Whole Foods Market, Inc.
-From Joseph D. Ryan, P.C., Law Offices of Joseph D. Ryan: NOTE: THIS LETTER IS FROM THE LAWYER REPRESENTING THE ADDRESSEE (WHOLE FOODS MARKET, INC.). THIS IS NOT FROM WHOLE FOODS MARKET, INC. DIRECTLY: On February 2, 2009, the National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") issued Safety Regulation H-08-16 as a result of two events occurring on October 16, 2005: (1) a single-vehicle rollover of a tractor-trailer combination unit ("tractor-trailer") operated by Whole Foods Market, and (2) the collision of a motor coach with the tractor-trailer. The NTSB concluded that the tractor-trailer overturned due to the fatigue of the operator, Michael Kozlowski. Although the NTSB acknowledged that Whole Foods Market had a fatigue education program in place at the time of these events, the fatigue of the operator "suggested" to the NTSB "that the motor carrier's fatigue education program was insufficient either in content or in application ... [and] it appears that the program was not supported by management strongly enough to impress upon Whole Foods' drivers the risks associated with driving while fatigued and the necessity of applying fatigue information to work and rest practices." Therefore, the NTSB made a Safety Recommendation to Whole Foods Market that it "implement a comprehensive fatigue education program that requires company management to ensure that employees understand the risks of driving while fatigued and comply with fatigue guidelines." The NTSB also invited Whole Foods Market to respond to its findings and the Safety Recommendation.
In accordance with the request of the NTSB, Whole Foods Market offers several comments concerning the events of October 16, 2005 and the Safety Recommendation. Whole Foods Market takes seriously its responsibility for the safety of its drivers and other users of the transportation system. Whole Foods Market, as the NTSB recognizes, had a driver fatigue education program in place at the time of the occurrence, and such program was adequate and supported by management. The education and training provided by Whole Foods Market to its drivers included safety meetings and the dissemination of publications on driver safety, rules and regulations, and safety trends. In fact, Michael Kozlowski, as the NTSB has acknowledged, had 250 or more hours of training, education, instruction, and on-the-job operation of tractor-trailers with co-drivers before being permitted to operate a tractortrailer by himself. Furthermore, Whole Foods Market was audited by the Department of Transportation after the occurrence. The audit included, among other things, an analysis of logbooks maintained by drivers for the company and its educational and training programs. The audit resulted in Whole Foods Market receiving a satisfactory rating, the highest possible rating that could be given by the Department of Transportation.
The NTSB has issued its Safety Recommendation to Whole Foods Market to implement a comprehensive fatigue education program despite the apparent fact that no other company has been subjected to such a mandate when the company, like Whole Foods Market, already had in place, among other things, a fatigue training program and scheduled its drivers so that they were well rested and in compliance with the regulations of the Department of Transportation. The difference in treatment between Whole Foods Market and other companies is illustrated by the NTSB's treatment of Chippewa Trails, the owner and operator of the motor coach involved in the accident. In contrast to Whole Foods Market, Chippewa Trails did not provide any training to its drivers on the issue of fatigue. The NTSB acknowledges this fact and despite this dichotomy in approaching driver education and training, the NTSB has not issued any type of Safety Recommendation to Chippewa Trails to implement a comprehensive fatigue education program of any type.
Whole Foods Market disagrees with the basis and alleged facts and/or finding of the NTSB which resulted in the Safety Regulation being issued to Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods Market has satisfied and exceeded the requirements of the Department of Transportation and the standards within the industry with regard to the training, education, and instruction as well as programs, procedures, and practices associated with and related to drivers who operate tractor-trailers. However, as in many aspects of its operation, Whole Foods Market continues to evaluate and improve upon its programs and educational materials. In this regard, Whole Foods Market has implemented a revised fatigue education program which is discussed in greater detail below.
