By Laura O'Neill
Government Affairs Counsel
Where there is dissent, there is opportunity. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been facing consistently growing criticism about its nonexistent progress toward safety goals. However, we are standing on the threshold of the presidential election season and it is the president who ultimately oversees FMCSA. Whether the successful candidate is a Republican or Democrat, the new president will bring new leadership to the U.S. DOT and FMCSA. For truckers this means opportunity.
The FMCSA was primarily created to improve highway safety. Since its inception eight years ago, the agency has focused the vast majority of its resources on roadside enforcement and efforts to target folks behind the steering wheels of trucks – not on major motor carriers and other trucking stakeholders who in reality have a much greater ability to affect highway safety.
It is no great surprise to anyone who knows trucking that FMCSA has consistently failed to meet its major safety objectives. In 2000, the agency set a goal to reduce truck-related fatalities by 50 percent. The result? Eight years and nearly $3 billion later there has been an approximate 3-percent reduction in those fatalities.
Yet FMCSA continues along the road of pushing rules that will have little, if no, impact on highway safety and further burden owner-operators and professional truckers. The agency seems particularly keen on proposals that would feed personal information on drivers to motor carriers and law enforcement while, at the same time, helping to insulate motor carriers from liabilities associated with hiring unqualified, unsafe drivers.
There is a light at the end of the transportation tunnel. During the next year, as we move closer to the presidential election, the opportunity to reshape FMCSA is a tantalizing prospect. Instead of focusing purely on the failures of the agency, we have the opportunity to shift the dialogue to a positive platform that will focus the agency’s resources toward efforts that will yield real safety improvements.
Disenfranchised truckers who have been at the burning end of the FMCSA electric prod should begin talking about how we can reshape and refocus this agency because the winds of change are coming and they will be here January 2009. LL