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September 21, 2020 10:30 AM, EDT

FMCSA Launches Driver Panel for Advisory Committee

truck driverAccording to FMCSA, the new panel includes between 20 and 25 drivers representing various sectors of the industry. (kali9/Getty Images)

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created a panel of commercial drivers to contribute to the agency’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee.

Chartered in 2006, MCSAC advises FMCSA leaders on motor carrier safety programs and regulations. MCSAC’s members represent safety enforcement officers, labor groups and trucking leaders.

The commercial driver panel, announced Sept. 18, will provide feedback to FMCSA on issues facing truckers such as safety, hours-of-service regulations, training and parking.

Elaine Chao

Chao

“Truck drivers and other commercial vehicle operators are American heroes who have stepped up during the current public health emergency to keep our economy moving, so their input is essential to strengthening safety on the roads,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

The panel, FMCSA said, will include 20 to 25 drivers representing various sectors of the industry. The members operate tractor-trailers, straight trucks and motorcoaches. They haul a range of cargo, including hazardous materials and agricultural goods.

Danny Schnautz, vice president of Clark Freight Lines Inc., said anecdotal evidence from individual drivers can reveal trends that characterize the entire industry. Schnautz, a member of MCSAC since 2010, said panelists hail from various geographic regions and will add to the breadth of information collected.

Based in Pasadena, Texas, Clark Freight Lines has 180 drivers. Schnautz said he tries to talk to them daily.

“Some driver says, ‘One time I was going through Florida ... .’ Whenever you realize that there’s thousands of those stories that say, ‘One time this happened,’ then you can put together a pretty good pattern, and you can see what’s good and what’s bad in the way we’re regulating trucks,” Schnautz told Transport Topics. “These are differences that don’t come out unless you’re talking to a driver, because management really can’t tell those stories.”

He said driver perspective is important to call attention to details many people don’t consider. Waiting time, parking, HOS regulations, speed limiters and FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program are subjects that may be discussed by the driver panel.

FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck

Deck

“The Department of Transportation and this administration believe in listening to our drivers and hearing their concerns directly,” FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck said. “We know that many of the solutions to the challenges we face don’t come from Washington; they come from the hardworking men and women who are behind the wheel all over our nation. This new subcommittee to MCSAC will further help us hear from America’s commercial drivers.”

Trucking representatives, including drivers, made their voices heard as FMCSA crafted the final rule on changes to HOS regulations, which were announced May 14. FMCSA officials gathered 8,000 public comments online and through in-person meetings as they shaped the final rule, which includes four revisions that pertain to issues truckers have voiced concerns about, such as the 30-minute rest break and splitting up time in the sleeper berth.

Schnautz encouraged government officials, including Deck, who has been deputy administrator for about a month, to learn by going into the field. He said they could gain perspective about the industry by going on truck rides and standing at loading docks and fuel pumps.

“Don’t discount what you can gain by investing that time to get out,” Schnautz said. “Really, we’ve got to prioritize that.”

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