FMCSA defends informal notice, partial exclusion of media at public meetings

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Public meetings held last week and this week by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration did not require a formal public announcement in the U.S. Federal Register or a 30-day advanced notice, agency spokespersons said this week.

Discussion topics of the meetings, as publicized by FMCSA last week, include prominent trucking regulations like the electronic logging device mandate, the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program and other safety regulations.

The meetings are open to the public, including truckers and carriers. Agency representatives are gathering input from industry representatives, but the meetings aren’t “formal listening sessions,” thereby exempting the meetings from laws requiring advanced notice, says Sharon Worthy, an FMCSA’s spokesperson.

Such advanced notice is intended to provide time for interested parties to plan to attend and to allow press to attend. Questions arose from industry stakeholders about why the agency didn’t better publicize the meetings, and whether the agency failed to comply with laws about public notice requirements. However, the agency said it did not, given the meetings’ lack of formality.

FMCSA said in a press notice last week that trucking trade press would need to register to attend, despite the meetings being open to the public. Also, the meetings are open only during the morning sessions to the public and to press. Afternoon sessions are closed-door sessions between FMCSA and state personnel, Worthy said.

FMCSA gave only a day’s notice ahead of last week’s meeting in Minneapolis, simply posting a link on its Facebook Page to an entry on its website with the meeting’s location and time information. Ahead of this week’s meetings, held Tuesday in Philadelphia and Thursday in Denver, the agency sent out press releases — one last Thursday previewing the Tuesday meeting and one Monday, Aug. 14, previewing Thursday’s meeting.

Worthy said the meetings have been “long planned,” despite the short notice to industry stakeholders and trucking industry press. Worthy and FMCSA spokesperson Duane DeBruyne declined to say why the meetings were not publicized earlier.

The agency has held similar meetings for years, Worthy said, focusing mostly on the agency’s relationship with state enforcement and other “administrative matters,” said Worthy. This year, the agency broadened the scope of the meetings “to allow the agency’s senior leadership to directly interact” with industry stakeholders.

DeBruyne added that “the agency had never previously publicized these annual regional meetings. An oversight that we have strived not to repeat” this year, he said.

There are no transcripts available from the first meeting, held in Minneapolis last week, so the contents of the meeting’s discussions are unclear.

Today’s meeting was held near Philadelphia in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. Thursday’s meeting will be held at the Denver airport Embassy Suites, 7001 Yampa Street.

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