates awarding Stage II prizes in summer 2022.
As part of the challenge, USDOT is also encouraging teams to seek input from the disability community, industry, and the research community. Understanding user needs and industry dynamics is critical to developing designs with the greatest potential for future impact. By ensuring that automated vehicles are designed to be inclusive, USDOT expects that the challenge will help enhance future access to critical services, including medical care, for people with disabilities.
For more information, visit www.transportation.gov/accessibility/inclusivedesign.
Secretary Chao Announces Grants to Improve Highway Safety in Indian Country
In April 2020, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced more than $8.9 million for 91 projects to 80 federally recognized American Indian Tribal Nations during her remarks at the National Congress of American Indians.
"These Federal funds will go to American Indian Tribes to improve traffic safety and improve the quality of life for Tribal communities," said Secretary Chao.
The $8.9 million will come from the Federal Highway Administration's Tribal Transportation Program Safety Fund (TTPSF). Nearly 60 Tribes will receive funding to assist in the development or update of a transportation safety plan. A library of such plans is online at www.tribalsafety.org/safety-plans-library. Other funded projects include roadway departure countermeasures, road safety audits, pedestrian facilities, roundabouts, intersection improvements, and data management systems.
A full list of grants is available at https://highways.dot.gov/federal-lands/programs-tribal/safety/funds.
Every Day Counts Launches Storyboards
The Federal Highway Administration's Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative recently shared its first storyboard, an interactive digital slideshow that incorporates images, video, and graphics to create a highly visual experience. The inaugural effort highlights the EDC-5 innovation Focus on Reducing Rural Roadway Departures (FoRRRwD) and promotes greater use of curve warning signs.
More than 36,000 people die each year on the Nation's highways. More than 25 percent of those fatalities occur on horizontal curves—curves that change a road's direction or alignment. Curve warning signs, such as chevrons, are cost-effective counter-measures proven to reduce crashes on horizontal curves. For example, chevrons reduce nighttime crashes on curves by 25 percent.
For more information, visit https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/forrrwd/curvesignstoryboard/index.html.
FMCSA Updates Hours of Service Rules
In May 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a final rule updating hours of service (HOS) rules for commercial motor vehicle drivers to provide greater flexibility for drivers without adversely affecting safety.
First adopted in 1937, FMCSA's HOS rules specify the permitted operating hours of commercial drivers. In 2018, FMCSA authored an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to receive public comment on portions of the HOS rules to alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on the Nation's highways and roads. Subsequently, in August 2019, the agency published a detailed proposed rule, which received an additional 2,800 public comments.
Based on the detailed public comments, FMCSA's final rule on HOS offers four key revisions to the existing HOS rules. First, the agency will increase safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after 8 hours of consecutive driving and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not driving status, rather than off-duty status. Second, FMCSA will modify the sleeper-berth exception to enable drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split, or a 7/3 split—with neither period counting against the driver's 14-hour driving window. Third, the updated rule will modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by 2 hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted. Finally, FMCSA will change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers' maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
The new HOS rule will be effective beginning September 29, 2020. The complete final rule is available at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/hours-service-drivers-final-rule.
TRB Recordings: Landscape Design Practices for Roadside Water Management
In April 2020, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) released a straight-to-recording series that presents highlights and findings of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program's Domestic Scan 16-02 on Landscape Design Practices for Roadside Water Management. This scan investigated how transportation agencies are applying principles and practices of green infrastructure for roadside water management to mitigate adverse impacts of flooding, drought, and temperature extremes affecting their infrastructure. The scan findings focus on eight critical areas that impact the overall success of green infrastructure practices. The report is available at http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/docs/NCHRP20-68A_16-02.pdf.
The videos offer presentations from Garrett Jackson of the Washington State Department of Transportation, John L'Etoile of the Nevada Department of Transportation, and William Fletcher, retired from the Oregon Department of Transportation. They are available on demand at no charge at https://vimeo.com/showcase/7050291.