FMCSA targets full supply-chain accountability

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Friday, July 01, 2011

For years, federal agencies and regulators have passed the buck on holding shippers and receivers accountable for commercial vehicle and driver safety. The FMCSA is working on a plan that would finally raise the bar on the supply chain. Public comments are due July 29 on the proposal.

The supply chain is just one of the areas the agency addresses in its proposal, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 2011-2016 Strategic Plan: Raising the Safety Bar. The plan, being issued by FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro to her managers and staff, is a clear indication of the agency’s intentions.

While OOIDA continues to oppose a number of regulations originating with the agency, the accountability for shippers and receivers as it relates to trucking is something OOIDA supports.

“There’s a difference between being against electronic on-board recorders in the entire industry and wanting to hold accountable the people in the supply chain who can make a small-business trucking professional’s life miserable at the docks,” said OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz.

FMCSA has coined a new phrase in the draft of its five-year strategic plan: “CMV transportation life-cycle.” The agency uses the term to describe all entities that control or influence the operation of commercial motor vehicles.

According to the agency, “Individuals, organizations, agencies, and other entities that are part of the CMV transportation life-cycle need to be aware of their impact on CMV safety and take responsibility for that impact.”

That includes shippers and receivers, who are rarely held accountable for compliance and safety issues that trucking professionals deal with on a daily basis such as detention time, hours of service and even parking.

According to the draft document, FMCSA hopes to “Identify gaps in current legislative and regulatory authorities that prevent FMCSA from reaching certain elements of the CMV transportation life-cycle (e.g., entities touching roadway movement of passengers and freight: shippers, receivers, brokers, freight forwarders) who may have a deleterious effect on safety through their actions.”

If nothing else, the strategic plan is a blueprint, Rajkovacz says, which shows the direction the agency wants to take. Prior to Ferro’s tenure as administrator, former Administrator John Hill produced a strategic plan to cover 2006 through 2011.

“It shows Anne Ferro’s vision for what the agency will be focusing on in the next five years,” Rajkovacz said.

Professional truckers may not like some of the outlines in the proposal, he adds. One significant point is that FMCSA hopes to utilize emerging technologies not only for its own operations but to tie in to its mission of safety in the CMV world. That could mean more real-time technologies and data collection.

“There’s a lot of George Jetson in this, but there’s also a lot of George Orwell,” said Rajkovacz. “There’s a lot of money in chasing this kind of technology that tracks real-time operations of trucks.”

The public has through July 29 to make comments. Click here to read the FMCSA proposal.

To comment, visit regulations.gov and search for Docket No. FMCSA-2011-0098; write to Docket Management Facility (M-30), U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590-0001; or fax to 202-493-2251.

In addition to the Federal Register notice, another interesting way to get a dialogue going on the proposal is through an IdeaScale Community which has been set up at fmcsa.dot.gov. Similar to the Regulation Room, participants can engage in conversation, offer comments and “vote” on comments they agree with or disagree with. People can also ask FMCSA clarifying questions about the proposal.

Copyright © OOIDA

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