The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been rethinking how it enforces its rules. Its recent proposed changes to its Compliance, Safety, Accountability program and an impending proposal to alter the way it investigates and rates carriers are salient examples of this effort, both of which are causing some anxiety among stakeholders. While STC shares this anxiety, as an industry, we should look for ways to support efforts to reduce crashes and to hold the least safe motor carriers accountable to law enforcement for their role in highway safety, provided they do so in a fair and equitable way.
To understand FMCSA’s recent and future proposals, context is important. There are more than eight million regulated vehicles on the road and less than 3 million roadside inspections conducted last year. Furthermore, FMCSA estimates there are 757,652 motor carriers with the authority to haul freight. Of these, FMCSA and its state partners were able to conduct investigations on only 12,342 of them, or less than two percent. These lopsided numbers provide clear evidence that motor carrier law enforcement may not have the manpower to properly police this growing industry.
That’s why, last year, FMCSA began reworking its org chart, appointing Darrel Ruban as the agency’s first Associate Administrator of Safety, heading up the office enforcement and compliance divisions as well as the regional field offices charged enforcement the regulations in the field. Combine this with FMCSA’s proposals to update the CSA methodology, published in February, and a coming proposal to change the way it conducts compliance reviews and issues safety ratings, and you get fresh eyes into which carriers may be struggling to comply. It’s one that focuses on finding new ways of understanding the data and allowing it to lead it to the least safe carriers among us.
Of course, the devil is in the details and the data does leave something to be desired. STC believes we’ll need to remain vigilant, offer our opinions, and hold FMCSA accountable to a fair and equitable enforcement regime. Looking at the enforcement and crash data, however, leads STC to believe that, for the sake of the industry and the motoring public, trucking stakeholders should keep an open mind as they evaluate how any proposed changes may impact safety and operations.