Although the company continues to strive to increase safety and implemented a revised program, Whole Foods Market disagrees with the findings of the NTSB and the alleged facts that the NTSB relied upon in reaching its conclusions, including but not limited to, the finding that Michael Kozlowski was fatigued at the time of the occurrence and that the tractor-trailer was not visible to Paul Rasmus, the operator of the motor coach, and/or any reasonable operator of a vehicle at the time of the occurrence. The NTSB did not consider or evaluate the evidence and testimony under oath of various individuals possessing factual information pertaining to the events of October 16, 2005. Such testimony and evidence are contained in the transcripts from litigation ensuing from the accident, and Whole Foods Market provides such testimony and evidence in the appendix to this response for the review of the NTSB. Whole Foods Market also offers the following comments to highlight certain evidence.
I. MICHAEL KOZLOWSKI HAD ADEQUATE REST AND WAS NOT FATIGUED
The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the tractor-trailer rollover was the operator, Michael Kozlowski, falling asleep because he "was most likely fatigued." The conclusion of the NTSB that Michael Kozlowski was fatigued is based upon incomplete factual information. The NTSB acknowledges that two days before the accident, Michael Kozlowski slept for approximately 7.5 hours on October 14, 2005 and apparently focuses on the incorrect assumption that Michael Kozlowski had no more than 5 hours of sleep on October 15, 2005, the day before the accident. However, the facts and evidence clearly establish that Michael Kozlowski had between eight and nine hours of sleep on October 15, 2005, and he was adequately rested prior to the accident.
According to the NTSB investigation and all other evidence, Michael Kozlowski was at a restaurant and bar, identified as Sheffield's, on the evening of October 14, 2005 and going into the early morning hours of October 15, 2005. Mr. Kozlowski admits to being at this establishment. He left the restaurant and bar around 3:00 a.m. but returned to the parking lot of Sheffield's at approximately 4:30 a.m. on October 15, 2005, at which time he walked to the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Riesterer. Mr. Kozlowski then went to sleep at the Riesterer's residence until approximately 11:00 a.m. on October 15, 2005. Upon awakening, he returned to his residence and went to sleep around 12:00 p.m. Mr. Kozlowski remained asleep until being awakened by a telephone call from a neighbor, Kelly Wagner, at 2:13 p.m. Thus, Mr. Kozlowski obtained approximately eight hours of sleep on the morning and afternoon of October 15, 2005.
The timeline and hours of sleep for Mr. Kozlowski are corroborated by third parties and unbiased witnesses. Michelle Kruse and Melissa Boersma, two females who had never met Michael Kozlowski prior to October 15, 2005, testified under oath that Michael Kozlowski was "dropped off' in the parking lot at Sheffield's around 4:30 a.m. Mariel Riesterer testified under oath that Mr. Kozlowski arrived at her residence shortly before 5:00 a.m. and immediately went to sleep and remained asleep until 11:00 a.m. that morning.
Mr. Kozlowski's two hours of additional sleep between 12:00 p.m. and 2:13 p.m. are corroborated by the testimony, under oath, of Kelly Wagner, and the telephone records for Mr. Kozlowski's cell phone. The telephone records establish that the only telephone call to Mr. Kozlowski after 12:00 p.m. was a call he received at 2:13 p.m. from Kelly Wagner and Ms. Wagner testified that Mr. Kozlowski had been awakened by her telephone call.
It appears that the NTSB believes that Michael Kozlowki's sleep was interrupted because telephone records for Mr. Kozlowski's cell phone reflect several calls to the cell phone between 5:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. These phone calls, according to Ms. Kruse, were from her and another person calling on her behalf. However, all of the evidence, including the testimony of Ms. Kruse, establishes that Mr. Kozlowski never answered the telephone on any of these occasions and that Ms. Kruse left voice messages for Mr. Kozlowski. The telephone records corroborate the testimony of the independent party, Ms. Kruse, because the calls were for a brief period of time such as one minute in duration.
