The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will be taking a long look at last-mile delivery trucks’ involvement in crashes, given trends revealing a jump in the use of such vehicles in interstate commerce.
Commenting on those plans following a presentation on small-truck crashes during the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) meeting on Monday, FMCSA Associate Administrator for Policy Larry Minor said MCSAC will be calling on nine companies that have large fleets of vehicles that weigh 6,001 to 10,000 pounds — including Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) — to get a better sense of their safety management practices.
“It’s really been a revelation about how little we know about what’s going on” with these types of vehicles, Minor said. “Even though we may not have any regulatory authority over them, there’s a safety conversation to be had to make sure we have the best available information, and that those who are operating them have the best possible safety practices to ensure that their time on the roadway doesn’t decrease safety.”
The committee decided to delve deeper into last-mile crashes after concluding that data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) did not provide enough detail. NHTSA’s latest data showed just one crash in 2018 involving a truck in the 6,001- to 10,000-pound weight class. “But this was based on the way they coded the data — the total number is probably much larger,” Minor said.
MCSAC board member Dave Huneryager, president and CEO of the Tennessee Trucking Association, said his association has gained new members from smaller, “courier-type” businesses simply because there are more of them as a result of COVID-19.
“It really is a cultural shift due to the pandemic,” Huneryager said. “People who have been homebound for the last four or five months have found out how easy it is to buy things online. Brick-and-mortar places are experiencing some real drop-offs. It will be a concern going forward because there will be more of those vehicles out there.”
MCSAC Chairman Lamont Byrd, who is also director of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ Health and Safety Department, said the labor union’s package delivery operations “are operating at pretty much unprecedented volume levels for this year.”
But MCSAC board member Todd Spencer, president and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, was not confident that delving deeper into the data will provide useful safety information.
“The challenges with all of this are mighty as far as differentiating between trucks that are supposed to be regulated and vehicles that aren’t,” Spencer said during the meeting. “When you take it down to the smaller classification of vehicles, I’m thinking this is a task that’s almost impossible to actually have specific, concrete, credible data.”
In addition to contacting private companies, the committee plans to seek information from nine states — a request that does not require approval from the Office of Management and Budget — on “more robust data to see what they can tell us about crashes involving vehicles” in the 6,001- to 10,000-pound category, Minor said.
The group will also be seeking data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Safety Council, the Transportation Research Board, and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials to get clarity on workplace injuries and crashes as they relate to workers and drivers of smaller vehicles.
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