The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has come under fire in recent months from members of Congress and other federal agencies for its lack of transparency and perceived flaws in its investigative procedures. The FMCSA is the federal agency that regulates the commercial trucking industry. It is also responsible for conducting investigations into commercial carriers who have violated regulations or have been red-flagged for suspicion of safety violations.
Report Shows Failure to Investigate
Two years ago the National Transportation Safety Board released a report that showed that the FMCSA had failed to conduct investigations into four separate trucking companies that had been red-flagged. The report said that although the companies had been on the FMCSA’s radar for safety violations for some time, an official investigation was not conducted until they had already been involved in fatal crashes. Had the agency opened its investigation sooner, it could have potentially spotted and corrected safety problems that would have prevented the fatal crashes in the first place. In another example, a carrier that was marked as high-risk was not investigated at all by the FMCSA. That carrier was involved in a fatal crash in Illinois in 2014.
DOT to Audit FMCSA Investigative Procedures
As a result of these failures, Congress has asked the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (DOT IOG) to conduct a full audit of the FMCSA’s investigation procedures. The audit is expected to begin immediately. Specifically, the DOT IOG wants to review the FMCSA process for ensuring that all carriers that are marked as high-risk or red-flagged are investigated as quickly as possible.
Congress Members Call for FMCSA Reform
Earlier this year, several members of Congress called for reform of the FMCSA, citing its lack of transparency and its handling of the 34-hour restart rule as notable problems. Prior to introducing the 34-hour restart rule in 2013, Congress demanded that the FMCSA conduct a study on the impact of the rule. The study was completed several months late and was met with criticism over what experts called an insufficient sample size.
Since the implementation of the 34-hour restart rule, the trucking industry has complained of several unintended consequences of the rule – most notably that it pushes drivers onto the road during peak traffic hours which makes the road less safe. The 34-hour restart rules has since been temporarily suspended a detailed analysis of the rule’s impacts can be performed.