The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) aims to dive into the fundamental root factors contributing to truck-related crashes — some of which may escape inclusion in incident reports.
“The first priority we have is to go upstream in the safety life cycle all the way to prevention,” said Robin Hutcheson, FMCSA administrator. “That means we have to look at some root causes of why people become unsafe in the first place. The crash that never happens – that’s what we want.”
Hutcheson highlighted the necessity to scrutinize how truck drivers are reimbursed and the shortage of secure parking spaces as fundamental factors.
“We have to dig pretty deep, and that means looking at compensation – how drivers are compensated,” Hutcheson said. “The effect of detention time – are drivers waiting too long and therefore speeding to their next location? … Why are women not joining the workforce? Do they not feel safe and secure? Are there predatory leasing arrangements that are distracting to drivers, making them unable to focus on the roadway? We know the answer is yes … Are truck drivers tired? Do they need more rest? Are they having trouble finding places to park? These are all root causes of why a driver may become unsafe in the first place.”
To tackle these underlying issues, FMCSA initiated investigations into driver compensation and detention time. Additionally, it established the Women of Trucking Advisory Board and Truck Leasing Task Force, urging states to make use of grants for expanding truck parking facilities.
Mandated by Congress under the 2021 infrastructure law, the driver compensation study led FMCSA to partner with the Transportation Research Board to examine the safety and retention impacts of compensation methods. This includes hourly pay, payment for detention time, and other industry payment approaches. Hutcheson announced that the compensation study’s report is slated for release in July 2024.
FMCSA is also examining detention time, which occurs when truck drivers face prolonged waits at shipping and receiving facilities. The study, anticipated in 2025, will collect and analyze data on truckers’ detention time to determine its frequency and severity. In 2018, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General highlighted that detention time heightened crash risks and costs, yet limited data stopped further analysis.
The Women of Trucking Advisory Board targets the removal of barriers preventing females from entering the industry. The committee plans to submit recommendations to FMCSA, with the agency expected to deliver its report to Congress within a year.
The Truck Leasing Task Force aims to eradicate exploitative lease-purchase agreements in the trucking industry, where carriers lease trucks to drivers, often resulting in drivers owing money at the pay period’s end without eventually owning the truck.
Hutcheson emphasized that truck drivers affected by these predatory programs are likely to exit the industry.
“Why do we care about lease-purchase? Because the trucker that (is in the industry) the longest is the safest,” Hutcheson said. “We need to retain them for safety.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation and FMCSA have advocated for increased truck parking nationwide, recognizing the safety hazards arising from parking shortages and regulatory constraints on driving time, leading to trucks parking in unsafe locations.
“There’s been more than one horrific crash where a commercial motor vehicle wasn’t parked where they should be,” Hutcheson said. “Is it totally their fault? I say no. They’re following the hours of service.”
Source: Land Line