Enforcement Efforts that Encourage Safe Driving
Currently motor carrier safety enforcement programs operate on a principle of punishing truckers and motor carriers for failure. There is no reward for the success of year after year of safe driving, and no incentive for truckers to strive toward maintaining their safe driving record other than the fear that minor compliance violations could lead to their dismissal from their motor carrier and exit from the industry. Across the board, our enforcement system treats a driver with a million miles without an accident the same as a driver out on his or her first run.
FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) system, while flawed in its implementation, is rightly intended to focus enforcement efforts on bad actors and unsafe carriers. However, current problems with the system are preventing it from doing that important job. Improvements to CSA to bring greater focus on certain violations that have a clear tie to highway safety would be one significant step as this system continues to evolve. Additional improvements and regulatory changes, building upon the work done by the agency and Congress to focus more on reincarnated carriers, should be made to ensure that regulations are focused on promoting safe driving and career truck driving, not simply focused on creating new burdens or violations. 12
Example of an Improved SMS
Ensuring FMCSA has Adequate Resources to Verify Carrier Registration and Licensing
MAP-21 provided FMCSA with new authority to address reincarnated carriers. It is important, however, that the agency receive adequate resources to ensure that staffing is available to do the work needed to verify the registration and licensing information that is provided by carriers applying for operating authority.
While there will be significant improvements in this effort as the agency moves forward with Unified Carrier Registration systems, it is still important that the agency have trained people available to do this important review work. OOIDA has learned that some offices within this area of FMCSA are down to only a few people due to retirements and other challenges.
Reviewing Safety Effectiveness of Motor Carrier Regulations
Under the CSA program alone, there are more than 700 individual regulations that a truck driver is responsible for following. Many of these are of limited direct connection to crashes. Despite this, these violations are considered when CSA calculates a carrier’s crash risk, placing focus away from the bad actor carriers who have crashes out on the highway. Further, these minor violations distort the record of drivers who do not have accidents, with no clear tie to improving safety.
A third party – with the assistance of FMCSA, CVSA, the trucking industry, and other stakeholders – should conduct a bottom-up review of all FMCSA regulations and determine their safety effectiveness, especially as far as they reduce accidents.
Special attention should be paid to duplicative regulations, outdated requirements, and regulations that lack a direct tie with accident prevention or that have not been shown to be effective in reducing accidents.
Further attention should be placed on the impact of regulations without a direct safety tie and the scores of motor carriers under FMCSA’s CSA system.
Improving CSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS)
As noted above, the trucking industry is largely supportive of the goals of CSA but has great concern over the program’s implementation. A great deal of that concern stems from the program’s focus on compliance-related violations of regulations that lack a clear tie to accidents.
There are many examples of this, from form and manner violations on logbooks to the ability of law enforcement to ticket a driver for not having the federally required spare fuses or sleeper cab blanket. Other examples are directly tied into the subjectivity of the job that hard-working enforcement personnel must do: while the regulation requires reflective tape at the corner of a van trailer to be in a perfect inverted “L” shape, does a gap between the vertical and horizontal pieces of tape mean that the carrier and the driver are more likely to cause an accident?
Compliance is still important, but in many cases with CSA, minor compliance violations cloud the ability of enforcement personnel to focus on the carriers that are making true safety-related violations. OOIDA proposes the following improvements to CSA’s Safety Management System to address these issues:
Separate out “safety-related” violations from “compliance-related” violations with individual scores for each category of violation under each BASIC.
This will allow the program to better focus on safety-related issues such as accidents,
violating driving-time limits, serious vehicle maintenance problems, and other violations that have a direct tie to accidents.
Compliance-related violations are also important, and this system will allow those violations to be tracked for enforcement personnel, but these violations will not affect publicly available safety-related scores.
Further, FMCSA should be required to report back to Congress on how the CSA system can be improved to provide carriers with a positive credit for clean inspections.
Re-examining Enforcement Strategies to Incentivize Safe Driving
As noted above, the current enforcement structure does little to incentivize safe driving beyond the fear of a ticket and a dismissal from your job. Much of that fear comes from being found in violation of minor requirements that are often unrelated to accident risk. There should be a broader conversation between the FMCSA, enforcement professionals, states, the trucking industry, and other stakeholders on what opportunities may be available to adjust current enforcement strategies to provide some way for the system to incentivize safe driving while still holding drivers accountable for unsafe activities.
FMCSA should gather the input of the entire stakeholder community as well as professionals in other industries to determine whether improvements to the enforcement system can be made to include incentives for safe driving performance.
Report will also identify best practices used by enforcement agencies that prioritize efforts to educate drivers and carriers about regulations and the feasibility of FMCSA and stakeholders developing a retraining consortium to allow first time violator drivers and carriers to turn training on violated FMCSA regulations into improved CSA scores.
This information should be collected as a Report to Congress and should include potential costs and benefits.
Taking on Industry and Regulatory Challenges that Push Safe Drivers from the Industry
Beyond these points, other significant challenges facing the industry have both a negative impact on the future of men and women staying in the industry to become career-long safe truckers and a negative impact on highway safety for all motorists.
Many of these issues, unfortunately, come in the form of regulations advanced by certain segments of the trucking industry Others are areas where truckers are economically impacted due to practices of other elements in the supply chain – elements that do not see these economic impacts. This growing regulatory burden and increased economic cost to truckers will continue to exist, even with the benefit of improved driver training and other elements of this agenda, unless changes are made. These issues include:
Detention of drivers at loading and unloading docks. Every day, thousands of truckers across the country are forced to sit and wait while they are detained by shippers and receivers. This waiting not only cuts into their available on-duty time, but also prevents them from getting out on the road and earning money through the industry’s current mileage pay structure.
OOIDA will continue to seek opportunities to address detention through industry and agency approaches and partnerships.
Coercion of drivers. MAP-21 included important language that requires FMCSA to address the coercion to violate FMCSA regulations. This is an important protection for drivers across the country.
Ensure that MAP-21’s coercion provision is adequately integrated into FMCSA regulatory activities.
Oppose Policies & New Regulations that Do Not Improve Safety. Significant costly regulations have been proposed by DOT agencies, other elements of the trucking industry, or both. OOIDA does not believe that these regulations will result in any improvements to highway safety, and in some cases they may actually reduce safety. As such, we will continue to work with improving safety in mind and oppose these regulations:
Proposals to speed limit heavy-duty trucks;
On-going efforts to emphasize technology over training; and
Medical requirements, such as new rules regarding sleep apnea that are not shown to have any clear tie to accidents.
Increases in truck size and weight limits.
Greater exemptions to FMCSA rules that focus on specific industries or products. GAO should conduct a study examining all of these exemptions, comparing them to what exists for long-haul drivers, and their impact on safety.