Senator slams the FMCSA for failing to provide safety oversight to America’s commercial trucking industry

A U.S. Senator for Massachusetts has slammed “egregious failures” by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for its lack of oversight, which he says is linked to an increase in fatal, truck-involved crashes.

In his letter to the FMCSA, Sen. Edward J. Markey states that a report in the Boston Globe shows “the FMCSA has allowed trucking companies across the United States to operate with minimal to no federal accountability, despite rapid growth in the industry and an estimated 48 percent increase in fatalities from crashes involving large trucks between 2009 and 2019.”

“Given the FMCSA’s loophole-ridden and patchwork system of accountability, it is no wonder that the commercial trucking industry is increasingly deadly for all users of the road,” writes Senator Markey

In his letter, Sen. Markey also asked the FMCSA to answer the following questions:

(1) The National Transportation Safety Board has repeatedly recommended that the FMCSA require testing and auditing of trucking companies before they start operations. However, the FMCSA has continually refused to adopt these procedures and, in January 2019, concluded that they “wouldn’t significantly boost safety.” Please provide all of the analysis, reasoning, and evidence that the FMCSA considered to arrive at this conclusion, despite evidence that implementing a similar system allowed the Department of Defense to eliminate fatalities for companies that transport military personnel.

(2) In the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, Congress instructed the FMCSA to issue a rule by October 2014 that would require new motor carriers be given a written proficiency examination on applicable Federal safety regulations and standards. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s latest significant rulemaking report issued in February 2020, there is still no target date to issue a final rule. Please provide a date for when the final rule will be issued. If this date is not within the next 60 days, please provide a detailed explanation as to the reason for the further delay.

(3) Under the FMCSA’s current regulations, the agency is required to conduct an audit during a motor carrier’s first 18 months of operations to evaluate the adequacy of its safety management controls. During 2019, how many new carriers were subject to such an audit within the 18-month deadline? What percentage of new carriers does this figure represent?

(4) In the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act (CMVSA) of 1986, Congress mandated the creation of the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS), which is intended to ensure that a commercial driver’s license holder has a singular safety record that can be reviewed across states. This law requires states to submit driver violations and other important data about a driver’s record to CDLIS. Are states supplying such information in a timely manner, and if not, what action is the FMCSA undertaking in response to such delays?

(5) Why has the FMCSA resisted calls for the agency to establish a centralized, comprehensive safety database that could assist trucking companies in conducting background checks for their drivers, even though similar systems exist for vehicle operators in other modes of transportation such as pilots of commercial airplanes?

(6) Please provide the following data points and information regarding the FMCSA’s scrutiny of, and enforcement actions against, individual trucking companies:

  • For each year over the last ten years, how many trucking companies has the FMCSA inspected or investigated because of regulatory violations, poor safety ratings, or crash records? What percentage of total registered carriers under FMCSA jurisdiction does this figure represent?
  • Does the FMCSA require trucking companies to pass any threshold for a number, or level of severity, of safety violations or crash records before initiating enforcement action? If yes, what is it? If no, why not?
  • What procedures does the FMCSA follow or require when conducting a safety inspection or audit of individual trucking companies because of violations, poor safety ratings, or crash records? What actions are taken by the agency after the inspection or audit if violations are identified?
  • For each year over the last ten years, how many trucking companies has the FMCSA ordered out of service because of regulatory violations, poor safety ratings, or crash records? What percentage of total registered carriers under FMCSA jurisdiction does this figure represent? If the FMCSA did not order a company out of service despite evidence of any of these failings, why is that? What other enforcement actions has the FMCSA taken in such situations?

(7) To the extent that the FMCSA is limited in its authority to implement stronger procedures for certifying new trucking companies, conducting more regular oversight, and increasing enforcement of federal safety regulations, what specific legislative changes would be required to empower your agency to better fulfill its responsibilities?


Also see the recent Road Safety USA webpage: FMCSA issue: Inadequate Safety in Relation to Big Trucks

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