Dispatchers and others beware: Amendment targets all who influence noncompliance

| 2/18/2005

In early February, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a series of amendments it is suggesting be added to the pending SAFETEA legislation. One of the amendments deals with the patterns of safety violations by motor carrier management.

Amendments to Section 31135 of title 49 of the United States Code – proposed in 2003 and yet to be made law – say that if an officer of a motor carrier engages in a pattern or practice of avoiding compliance, masking or otherwise concealing non-compliance, the motor carrier’s registration can be suspended, amended or revoked.

The FMCSA-suggested amendment looks to expand the definition of just who is an “officer” of the motor carrier.

Right now, the definition is somewhat limited because it names specific positions – like owner, chief executive officer, chief operating officer on down to driver supervisor.

But that could change if the FMCSA-suggested amendment finds it way into consideration by Congress and makes it into law.

The definition of officer would be expanded to include “any person, however designated, exercising controlling influence over the operations of a motor carrier.”

FMCSA sent its analysis along with the amendment to Capitol Hill. Agency officials hope the suggested amendment will “close possible loopholes.”

OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Rick Craig thinks that part at least is a good step in the right direction. But further into the new amendment, FMCSA drops the ball.

The previously proposed amendment that never made it into law would have required carriers applying for a registration to submit a list of the proposed officers of the motor carrier. That list would have provided a way to identify an officer who has a pattern of non-compliance in his or her past.

The huge problem in Craig’s eyes is that FMCSA says in its analysis of the amendment that individuals would no longer have to be listed on an application for registration.

In the interest of simplicity, it also deletes the requirement that applicants for registration submit a list of proposed officers to FMCSA, the analysis states.

That is just not acceptable to Craig.

In order to give this amendment some teeth – some real enforcement – Craig not only want names listed on the registration paperwork, he wants to see names named when a carrier is shut down.

“I would like to see more scrutiny over who these people are, what their names are,” he said. “They all need to be held accountable, and it needs to be extended to brokers.

“Carriers can operate just like bad brokers. If they are shut down, the offenders can go on down the road and open up a new operation and continue their thievery and abuse. We want to know who these violators are. We’re tired of seeing the same dirty principals popping up somewhere else.”

With the bill simply floating over Capitol Hill waiting for a lawmaker to snatch it up and introduce it, there is an opportunity for truckers to talk with their lawmakers and explain that the amendment just doesn’t go far enough.

--By Jami Jones, Land Line staff