In addition to the approximately eight hours of sleep that Mr. Kozlowski obtained during the daylight hours of October 15, 2005, Mr. Kozlowski obtained an additional approximately 45 minutes of sleep about one hour before the occurrence. The Wisconsin State Patrol ("WSP"), through global positioning satellite ("GPS") records, established that Mr. Kozlowski parked the tractor-trailer he was operating at an entrance/exit ramp for Tomah, Wisconsin for slightly less than one hour. Kozlowski admits that he was parked at this location because he was taking a nap. Thus, Mr. Kozlowski actually obtained slightly less than nine hours immediately preceding the occurrence and the evidence of the amount of sleep is corroborated by independent third parties and GPS and telephone records.
The NTSB also references the alcohol consumption of Michael Kozlowski on the evening of October 14, 2005 and morning of October 15, 2005, and then states that the ingestion of alcohol is disruptive to sleep which may lead to daytime fatigue and sleepiness, thereby implying that Michael Kozlowski's consumption of alcohol contributed to the occurrence. Mr. Kozlowski consumed one to three alcoholic drinks approximately 24 hours prior to the accident. There is no evidence that Mr. Kozlowski was intoxicated at or about the time he consumed the alcohol, nor is there any evidence that he was intoxicated or otherwise impaired at the time of the occurrence. Similarly, there is no evidence establishing that Mr. Kozlowski's sleep was impaired prior to the occurrence or any evidence establishing any causal connection between Mr. Kozlowski's alcohol consumption and his loss of control of the tractor-trailer at the time of the occurrence.
II. CONTRIBUTING FACTORS TO THE CAUSE OF THE ACCIDENT
As part of the conclusions of the Safety Recommendation, the NTSB states that there were "insufficient visual cues to permit the driver [of the motor coach] to identify the truck wreckage in time to avoid the collision." There is ample independent evidence from third parties that establishes that the overturned tractor-trailer should have been seen by Paul Rasmus, the driver of the motor coach, or any other reasonable operator, and the failure on the part of Paul Rasmus to bring the motor coach to a halt before coming into contact with the tractor-trailer was attributable to his physical limitations with regard to his eyesight and the fact that he most likely was fatigued.
A. Paul Rasmus Was Fatigued
The information accumulated by the NTSB indicates that Raul Rasmus was awake for approximately 19 hours before the motor coach he was operating collided with the tractor-trailer. The testimony of Matthew Beitlich and Eugene Sirianni, drivers of two other motor coaches which followed the motor coach operated by Paul Rasmus, confirm the length of time that Paul Rasmus was awake before the accident. Their testimony also establishes that Paul Rasmus, after driving and logging in-service hours on October 14, 2005, had less than eight hours of sleep before beginning additional inservice hours on the morning of October 15, 2005, and he continued with in-service hours through the time of the accident on October 16, 2005.
Mr. Sirianni also testified that the drivers of the four motor coaches transporting their passengers to and from the band competition that weekend discussed taking a rest break during their return trip to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. They had taken such a break in route to the competition and the drivers preferred to take such a break on the return trip. However, a decision was made by the director of the band to return to Chippewa Falls without stopping or otherwise allowing the drivers to take a break and/or rest. This decision to "go straight through" was finalized within a few miles and minutes of the accident.
B. Sufficient Visual Cues Were Present To Identify Tractor-Trailer
There was sufficient natural light to illuminate the tractor-trailer at a distance that would allow vehicles, including the motor coach operated by Paul Rasmus, to be brought to a halt before reaching the tractor-trailer. Two lay witnesses, Timothy Lane and Jeffrey Steltz, were among the first individuals to arrive at the scene of the occurrence immediately following the collision between the motor coach and tractor-trailer. Both of these individuals reside and work in the Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire area and have "ties" to the community affected by the accident. Despite their potential predisposition to be biased against Michael Kozlowski and/or Whole Foods Market, they testified that they were able to observe the tractor-trailer lying on the highway at a distance that enabled their vehicles to safely come to a stop without coming into contact with the tractor -trailer.
