What Should FMCSA Do? – Part 1

The other day I saw a post from LandLine Magazine on Facebook. It asked the question, “What should the top priority be for the next administrator of FMCSA?” I thought and pondered for awhile then decided that the answer was not that simple. Of course there were many suggestions in the comment section. Most of which had some credibility to them in one capacity or another. I decided to tackle that question in a forum that allowed a little more elaboration on the subject. Considering that I try to keep these posts to a reasonable length, I will address the issues in 2 parts. I have no intention of ranking them based on importance because of the diversity of the industry. Each of us have problems unique to our own businesses.

An article released by Land Line Magazine Senior Editor David Tanner addressed many of the issues we will face in the future from pressures applied to the FMCSA by many special interest groups. None, except OOIDA, actually represent the driver or the small business trucker. It’s easy to say that the next administrator will have his/her hands full. Many of us would pretty much like to suspend almost all of the regulations put in place under this administrator until they could be independently reviewed and validated. This is not a personal attack on Anne Ferro. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the HOS hearing in DC in Nov. 2013. She is a very nice lady and easy to talk to. That said, her reign over the FMCSA has been a failure on many levels. That is what I intend to address in the next two parts of this blog post.

Let’s start with the HOS (hours of service) regulations adapted as of July 2013. Summarized, we have the 30 minute break and the 34 hour restart provisions. I won’t define those here because most of you that read this already know what they are. What I will say is that different aspects of this rule have been shown by different sectors of the industry to Decrease safety rather than Increase safety. Much of the data used in designing these rules was skewed to reinforce the direction FMCSA wanted to go. Other data was simply ignored. All of the research behind these changes need to be reviewed and all research considered.

The next issue is the listening sessions. Much of the information gathered at the listening sessions turned out to be an exercise in tolerating the working class while bureaucracy went on its merry way. In these listening sessions, if you were from one of the larger lobbying organizations, you were adorned with much thanks for your input. If you were a working class stiff like me, you were tolerated until your 5 minutes were up. The highest quality information coming from drivers with millions of miles of safe driving and decades of experience was pretty much ignored because it didn’t fit the agenda. The next administrator should go back and watch the listening sessions and embrace the valuable information produced by the safest drivers in the industry. We know how to do our job safely.

The next issue is technology. ELDs, Speed limiters, collision avoidance systems, in cab video. This list seems to keep growing as the next company producing these gadgets stands to make a buck. I support any company’s right to use these devices if they choose. That said, imposing a mandate to use these devices on all trucks does not fit the business model of about half of the trucks on the road that are made up of single truck or few truck operations. The cost is prohibitive and hasn’t been shown to increase safety of this group of drivers which is also the safest drivers on the road. Technology is no substitute for training and experience.

Driver training and driver trainer qualifications is the next big issue. How would the public feel if they realized that there are no real driver training standards? Better yet, no driver trainer standards! Many trainers start training with less than one year of experience. They haven’t even driven in all the conditions a normal year has! This has been a mandate set by congress that has been ignored for over 20 years! Safety been the focus of OOIDA for many years, going back to the early years of the association. The effort has been revived again as a public statement of OOIDA’s commitment to safety. In the last year they created the website TruckersForSafety.com . There you will find the associations recommendations on how to improve safety on our roadways.

Be on the lookout for Part 2 of “What Should FMCSA Do?” It should be out by the end of the week. Thanks for following.

1. http://m.landlinemag.com/Story.aspx?StoryID=27428#.U9h7-tS9KSM 

OOIDA: Safety Should Involve Training New Truckers, reforming FMCSA

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