DOT to begin chassis inspections

| 1/27/2004

Intermodal chassis owners – not truckers – will stand to incur fines if the chassis are unsafe under a new FMCSA program – in essence making the chassis owners responsible.

The announcement appears to reverse a policy released by the FMCSA just weeks before.

Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta said Jan. 26 that the U.S. Department of Transportation would launch a safety inspection program for intermodal container chassis.

The program will be modeled on the current compliance review system for trucks. Chassis providers will be required to obtain a U.S. DOT number and display it on their chassis so that data can be captured. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will apply the same penalty structure and enforcement actions for equipment, including issuing out-of-service orders and revoking U.S. DOT numbers when needed.

Cargo containers being hauled by rail and shipping companies are regularly transferred to trucks before final delivery. The program will provide added oversight to help ensure that the trailer beds used by truckers to haul cargo containers are safe, the agency said.

Currently, most chassis are not owned by trucking companies and are not included as part of the existing compliance review process for truck operators. Within the coming weeks, DOT said it would outline specific details and a timeline for a notice of proposed rulemaking on the issue.

Several weeks ago, FMCSA declined to issue a rule on intermodal chassis maintenance. In a Dec. 31 decision, the agency said that while the trucking industry thought the matter was a safety issue, there were “no data available to support this assertion.”

However, in a Jan. 26 statement, Secretary Mineta said, “Every day millions of dollars worth of cargo are transferred from ships and rail to trailer beds and hauled away by trucks. It is essential that we have a full and complete safety program focused on the trailer beds used to haul cargo containers.”