Mr. Lane has a doctorate degree in music and is a teacher at the Eau Claire branch of the University of Wisconsin. He was driving home from visiting friends in Illinois. As his vehicle crested the hill approximately three-quarters of a mile from the tractor-trailer, Mr. Lane could see the entire valley on all sides because of the illumination from the moon. He describes the night as being "very, very clear" and bright enough that he could have played tennis or ping pong outside without any lights. He also observed taillights parked to the right side of the road and a "huge" white strip on the left side of the road. As he continued to drive forward, he saw that the white strip was actually the side of the trailer pointing skyward. The illumination provided by the moon enabled him to make these observations and no other illumination assisted him in making the visual sightings. In his opinion, the motor coach could have "absolutely" stopped before colliding with'the tractor-trailer.
Two of Jeff Steltz's three sons attended Chippewa Falls High School and one of his sons was a passenger on one of the three motor coaches traveling with and behind the vehicle operated by Paul Rasmus. Mr. Steltz testified that the van within which he was traveling was the first automobile to arrive at the scene of the accident. His wife was driving the van and they were traveling at approximately 60 mph as the van came over the hill located immediately before the location of the accident. Mr. Steltz observed that an object was blocking the left and right lanes of traffic, and his wife was able to stop the van before reaching the point of the accident without "panic" braking. Mr. Steltz testified under oath that the headlights of the van, and not the headlights from any other vehicles, illuminated the tractor-trailer obstructing the roadway. Matthew Beitlich, the driver of the motor coach immediately behind the vehicle operated by Paul Rasmus, brought his motor coach to a halt without impacting the tractor-trailer. Mr. Beitlich testified that he observed "dust" in the air when his vehicle was about threequarters of a mile from the location of the accident. The dust was described by him as being consistent with what he would expect if a vehicle drove onto a "dirt" shoulder (i.e., the tractor-trailer driving off the pavement of the highway). He removed his foot from the accelerator and then applied the brakes of the motor coach upon observing the side and "belly" (underside) of the tractor-trailer. He did not observe any lights illuminated on the tractor-trailer nor did he observe any lights from the motor coach operated by Paul Rasmus (because it had continued past the tractor-trailer). Thus, Mr. Beitlich was able to make these observations in the roadway and bring his vehicle to a stop safely in front of the tractor-trailer and without injuring any passengers with only the natural lighting provided by the moonlight and the low beam headlights from his motor coach.
C. Evidence Regarding Paul Rasmus' Vision
Dr. Elizabeth Davis evaluated the visual acuity and ocular health of Paul Rasmus and the impact of these conditions on his ability to operate a motor vehicle on the night of the accident. Dr. Davis is a highly regarded and respected board certified practicing ophthalmologist with fellowship training in cataract, cornea, and refractive surgery. She is an adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota, and she performs approximately 1,000 cataract surgeries per year. She also participates in research and clinical trials involving the study of cataracts, cataract surgery, and intraocular lens implants. Dr. Davis reviewed the medical records of Paul Rasmus as well as other items.
Dr. Davis describes Paul Rasmus as being far sighted with eyesight of 20/50 and moderate cataracts in both eyes. The cataracts and farsightedness impaired Mr. Rasmus' vision, and these impairments caused a delay in Mr. Rasmus processing and identifying objects. Mr. Rasmus' impairment was compounded by his age, 78 years, at the time of the accident, the fatigue experienced by being awake 19 hours, the low level lighting conditions at the time of the accident, and his failure to wear corrective lenses that were required while he operated a motor vehicle. Had Mr. Rasmus not been suffering such an impairment and/or wearing his glasses, he would have seen the tractor-trailer at a greater distance and had more time to react to the stimuli presented by the tractor-trailer lying in the highway. Mr. Rasmus, according to Dr. Davis, should not have been driving the motor coach because he was not wearing his glasses which were required and mandatory.
