Roadside not the place to inspect for CMV compliance stickers, groups say

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 8/4/2015

In a not always common show of solidarity, associations representing truckers, motor carriers, truck dealers and law enforcement all say that a roadside inspection is not the proper avenue to ensure that a commercial vehicle was manufactured to meet U.S. federal safety standards.

A public comment period ended on Monday, Aug. 3, on a notice of proposed rulemaking by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The proposal would require that manufacturer-compliance stickers be affixed on all commercial trucks and motor coaches, even if those vehicles are years old.

FMCSA says it is basing the proposal on a recommendation by the National Traffic Safety Board after a bus manufactured in Mexico crashed on U.S. soil in 2008, even though vehicle safety standards were not cited as a cause or contributor to the crash. The NTSB investigation determined that the motor coach driver was likely fatigued.

But the mere fact that a commercial vehicle was operating on U.S. soil without a sticker saying it was compliant with U.S. safety standards at the time of manufacture was good enough for FMCSA to pursue the rulemaking proposal.

OOIDA submitted comments on Monday pointing out numerous flaws in the administration’s justification for requiring compliance stickers and for asking law enforcement to check for the stickers at roadside and note any violations that would affect a motor carrier’s safety score.

The proposal puts the burden on truck buyers and owners to make sure that the stickers are present and that they show compliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) at the point of manufacture.

“OOIDA fails to see how requiring the carrier to maintain proof of a vehicle’s compliance with the FMVSS when it was initially manufactured, a date that for the average owner-operator or small-business trucker took place eight years ago, will improve highway safety today,” OOIDA wrote in comments signed by Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

OOIDA also takes issue with FMCSA’s claim that it has considered the cost-benefit to the industry. But FMCSA also asked stakeholders to provide their own cost-benefit analysis to be included for consideration in a final rule.

“If anything, the FMCSA should have conducted an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on this topic to learn information before deciding whether or not to issue a proposal,” OOIDA stated.

But it’s just a sticker, right? OOIDA says owners of trucks with missing certification labels would be forced to go back to the manufacturers to obtain the credential or be issued a letter to carry in their trucks that show “compliance” with the standard.

“It is unreasonable for FMCSA to place such a burden on hundreds of thousands of motor carriers when it cannot show in its own regulatory proposal what safety benefit would actually be achieved from this new requirement,” OOIDA stated in its comments.

Other groups filing comments to the official docket don’t feel that the requirement would do much good, either.

“An additional mandate that the original certification label be maintained will do nothing substantively to enhance CMV safety,” said the American Truck Dealers. “Certification labels are designed to provide vehicle purchasers and lessees with information and assurances, not to serve as enforcement tools.”

The American Truck Dealers estimate the financial burden on the trucking industry at close to $3 million annually.

Comments filed by the American Trucking Associations point out that a sticker requirement is more or less like requiring keeping the tag on a mattress.

“There is no safety benefit to implement this ‘mattress tag’ rule, only unnecessary administrative compliance costs,” ATA stated. “FMCSA fails to recognize that operational efficiencies for drivers, carriers, and vehicles will be significantly reduced as a result of this proposal. For example, trailer and chassis interchanges and interlining would be affected, roadside inspection time would increase, driver on duty time due to additional pre and post inspection checks and back-office compliance costs would increase.”

And while law enforcement, via the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, supports the concept that the compliance sticker be present on all vehicles, the alliance says roadside inspections are not the best avenue for determining that compliance.

“When developing the rule, FMCSA should give consideration to how enforcement personnel will be able to verify that a letter produced is valid,” CVSA stated in comments.

“Putting proper controls in place will prevent motor carriers from creating fraudulent letters,” CVSA added. “While CVSA supports the (proposal), it should be noted that, in our opinion, the best way to prevent non-FMVSS-compliant vehicles from operating in the U.S. by U.S.-domiciled motor carriers is to identify them at the point of titling, vehicle registration, or importation. Roadside inspections should be the secondary means of verifying that CMVs were FMVSS compliant at the time of manufacture.”

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