In its annual wish list of solutions to safety issues that
need to be addressed in the transportation sector, the National Transportation
Safety Board's review of the trucking industry was bittersweet.
That news was delivered during a public meeting Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where NTSB officials handed down their recommendations for safety
improvements in both the federal and state/industry arena. Originated in 1990,
the board's Most Wanted list highlights specific recommendations that the board
believes will reduce transportation deaths and injuries.
Although attention to airline and maritime safety topped the
board's Most Wanted list, truck and bus safety made the list, too. Along with
safer runway operations and attention to other aviation problems, school bus
safety, more seat belts, tougher actions on drunk drivers, the board wants
actions that will improve motor carrier operations and prevent
medically-unqualified drivers from getting a CDL.
In the report released Monday, Nov. 13, NTSB discussed the
highway issues and gave the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration an
"unacceptable" rating, saying the agency was too slow in responding to the
NTSB's recommendations from last year.
Specifically, areas of concern cited by the board include
the lack of oversight for bad equipment and drivers, and the inadequate
prevention of medically unqualified drivers who could be identified through a
comprehensive fitness rating system.
NTSB officials contend that the U.S. Department of
Transportation's rating system for motor carriers - which is based on six
factors, including general, driver, operational, vehicle, hazardous materials
and accident - needs changes.
Instead of the current system, which gives the carrier an
unsatisfactory rating when any of the two of the six categories receive
negative marks, NTSB believes that a carrier should immediately be classified
as unsatisfactory whenever the vehicle or driver factors are deemed negative.
Officials also said the medical certification process for
commercial drivers has several "disturbing flaws" in it, and that proper
identification of medically unfit drivers could've helped lower the number of
NTSB encouraged FMCSA to "continue efforts to develop
medical certification procedures that ensure unfit drivers are not allowed
behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle," and offered the following
- Establish a comprehensive medical oversight program for
interstate commercial drivers;
- Ensure that examiners are qualified and know what to look
- Track all medical certificate applications;
- Enhance oversight and enforcement of invalid certificates;
- Provide mechanisms for reporting medical conditions.
Despite some harsh criticisms regarding unfit trucks and
drivers, the report praised FMCSA's proposed Comprehensive Safety Analysis
(CSA) 2010 initiative, a program that calls for a complete analysis and
evaluation of the trucking industry's compliance and enforcement programs.
NTSB may support the CSA 2010 initiative because its key
components focus on several of the problems pointed out in the Most Wanted
list, including unsafe driving, driver fitness, and vehicle maintenance. Fatigued
driving and the use of controlled substances and alcohol will also be addressed
under the program.
On Thursday, Nov. 16, FMCSA Administrator John H. Hill is
scheduled to preside at a public "listening session" to discuss progress being
made in the CSA 2010 program.
Land Line Magazine Senior Editor Jami Jones will be
in Washington, D.C., to cover the listening session. Visit landlinemag.com, and listen to "Land Line Now"
on XM Satellite Radio, for the latest updates.
To view the current proposed version of the CSA 2010
initiative, visit http://dms.dot.gov and search for docket