Acting Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) chief Scott Darling addressed the recent American Trucking Associations annual conference in Philadelphia and called for more cooperation between the industry and the federal government.
In his remarks, Darling mentioned the recent commercial motor vehicle safety training grants as an example of how the federal government and the industry can be partners.
The grants will be assisting military veterans and their spouses with careers in the trucking industry and expand the number of CDL holders with enhanced safety training.
“Our military skills waiver training program allows graduates who drove heavy duty vehicles in the military to obtain a commercial driver’s license without taking the skills portion of the CDL test,” he said. More than 10,000 have taken advantage of the waiver to date.
Darling said 2016 can be a “year of partnerships” with his agency and motor carriers and drivers. One partnership started last December with the agency asking for carriers and drivers to provide data to assess the impact of the hours-of-service restart provisions.
More than 220 drivers provided the agency with data from their normal routes. The data included more than 3,000 driver duty cycles captured by electronic logs and more than 20,000 days of driver sleep data.
The study is currently in the analysis stage with a final report to be submitted to the Office of Inspector General in coming months.
Darling also mentioned several ongoing projects where partnerships have been essential to improve safety results:
• A negotiated rulemaking for entry level driver training that is on schedule to be published by the end of the year.
• A notice published in the Federal Register to allow new compliance effective dates for the unified registration system.
• A final rule to be published on electronic logging devices. The rule is designed to improve compliance which will save an estimated 20 lives and prevent 400 injuries due to crashes each year.
• A safety and fitness notice of proposed rulemaking that will incorporate ongoing safety performance data and grading carriers based on their own performance. The agency will be seeking public input on this rule, he said.
“There are 1,100 FMCSA employees making a difference to improve safety, but we need partnerships with trucking interests to accomplish more. That’s why next year we will continue to push for partnerships to help advance rulemakings,” he said.
Darling, the former chief counsel for the agency, said FMCSA depends on truck drivers and their companies to deliver goods and operate trucks safely.
“We must do all we can to take unsafe driver and carriers off the road,” he added.
ATA’s president and CEO Bill Graves, who has at times been at odds with FMCSA, saluted Darling for his work with the industry.
“We appreciate the openness you bring to the office, the commitment of time you’ve given to our industry and our events and the rare quality – one which we’re unfortunately seeing less and less of in public service - of being able to disagree without being disagreeable,” Graves said.
“We share your goal – and the goal of FMCSA – to make America’s road safer for everyone,” he said. “And if the worst that can be said about us is that we have disagreements over whose idea will be safer than the others, then we’re not doing too bad.”
In a show of support for the industry, two of the 39 projects funded in the latest TIGER Grants from US DOT are dedicated to trucking needs.
• A $25 million grant will be used to implement a regional truck parking information management system spanning several states in the Midwest: Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. The system will allow truck drivers to access real-time information about parking availability along the interstate.
• The second project, supported with a $9 million grant, is the construction of a multimodal travel plaza on Interstate 95 in Hopkinton, Rhode Island. The plaza will include a solar-powered welcome center, electric vehicle charging stations and secure parking for vehicles of all kinds.
“In this round of TIGER, we selected projects that focus on where the country’s transportation infrastructure needs to be in the future: ever safer, ever more innovative and ever more targeted to open the floodgates of opportunity across America,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.