NTSB says investigations ‘raise serious questions’ about FMCSA, asks for audit of agency

| November 07, 2013

Clean inspectionIn light of four deadly crashes that it has investigated within the past year, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended to Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration be audited on its oversight capabilities of motor carriers and trucking companies.

NTSB says its findings “raise serious questions about the oversight of motor carrier operations.” The findings come in response to investigations into four accidents in which collectively 25 people were killed and 83 more injured.

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In all four accidents, NTSB investigators identified “safety deficiencies and noted red flags had been present prior to the crashes,” the board said in a press release, and that the red flags either were not noticed or not acted upon by FMCSA.

“Our investigators found, that in many cases, the poor performing company was on FMCSA’s radar for violations, but was allowed to continue operating and was not scrutinized closely until they had deadly crashes,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman.

FMCSA in a statement said it increases each year the number of carriers it shuts down for unsafe practices, saying in 2012 it shut down 47 carriers, compared to just 10 in 2011. Here’s the agency’s statement:

“Increasing safety to save lives and prevent bus and truck crashes is at the heart of our mission at FMCSA. In the past three years, we have more than tripled the number of unsafe companies and drivers we have taken off the road through more comprehensive investigations. We have also brought together key safety, industry and enforcement organizations to ask for their help and support our efforts. We are continuously looking for new ways to make our investigation methods even more effective so we shut down unsafe companies before a crash occurs and will thoroughly review the NTSB’s findings.”

NTSB says its investigations raised issues about both FMCSA’s “thoroughness and quality” of compliance reviews and the agency’s “increasing reliance on focused compliance reviews,” as they focus on just a narrow portion of a carrier’s operation.

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The American Trucking Associations said NTSB’s findings reinforces points that FMCSA must improve the CSA program to better target carriers who have high crash risk. “FMCSA must improve its CSA program to better identify carriers more likely to be involved in future crashes. We look forward to the forthcoming Government Accountability Office and DOT Inspector General CSA audit reports and hope they emphasize the need to ensure that the program accurately measures crash risk and focuses on unsafe fleets,” said ATA Chairman Phil Byrd, president of Bulldog Hiway Express in Charleston, S.C.

ATA president and CEO Bill Graves said the findings show the industry needs an electronic log mandate.

Here are the four crashes NTSB says raised the flags, along with FMCSA’s corresponding actions:

Motorcoach wreck in Pendleton, Ore., December 2012: In a bus crash in which nine people died and 37 were injured, NTSB says its investigation showed the bus driver was operating over the 70 hours allowed by FMCSA for passenger carriers, had the bus’s transmission retarder engaged and was driving with a tire not rated for highway operation. The carrier, Mi Joo Tour & Travel, had been cited previously for hours-of-service violations, with one resulting in an out-of-service order, NTSB says.

NTSB also said the carrier had “longstanding and systematic” issues with safety, dating to passing its entrance audit in 2007. But FMCSA had given the carrier a “Satisfactory” rating in an August 2011 compliance review. Directly after the accident, FMCSA declared the company an imminent hazard and placed it out-of-service for “wholly [failing] to take basic measures to ensure its drivers are properly rested…,” noting it did not comply with drug and alcohol testing requirements,  driver qualifications requirements, hours regulations or vehicle maintenance standards.

According to NTSB’s request to Foxx to audit FMCSA, “This fatal crash might have been prevented if the FMCSA had exercised more effective federal oversight of the carrier during the CR process.”

Motorcoach wreck in San Bernardino, Calif., February 2013: A bus crash that killed seven and injured dozens more was caused by defective brakes, NTSB said. All six of the bus’s brakes were defective, by North American Standard Inspection Program out-of-service criteria, NTSB determined.

The Mexican-owned company received permanent U.S. operating authority in October 2012 and had vehicles placed out-of-service in six of 19 inspections in 2011 and 2012 — a 42.8 percent rate. The actual bus involved in the crash had been inspected roadside five times in 24 months and had been placed out-of-service three of those five times for brake violations. Because its CSA scores were too high, FMCSA conducted a compliance review, but was unable to receive all of the required documentation because some of it was at the company’s headquarters in Tijuana, Mexico, and some was written in Spanish.

