OOIDA Board and FMCSA: No softballs

By Sandi Soendker, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

At the OOIDA Board of Directors meeting in April, FMCSA’s top trucking official and chief safety officer sat down with the board members for frank discussions on a load of thorny topics.

Hours of service, speed limiters, CSA, driver pay, detention time and more – when FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling and Chief Safety Officer Jack Van Steenburg accepted OOIDA’s invitation to the board meeting, they knew board members wouldn’t be pitching softballs.

Darling laid the ground rules early in the discussion, explaining he could not talk about issues like electronic logging devices, Mexican trucks, or Data Q challenges as those issues are the subject of lawsuits the Association currently has filed against the FMCSA.

Truck parking

Darling and Van Steenburg fielded questions on the truck parking dilemma, rest area closings, and money going to “smart parking” or signs that tell drivers where parking spaces are. OOIDA President Jim Johnston explained that for truckers, the frustration was in the fact that “all the money available went to the signs when it could have been used for actually creating the parking that is so badly needed.”

Julie Lane, division administrator for the Missouri office of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, was also present – joining in the discussion on the constant problem of community efforts to block building or expanding rest areas and truck stops.

No topic too big or small

Aside from the agency’s gag order on any issue involving a current OOIDA lawsuit against FMCSA, Darling said no topic was too big or too small to talk about.

One remark, for instance, addressed the difficulty in getting an inspection sticker from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. Board Member Jack McComb of Littleton, Colo., said he’s asked for an inspection and been told to go away.

“I know it won’t necessarily keep the next guy from inspecting me, but what is the deal? Do the decals cost too much or what?” McComb said during the meeting.

The sticker conversation led to discussion on the out-of-service criteria that are copyrighted by CVSA and are costly to purchase. “It doesn’t make sense that the criteria is the intellectual property of the CVSA and you can’t even put it up on the FMCSA website,” said OOIDA President Jim Johnston.

‘Big Tent Theory’

Darling said that he was “really into the reg neg process” and that the driver training process was the first that went all the way to a notice of proposed rulemaking or NPRM in 10 years. Negotiated rulemaking is a consensus-based process that requires the agency to form a committee of stakeholders and use a neutral facilitator to negotiate the framework of a proposed rule. Darling said he is a fan of the “big tent theory” of getting everyone together and discussing it.

“On Day One of the regulation negotiation meeting, I would have never thought it, but we made progress,” said OOIDA Director Bryan Spoon, an owner-operator from Garner, N.C. Spoon has the distinction of being the only working owner-operator on the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee.

“We actually made compromises at the table,” said Spoon. “I was able to give driver perspective on what regs and what road etiquette need to be taught – because I was there. At the table.”

Beyond technology

Other discussion topics included “Beyond Compliance,” the value of listening sessions, driver health initiatives, enforcement training when pulling a truck over, veterans’ issues and improving the methodology that FMCSA uses in doing studies.

Beyond Compliance is a congressional directive for FMCSA to give “credits,” which could be used to reduce or erase a bad score that resulted from crashes or other safety problems, to motor carriers that put advanced safety equipment on their trucks or beef up their safety program.

“I want to talk about Beyond Compliance, and I want you to know that it’s not all about technology,” Darling said. “It’s about best management practices and innovative ways of thinking. It’s not just more technology.”

‘Take them back to D.C.’

Board members made comments on a variety of issues and concerns, asking Darling to “take them back to D.C.”

One of those remarks came from Board Member Johanne Couture of Brockville, Ontario, who told him that the Canadian hours of service worked so well that they deserved consideration.

Board Member Lewie Pugh, Freeport, Ohio, said, “I ask that you take this back to Washington … the rules, they are just crazy. My dog that rides with me has more rights than I do.” LL