D. Visibility Study
Dr. Arthur Ginsburg conducted a visibility study in conjunction with reconstructing the accident. Dr. Ginsburg has a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, England. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from Widener College and his Master's of Engineering in bioengineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He developed vision testing equipment technologies, including contrast sensitivity (means of measuring vision and how well a driver can see in the distance), and has worked with ophthalmic companies and the U.S. government as a military defense expert. Dr. Ginsburg has over 60 publications to his credit and has several patents dealing with vision.
A visibility analysis consists of, among other things, assessing the visual capability of the driver, the cognitive aspects of the individual, the illumination and lighting conditions at the relevant time, and perception-reaction time. Dr. Ginsburg was able, unlike the NTSB and WSP, to wait for a night under which the lighting conditions of the moon were substantially similar to the conditions present on the night of the accident. For instance, the accident reconstruction conducted by Dr. Ginsburg occurred under a full "harvest" moon with moon illumination between 0.019 to 0.014 ft-c which is comparable and substantially similar to the moon illumination of approximately 0.015 ft-c on the night of the occurrence, and unlike the NTSB and WSP visibility study which occurred at about half the moonlight level (approximately 0.007 to 0.008 ft-c). Thus the NTSB and WSP visibility distance observations were conducted under half the ambient moonlight that existed at the time of the accident which obviously would reduce the visibility distances.
In addition, the NTSB and WSP visibility study was conducted with the tractor-trailer at about 45 degrees to the roadway, which the NTSB and WSP concede was at a significantly greater angle than existed at the time of the accident. Such placement explains the relative lack of conspicuity of the bottom of the trailer in the NTSB/WSP visibility analysis (video) and comments made by observers during the study. The accident reconstruction and visibility study conducted by Dr. Ginsburg included placement of the tractor-trailer at approximately 13 degrees perpendicular to the highway, which was a substantially more accurate placement and corresponded with the orientation of the tractor-trailer as determined by the NTSB and WSP. The correct placement of the tractor-trailer allowed for more accurate measurements of the conspicuity of the overturned trailer.
Based upon the visibility study, Dr. Ginsburg is of the opinion that Paul Rasmus, with his 20/40- visual acuity, moderate cataracts, and reduced contrast in his vision, suffered from a very debilitating visual condition. This condition would be exacerbated by his age and any fatigue, such as being awake for 19 hours. Dr. Ginsburg described someone operating a motor vehicle with such characteristics as driving in a fog. Although a person with the characteristics of Paul Rasmus could visualize items, such as letters, in high contrast situations and even at night, such an individual would be unable to see items with less contrast such as a tractor-trailer lying in the highway. According to Dr. Ginsburg, Paul Rasmus was "visually incapacitated" on the night of the accident.
Dr. Ginsburg also determined, based in part on the accident reconstruction, that the tractor-trailer, as an unidentifiable object, would be seen in the right shoulder of the highway from a distance of 1,600 feet. The tractor-trailer, as an unidentifiable object, would be seen in the right lane and shoulder at 1,300 feet and lying in the left and right lanes of traffic at 1,151 feet. Furthermore, the tractor-trailer would be identified as an unknown hazard in the right lane at 970 feet and a hazard in both lanes at 800 feet. The tractor-trailer would continue to acquire more definition as the distance from the tractor-trailer decreased, and the "ribs" on the underside of the tractor-trailer could be identified at 400 feet from the tractor-trailer.
