As a Missouri trucking accident lawyer, I’m a big fan of federal enforcement of safety regulations. Often, when a fatal trucking accident is ruled the fault of the truck driver, there’s a violation of a federal safety regulation behind the crash. Stepped-up enforcement, therefore, is a powerful tool regulators have to prevent avoidable deaths and catastrophic injuries of people who share the roads with truckers. Commercial Carrier Journal, a trucking industry publication, published an article this month that is part of an ongoing look at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability enforcement program. The article notes that during the first two years of the CSA program (2010-2012), the FMCSA has sharply increased the number of drivers and carriers it took out of service, and has started to investigate carriers more thoroughly.
FMCSA statistics show that 48 carriers were ordered out of service as an imminent hazard in fiscal year 2012, which was up sharply from 10 carriers in fiscal 2011. The official statistics showed no substantial change between the two years in carriers ordered out of service as unfit, but CCJ interviewed a consultant who felt there was a spike in out-of-service orders for carriers that had been asked to correct a safety problem and not taken action. Carrier officials and safety compliance consultants told the publication that drivers are increasingly held accountable by federal regulators for violations of the rules. One case cited by a consultant involved a $4,000 fine for a driver found to have a pattern of hours-of-service reporting violations. The carrier itself received a rating of Satisfactory, after it scrambled to quickly review six months’ worth of logs that had gone untouched.
The article also cites “mission creep” by FMCSA regulators from a focused investigation of some particular safety issue, toward full compliance reviews. For example, a consultant said, an investigator from the federal government, or a state-government partner to the FMCSA, might come to the carrier’s offices to review hours of service compliance. But once an experienced investigator understands the system the carrier is using, the consultant said, he or she can quickly understand the state of the carrier’s overall compliance efforts. Regulators are focusing on vehicle maintenance issues and hours of service violations, the article said; not surprisingly, these were the top two reasons for violations found in the first two years of the CSA program.
This “mission creep” by regulators strikes me, as a St. Louis semi truck accident attorney, as a good thing. In fact, I find the news in this article encouraging, because it largely shows that the CSA program means stepped-up safety enforcement. Regulations exist to make sure that only safe trucks are on the roads and only safe drivers are driving them. If regulators are taking the time to investigate trucking companies’ safety compliance practices thoroughly, they may be able to keep more motorists safe. The FMCSA is practicing what it preaches, in fact; this week, it ordered three commercial drivers off the road as imminent hazards, all three after intoxicated-driving crashes. As a southern Illinois tractor-trailer accident lawyer, I welcome news like this.