Through my engagement in industry associations such as TIA, NASSTRAC and the NIT League, I have the opportunity to periodically talk with our political leaders and government officials in order to learn about and understand the issues affecting shippers, brokers, and third parties.
I recently conducted an interview with Administrator Anne Ferro, who has responsibility for leading the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (or FMCSA), and she shared some valuable insights about the issues FMCSA is addressing.
Candidly, Administrator Ferro has one of the toughest jobs in government. On one hand, shippers and carriers have criticized the FMCSA for “attacking” the trucking industry. Whether it’s the Hours of Service (HOS) ruling, the CSA program, or other potential rules such as the proposed Electronic Logging Devices (ELD’s), some critics believe that the FMCSA’s decisions adversely affect productivity in the trucking industry without really improving safety. On the other hand, government agencies such as the National Transportation Safety Board or the Inspector General’s Office have criticized the Agency for not doing enough to keep unsafe truckers off the road or highlighted flaws in the data underpinning the CSA program.
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Lost in all this criticism is the fact that when it comes to understanding the role of regulating commercial vehicles in this country, Administrator Ferro is right! As she said in the interview, shippers, carriers, and brokers need to understand and accept that they will be held accountable for their actions. If a (company) carrier fails to address issues that affect the safety of their operations, they need to be held accountable. If a shipper or broker uses an unsafe carrier, they also need to be held accountable.
There are some shippers and brokers who believe the government should tell them who they can and cannot use, but Administrator Ferro and the FMCSA don’t see it that way. Instead, they are committed to providing shippers and brokers with useful tools to make their own informed decisions.
If you are a shipper or a broker, you need to determine the criteria for what is or is not important in selecting your carriers. Then, you need to do the research and validate that your criteria has been met by the selected carrier.
Right now, too many U.S. shippers and brokers are not taking these important precautions, based on some sobering statistics from a survey that ActiveScout Technologies conducted in conjunction with a recent industry meeting. How sobering? 36% of the respondents stated they do not check CSA Scores. 25% stated they don’t check to verify that a carrier has a valid DOT operating authority. And 23% of the respondents said they don’t check the DOT Safety ratings.
Feel free to engage in the debate regarding CSA Scores, but how can companies use carriers without even verifying that they have a valid DOT Operating Authority?
If you are selecting a carrier, why wouldn’t you want to know whether the carrier has a valid DOT operating authority? Why wouldn’t you at least want to be aware of any safety scores/ratings that would raise a red flag? Can you imagine having to stand before a judge and say, “We just didn’t think it was important enough to spend the time to make sure we were dealing with a reputable and safe carrier?”
And that brings me back to Administrator’s Ferro’s interview. It is not the Agency’s job to do your job!
The tools the FMCSA uses may not be perfect, but they can still help the Agency determine which carriers should be selected for additional scrutiny. Instead of complaining about these tools, why not use them as an aid in making more informed decisions about the carriers you are using?
These are important questions, and more importantly, you can count on Administrator Ferro and the FMCSA to take the necessary steps to hold shippers and brokers accountable for the carriers they select.