FMCSA gave the company a “Satisfactory” rating at that compliance review, which took place less than a month before the deadly crash.

Immediately after the crash, FMCSA shut the company down for failing to upkeep its vehicles to federal standards.

Truck crash in Elizabethtown, Kent., March 2013: A truck driver in somewhat severe violation of hours-of-service rules — and who had been keeping two logbooks — crashed into an SUV on the Interstate, killing six passengers. FMCSA had investigated the company the week of the crash, due to an alert int he CSA system in the Unsafe Driving BASIC. The carrier had also previously had alerts in the Hours of Service BASIC.

FMCSA did not give the carrier a rating in the February, 2013 compliance review, but the agency solely focused on the Unsafe Driving alert and ignored driver-related violations, like hours-of-service compliance.

In the post-crash investigation, NTSB discovered all eight of the Highway Star, Inc.,’s drivers kept falsified logs and that the carrier scheduled drivers to violate hours regulations. FMCSA shut the carrier down after the crash.

“FMCSA had evidence long before the crash, via roadside inspection and CR information, that Highway Star had a history of HOS violations. Nevertheless, it took no significant action against the carrier for such violations before the fatal crash took place,” NTSB writes in its recommendation to Foxx.

Truck crash in Murfreesboro, Tenn., June 2013: The driver of a tractor-trailer slammed into stopped traffic in Interstate 24 in a wreck that killed two and injured six others. The driver was operating over the 70-hour limit, and upon NTSB review after the crash, the company’s drivers regularly operated in violation of hours rules and falsified logs.

Roadside inspections cited drivers 19 times between April 2012 and May 2013 for logbook violations, resulting in nine out-of-service orders. The carrier, H & O Transport, had CSA alerts in the Hours of Service BASIC 18 out of 30 months from November 2010 to May 2013.

However, in 2011, the company had a focused compliance review on the Unsafe Driving BASIC, which it received a non-rating for. NTSB says the compliance review should have also focused on the Hours of Service BASIC.

Click here to read NTSB’s recommendation to Foxx.

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  • Hudd

    One trillion miles + traveled, there is going to be a few mishaps. The irony is to save money due to the enormous cost of operating regulations, carries are putting cheap labor in trucks, which results in less safety.

  • helmethead

    What we really need is more of these 3 week wonders. So lets hurry up and keep making up more stupid requirements to drive away the good drivers

  • John Galt

    Who is John Galt!

  • MercenaryMan

    FMCSA Has piled regulations on top of regulations trying to legislate SAFETY, thats impossible, whats needed is better training, peer safety reviews and hiring of drivers who CARE…not any warm body….many of us do care what our industry is like, how its percieved, what people think of us, We go out of our way to be safe only to arrive at the Shipper/Reciever and heres a guy who cant read the signs, holding a placard with several languages on it, asking who is the dispatch……PEOPLE drive trucks, and most do a great job, Adding ridiculous legislation due to lobby pressure has made a workable industry a quagmire of nonsense.

  • Webb Kline

    First of all, even with these bad accidents, the actual deaths per 100 million vehicle miles where a non-compliant, tired driver was at fault is so negligible that one would have to circumnavigate the world something like 65,000 times to find one dead person as a result (actual FMCSA figures which strangely are no longer accessible on the FMCSA website). But, having said that, what we have is typical government bureaucracy implementing regulations that penalize good people, while doing nothing to deal with those determined to run illegally, who easily find ways to get around the regs.

  • g

    There are more than 500,000 trucking companies in America…this CSA only shutdown 47 in an Entire YEAR??? How Rediculous…..CSA goes after DRIVERS with a FURY and VENGENCE..but is very lenient on “BUSINESSES”??? Seems like more PAYOLA going on as usual! Internet is filled with ARRESTS of D.O.T. officials for taking BRIBES and excluding “companies” from on sight inspections…….CROOKS all the way to the TOP……MONEY TALKS up there at COP Headquarters!!!! PAYOLA and BRIBERY is wild at “The AGENCY”…..what a sick joke.

  • Mike Smith

    How many of these companies are using foreigners to drive.

