On behalf of the membership, OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer testified Feb. 23 before the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Transportation and Related Agencies in Washington, DC. Spencer addressed safety issues paramount to the membership and further stressed OOIDA's call for the creation of a federal trucking administration. For his complete commentary, see OOIDA's website, www.ooida.com.
Changes are definitely needed at the Department of Transportation/Office of Motor Carriers. The OMC is simply not equipped or structured to resolve the many vitally important issues that confront our nation's trucking industry.
At OMC, the primary focus seems to be on technological solutions, while meaningful actions are either delegated out to other non-answerable organizations or put on a back shelf to gather dust. Professional truckers find it especially puzzling that adequate training and basic qualifications of drivers that are so fundamental to safety could be overlooked in favor of pet technology projects with dubious safety benefits and huge price tags.
Most of the discussion we hear from Washington on truck safety issues focuses solely on the number of truck inspections and the number of fatal truck crashes that have occurred. Truck inspections are an important tool in discovering safety violations, but this is a very narrow focus if your goal is to improve total truck safety. How often trucks are inspected has little to do with how well a driver is trained, or with the economic coercion imposed upon drivers to make impossible deadlines. It has little to do with a lack of sufficient places on the highways for drivers to pull over and get adequate rest when needed, or with the compliance of states with the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program.
To date, we are still awaiting mandatory minimum training requirements for new entry level drivers. We have seen no solutions to unsafe state practices such as roadside inspections, no protections for drivers against retaliation or industry blackballing if drivers attempt to challenge motor carriers who ask or require them to violate safety regulations. We have seen no regulations that place responsibility on shippers, motor carriers and brokers whose unrealistic demands creates the safety issue in the first place.
We can't even solve our problems with rest areas. The trend among states is to close, not open, rest areas. In fact, there are states that roust truck drivers out of rest areas every two hours whether or not the driver has had sufficient rest to comply with the federal hours-of-service regulations. It does little practical good to impose hours-of-service regulations on drivers without equal emphasis on identifying or creating places for the drivers to rest.
Hours-of-service regulations have been a major enforcement focus and a frequent topic for the media in recent months. If memory serves me correctly, the OMC began spending highway tax dollars to research this topic more than a decade ago. Even though these antiquated regs are just as likely to cause fatigue as to prevent it, there is still no reason for truckers to believe positive changes in these antiquated rules are coming anytime soon. There are too many interest groups pressuring OMC for changes that fit their individual agenda–not a safety agenda, but a political or economic agenda.
And what about the current out-of-service criteria? They are printed nowhere in federal regulations. They are supported by no public rulemaking process. If drivers want copies of the rules, their only option is to purchase copies from OMC's own pet organization, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). The OOS criteria themselves are developed, revised, and updated not by objective outside safety professionals, but rather committees within CVSA.
The OOIDA board of directors recently passed a resolution calling for the creation of a Federal Trucking Administration with broad powers to regulate both the safety and, where necessary, the business relationships within the trucking industry. Such matters are a very real and personal concern to professional truckers. OOIDA strongly advocates the consolidation of all trucking related matters, size and weight, economic oversight, and safety, within a single trucking administration. LL