Trucking, Safety Officers’ Group Join Forces Against Coalition Over Criticism of FMCSA

WASHINGTON — Trucking and law enforcement groups said a recent report claiming the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has failed to ensure trucking safety was unproductive and poorly researched.The report, released March 12 by the Truck Safety Coalition, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Public Citizen, issued a “report card” on FMCSA, giving the agency and the trucking industry failing grades.“For years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has routinely failed to meet deadlines to implement mandated safety rules and regulations that would have surely prevented deadly big truck crashes,” said Daphne Izer, founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers, which is part of the coalition, along with Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, also known as CRASH.Among the issues the report card focused on were achieving commercial-vehicle safety goals, meeting congressional mandates, implementing electronic onboard re-corders and requiring stronger driver training.However, Steve Campbell, executive director of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Alliance, said the report “didn’t change one iota from the first one I read 20 years ago.”“I didn’t see a lot of new things that they’re pointing out as problems,” he told Transport Topics. “It’s easy to stand on the sideline and be critical rather than be part of a solution and find ways to improve commercial vehicle safety.”The report ranked states in terms of truck-crash deaths per 100,000 population, listing Wyoming as the deadliest state for trucking, with 6.09 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2005. The national average was 1.76 per 100,000 people and 22 states had rates higher than that, the report said.Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, compared the government’s response to trucking safety with its responses to outbreaks of disease.“Anytime there is an E. coli outbreak, the federal government uses every resource available to stop this public health threat,” she said. “Yet, unsafe big rigs kill and maim tens of thousands each year because truckers are pushed to drive to [sic] long hours under unsafe operating conditions while the federal response has been silence and indifference.”Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, said FMCSA “has failed miserably and has richly earned straight Fs, except for one lone A, which is for squandering public resources by funding research that advances the trucking industry’s economic priorities rather than public safety.”Ian Grossman, spokesman for FMCSA, asserted that despite the claims, commercial vehicle safety has improved under the agency’s watch.“First of all, if you look at the big picture, over the last 10 years, the large-truck fatality rate has fallen by 15%, while at the same time, traffic on our highways has risen by 24%,” Grossman said. “This has happened in large part because of the millions of dollars that the FMCSA has invested in inspectors, facilities and safety programs to improve the performance of commercial vehicles on the roads. We’re doing more safety reviews and roadside inspections than ever before,” he said.“It’s very frustrating when the facts aren’t communicated, or information is communicated as fact when it is not,” said Dave Osiecki, vice president of safety, security and operations for American Trucking Associations. “Unfortunately, they advocate what they think should be done, not what the facts dictate should be done.”CVSA’s Campbell questioned the report’s use of deaths per 100,000 in population.“They used a denominator that is not used in any other traffic death monitoring or injury monitoring process that I am aware of,” Campbell said.“Their methodology clearly is to throw stones and . . . just find fault with what everybody does and say not enough’s been done.”DOT, CVSA and other groups use miles of vehicle travel to calculate crash and fatality rates for large trucks. In 2005, the fatal crash rate remained unchanged at 2.34 per 100 million miles, according to government statistics (12-4, p. 1).“They faulted FMCSA elsewhere in their report for creative accounting methodology,” Campbell said, “and they were guilty of the same thing.”Osiecki also found fault with the group’s criticism of FMCSA’s data programs.“The report card mentions making more data publicly available through SafeStat, but at their press conference, they highlighted the legitimate criticisms of the SafeStat system found by government auditors,” he said. “These groups appear to be advocating for greater public availability of incomplete and inaccurate data. That doesn’t seem rational to me.”This story appeared in the March 19 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.