NTSB announces new 'Most Wanted' list

| 11/15/2006

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 on-highway fatalities.

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 objectives:

  • Establish a comprehensive medical oversight program for interstate commercial drivers;
  • Ensure that examiners are qualified and know what to look for;
  • Track all medical certificate applications;
  • Enhance oversight and enforcement of invalid certificates; and
  • 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 FMCSA-2004-18898-31.