Ask Thorn Valley #1 (Tom Flaten – VP Field Operations)


What do you think of this firm that is developing technology that allows trucks to platoon; and if you would have safety issues with a fleet that planned on implementing their AI product? Below is a link to their website:

Answer: If you think about it, platooning is like twin & triple trailers (“Rocky Mountain Doubles”) without the convertor dolly (“Joe Dawg” or “Yard Horse”). With platooning, the coupling device is not a mechanical piece of equipment, but an electronic signal connection between the brains of the vehicles (CACC – Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control system). I would think that would be an immediate safety improvement because it should greatly reduce the jackknife, crack-the-whip effect of a traditional long combination vehicle (LCV). Since the trailing vehicle (relief) driver can obtain rest while the lead vehicle driver is at the controls, it should also be safer from an accumulated fatigue factor. An initial fear of the driving community was that these “driverless” vehicles will “take their jobs.” Even if that were true, the most likely to lose their jobs would probably be those with the worst driving records anyway. Any reduction in driver turnover pays big financial dividend for the motor carrier, where studies indicate the cost to onboard a single driver is between $5,000 – $10,000. Taking some driver turnover out of the equation means fleets could (further) re-invest in safety automation.  Here are some articles from FMCSA regarding platooning and new truck technology.


Ask Thorn Valley #2 (Tom Nitza – TV LCR Emeritus)

Question: How does the recent FMCSA pre-employment drug testing waiver apply and who does it apply to?

Answer: All the (normal pre-employment testing) stipulations apply, but what I think they’re really aiming at is a motor carrier bringing back their own drivers who have been laid off (due to COVID-19). Under the regulations if they’re out of the random pool more than 30 days, that triggers a pre-employment test. Under this waiver, the period is extended to 90 days. New hires will simply have to take a pre-employment test as they’ve always done. What is interesting is that if you’re putting a laid off driver back in service you must query the Clearinghouse. My guess that would be in case the driver has been employed at another carrier and tested positive there.

On 6/9/2020 10:32 AM, Tom Flaten (TVE) addedCarriers can already waive the pre-employment if the driver had been in a valid D&A program within the prior 30 days – paragraph (b).

382.301   Pre-employment testing.

(a) Prior to the first time a driver performs safety-sensitive functions for an employer, the driver shall undergo testing for controlled substances as a condition prior to being used, unless the employer uses the exception in paragraph (b) of this section. No employer shall allow a driver, who the employer intends to hire or use, to perform safety-sensitive functions unless the employer has received a controlled substances test result from the MRO or C/TPA indicating a verified negative test result for that driver.

(b) An employer is not required to administer a controlled substances test required by paragraph (a) of this section if:

(1) The driver has participated in a controlled substances testing program that meets the requirements of this part within the previous 30 days; and

However – after the word “and”, there are several stipulations, so I doubt if this exemption is often exercised and most motor carriers simply go ahead and test all new hires. Now, with the 90-day waiver it probably will be used more. But all previous stipulations still apply.