SPECIAL REPORT: A glimpse at the FMCSA of the future

| 3/12/2004

What kind of an agency might FMCSA be in five or 10 years? A few clues can be gleaned from the agency’s recent effort to identify future research priorities.

Among the possibilities: Drivers with health-related problems may find it harder to get a CDL; a national drivers database might be set up containing drivers’ medical histories, drug test results and driving records; and there may be more use of on-board technology for safety and terrorism-prevention.

All that might not sound too appealing to some drivers. However, other efforts would appear more positive.

For instance, the agency was asked to develop a strong legal case to allow it to regulate shippers; it would also analyze the relationship between shipper demands and driver fatigue; it would begin educating shippers on the new hours-of-service rules; and it may allow a waiver of HOS rules in times of extreme congestion or during natural disasters.

All of these ideas came from motor carriers, motor coach and insurance companies, state enforcement and regulatory agencies and others who met with FMCSA’s Office of Research and Technology last fall. In all, the meeting resulted in 125 recommendations for future action.

Driver issues

Participants wanted more research related to driver training; more sharing of CDL-related information across jurisdictions; a new focus on developing English language skills as the commercial driver population becomes more diverse; and development of driver medical fitness standards.

For example, the agency may require drivers to prove they are fit to drive twice a year; older drivers may have to take physical exams more often than others; drivers may be required to take a stress test as part of their physical; and minimum standards would be established for an individual to be allowed to conduct DOT physical exams.

In other areas, FMCSA plans to study a process to notify carriers if a driver candidate lost a hazmat endorsement for security reasons while working at another carrier.

Training issues

FMCSA would also evaluate the effectiveness of driver simulators for training, and would look to educate the public on how to drive around commercial trucks.

In addition, special training might be mandated for drivers who are involved in an accident.

The agency also would look at roadside training courses as an effective means to educate CMV drivers and examine the safety benefits of driver mentoring programs.

--by Dick Larsen, senior editor

Dick Larsen can be reached at dick_larsen@landlinemag.com.