E. Stopping Distance
Charles Scalia, a licensed engineer, also participated in the accident reconstruction and determination of the opportunity for Paul Rasmus, as the operator of the motor coach, to avoid the collision with the tractor-trailer. Mr. Scalia has worked as an accident reconstructionist for 35 years. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin in mechanical engineering. He also trained with Dr. A.H. Easton, who is known as the "grandfather of accident reconstruction in the Midwest" for his application of engineering principles to automotive collisions. Mr. Scalia has been retained by state agencies, including the Wisconsin State Patrol ("WSP"), to complete accident reconstructions and he has investigated over 3000 accidents. Mr. Scalia reviewed the work product, reconstruction report, diagrams, roadway and vehicle mappings, speed analysis, and photographs of the WSP, inspected the vehicles involved in the accident, and participated in the nighttime visibility study. The roadway selected to conduct the accident reconstruction was based upon the WSP reconstruction report and the selected site recreated the divided four lane highway with a 2-3 percent downgrade and a flat planer surface existing on the night of the accident. Using the drawings of the WSP, Mr. Scalia chalked the roadway, spotting locations for the crane crew to lower the tractor-trailer onto its side on the roadway. He then measured stations in 1 00-foot increments to enable observers to identify and view distances as they approached the tractor-trailer.
The WSP determined the probable speed of the motor coach at time of impact to be between 69 and 73 mph. Selecting the mid-range of the WSP's speed determination, 71 mph, Mr. Scalia examined the point of detection for the motor coach operator, followed by the driver's perception-reaction time. Mr. Scalia then calculated the braking distance to stop the vehicle from either 65 or 71 mph. He compared the total distance from the point of detection, through the driver and vehicle response and stopping, to the distance available before reaching the tractor-trailer.
Mr. Scalia began this analysis with a range of 800 to 500 feet based upon Dr. Ginsburg's observations that a driver with normal vision would be able to not only detect the presence of an object on the highway at 1,600 feet but identify it as a hazard at 500 feet. He next examined the perception-reaction time. Typically, an individual makes a decision or takes action iri response to the detection of a hazard (i.e., presses the brake) 1.6 seconds after detection, and once he takes such action, the vehicle responds within .3 seconds. Based upon a total perception-reaction time of 1.9 seconds and at a speed of 65 mph, the motor coach travels 181 feet after the perception-reaction time and before full braking is commenced.
Using the WSP's figures, Mr. Scalia concluded, based upon a reasonable degree of engineering and accident reconstruction certainty, that a reasonably attentive driver with good vision, traveling at 65 mph (or 95 feet per second) in a motor coach with proper brakes, and commencing perception-reaction for the first time at 500 feet, could avoid a collision with the tractor trailer. Utilizing full braking at .6gs, the motor coach would stop within 235 feet after initial perception or 84 feet before reaching the tractor-trailer. Mr. Scalia also performed this same analysis with a presumption that the motor coach was traveling at 71 mph. With the identical perception-reaction time of 1.6 seconds and vehicle response time of .3 seconds, the motor coach would travel 198 feet prior to the initiation of full braking at .6gs. The motor coach would travel an additional 280 feet before stopping, 22 feet "short" of coming into contact with the tractor-trailer.
Mr. Scalia also performed these same evaluations giving the driver of the motor coach more time to think about and perceive the situation, with a corresponding decreased reaction time. Even under these scenarios, at 65 and 71 mph, respectively, with initial perception at 500 feet and an additional 181 or 198 feet of response time, the motor coach would still only require braking distances of 235 and 280 feet. Once again, the motor coach would stop 84 or 22 feet short of the tractor-trailer.
In each of these analyses, Mr. Scalia assumed that the driver of the motor coach did not implement any evasive maneuvers and did not reduce the speed of his vehicle from the point of detection (1 ,600-800 feet) to commencement of the perception-reaction time at 500 feet. If the driver simply reduced the speed of the motor coach to 60 or 50 mph, at any time between 1600 to 500 feet, then the braking time would be reduced significantly. By breaking at 60 mph, the braking distance is lowered to 200 feet from the point of impact and at 50 mph, it is decreased to 139 feet. There was no physical evidence that Mr. Rasmus implemented any of these evasive maneuvers. The analysis of Mr. Scalia clearly establishes there clearly was adequate time and distance within which Paul Rasmus should have been able to bring the motor coach to a complete halt and avoid striking the tractor-trailer lying in the highway.
