OOIDA: Safety should involve training new truckers, reforming FMCSA

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 7/29/2014

In testimony before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, a panel of witnesses went through a long wish list of tighter restrictions, increased costs and technological mandates they would like to see on trucks. OOIDA, which was not part of the panel, says many of the so-called safety suggestions miss the mark and would not significantly reduce crashes and injuries.

Representatives from the FMCSA, the ATA, Teamsters, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety testified before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security.

The subcommittee is chaired by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., with Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., as the ranking Republican.

Administrator Anne Ferro of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration testified to defend the agency’s 2011 final rule on hours-of-service changes that went into effect in 2013. She also said the agency will continue to move forward on a mandate for electronic logging devices and a proposal to increase the minimum amount of liability insurance that motor carriers must carry.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., questioned why the FMCSA went ahead with issuing a final HOS rule in 2011 without having data to determine its effect on safety and crashes. Ayotte is also against raising the minimum insurance levels.

The panel that testified also talked up mandatory speed limiters, collision avoidance systems and other proposals that would drive up costs for small-business truckers.

OOIDA issued a press release in response to the hearing, saying many of the suggested safety measures miss the primary objective.

“The FMCSA has directed its focus for too long on the wrong areas when it comes to highway safety,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “The focus should instead be on causes of crashes rather than micromanaging policies that have a negative impact on safety.”

OOIDA is concerned that the agency is currently overly reliant on measuring compliance with unreliable mathematical formulas, instead of true crash indicators, and often misses opportunities to address root causes behind safety problems.

“It’s not necessary to put small-business truckers out of business in order to hold public safety as the highest priority,” Spencer said. “Insisting on continuing this approach will lead many of the safest to leave trucking altogether, and this will create a void filled by inexperienced and unproven drivers, thus undermining public safety even more.”

One other recommended change would be for FMCSA to not just listen to, but actually adopt some of the proposals from the members of the industry it regulates.

For example, in its press release, OOIDA points to Louis Esposito of Duanesburg, N.Y., a life member of the Association. Esposito has often shared his insight as a truck driving educator on the need for the agency to move forward with mandated new driver training – something Congress directed FMCSA to mandate years ago.

To date, the agency still has not proposed a rule.

“Training should have minimum requirements and it should only be done by qualified trainers,” Esposito said. “Too often I see newbies on the road with little training or having been taught by those with only a few months of training themselves.”

Esposito has had 45 years of accident-free driving.

“Instead of just filling seats and continuing the constant driver turnover, I think there should be more pride and more attention to doing the right thing in training,” he said.

OOIDA launched its Truckers for Safety Agenda last year, TruckersforSafety.com, to look at ways to improve highway safety without imposing burdensome regulations in a variety of areas. 

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