WASHINGTON, D.C. — A former truck driver, now a trucking executive, told the U.S. Congress on Thursday the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) needs to change it ways.
Danny Schnautz, vice president of Texas-based Clark Freight Lines, testified before members of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit on behalf of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, during a hearing entitled “The Future of Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety: Technology, Safety Initiatives & The Role of Regulation.”
Schnautz, who is also a member of the FMCSA Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, said the agency needs to review its existing safety regulations for their effectiveness and impact on highway safety.
He claimed that instead of a reasoned understanding and approach to improving highway safety by addressing the key factors behind at-fault truck crashes, FMCSA policy and enforcement is too focused on absolute compliance with the letter of every single regulation, no matter the connection to at-fault crashes.
OOIDA contends FMCSA’s safety scoring system; including its Compliance, Safety and Accountability program; inaccurately paints safe, small carriers as dangerous, reducing access to business and opening them up to misguided enforcement activities, while truly unsafe carriers that crash frequently get ignored.
Lawmakers also head from Tom Kretsinger, president and CEO of American Central Transport, who testified on behalf of the American Trucking Associations.
He said continued improvement in truck safety will need new strategies to better address the primary causes of highway crashes.
“The truck-involved fatality rate has decreased 74% since 1975 and in the last decade alone, it has dropped 38%,” Kretsinger said. “But continued improvement will require an acknowledgement of the principal causes of truck crashes and appropriate countermeasures.”
Specifically, Kretsinger cited data that highlights the role of the driver in 87% of truck crashes and added that addressing driver behavior and truck safety falls into three broad categories “rules, enforcement and a partnership to promote voluntary initiatives.”
In looking at rules, Kretsinger mentions ATA’s support for an electronic logging device mandate, electronic stability control and mandatory speed limiters for large trucks set no higher than 65 miles per hour, among several proposals.
He also urged the FMCSA to encourage more traffic enforcement coupled with a limited inspection, citing agency data indicating that this highway enforcement approach is “at least four times more effective at preventing crashes and saving lives” than vehicle-based roadside inspections.
Finally, Kretsinger says FMCSA should partner with the trucking industry to develop a carrot approach in lieu of using only the “stick.” He recommended a new partnership to “establish criteria for meeting a ‘gold standard’ and reward fleets that meet it,” adding that ATA supports the agency’s request for comment on such a program issued recently.
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