FMCSA’s People Focus Is Helping Truck Drivers, Robin Hutcheson Says
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ORLANDO, Fla. — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s top executive explained to hundreds at a trucking industry gathering that the agency’s focus to invest in people dovetails with its efforts to improve the workplace for drivers.
FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson gave a keynote luncheon speech March 6 during the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual convention, Truckload 2023 Orlando, March 4-7.
Thanking every trucker in the room, Hutcheson expressed heartfelt appreciation for their work and important contributions to the national economy.
Hutcheson spoke at length about the importance of FMCSA’s commitment to a zero-fatality National Roadway Safety Strategy for everyone.
Attendees at Truckload 2023. (Noël Fletcher/Transport Topics)
“Truck drivers dying in the workplace isn’t acceptable,” she emphasized. “FMCSA is doing things to invest in people.”
This focus area goes beyond traffic safety statistics to examine the reasons behind accidents and unsafe practices, and address prevention. For example, if a truck driver is speeding, she said it is important to understand if the driver is trying to make up time lost seeking a parking spot, or having a heavier workload from an industrywide driver shortage.
She said it is important to know if drivers are spending enough time resting with loved ones or if they have been robbed in unsafe parking areas. These factors can contribute to road safety issues.
“No organization in the industry has not told us about [the need for more] truck parking,” she commented, adding that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spent an all-day session last year dealing with truck parking issues.
Host Seth Clevenger chats with Evan Shelley, co-founder and CEO of TruckParkingClub. Hear the program above and at RoadSigns.TTNews.com.
She told participants FMCSA is taking action to improve the workplace for truckers by granting federal funds to two states for more truck parking. In September, Tennessee was awarded $22.6 million to add 125 truck parking spots in rural Smith County along Interstate 40, and upgrade an advance bridge over Caney Fork River. Florida received a $15 million grant to build a truck parking facility with 120 spaces and at least six electrical outlets to power refrigerated trucks and “in-cab comforts” in a rural area on I-4 between Tampa and Orlando. The money came from $1.5 billion in federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America funds given to 26 projects across the country.
Furthermore, Hutcheson said, FMCSA is promoting automatic emergency braking and investing in technological research to make driving safer.
She cited mobile apps as good tools to help truckers see in real time where available parking spaces are located. FMCSA is funding a study with Texas A&M Transportation Institute, The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Parkunload to learn how truck drivers use existing parking spaces along interstates and test a mobile parking app.
Hutcheson said driver retention is another important issue for the federal government. “The longer drivers are in the industry, the safer they become,” she noted.
Other actions FMCSA has taken include standing up the Women of Trucking Advisory Board to encourage diversity in the industry, and launching entry-level driver training federal mandates. She said it is also working to remove a loophole in reports to companies about hair drug test results in the federal Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.
The Florida gathering was attended by 1,400 people, according to spokesperson Amelia Rose, and featured 130 exhibits.
Hutcheson concluded her remarks by encouraging attendees to submit safety issue comments before the March 16 deadline on the Carrier Safety Measurement System (Federal Register’s 88 FR 9954 notice) used by FMCSA to identify motor carriers for safety interventions.
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