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FMCSA head commits to boosting oversight of trucking

Lawmaker warns during nomination hearing that industry has fallen into ‘regulatory black hole’

FMCSA's Meera Joshi at nomination hearing Wednesday. (Photo: Senate Commerce Committee)

The nation’s top trucking regulator told lawmakers she is committed to taking concrete steps to reduce deaths and injuries from large-truck crashes.

At her nomination hearing on Wednesday to be the seventh administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Meera Joshi, currently leading the agency as deputy administrator, was questioned by U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., about what he considers a lack of oversight by FMCSA in addressing such crashes.

“I think it’s clear that this entire industry fell into a regulatory black hole, where it escaped the level of scrutiny which it absolutely has to have if public safety is going to be protected,” Markey told Joshi during testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee.

Markey cited statistics showing that deaths resulting from large-truck crashes had increased by 45% since 2009, with injuries increasing 18%. He also said he was dissatisfied with the response he received from FMCSA after requesting more oversight from the agency last year in the wake of an investigative story on truck crashes by The Boston Globe.

“Unfortunately, the response I received back from the Trump administration was woefully insufficient,” Markey said. “It failed to commit to the major reforms we need, and showed how our truck safety regulators have been asleep at the wheel.”

Joshi, whom Biden named deputy administrator in January, told the committee that, if confirmed, she would oversee several “priority items” to address the issue.

“It’s an interstate industry, and the licensing data around those that drive large trucks must also function in an interstate manner. That means there needs to be swift transfer of current data between states around CDL licensing,” Joshi said, referring to a pending rulemaking in the “final months” of getting published.

It would also require states to downgrade licenses if there’s a positive test in the FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, “another important enforcement tool to get risky drivers off the roads,” she said. Joshi said she wanted to accelerate adoption of the rule through grants and other incentives in cooperation with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

Joshi also noted that FMCSA is looking to strengthen its new entrant program as well as broaden the scope of motor carrier investigations to target more at-risk behavior. “Motor carriers that have risky behavior need to be investigated, and when they come into the industry we need to have a closer eye on them.”

Supports port congestion relief

Asked what could be done to relieve congestion at the nation’s ports, particularly on the West Coast, Joshi said financial incentives had to be aligned throughout the supply chain.

“There are so many moving parts at the port, in order to make the trucking experience of moving freight in and out as efficiently as possible, there has to be transparency on appointment systems, flexible hours, and more certainty on when containers need to be dropped off and picked up, as well as aligning the financial incentives,” said.

“If the trucking community is bearing the brunt of wait times and that time is not compensated, either because they have to hold containers or because drivers have to wait for loading and unloading, then the congestion and the downtime is felt by them, and there’s no incentive to disperse that among the whole system.”

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., asked Joshi if she was open to expanding a demonstration program underway at the Port of Seattle that includes federal tax incentives to spur the adoption of electric vehicles. “We’ve been working in a certain way for many decades. I think it’s high time to try to change things and look at them differently,” Joshi said.

Defends driver privacy policy

During the only contentious part of her nomination hearing, Joshi was asked by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, to explain her rate-making policy and how she was protecting the privacy of independent contractor drivers working for ride-sharing companies while she was CEO of New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission from 2014 to 2019.

During Joshi’s tenure there, the commission collected vehicle and driver information that it used to develop policy around congestion and to establish minimum pay requirements.

“You don’t think this is an invasion of privacy for these individual drivers that are working with these companies?” Blackburn asked.

“The drivers themselves heartily support the effort because it was through this mandate on trip records and pay information that the city was able to support them in efforts to create minimum pay standards, allowing them to make at least minimum wage,” Joshi responded.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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  1. Jerome Rives

    she is taking on a big role..and most of the crashes that do occurs.are not caused by truckdrivers that is involved.there a motorist out there that create havoc for truckdrivers..people using their cell phones, and they are not paying attention to their driving.she is forgetting that the trucking industry is fighting back by. Installing cameras that captures the truth.and there are also the do or die motorist who jump in front of a truck..cut that truck off less than 10 ft in traveling distance.the better solution to this problem is for companies to have reserved cash to pay every single driver out there..and just put everything to a complete halt for a month or pickups and deliveries..everyone goes home and let them see that without the truckdrivers..everything will be permanently shut down..appreciation starts with respect..

