Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Like a stubborn toddler, FMCSA needs a 'timeout'

After covering the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for more than 15 years now, I can say with some confidence I have a firm grasp on what regs and initiatives have and have not been successful. Apparently more so than some of the people who work there.

I could rip through dozens of regs, but let’s just focus on one reg and one program: Hours of service and Compliance, Safety, Accountability or CSA.

The latest incarnation of the hours of service is, quite simply, a joke. Truckers told the agency time and time again they needed the flexibility to take breaks when they need and want to.

Like a toddler being told something they didn’t want to hear, the agency took it to the extreme. “You want a nap. Fine. You’re gonna take a nap for how long and when we tell you. So there.” (I envision some pouting followed by stomping off with a smirk on the face.)

And just like the overreacting toddler, the agency is having to backpedal now because of a fundamental truth that is ignored time and time again: Trucking is a diverse profession. It’s not a bunch of Stepford drones out there driving trucks.

So a growing collection of segments of the industry are getting exemptions from the rest break. Begrudgingly I’m sure, the agency is caving on its knee-jerk mandate of rest breaks. Getting the agency to admit they were wrong in mandating a scheduled rest break isn’t going to happen. We’re going to see a nightmare patchwork of exemptions out there on the road as the unhappy toddler has to give back toys it took away, one at a time.

CSA. Ah, yes, CSA. Talk about a good-intentioned program that is a colossal failure.

Let’s go down the list of everyone who has a problem with CSA and want the scores pulled from public view. Truckers. Motor Carriers. Law enforcement. Members of Congress. Throw in a lawsuit filed by OOIDA that targets the data used by CSA and you round out a very comprehensive list of criticism.

You would think with bills pending in Congress, as well as letters from every advocacy group ranging from OOIDA to ATA and CVSA calling on the agency to hide the scores, that at some point there would start to be an overhauling of the program.

But, again, like our stubborn little toddler, the agency isn’t budging. I’m seeing a pouty-faced, arms-crossed, glaring youngster saying, “You can’t make me.”

In fact, the agency is forging ahead with a plan to tie yet another compliance label, the Safety Fitness Determination, to the faulty CSA program. Great – one more thing motor carriers big and small need to worry about.

Channeling the hard-nosed mom that I am, I’m here to tell you FMCSA needs its hind end put in time-out (that’s the PC, modern-era version of disciplining a kid instead of beating their butt and sending them to their room).

I’m not even close to the only one who thinks so. There is legislation in Congress to force the agency to revise how it approaches regulations, mandates transparency, mandates review of current regs, mandates more oversight. It’s quite the bill. You can read more about it here.

OOIDA is all for this. It has support for the effort on FightingForTruckers.com. There are resources and tools for you to use to contact your lawmaker in support of reforming or fixing FMCSA, with the clever hashtag #fixFMCSA.

Since the unwilling, stubborn toddler of an agency isn’t getting the message any other way, it’s time we all rally together and dole out some stern discipline and oversight. It’s not going to change any other way.