The relationship between the nation’s top regulatory agency for commercial vehicle enforcement and a nonprofit organization made up of federal, state and provincial law enforcement agencies was called into question in comments filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
OOIDA’s comments were filed in connection with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking filed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in which the agency proposes, among other things, to change certain regulations dealing with parts and accessories necessary for safe operations; inspection, repair and maintenance.
The proposed rulemaking is in response to several petitions from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the American Trucking Association, and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Among the 13 pages of comments were criticisms of the relationship between FMCSA and CVSA, as well as a negative appraisal of proposed changes to CVSA’s roadside inspections, including proposals in the rulemaking that remove all references to roadside inspections and the content of the out-of-service criteria in the rules.
“Without making those standards public, FMCSA has not given the public an adequate opportunity to comment on its proposal,” OOIDA said in the comments. “If there is any imperative upon FMCSA to deal with roadside inspections and the out-of-service criteria differently than it does now, that imperative is to give the regulated public notice of their contents and scope.”
Under Section 396.17 of the FMCSRs, dealing with Periodic Inspection, the agency proposes to remove the words “roadside or” from the language, ostensibly because roadside inspections are less stringent than the periodic inspection outlined in Appendix G. But the agency does not disclose the standards that apply or the scope of roadside inspections.
The comments from the Association ask the agency to consider how many motor carriers now use CVSA’s roadside inspection provision to fulfill the requirement for periodic inspection obligations outlined elsewhere in the regulations and whether or not this change to the language would allow FMCSA and CVSA more freedom to revise and amend the scope and definition of roadside inspections “outside of the regulatory process.”
“Whenever OOIDA has asked FMCSA and CVSA to publish its inspection process and criteria, asking ‘What are the areas you want drivers to focus on?’ we have simply been told that drivers must comply with the complete set of federal regulations governing the condition of the vehicle,” the comments stated. “The inspection outlined in Appendix G may attend to all of these rules but it is clear in this Notice that CVSA and FMCSA do not expect or want to hold its officials responsible to inspect for compliance with this broad set of rules.”
Among the other questions the proposal raises is a section that would drop the word “random” from the description of the roadside inspection programs, potentially giving both CVSA and FMCSA discretion to conduct roadside inspections via some other selection process. The comments question what the agency’s policy is regarding the “Constitutional appropriateness” of inspection processes that are either random or based on some other criteria.
The Association’s comments conclude by stating that truck drivers should have easy access to the out-of-service criteria without the barrier of additional cost. Access to CVSA’s out-of-service criteria is now available only via purchasing a $45 book from the organization.
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