Remarks by Anne S. Ferro
Washington Freight Transportation Policy Forum
National Industrial Transportation League
June 10, 2010
I appreciate the opportunity to be here with all of you today, and I want to thank Bruce Carlton for the invitation.
This is certainly a large and diverse membership. For some of you in this room, our work at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration affects you through our regulatory activities. But for ALL of you in this room, our work makes a difference in your safety anytime you are behind the wheel, in a car, in a bus, on a highway or road, with big trucks and other large vehicles. Safety for everyone –– that is what our constant focus is on.
I will talk a bit more about our safety role – and yours – in a moment, but first, let me say a few words about the current economic outlook.
There is bright news on the economic front. We have seen jobs created in six of the last seven months. Excluding temporary census jobs, in the first five months of the year, the economy has created nearly half a million new jobs. Trucking is on the upswing. According to the American Trucking Associations, trucking tonnage grew 9.4 percent in April above last year's mark.
This is the strongest monthly gain in more than five years.
Orders for new big rig trailers rose 3 percent from 2009 levels, and the backlog at factories that build truck trailers rose to its highest level in 20 months as demand outstripped construction capability.
Throughout the trucking/transportation sector, there is an increasing call for truck drivers, highly trained mechanics, logistics managers and other transportation specialists.
Jobs and economic growth continue to be a priority for President Obama. He recently signed into law a jobs bill providing tax cuts for businesses that hire unemployed workers. Things are moving. We are making progress on the economic front.
But with that uptick in truck and bus traffic comes more exposure to crash risks. As we experience growth in our economy we need to grow in our safety mission.
My unique perspective as FMCSA Administrator is this: trucking is a vital part of our national economy. Our nation continues to count on keeping the flow of goods moving. An expansion of trucking is a very favorable sign to our economy. With a rising number of trucks on the road, however, as a nation, we cannot for a moment lessen our resolve on safety.
At FMCSA, you can count on us to tackle the full range of critical motor carrier safety issues to make sure carriers and drivers move not just efficiently but safely.
Our mission at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is just that – safety – the safety of trucks and motorcoaches, the safety of those who are behind the wheel, and those who share the road with them.
We are an agency, 1,100 strong. We have offices in every state. All of us are dedicated to eliminating crashes, fatalities and injuries involving large trucks and buses.
In meeting the challenges of our safety mission, I have laid out a strategic focus shaped by three core principles.
Raise the Safety Bar
The first is to raise the safety bar to enter the motor carrier industry. To do this, we have recently strengthened the new entrant safety assurance program to identify start-up truck and bus companies’ deficient in key areas.
We have also put in place a vetting program to weed out unsafe motorcoach and household goods carriers who reincarnate to avoid sanctions.
Maintain High Standards
The second principle is to maintain high safety standards to remain in the industry. Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 or CSA 2010 is our agency's new safety fitness determination and compliance program that is designed to accelerate corrections to safety problems before crashes occur.
The concept behind CSA 2010 is to give investigators the tools they need to be as effective and efficient as possible. CSA 2010 is a move from away from the current one size fits all compliance review approach to a more frequent examination of key factors linked to commercial motor vehicle crashes.
These key factors are: unsafe driving; fatigued driving; driver fitness crash history; vehicle maintenance; improper loading and cargo, and drugs and alcohol.
By looking at all safety violations and grouping them into more categories related to unsafe behavior, the new safety measurement system provides a comprehensive view of violations occurring among carriers and drivers.
Obviously, all of us, everyone who travels has a stake and a responsibility in safety. Whether it is distracted driving by individuals or non-compliance with regulatory requirements by motor carriers, we all play a role.
As the motor carrier's primary customer, you also play a unique part in safety. It's one few others possess.
All of you know that truckers are limited to how long they can be on-duty and behind the wheel. When they arrive at a terminal, they are "on-duty." When the truck is not moving, the drivers are burning hours they cannot recapture. Consequently, when they do get a load and leave the terminal, they are under increased financial and mental stress to "not run out of hours." They have families to support, this is their livelihood.
This past winter and spring, FMCSA held numerous public listening sessions as a run-up to undertaking a new rulemaking proposal on our hours-of-service regulations. We heard from hundreds of professional truck drivers from all over the country. Some of the sessions were webcasts and truckers emailed and telephoned in with their safety concerns. The wasted "down time" at loading docks was a constant refrain, a constant complaint that drivers said negatively impacted safety.
Think about that. Put yourself in the shoes of the truck driver who can’t get in and get offloaded, can't get out with a load because of inefficiencies at terminals. Who is in the unique position to address this?
I ask you to increase your stake in motor carrier safety. Practices that leave truckers waiting at the port or terminal for hours at a time do not take account of how long drivers may drive.
I ask each of you today to take responsibility in your businesses to increase your stake in motor carrier safety. Between now and the end of the year, take the time to reexamine practices that short change the driver’s ability to drive safely.
Our work of maintaining high safety standards is just beginning. We have published a final rule that will require carriers with serious patterns of hours of service violations to install electronic on board recorders. Later this year we will issue a proposal to require more carriers to install and use EOBRs.
Overall, FMCSA has published more final rules in the first five months of this year than in all of 2009.
Remove High Risk Behaviors
Our third core principle is to remove high risk behaviors and operators from operating.
To this end, FMCSA and the entire Department have taken an aggressive stance on distracted driving. Earlier this year we issued a proposed rule to ban texting for commercial motor vehicle drivers.
As Secretary LaHood has repeatedly said, talking or texting while driving is a recipe for disaster on our nation’s roads. Drivers simply cannot do two things at once.
We are in the process of drafting a proposed rule that will assist in removing high risk drivers, service providers and carriers by mandating stricter reporting requirements for Commercial Driver’s License holders.
To meet the safety challenges we face, we must move forward on all three principles of our safety mission and all programs that reinforce them.
We are eager to work with you to help us identify and address ways to raise the safety bar for motor carrier transportation.
Everyone has a role in the movement of freight. As partners in our transportation system let's draw on our commitment to doing what’s right and our shared commitment to excellence.
As we enter the home stretch for the roll-out of CSA 2010 and continue to make progress on significant rulemakings for the agency, I want to hear from you.
And, now is a good time to prepare your company for CSA 2010. We urge you to be ready for the changes to come.
We cannot do the work of safety alone. We need the support of our partners in order to make truck transportation even safer. We need all parties – carriers, drivers, shippers and receivers to be accountable and to be problem solvers.
Working together, we'll take our economy and our transportation system in positive new directions.