  2. Richard Davis

    My guess is ELDs have caused safety to go down and accidents to go up. ELDs make drivers have to rush and hurry all day long. They need to try and save a minute wherever they can. If they want to keep ELDs, they need to do away with the 70 hour rule. Go day by day, then drivers won’t have to worry about trying to rush to save minutes that you might need 6-7 days ahead. Meaning, what you do on Monday will not effect what you can do on Sunday.


    Since 2009?? Are you serious!?! So, I’m guessing POV accidents have declined since 2009. Would anyone care to do an analysis on truck accidents versus car accidents? Do you know that every single time a owner operator fails an inspection, his insurance goes up? A few drops of oil from your engine puts you out of service. Make up your mind, either we’re short 80000 driver’s or we need more regulations. Oh, and I’m not afraid to say exactly that to Congress.

  4. Richard Davis

    More oversight is their answer to everything, especially in an industry that is already overly regulated. As to why death’s have went up, the first question should be when did that start, 2009 is a long way back. Has death’s or accidents went up since the Government implemented ELDs? My guess would be YES. ELDs cause drivers to rush and hurry constantly trying to save every preouis minute. It could be that the Government’s so-called oversight is causing the problems.

  5. Hans O Frederick

    Holy cow! They need to take a look at the 4 wheelers on the road! These people think they can do whatever they want. I can’t count how many times these cars/pickups put me at risk as a professional driver. Do something about them. Also, do something about these people who, just because they have a tow hitch, use those racks to pile up the bicycles or totes that obscures their tail lights or completely blocks them completely. I’ve almost rear-ended 2 vehicles because of that. And no, I was not following to closely.

  6. Anthony Boyd

    A lots of accidents are caused by people driving cars cutting trucks off and brake checking trucks and the police just turn there head if they don’t see until is a accident and then it’s the truck driver fault the law needs to protect truck drivers as well as the people driving cars

    1. Manny Bonilla

      Oh, absolutely. I’ve been on the Roads almost 51 Years, and I think that the Public in the Cars (Four Wheelers) need to become Educated as to how to drive on American Highways alongside the Class A (Big Rigs, Diesel Trucks)…especially when trying to enter onto (Merge) the Highways.

  7. Mike Mitchell

    Just because a truck is involved doesn’t mean it is at fault you people need to implement on the car as much as you do the trucking companies it’s bad enough that the law makers an the lawyer’s put alot on the trucking companies by advertising the way they do

  8. Teddy Saye

    This just shows you how out of touch these talking heads are..we are overregulated now to the point we get stopped weekly and go through inspection after inspection. We literally spend 100k a year in a fleet maintenance on 5 trucks. Then you see how the insurance companies take these overzealous inspections and rape us with 20k per year for each truck premium. These people are driving honest hard working Americans out of business. Yet the big companies pay their way out of their problems with lobbyist and lawyers. It’s time to let free market principals fix the system. If a trucking company is Negligent they will not be in business long. We don’t need anymore laws or oversight. Probably allot less.

    1. Jeff Downey

      The foreign drivers we have this day are so unresponsible possible the piss jugs on the side of the road the trash strode all over our country it’s like they do not care the wrecks in Wyoming are all from foreign drivers I’m drivers that were let have a shave A CD L in the United States of America that’s something you need to look into 90% outlet to 90% equal cent of the wrecks are from foreign drive

    2. James

      This lady sitting here going to tell us how to run trucks when the motor is out here are causing the accidents not our big trucks we are only blame because we are big trucks we are not shifting Lanes we are not jumping from side to side and we are not coming down the highway and 100 miles an hour you don’t know what you talking about Miss I don’t know why they have you on the board if you never been a trucker you need to truck your ass up out of here I don’t give a f*** if you take me off of Facebook or Twitter because this lady needs to be confronted by truckers not by you lawmakers who don’t know a damn thing about trucking trucking going to hell in a hand basket

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John Gallagher

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.