    The following demonstrates the danger of Mexican trucks running in OUR country. Yet the government continues to allow them to operate in OUR country. Which is a violation of our sovereignty & a threat to OUR CITIZENS in OUR OWN COUNTRY.

    Copied from the article above:

    “The Mexican-owned company received permanent U.S. operating authority in October 2012 and had vehicles placed out-of-service in six of 19 inspections in 2011 and 2012 — a 42.8 percent rate. The actual bus involved in the crash had been inspected roadside five times in 24 months and had been placed out-of-service three of those five times for brake violations. Because its CSA scores were too high, FMCSA conducted a compliance review, but was unable to receive all of the required documentation because some of it was at the company’s headquarters in Tijuana, Mexico, and some was written in Spanish.”

  • Cameron

    I wonder what race the driver in each case was? Were they all white? Maybe that was the cause. Maybe they all were wearing green shirts the day of the accident, or their beds were unmade. Each of those ridiculous possibilities is just as likely to be the cause of each of those accidents as the driver’s violation of the HOS.
    There is no scientific or intellectual honesty in the assumption, THAT IS ALL THAT IS, AN ASSUMPTION!!!!!, that the driver involved in those accidents was at fault, and that he was at fault because he was also in violation of the HOS.

  • Mike Smith

    It is important to note that ATA & the BIG TRUCK COMPANIES they represent are fighting to have all trucks run with SPEED limiters so as to destroy the GOOD O.O. ABILITY TO PROVIDE BETTER SERVICE.

    It is the BIG carries who use mostly cheap inexperienced drivers to cut their costs. I have to ask why is there no reference to driver experience and there names.

  • Richie

    2 bus crashes? Not mentioned is the BUS crash in the bronx killing 19 if im correct. The bus crash upstate ny. The major common carrier crashes wheras the drivers had not been inspected due to pre-pass. The idiota DOT cops that havnt a clue, only a schtick. The cut rate brokers like CH Robinson who routinly demand services that force the carriers to push the envelope…or face being dropped as carriers for their cut rate brokerage. Finaly there are the three week wonders. Its a mess and no “machine” will fix it. Only an industry that shunns the untrained and the unethical will cure the problem.

  • 35 years in the trade

    Well sir…..we must remember…getting the bottom rung of drivers has its benifits. 1. Dopey drivers are easy to blame for the companys fails. 2. Untrained drivers are great when being audited, to drag in, to show your dot auditer how difficult it is to manage the filthy steering wheel holders. 3.Barley trained drivers work cheap. 4. Cheap drivers allow you to do loads that are cheap. 5.Doing cheap loads allows the broker ( the trucking company without trucks) ergo CH Robinson to be bottom feeders and have a competitive edge.
    The only way to combat this incompetance being pushed upon OUR trade is to SAY NO TO CHEAP FREIGHT and to hold brokers feet to the fire if they get skippy with demands beyond the legal parameters or demands that go beyond what you are being paid for. Drivers must demand that the DATAQUE system of confronting bad inspections be used and bad dot cops be removed from their dutys.

  • Name

    The ATA does not represent in any way drivers. The ATA represents the companies.

  • Mike Smith

    I’ll repeat:

    It is important to note that ATA & *the BIG TRUCK COMPANIES* they represent………..

  • EF McHenry

    You are 100% Correct! And you got the guts to say it about the American Trucking Association! The ATA loves to lobby the FMCSA EPA & loves the NTSB to pass rules, regulations, codes, standards, policies, fee requirements, licensing requirements, vehicle standards, their wish list is a FASCISTs DREAM! These corporate mongrels LOVE TO PRIVATIZE PROFIT and SOCIALIZE COST! The public Federal Income Tax funds govt agencies and highway trust funds. But the ATA who represent corporate trucking use all the aforementioned tactics to stifle and encumber the competition to garner more market share to the big corporate trucking companies! Furthermore they are using these same regulations to attack and control the driver(ie worker)! Regulations can have different targets! They are declaring WAR on the DRIVERS!!!

  • EF McHenry

    Correct 100%

  • EF McHenry

    Correct!!

  • Mike Smith

    It is truly great when a man recognizes the hard hitting truth and then gives credit to that truth. Thank you.

