FMCSA battling rumors, resistance from industry as it gradually unveils new safety compliance system

For the past five years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been working on a new safety initiative called CSA 2010, as well as a new safety compliance system, the Safety Management System (Safety Management System). The initiative is still very much a work in progress, and will not meet the agency’s original goal of being fully implemented by the end of this year.

Out on the road, and at truck stops, rumors run rampant that the new system will take a lot of truckers off the road. At a recent Commercial Vehicle Safety Administration (CVSA) Road Check in Flagstaff, Arizona, truckers said they heard “hundreds of thousands” of truckers will be taken off the road because of the new system. Tim Crain, an owner-operator from Roadhouse, Illinois, said he has heard rumors the new system will include measurements for neck size that can result in a mandatory sleep apnea test. “The way I look at it, all that stuff affects me,” Crain said. However, he said there are so many rumors about what the system may or may not include, that “some (rumors) I don’t believe till they’re here.”

At the Great West Truck Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, William Bensmiller, an FMCSA deputy administrator for the state of Nevada, gave talks where he went through the basics of CSA 2010 to a crowd of truckers. Bensmiller said he’s been spending much of the year talking to “anybody impacted” – trucking associations, individual carriers and truckers themselves around the state. He said those that follow the rules will be the least impacted by the new system. “For the good drivers, they’re history will reflect that,” he said.

At the end of June, FMCSA administrator Anne Ferro was part of a panel that testified about CSA 2010 in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Joining Ferro on the panel were Steve Keppler of the CVSA, Keith Klein of Transport Corporation of America (which was representing the American Trucking Associations) and Todd Spencer of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Ferro stated that one of the main goals for the FMCSA is that it must “remove high-risk operators from our roads and highways.” She stated how CSA 2010 will improve the compliance review process, the FMCSA’s main way of inspecting companies that employ commercial drivers, by moving to a more “performance-based approach. ”

Aspects of a new “performance-based approach” were what Klein, representing ATA, took issue with. He brought up statistics of the trucking industry’s “impressive safety record,” including that the “truck-involved fatality rate has decreased 66 percent since 1975.” One of ATA’s main concerns, Klein said, was that the new system will consider “all (Department of Transportation) defined crashes – including those for which the motor carrier could not reasonably be held accountable.” He showed a video to illustrate his point, where a passenger vehicle cut off a truck and crashed into it, causing the truck to break over the median and into oncoming traffic. Under questioning from chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), Ferro said much of the system is still “under review.”

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