This week, a U.S. Senator for Massachusetts called out “egregious failures” on the part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for lack of oversight that he says is linked to an uptick in fatal crashes.
In an October 29 letter addressed to FMCSA Deputy Administrator James Wiley Deck, Senator Edward J. Markey called for the FMCSA to be held accountable for having “repeatedly failed to provide proper oversight to America’s commercial trucking industry.”
The letter was issued in response to an August investigative report in the Boston Globe that found that the FMCSA “has allowed trucking companies across the United States to operate with minimal to no federal accountability, despite rapid growth in the industry and an estimated 48 percent increase in fatalities from crashes involving large trucks between 2009 and 2019.”
Markey pointed to the “FMCSA’s continual resistance to calls to adopt simple procedures for reviewing new trucking companies before granting them permission to operate” and says that the agency “only initiates scattershot enforcement actions against companies repeatedly caught violating basic safety standards or with exceedingly high crash rates.”
“Given the FMCSA’s loophole-ridden and patchwork system of accountability, it is no wonder that the commercial trucking industry is increasingly deadly for all users of the road,” writes Senator Markey in his letter to FMCSA Deputy Administrator James Wiley Deck. “Although I recognize that the FMCSA faces resource-limitations, I believe that your agency’s failures go well beyond financial or personnel constraints and appear to represent a dereliction of responsibility. I therefore urge you to take immediate action to implement stronger procedures for certifying new trucking companies, conducting regular oversight of the industry, and enforcing federal safety regulations.”
Also in the letter, Markey called for the FMCSA to answer several specific questions, including:
- What analysis and reasoning did the FMCSA rely on when it concluded in January 2019 that requiring testing and auditing of trucking companies before they start operations “wouldn’t significantly boost safety,” despite evidence to the contrary?
- After already being overdue by six years, when will the FMCSA issue a Congressionally-mandated rule requiring new motor carriers be given a written proficiency examination on applicable federal safety regulations and standards?
- Per the FMCSA’s own regulations, new motor carriers are required to undergo a safety audit within their first 18 months of operations. During 2019, how many new carriers were subject to such an audit within the 18-month deadline, and what percentage of new carriers does this figure represent?
- Under current law, states are required to submit information about truck drivers’ safety violations to the Commercial Driver’s License Information System, which Congress created to ensure that a commercial driver’s license holder has a singular safety record that can be reviewed across states. Are states supplying such information in a timely manner, and if not, what action is the FMCSA undertaking in response to such delays?
- Why has the FMCSA repeatedly resisted calls for the agency to establish a centralized, comprehensive safety database that could assist trucking companies in conducting background checks for their drivers, even though similar systems exist for vehicle operators in other modes of transportation?
- For each year over the last ten years, how many trucking companies has the FMCSA inspected or investigated because of regulatory violations, poor safety ratings, or crash records? What percentage of total registered carriers under FMCSA jurisdiction does this figure represent?
- What procedures does the FMCSA follow or require when conducting a safety inspection or audit of individual trucking companies because of violations, poor safety ratings, or crash records? What actions are taken by the agency after the inspection or audit if violations are identified?
- For each year over the last ten years, how many trucking companies has the FMCSA ordered out of service because of regulatory violations, poor safety ratings, or crash records? If the FMCSA did not order a company out of service despite evidence of any of these failings, why is that? What other enforcement actions has the FMCSA taken in such situations?
You can click here to read the letter in full.