Guest comment by Kenny Lund, vice president, Support Operations, Allen Lund Company
Back in May 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stopped pretending they were the government agency that indicates which carriers are safe to use. Instead, they issued a statement saying that shippers and brokers should use the information FMCSA provides to determine whether or not a carrier is safe to use themselves.
This CSA information from FMCSA is severely flawed because they admit there is only information on 40% of the carriers on the road. They have not adjusted their point of view except to say: "A thorough review of SAFER, L&I, and SMS provides users with an informed, current, and comprehensive picture of a motor carrier's safety performance." Except that it doesn't.
More than two years have passed since the launch of CSA and they still have a policy in direct conflict with their court settlement with ASECTT. Unbelievable! The government agency tasked with identifying safe and unsafe carriers has simply quit and admitted defeat. If the information on carriers is to remain in the public view, the FMCSA must immediately address the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD).
Simply put, this is the "yes" or "no" determination by the government if a carrier can operate. FMCSA has admitted that this is years away. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent of the FAA saying to the public: here is the data on licensed airlines we track but we will no longer try to determine if airlines are safe - do it yourselves!
In evaluating and interacting with carriers, government agencies issue a license for each trailer, tractor, and every driver, and they grant authority for the carrier to operate. Once added up, that equals four different ways to evaluate carriers and inject safety guidelines which help them!
Yet they refuse to make the final determination on the safety fitness of a carrier. They try to force shippers and transportation brokers to use FMCSA's outdated, incomplete and unreliable information on websites to try and make an informed decision on the fitness of carriers available. While brokers and carriers are left with inaccurate data, lawyers offer seminars on how to use this to their advantage in order to sue shippers, brokers and carriers. It is the equivalent of making it possible to sue the travel agent when an airline or cruise line has an accident.
FMCSA seeks to increase truck safety on the highways. In every meeting I have attended with FMCSA, they have made this point very clear. Their main goal is to identify unsafe carriers and get them off the road. It is a very straightforward task.
FMCSA aggregates all data, including government interactions with carriers out on the road, such as crash records, inspections, tickets and application information. Because of this, they have the most complete data and are well positioned to make immediate informed decisions on carriers fitness. FMCSA - finish your job! They should inspect carriers entering the marketplace and use law enforcement and their own inspectors to oversee carriers already on the road.
They should be telling us whether we can use the carrier or that the carrier does not meet the standards necessary to operate. If they cannot do this, then they should take the CSA information off the public website and use it internally and distribute it to other government agencies as well as within the insurance community. This will keep carriers accountable and as such will continue to improve the safety of the carriers currently out on the road.
In summary, FMCSA - DO YOUR JOB!