Editorial: New FMCSA Chief Shows Vision

Ray Martinez, the newly installed head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, made the rounds last week, speaking first to trucking executives at American Trucking Associations’ midyear management meeting May 20 and then to lawmakers in the House of Representatives in Washington at a hearing by the Highways and Transit Subcommittee.

In both appearances, Martinez demonstrated a willingness to address issues straight on, which we think is certainly praiseworthy but also a critical necessity for an agency that is poised to play a major role in resetting the parameters for regulating truck safety.

“He cares deeply about our industry,” ATA President Chris Spear said in introducing Martinez at a meeting of the ATA Safety Policy Committee in Marco Island, Fla.

In his remarks at the ATA event, Martinez said the transition from paper logbooks to electronic logging devices was “working,” but he also vowed to provide updated guidance to specific segments of the industry — notably agriculture and livestock haulers — that were experiencing challenges in complying with the ELD rule.

He also raised the issue of truck parking, suggesting that Congress include provisions for additional truck-parking spaces in legislation that provides for infrastructure funding. This is a sound idea, and one we were pleased to hear Martinez offer. He said that safe truck parking is “something that needs to be addressed,” adding, “I would hope that we could work with states to look at that.”

He also noted that a related issue, driver detention, is getting more attention at the agency.

According to Martinez, FMCSA has received 950 complaints about detention practices, and the agency has launched a dozen enforcement actions to protect drivers against coercion by shippers and carriers. He said there must be “major inefficiency” in the supply chain if drivers are being forced to wait six hours at a location.

It’s encouraging to see Martinez address these issues, especially as the importance of improving highway safety remains key for the trucking industry.

According to a report issued last week by FMCSA, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increased 3%, to 4,213 in 2016 from 4,075 in 2015. However, in 73% of those cases, factors outside of the driver’s control were key contributors. This includes things such as another vehicle, person or object.

Safety is, of course, at the forefront of FMCSA’s mission, and these and other issues Martinez addressed all relate back to keeping the nation’s roads safe. It’s good to see that, with Martinez, we appear to have an administrator at FMCSA who is keeping his eye on the whole picture.