Drivers, companies and law enforcement back move to reform FMCSA

By Jami Jones, managing editor

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the modus operandi of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration isn’t sitting well with the trucking industry as a whole – not with drivers, not with motor carriers, and not with law enforcement.

On June 24, Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., introduced a bill in the Senate that seeks to reform FMCSA. The bill, called Trucking Rules Updated by Comprehensive and Key Safety Reform Act, outlines a number of reforms for the agency. The bill tackles everything from the lack of stakeholder involvement in the development of regulations to review and research involved in current and future regulations, among other things.

From industry to law enforcement and safety organizations, stakeholders often express frustration with FMCSA’s lack of follow-through, transparency or response. These challenges have culminated in the controversial 2013 hours-of-service rulemaking and the flawed Compliance, Safety, Accountability commercial carrier scoring program.

“With an important mission of ensuring commercial carrier safety, FMCSA is deeply in need of regulatory reform,” states an analysis of the bill, The TRUCK Safety Reform Act released by Fischer.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association threw its support behind Fischer’s bill immediately.

“Reform of the FMCSA has been a long time coming,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “We thank Sen. Fischer for her leadership in introducing this important legislation that will bring about that sorely needed change.

“Professional drivers spend the majority of their lives on the road. No other drivers on the road are as concerned about highway safety as they are. It’s time regulations reflect that instead of vilifying them.”

The TRUCK Safety Reform Act, S1669, is currently before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Fischer chairs the committee’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.

In early July, the leadership of OOIDA, the American Trucking Associations, and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance signed on to a letter thanking Fischer for her leadership in seeking an overhaul of FMCSA.

“As you know, stakeholders have expressed concerns with how FMCSA promulgates regulations, maintains and updates the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), responds to petitions, and issues guidance documents,” the groups’ letter states.

“There is a need for more clarity in the FMCSRs, sounder cost-benefit analyses, timely responses to rulemaking petitions, and improvements on the use and application of guidance documents to regulate the motor carrier industry.”

The groups acknowledged that Fischer’s legislation requires “appropriate review and evaluation of regulations, regulatory guidance and interpretations, prompt responses to petitions, and stronger cost-benefit analyses.”

The TRUCK Safety Reform Act will benefit both enforcement and industry, as clarity in the FMCSRs should result in more consistency and uniformity in enforcement, as well as improved compliance and safety, the groups contend.

The groups acknowledge that, while diverse, they have a shared interest in moving the agency in a direction that will truly improve highway safety.

“Though we represent various diverse stakeholders in the commercial motor vehicle community, our three organizations share the common goals of wanting the regulating agency to act in a timely, effective, and transparent fashion to more effectively reduce crashes and improve highway safety,” the letter states.

Their support for S1669 doesn’t stop with a pat on a back for Fischer. The groups also pledge to rally support from both Democrats and Republicans to pass S1669.

OOIDA has advocated a need for a new approach at the agency under its #fixFMCSA initiative on FightingForTruckers.com. The website offers users easy access to communicate their support of reforming FMCSA and of S1669, The TRUCK Safety Reform Act. LL