By Jami Jones, senior editor
“One cannot simply divorce safe operations and safety compliance from the economic realities that truckers must face every day.”
That message was delivered loud and clear to the members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee by OOIDA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz. He spoke during the committee’s hearing, “Making our roads safer: Reauthorization of the motor carrier safety programs,” held on July 21.
Rajkovacz immediately shifted gears and painted a picture for the committee showing the safety achievements of the trucking industry.
“The U.S. trucking industry has never been safer,” Rajkovacz said. “From a peak of 6,702 commercial motor vehicle involved fatal accidents in 1979, the industry had a record low of 3,380 in 2009. FMCSA’s statistics clearly show a continuously improving trend over the course of three plus decades.”
Further narrowing the focus, Rajkovacz referred to a declaration made by William Quade, associate administrator for enforcement and program delivery of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Quade submitted a declaration to the court comparing CSA results against the SafeStat results in response to a lawsuit filed in late 2010 by the National Association of Small Trucking Companies challenging CSA.
In the declaration, FMCSA noted that overall under the old SafeStat program, 49,929 total motor carriers would have been identified as deficient in a Safety Evaluation Area. During the CSA operational test model, that overall number increased to 51,238 motor carriers with one or more BASIC in Alert status.
That means 10.1 percent of all motor carriers faced some sort of enforcement under SafeStat as compared with 10.3 percent under CSA’s methodology.
Through SafeStat, there were only 139 motor carriers with 500 or more power units identified as deficient. That increased to 323 of the largest motor carriers with an Alert status in at least one BASIC under CSA’s methodology. That’s an increase from 22.1 percent to 51.4 percent that faced possible safety interventions from the agency.
Conversely, the two categories representing the smallest motor carriers told a very different tale. For motor carriers with five or fewer power units, under SafeStat 7.1 percent were ranked as deficient. That increased only three-tenths of a percent to 7.4 percent with an Alert status under CSA.
Motor carriers with 15 or fewer trucks actually saw a decline in the percentage of identified carriers. Under SafeStat 22.2 percent were identified as deficient in an SEA. With CSA, the percentage of carriers in Alert status dropped to 20.7 percent.
“Small-business truckers dominate our industry yet their business model is under assault from larger motor carrier interests that have cleverly crafted and support initiatives – like EOBRs, speed limiters, and heavier trucks – under safety and environmental arguments that sound good, but are false,” Rajkovacz said.
Rajkovacz encouraged committee members to look more closely at the root cause of wrecks in the industry and the pressures that drivers face.
He pointed out that blindly regulating the use of more and more technology – which ultimately drives up the cost of compliance without any proven benefit to safety – will simply drive safe, experienced drivers from the industry, resulting in more inexperienced unsafe drivers on the road.
“Today’s significant safety gains can and will be lost if policies are implemented that cause a rush to the exits by veteran, experienced operators,” Rajkovacz warned. LL