    You mention war. Wars are fought over territory & resources. AND REVOLUTIONARY Wars are fought over the rich and powerful beating down their citizens, their people. And what are the revolutions that come to mind?

    The American Revolution against King George, the rich and powerful, AND the French Revolution where by the rich and powerful, IE. Marie Antoinette & Louis XVI, filled Paris with massive numbers of PEOPLE in order to drive down the cost of labor. The labor they wanted and NEEDED to live their lavish life styles. They ALSO drove their country into bankruptcy, and this is why we where able to make the Louisiana Purchase from France. DOES THIS ALL THIS SOUND FAMILIAR??? It should. These are the things that are happening to our country RIGHT NOW.

  • guest

    Seems like ATA is Owned by Mega Fleets…as a “spokesmen” for ALL truckers……..they only represent the interests of Mega Fleets…never the small operators. Donahue WAS the ATA president…NOW he is in Washington writing legislation for “immigration reform” with Mccain and he is NOW president of “chamber of commerce” and he hopes to bring 11million illegal aliens to his pals at ATA and mega Fleets….at the EXPENSE of every small trucker in America. Thomas Donahue…the PUPPET pushed into POWER by ATA and Big Money Mega Fleets.

  • g

    Oh Yes….we are on the verge of collapse…17 trillion in debt and no way out. Invaded by illegal Foreigners and the Government is holding the fence OPEN for them to Swarm in like Locus….our Commie president will NOT deport a foreign invader for any reason he WANTS them to INVADE and help CAUSE revolution..as Americans are driven futher into POVERTY….and become FED UP. Obama has beefed up his plans for MARTIAL LAW and hopes to squash any UPRISINGS and establish Total Tyranny…he or his successor will be KING of AMERICA.

  • guest

    Thats the FMCSA bending over for Mexico…and bringing cheap labor to America..FMCSA is a Hypocrite agency……they HOUND the American small operator but wave thru the low paid mexican??
    Gee..something “fishy” here?? Mexican trucks are routinely caught with Millions of Dollars worth of Dope in the trailer??? Could THIS be the reason COPS look the other way when a mexican approaches the scales……they have NEVER stopped and DEPORTED an illegal alien from an 18 wheeler….theMexican is free to go even if he has No License…no documentation…nothing….WHEN was an illegal alien EVER yanked out of a truck and deported??? Internet is Filled with court cases after the ACCIDENT mysteriously stating the “driver” is an illegal alien????? FMCSA doesNOTHING to prevent this. NOW they are at the BORDER opening the GATE for these Foreigners and they have ZERO background checks….that can be documented. But the AMERICAN must PROVE every word of his application and certification???

  • Mike Smith

    Thank you. This is why we hear so many attempts to attack the 2nd AMENDMENT.

  • Christie Fields

    My question to ally of you is what are YOU going to do about this?

  • Mike Smith

    What is the purpose of this question. To try and detract!

    We are talking about it first of all. And so it goes until we can figure out what to do.

  • Mike Smith

    All you say are the real reasons for what we are experiencing.

    We are also experiencing A WAY FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO CREATE EVEN MORE GOVERNMENT JOBS and REVENUE on the backs of TRUCK DRIVES. And they use the catch word SAFETY to support their miserable deceitful moves.

  • Mike Smith

    Why isn’t the FMCSA & the NTSB doing something about the massive numbers of Mexicans driving trucks in our country? Why are they not INVESTIGATING this?????

    The following is what i found out from a party who knew nothing about my thoughts on the subject of Mexican drivers in OUR country. He just provided me with the info. off hand; which supports my case. Read the following.

    About 1 month ago I went to look at a trailer for sale. It turned out to be at a tow yard located by I-40. I spoke with the owner of the tow company.

    I saw 2 wrecked tractors/trucks. I asked him about them and the prices. I then asked if he gets many in for me to look at and maybe buy. He said oh yes. He went on to tell me that you wouldn’t believe it, most of the trucks are driven by Mexicans. He also went on to say many of the Mexicans don’t even have insurance. I said that’s hard to believe I wouldn’t dare drive with out insurance. How can the Mexicans. He said he didn’t know but they do.

