U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, has blamed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) of failing to properly supervise the country’s commercial trucking industry and is urging that the agency own up to it.
The allegations by Markey, a distinguished member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, follow an investigation into commercial truck crashes published in August by The Boston Globe.
The investigation discovered that trucking companies in Massachusetts all over the country have operated with “minimal to no federal accountability” despite a surge in truck fatalities over the past ten years.
“Given the FMCSA’s loophole-ridden and patchwork system of accountability, it is no wonder that the commercial trucking industry is increasingly deadly for all users of the road,” Markey stated in his Thursday letter to FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck.
“Although I recognize that the FMCSA faces resource-limitations, I believe that your agency’s failures go well beyond financial or personnel constraints and appear to represent a dereliction of responsibility. I therefore urge you to take immediate action to implement stronger procedures for certifying new trucking companies, conducting regular oversight of the industry, and enforcing federal safety regulations.”
Markey is seeking answers by Nov. 30 to a list of safety-related questions sent to FMCSA, including:
- What analysis and reasoning did the FMSCA rely on when it concluded in January 2019 that requiring testing and auditing of trucking companies before they start operations “wouldn’t significantly boost safety,” despite evidence to the contrary?
- After already being overdue by six years, when will the FMSCA issue a congressionally mandated rule requiring new motor carriers be given a written proficiency examination on applicable federal safety regulations and standards?
- During 2019, how many new carriers were subject to such an audit within the 18-month deadline, and what percentage of new carriers does this figure represent?
- Why has the FMCSA repeatedly resisted calls for the agency to establish a centralized, comprehensive safety database that could assist trucking companies in conducting background checks for their drivers, even though similar systems exist for vehicle operators in other modes of transportation?
- For each year over the last 10 years, how many trucking companies has the FMCSA inspected or investigated because of regulatory violations, poor safety ratings or crash records?
- What procedures does the FMCSA follow or require when conducting a safety inspection or audit of individual trucking companies because of violations, poor safety ratings, or crash records? What actions are taken by the agency after the inspection or audit if violations are identified?
- For each year over the last 10 years, how many trucking companies has the FMCSA ordered out of service because of regulatory violations, poor safety ratings or crash records? If the FMCSA did not order a company out of service despite evidence of any of these failings, why is that?
Markey’s inquiry into FMCSA oversight comes a week after the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General called out the agency for commercial driver license fraud and slow progress on improvements in the way it assesses carrier safety rankings. “FMCSA must take steps to ensure it has the quality data needed to support its assessment of motor carrier safety performance,” the OIG warned.
The federal watchdog also warned FMCSA that while the number of fatalities in all motor vehicle traffic crashes in the U.S. decreased by 3.3% from 2016 to 2018, fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses have increased by 5.8%.