for roadworthiness of intermodal equipment must clearly be shifted back to the
owners of that equipment, OOIDA told attendees of the Port Operations and Safety
Seminar held by the American Association of Port Authorities on Aug. 28 in San
Spencer said the current practice of holding owner-operators and motor carriers
responsible for intermodal equipment is not only unfair, but it transfers the
responsibility for safety of the equipment away from the parties with the greatest
opportunity to maintain and repair their equipment on a regular basis to the
party that has the least ability.
equipment sits in the ports or rail yards until it is tendered to a trucker
to make a delivery," he said. "Owner-operators have little opportunity
to inspect for less than obvious defects on intermodal equipment when it is
assigned to them as they are scheduled to make a delivery. And these inspections
are most often an exercise in futility. Truckdrivers pulling intermodal equipment
report that in 65 percent to 90 percent of instances the equipment they are
offered or assigned to will have defects that can warrant a ticket or have the
vehicle placed out of service."
Even a lengthy
search for a defect-free container chassis may not locate one, Spencer said,
since there really is no incentive for the owners of intermodal equipment to
do needed maintenance and repair.
Once the container
chassis clears the gate it becomes the trucker's problem, Spencer said. The
trucker is often forced to make the repairs without being reimbursed for the
are charged back for repair expenses by the owner of the intermodal equipment
when the defect may have occurred long before the trucker ever took possession
of the equipment. "When this happens," he said, "the trucker
has no assurance that the needed repairs are ever made!"
kinds of routine defects reported by truckers on intermodal equipment make you
wonder if the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) annual inspections
required to be done by equipment owners have any real integrity," Spencer
told the group.
isn't a situation that can and should go on as is," he told the group.
"Lawmakers in many states are wondering why tread rubber lines their highways.
Attorneys are interested in the role that intermodal equipment has in accidents.
Noting the 1995 crash near Milwaukee that claimed the lives of six children
when the minivan they were riding in burst into flames after its fuel tank was
punctured by the mudflap/taillight assembly that had fallen off a container
chassis. That tragic accident resulted in a $100 million settlement to the parents
of the children."
intermodal equipment owners to assume the responsibility for the roadworthiness
of their equipment and advised the group that OOIDA would be working hard to
make sure these issues get the attention they deserve with FMCSA officials and
U.S. lawmakers in Washington, D.C.