Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ferro: Breakdown in the ‘Fast Lane’

DOT features its own blog called Fast Lane. Former Secretary of the DOT Ray LaHood used to post regularly, and current chief Anthony Foxx has posted too. Every once in a while FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro posts a message to the public and to all interested readers on what the department is doing to improve safety, etc.

This week’s “Fast Lane” by Administrator Ferro demonstrated a frantic attempt to undermine an amendment that was to be introduced in Congress that would dump the current hours-of-service rules 34-hour restart.

When the DOT blog was published earlier this week, (dot.gov/blog/fastlane), Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was primed to propose an amendment would suspend two of the changes to the HOS rules until their impact is comprehensively studied. The two provisions are limiting the use of the 34-hour restart to once a week; and requiring the 34-hour restart to include at least two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. The Collins amendment has the support of the entire trucking industry.

Ferro’s blog is titled “Congress Shouldn’t Roll Back Safety; the Steps We’ve Taken to Keep Tired Truckers off the Road.” She touts the “common sense” and “data-driven” changes FMCSA has implemented to reduce trucker fatigue. She tells readers that “you might be surprised that there’s an effort underway in Congress to suspend these important life-saving changes.”

The blog then spirals into a mish-mash of sensational death numbers, photos of devastated families (the first one from Maine, Susan Collins’ home state) and horrible stories of their losses – including one that first responders called “the worst crash they had ever seen.” My heart breaks for those families, but it really makes me angry that their sorrow is being used politically.

And it makes me ask, why aren’t we hearing and seeing photos of the other victims – hard-working truckers who have died in crashes through no fault of their own. No stories about them. NOT ONE SINGLE ONE. And it’s a fact that most car/truck fatalities are not the fault of the truck. And there’s no doubt that they have grieving families, too.

The reason we don’t hear about them is that their stories do not fit the political agenda of the agency, which is of course to point to fatigued truckers and the FMCSA’s success in taking these drivers off the road with their new HOS rules.

This week’s DOT blog is proof that convince ’em with facts has totally caved to baffle ’em with blood.

It is clearly a desperate attempt to influence pending legislation with a message to the public to not let Congress address problems with the 34-hour restart. It’s completely over the top.

It’s pretty clear from the email, phone calls, Facebook and Twitter comments from truckers that the trucking industry agrees. Because everyone knows there are big problems with the HOS. Survey results from OOIDA members reveal that about 46 percent reported feeling more fatigued since the changes in hours of service, and 65 percent said they receive less income. The report also says that the one 34-hour restart per week provision has caused 56 percent of the respondents to lose mileage and loads hauled per week.

The Senate Appropriations Committee met today. Despite the protest from Administrator Ferro via the DOT blog, the Collins amendment passed this morning on a vote of 21-9.

Breakdown in the Fast Lane indeed.