As many readers know, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the agency primarily responsible for regulating the safety of commercial trucking. The agency’s mission is a difficult one, as there are approximately 550,000 trucking companies operating in the U.S. at any time.
Unfortunately, the FMCSA does not have the time or resources to effectively ensure compliance and to take all violating companies out of service. Under the FMCSA’s current audit and suspension procedure, investigations into single companies can take days. This means that the agency is able to investigate only about 15,000 companies per year. The good news is, those statistics may soon be changing for the better.
The FMCSA recently proposed stricter rules that would allow the agency to take companies out of service more quickly. Currently, the FMCSA conducts truck inspections on the nation’s highways, and when vehicles are found to have safety violations, the companies that own those vehicles are then subjected to a comprehensive audit of their operations.
If the new rule were to be enacted, the FMCSA could take companies out of service based solely on what it uncovers in roadside inspections. Any companies with an unacceptable rate of violations would be considered out of service until or unless they corrected the problems and made satisfactory improvements.
In stark contrast to the 15,000 carriers per year that can currently be assessed, the FMCSA believes that the new rules would allow it to assess 75,000 carriers each month.
Many trucking companies would not follow safety laws unless there was a compelling economic reason to do so (the threat of fines, suspension of service, etc.). This is one reason why vigorous and consistent enforcement is needed. Hopefully, the FMCSA’s proposed rules will be passed without delay.