OOIDA questions sincerity of new FMCSA policy

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration appears to be getting serious about putting chronically noncompliant motor carriers out of business  and closing the door on chameleon carriers upon first perusal of a new policy set to publish in the Federal Register on Aug. 2.

But after closer examination of the policy, the leadership of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has doubts about the sincerity of the agency’s plan of attack.

The document outlines the agency’s policy regarding review of authority applications, as well as suspension, amendment and revocation of current operating authority.

“When you first read through the policy, it seems somewhat noble,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

The policy outlines six areas FMCSA will review when considering whether to withhold, suspend, amend or revoke operating authority.

  • The nature and extent of existing or past violations;
  • The degree to which existing or past violations will affect, or have affected, the safety of operations, taking into account any crashes, deaths, or injuries associated with the violations;
  • Whether existing or past regulatory or statutory violations are the result a willful failure to comply with applicable requirements;
  • The existence and nature of pending and closed enforcement actions;
  • Whether adequate safety management controls exist to ensure acceptable compliance with applicable requirements; and
  • The existence of corrective action, if any.

The review will encompass six years’ of records on the motor carrier, the same time span the agency uses when considering civil penalties for a “history of prior offenses” or a “pattern of violations.”

“In essence the agency’s pledge to be much more diligent in terms of enforcing regulations that have been on the books for years. You give them high marks for that,” Spencer said. “But the proof is in the pudding. Is this what they are really going to do?”

The policy due out Thursday goes on to say that through the course of that review, if a motor carrier had a period of noncompliance but takes corrective measures, the agency will also consider that.

The problem, in OOIDA’s opinion, is that the agency’s focus on technological fixes is totally misplaced.

Included in the corrective action list are the installations of collision avoidance, automatic on-board recorders, speed limiters, stability control or other “supposed” safety systems, according to Spencer.

The agency also will consider documentation of repairs, changed policies and corrective action plans.

“The agency has been trying for a long time to strong arm operators into using EOBRs and all these other things without any meaningful effort on their part to determine if any of this stuff makes the roads safer,” Spencer said.

“The agency has made no effort whatsoever to come up with any meaningful analysis. They do little more than parrot the claims of those hawking this hardware.”

Spencer referred to a recent incident in Colorado where a C.R. England trainee proceeded onto a restricted route and then drove the tractor-trailer off the side of Independence Pass.

“That motor carrier has all of these systems on their trucks,” Spencer said. “None of this stuff can compensate for the lack of training or skill of a driver.

“When you include those gadgets into the policy, it undermines what the agency really should be doing. They are offering up these expensive supposed Band-Aids, that will do nothing more than increase costs for operators – having the biggest negative impact on small business. That is not what they should be doing in light of the absence of any legitimate cost-benefit analysis of any of this stuff.”

Spencer suggested a new focus for the agency’s emphasis on technology, rather than the de facto mandates in the policy.

“They’ve said for years that the agency’s shortcomings in enforcement are due to their own archaic computers and technology. If the agency sees a role for technology, that focus ought to be clearly directed at their own shortcomings,” Spencer said.

Copyright © OOIDA