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NewsRegulationTop StoriesTrucking RegulationTruckload Indexes

FMCSA head commits to boosting oversight of trucking

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

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.

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.

92 Comments

  1. How about, they would have at least a few ex drivers on the board, to understand, what is happening on the roads from drivers prespective and their point of view. Or make them ride for at least a week in a quarter.

  2. See the problem with this article is it implies us truck drivers have complete fault when it comes to accidents. Yes, I understand, defensive driving. Though there’s only so much we can do on our part when a small car cuts us off with 2 feet in front of us because they didn’t plan their exit ahead of time. Before blaming the truck drivers and their jobs for all causes of accidents, you should really get into the lives of the morons that drive like crap, which sometimes seems on purpose

  3. Daily I come across men that are obviously not trained that have a CDL and have been taught nothing or have gotten their CDL from a source that’s not being checked. They can’t speak even basic English so when I try to show them simple things like how to unhook the brake and pigtail lines from the trailer they don’t even understand what they’re for or why they are there. Maybe we should start by checking to see if the drivers belong on the road at all….or if they have a valid or legal license from a valid source. I bet that would cut way down on accidents that somehow are ALWAYS blamed on the truckers.

  4. There could be some safety issues to look at but the fatality rate involving large trucks is more times than not the 4 wheeler’s fault. I know commercial drivers aren’t always in the right and those who are doing wrong are being punished.. There won’t be any positive affect from more motor carrier rules. Enforce the ones that are already in place. Don’t forget to nail the rest of the drivers cutting in and out of traffic

  5. Stop allowing non English speaking CDL applicants to operate large commercial vehicles – 49 CFR 391.11. Start enforcing the open toed footwear (sandals, etc) prohibition.

  6. How about getting government out of the trucking industry and shut down the big companies like swift ,england,werner,Schneider the companies that supposedly train these people that have no business in these trucks

  7. No skilled experience in office a job and human life killer (14 hour rule)
    Get some road experience in before you stick your foot in your mouth!!!!!!!!

  8. Shortage of driver. freight forwarders and trucking companies having free rains of revenue and fuel surge charges not being passed to owner operators forwarders charging for multiple pick ups at the time of pick up shipments in turn paying companies and the owner operators just for one

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