F. Distraction Of Paul Rasmus
In addition to the items discussed above, evidence indicates that Paul Rasmus also may have been distracted from visualizing the tractor-trailer immediately before the occurrence. Mr. Rasmus was communicating with a driver of another motor coach, Eugene Sirianni, by means of a large two-way radio provided by Mr. Sirianni at the start of their trip. Messrs. Rasmus and Sirianni were discussing whether to stop for a rest period approximately one-minute before the accident, and Mr. Rasmus would have had to place the radio down after completing his conversations with Mr. Sirianni. It is likely that he was performing this act as he approached the tractor-trailer and the distraction further impaired his ability to visualize the tractor-trailer and take the necessary steps to bring his motor coach to a halt before impacting the tractor-trailer.
Ill. FATIGUE EDUCATION PROGRAM
Whole Foods Market provided training, instruction, guidance, and advice (collectively referred to as "training") to its drivers prior to the occurrence and it continues to do so. Whole Foods Market also evaluates its operations and programs and strives to improve upon such items. As part of this goal, Whole Foods Market contracted with Smith System Driver Improvement Institute, Inc. ("Smith System") to supplement the training and educational program regarding driver fatigue.
Smith System was established in 1952 and was the nation's first professional driver training company. It has developed programs in 54 countries and in 24 languages around the world. At the present time, the company services more than one-half of the current Fortune 500 fleets and it provides instruction and training to more than 20,000 fleet drivers each year.
In cooperation with Smith System and reliance upon such items as the 2000 study issued by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, entitled "Drowsy Driving and Automobile Crashes," a program was developed for Whole Foods Market and implemented this year. The program, entitled "Fatigue and Distracted Driving," consists of four hours of training primarily addressing defensive driving and fatigue, but incorporating other related topics such as DOT regulations regarding service time and rest.
Several of the topics covered in the program include the difference between fatigue and tiredness; the causes of fatigue and sleepiness; the difference between rest and sleep to address fatigue and tiredness; the limitations on a driver's cognitive abilities due to fatigue; the correlation between fatigue and accidents; the frequency, severity and increased probability of accidents because of fatigue; the impact age has upon being fatigued; the corresponding probabilities between an accident due to fatigue and the time of day; the cumulative effect of inadequate sleep or fatigue over time; recovery periods for inadequate sleep, rest, and fatigue; an individual's "body clock" and related maximum and minimum alertness as well as maximum and reduced performance; the effects of alcohol and medication upon fatigue; and the truths and myths about fatigue and the appropriate means to address fatigue.
The program also highlights the shared responsibility between the company and its drivers with regard to fatigue. The drivers are educated on various aspects of their lives that contribute to or combat fatigue, including a balanced diet, sleep, rest, use of caffeine and alcohol, exercise, job related responsibilities, personal demands, medical conditions, illness, and stress. The drivers are also educated about the signs of fatigue, including the difficulty in keeping eyes in focus, drowsiness, following vehicles too closely, memory lapses (i.e., no recollection of driving the last few miles), micro sleep periods, errors in non-driving tasks, impaired judgment, drifting out of a designated lane, frequent yawning, intermittent braking, and random variations in speed. The program also discusses the ideal sleep environment and steps to implement on the road when feeling fatigued.
It is the understanding of Whole Foods Market that the program that has been developed and implemented by the company is the "first stand-alone" fatigue educational module used in its industry. All of the employees of Whole Foods Market who operate commercial vehicles for the company have attended the program and all future employees of the company shall be required to attend and complete the program as well.
We trust that this response adequately addresses the issues set forth in the Safety Recommendation, dated February 2, 2009, and issued by the NTSB. Whole Foods Market shall forward a Petition for the Reconsideration and Modification of the NTSB's findings and determination of the probable cause for the tractor-trailer rollover and motor coach collision on October 16, 2005 (NTSB/HRA-08/02). In the interim, we invite the NTSB to review and evaluate the materials provided in the appendix, and to contact Whole Foods Market with any additional questions or items that the NTSB may require to evaluate any issue or address any concerns.