On Wednesday, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman testified before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, about issues concerning the safety of buses and large trucks.
"The public deserves comprehensive and consistent oversight of the motor carrier industry," said Chairman Hersman. "When we load our children into our cars and get out on the highways, we expect the trucks and buses traveling beside us to be safely designed, carefully maintained, and expertly operated."
Hersman noted that the two most important factors related to safe motor carrier operations are the condition of the vehicles and the performance of the drivers.
Current rules prevent the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) from putting carriers out of service with an unsatisfactory rating in only one of six rated factors. They must be unsatisfactory in two factors. This means that they could be unsatisfactory in either the vehicle or driver areas and still be allowed to operate. The NTSB believes that an "unsatisfactory" in either category should be sufficient cause to place a carrier out of service. The NTSB has been recommending this rule be changed since 1999.
During her testimony, Chairman Hersman commented on FMCSA's plan to implement a program of oversight initiatives entitled "Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010" (CSA 2010). Describing the program as "ambitious" and "long overdue," Chairman Hersman expressed concern that it has milestones that will be difficult for the FMCSA to meet.
"In the meantime, motor carriers continue to operate with poor management of their drivers and vehicles, which will lead to more accidents," she said. The FMCSA should have implemented incremental changes to its compliance review process while developing the more sweeping CSA 2010 program, she noted.
Chairman Hersman also addressed other areas of motor carrier safety, including fatigue, electronic on-board recorders for hours of service, medically unqualified commercial drivers and cell phone use by commercial drivers.
The full text of Chairman Hersman's testimony is available on the NTSB's Website, here.