Management & Operations

FMCSA listening session elicits barbed comments

Posted on August 1, 2004 by Jack Burkert

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will have to work smarter and more efficiently in order to keep pace with challenges of the 21st century. That's the word from Annette Sandberg, administrator of the FMCSA.

Sandberg spoke recently at an FMCSA "public listening session" on its Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 (CSA2010) program, which involves a long-range plan of reorganization and modernization.

Efficiency is a key initiative at FMCSA. There are more than 675,000 commercial motor carriers, with perhaps 4,000 of them bus and coach operators. With so many carriers to regulate, the federal agency visits just 2% of them each year.

These listening sessions are seen by all as only as a beginning. The title provides a clue as to the ultimate timetable — CSA2010 translates into a reorganized agency in six years.

Given that Congress would need to authorize many potential changes, 2010 may indeed be the first realistic date for completion of the FMCSA overhaul.

The attending stakeholders, who included representatives of the American Bus Association, Trailways and the United Motorcoach Association, were asked to comment on every aspect of the FMCSA program.

What was heard was a call for a reassessment not just of the agency's process for enforcement, but for a change in mission. Although FMCSA officials began the session with an evaluation of the compliance review program, delegates asked the agency to rethink that starting point.

Describing the agency as punitive in nature, stakeholders called first for safety incentives, like tax credits or other relief, to motivate carriers to produce exemplary safety records. While enforcement and punitive activity was seen as a necessary part of the process, delegates called for better data to allow a proper focus on what rules are needed, what priorities to establish and which problems should receive more attention.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta also addressed the group, urging "a new model" to allow transportation and its safety mandate to move forward in a "changing and expanding environment."

Mineta said the public has a right to expect safety. He added that technology would have to be deployed to leverage human efforts and that current safety efforts, while effective, will have to change as the industry and economy expands.

Comments are still being accepted by the FMCSA. Go to the Federal Register Website at http://dms.dot.gov and search for docket number 18898.

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