    To give you a better understanding, these Mexicans are from So. California, many from Fontana, CA. To add to this information, the California Governor, Gov. Brown, is working to ALLOW THE ILLEGAL ALIENS to get DRIVERS LICENCES. Do you think Gov. Brown knows what I know and that is CA is filled with Mexicans driving & driving trucks. If I know it, he has much more power than I have to know it.

  • Bigfoot3910

    I think it was just to say, we can’t JUST keep talking about it. We’ve talked for years now. We outta do this, we outta do that, but we don’t DO.
    Deregulation gave a lot of people opportunities that didn’t have before, but it also brought a lot of people in that have no business in trucking. They are just here to grab and go, rinse and repeat.

  • Mike Smith

    I’ve point out the problem above, and below. The FMCSA & the NTSB are responsible to do their duty to root out the culprits. They must not attack attack all American Citizens. Aside from this one must read what I have written, and decide how they are to respond. Nothing can be said.

    If our government is completely corrupted, and they do not protect Americans CITIZENS as is their DUTY, what do you do. If they allow people to vote without proving they are CITIZENS, what do you do. If the government does what the corporations want rather than what is good for American citizens, what do you do. If the government makes laws that protect foreigners, legal and illegal what do you do. If the government gives our civil service jobs to FOREIGNERS by way of Affirmative Action, what do you do.

    In light of these points, and what I’ve said, you and the girl tell us what we should do.

  • gregbo

    “ATA president and CEO Bill Graves said the findings show the industry needs an electronic log mandate.”
    In every case the HOS violations were apparently discovered with plain old paper logs and in some at least, drivers were dispatched to run illegal. EOBR logs can be altered by carriers, happened to me. As usual the ATA cares more about it’s anti competition agenda than it does about a few dozen dead bodies lying on the interstates.

  • matt

    steped up training requirements won’t do much good. neither is painting drivers one way or the other. the trucking trade was at one time about ability. and those that couldn’t hack it put there selves out of trucking. now trucking companies find ways to keep people who just simply can’t do the job. so sooner or later they get in a wreck hurting or killing some people. and the rest of the drivers in the industry.get blamed and punished for it.

  • guest

    Yep how we are “perceived” by wife and family??
    Never bring them to a truckstop and see all the weirdos and Kooks and illiterate foreigners….many drivers look like homeless slobs today. If you tell someone you are a trucker in Modern America today they will either Laugh and ask if you are making a JOKE…or quickly dismiss you as a total LOSER. Cops constantly look down their nose at truckers and make jokes about us…….

  • guest

    mega fleets constantly hire mentally crippled “drivers” and “students”….Zombies who will sit and stare for endless housrs…with No ambition or aspiration and NEED to be ordered around and babysat……trucking has gotten to be
    a sickening joke……The “perception” of a trucker today is so LOW…..people feel Pity and disgust….if you are a trucker.
    They actually CRINGE when you tell them what you do for a living…it is actually a shameful occupation today.

  • MercenaryMan

    The new Trans Pacific Partnership and Trade Agreement is going to make NAFTA look like a pinprick, Jobs, Factory’s, Multinational Controls, Tariff against OUR exports, and yes driving down wages by using the WE CAN GET IT CHEAPER IN ________ Fill in the blank….then the Bargaining to lower wages, Freight rates, and cut Pensions and Benefits because we all know people living in boxes behind the factory on the Third World Island dont worry about Houses, Cars, they worry about FOOD…..Yes the TPP will be a game changer for the worst of Americans, If this is passed, wages and your liveliehood will be gone like Detroit….

  • Debieve

    Too many of us let others dictate how and why we do our jobs..ain’t nothing new, been going on since I can remember..the greatest loss to this industry has been Morale! why do you drive a truck? I do it because I love driving..period! I do my job to the best of my ability regardless of all the stinking regs! I am neat, clean and respectful to all whom I encounter in my day..I don’t give a rat’s pa-toot what people think of me, I do care about how I am performing my job though..we all all humans and need to treat each other with respect and dignity. After 35 yrs out here, I still feel the same way about trucking no matter what others are throwing at me..I am a trucker and I stand proud!!

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