Channel 19

Todd Dills

Anne Ferro conferences on issues with owner-operators

| June 22, 2012

If you missed the owner-operator-led Trucking Solutions Group’s conference call with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration head Anne Ferro on Wednesday, June 20, it’s worth a listen in archived form — you can hear it via the TSG’s website on this page.

Following find several highlights of the wide-ranging conversation. In addition to the issues spelled out below, also covered were potential updates to out-of-service orders for heart-attack patients, entry level driver training standards, electronic logging device standards, hours flexibility and more:

CSA and crash accountability
To begin the questioning period, the story of Bob and Linda Caffee’s firsthand experience with the absence of crash accountability in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program’s severity weighting was shared. The Caffees, turning into a military facility with their Freightliner straight expediting truck, were rear-ended by a car going 100 mph. In addition to the $27,000-plus worth of damage done to the rig, the driver and passenger in the auto were injured, and thus in the CSA severity weighting system the Caffees incurred 2 points toward their carrier’s Crash Indicator, a metric that is not available for public view but which FMCSA nonetheless utilizes to determine which carriers to investigate.

Ferro pointed that out, then went on to note that the option of allowing for accountability in the system is one the agency is considering: “The Crash Indicator is not available to the public because it’s not a reflection on those individual companies,” she said. “I am committed to carrying out a full analysis of what information we could use and what process we could use to better weight crashes so that this kind of crash would have a very low weighting in the Crash Indicator analysis.”

Past efforts to allow for accountability in the system ran up against roadblocks in the form of questions the agency couldn’t answer, Ferro said. “We’re committed to analyzing and addressing” the problems, and in compliance reviews, where crashes could impact a carrier’s public safety rating, she said, “we continue to do what we’ve always done. If a crash could factor into a carrier’s safety rating, we continue to look at the particulars of the crash.”

CSA and speeding warnings
Another question for consideration had to do with some states’ use of the speeding warning as a means to providing probable cause to pull over and inspect a truck — and the coding that gives high weight to such warnings in the CSA percentile ranking system. The system now comes with severity weightings for speeding that vary according to the mph over the limit the citation is for, but many states continue to use a catch-all violation code for speeding, which comes with a higher severity weight than some of the specific mph-variable violations.

Unlike the Crash Indicator, carriers’ percentile rankings in the Unsafe Driving category, or BASIC, that these violations contribute to are available for public view.

Ferro noted that the progress has been made educating state law enforcement on the problem, with the volume of old-code violations down from a high of 16,000 a month to around 5,500 more recently. “We’re still working with the states,” Ferro said, “to reinforce why this is important, and their need to follow the designated procedure.”

Uncompensated detention at shippers/receivers 
Owner-operator Scott Grenerth asked just the question I had on my mind regarding this issue — will FMCSA seek authority to impose requirements on shippers/receivers relative to detention?

Ferro said they had not done so to date and she’d only been able to use her “bully pulpit” to highlight the issue. Research will soon figure in, as FMCSA’s further work on the subject they’re looking to add to work “GAO did on this issue for Congressman [Peter] DeFazio highlighting the impact of detention on driver stress, wellness and their ability to complete their run for that day based on the hours available.”

Ferro said she wants to “elevate the issue” and would welcome “recommendations from the driver community to where we could play a role… I’m looking to see what the next task would be.”

Hear the entirety of the recorded call here.

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