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  • OTRI.USA
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  • OTVI.USA
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  • TLT.USA
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Air CargoNewsTrucking Regulation

DOT called out for gaps in truck safety, COVID-19 leadership

A new report from a government watchdog agency urges more action from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on truck safety oversight and in responding to pandemics such as COVID-19.

The two issues are among 16 new or existing “open priority recommendations” published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on April 30. Such recommendations are those GAO considers needing the most attention from heads of key departments or agencies.

According to GAO, “they are highlighted because, upon implementation, they may significantly improve government operation, for example, by realizing large dollar savings; eliminating mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or making progress toward addressing a high risk or duplication issue.”

One of those recommendations, initially made in 2014, was to improve how the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) accounts for carrier safety – an issue that has also been raised by the DOT’s Office of Inspector General (IG).

While FMCSA did not agree with the GAO’s conclusions on revising the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program to improve how it identifies high-risk carriers, the agency has asserted that a new model it is testing (called “item response theory”) which it informed the IG it plans to deploy in September, could address GAO’s concerns.

“However, we continue to believe that addressing Safety Measurement System (SMS) methodology limitations has merit and could help the agency better target FMCSA’s resources to the carriers that pose the highest risk of crashing,” GAO asserted.

“For example, we found FMCSA requires a minimum level of information for a carrier to receive an SMS score; however, this requirement is not strong enough to produce sufficiently reliable scores. As a result, FMCSA identified many carriers as high risk that were not later involved in a crash, potentially causing FMCSA to miss opportunities to intervene with higher risk carriers.”

Another high priority recommendation listed by GAO – initially made in 2015, and with obvious ramifications for the COVID-19 pandemic – was meant to “help improve the U.S. aviation sector’s preparedness for future communicable disease threats from abroad.” GAO had recommended that the Secretary of Transportation lead in developing an inter-agency “national aviation-preparedness plan” for disease outbreaks.

However, while DOT agreed such a plan is needed, it contends that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are responsible for communicable disease response and preparedness planning, asserting that these departments “should lead any efforts to address planning for communicable disease outbreaks, including for transportation,” according to GAO.

Regarding COVID-19, DOT said it had facilitated conference calls among agencies and had collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to update guidelines for airline crews.

GAO pushed back, however, asserting that despite those efforts, “we continue to believe that DOT is in the best position to work with its relevant stakeholders to develop a national aviation-preparedness plan, which could guide preparation for communicable diseases nationally and for individual airlines and airports, as well as establish a framework for communication and response for the next communicable disease outbreak.”

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John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.

13 Comments

  1. Because of Covid inspections are down, carriers are running freight cheaper than costs, so they aren’t repairing their equipment because they can’t afford to do it right, so they jury rig it to get down the road. I’ve seen things I can’t imagine being run if inspectors were active. They don’t have to stand with their face in the window. Every trucks low air warning buzzer should be loud enough for them to here it from the ground. And they also can hear the break valves pop out from the ground. When they’re under the truck the driver doesn’t need to be right there with them. If they need to see the warning lights come on the dash, there are cameras on long sticks they can stick in the window and watch on the ground. All this can be done while maintaining a 6′ distance.
    With these low rates, inspections are more necessary now than ever.

    1. With some inspections, the driver needs to accompany the inspector. Yes, it is necessary. Some are not as trustworthy as they should be. BTW, just because you have a small air leak does warrant the CMV as unsafe. It is unsafe if the CMV is unable to maintain proper pressure while idling.

    2. Some of what you are saying is wrong rates are cheaper but I don’t care what the rate is I repair my trucks they are safe to drive down the road but nobody cares about the cars and pickups that go down the road because they are not commercial vehicles and most of the time when they is a accident they are the ones that caused it I always have believed that in the 45 years I have been in the trucking industry they should run them through the scales and have to do inspections on them say like one week trucks and the next week the rest you would be surprised on the revenue these states would make and make the roads safer

    3. Do you have trucks running down the road or drive one do you even know how to start one that is what is the matter with the FMCSA how can they come up with rules and regulations and tell us what we need to do when they know nothing about this trump needs to make it where they have to been behind the wheel for so many years before they can be making rules and regulations these people that are in there don’t have a clue in fact they don’t need the FMCSA another OBAMA ADMINISTRATION part that is sucking part of our tax money for nothing

  2. More inspections is not needed. The solution is minimum and maximum range of freight rates. With less places open to repair transports both truck and busses very hard to fix on the road. All truck companies should be going over all trucks at least once a month and keeping trucks and buses to a higher standard. Many truck drivers are refusing to drive trucks that are not almost perfect.

  3. Regardless of Emergency circumstances or not drivers should not be allowed to drive beyond boundaries of safety requirements! However, it’s difficult to determine how much rest is required. Drivers are trying to make as much money as possible under the circumstances and its awful that drivers are trying to make it all while its there!

    1. Get your ass out here and start driving you son of a b****. you’re probably sitting on your ass at home somewhere fiddle f****** yourself.

    2. I can safely be up 20 hours safely one day . I can not do that the second day. I am very hyper so can do it. If all trucking companies had to pay overtime after 10 hours per day and double time after 14 hours per day. Their is no shortage of truck drivers or trucks.

  4. They need to shut the hell up or get their ass out here driving. Evidently there’s not enough thankful people.

  5. A bunch of f****** keyboard warriors here. I know one thing you motherfukers aren’t the ones keeping the f****** country running. Stick your f****** thumb in your mouth. Peace and quiet now.

  6. Some of what you are saying is wrong rates are cheaper but I don’t care what the rate is I repair my trucks they are safe to drive down the road but nobody cares about the cars and pickups that go down the road because they are not commercial vehicles and most of the time when they is a accident they are the ones that caused it I always have believed that in the 45 years I have been in the trucking industry they should run them through the scales and have to do inspections on them say like one week trucks and the next week the rest you would be surprised on the revenue these states would make and make the roads safer

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