The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the arm of the Department of Transportation responsible for regulating authority and safety in the transportation industry. Its primary mission is to “prevent commercial motor vehicle-related crashes, fatalities and injuries” according to its own website. This mission is presumably controlled through a series of regulations ranging from individual driver’s health to equipment maintenance and so on. One portion of a driver’s health that FMCSA seems most focused on lately is HOS, or Hours Of Service. The most glaring and obvious problem with this regulation is that it is self enforced. According to FMCSA Regulations 49 CFR Part 395.8 “every motor carrier shall require every driver used by the motor carrier to record his/her duty status for each 24 hour period using the methods prescribed”.
Now, the intent to control or regulate the industry for safety is one I agree with, however this rule has been destined to fall short from it’s inception. Consider the fact that the required logbook pages are not even individually serialized or only available at a DMV branch. Most gas stations near any interstate in America will surely have a stack of blank “Driver’s Daily Log” worksheets available for purchase. So, my question is who in their right mind honestly believes that such an important rule regarding HOS is something that can be regulated by an honor system? I mean, I can appreciate giving people the benefit of the doubt, but it seems most states are more eager to tap into the weigh scale fines and highway usage tolls than they are to enforce and ensure driver safety.
I would suggest the FMCSA take a different approach entirely. One that would help to eliminate driver logbook fraud as well as help to add to the bottom line for DOT and any state with trucks passing through. The first step to my plan would be to immediately require all trucks be outfitted with EOBRs (Electronic On Board Recorders) which would be linked to a central FMCSA office. To ensure the industry “buys in”, it should be required that any truck found without an EOBR will be given 30 days to comply and report to FMCSA of compliance or risk being shut down… not temporarily either.
The second phase would include rule changes for brokers. Since there are many brokers with no interest in the actual cost of servicing their own loads than there is time to count, I believe there should be some sort of daily logs implemented to ensure their practices are both ethical and also lead to safer drivers. This log might even be a website similar to Central Dispatch that is maintained by FMCSA for oversight purposes. It may also include a section for customers to rate carriers and brokers directly with the FMCSA watching. This might sound a bit Draconian, but I believe oversight here will prevent a lot of the problems our industry is currently faced with (i.e. – brokers more concerned with getting their fee than overall customer satisfaction, which leads to carriers forced to cut corners for being stuck with cheap freight, etc.).
The final step to my thus far incomplete plan would be a restructuring of authority. Currently, all you need is some spare cash and a little time to figure things out, and you can have a license in little more than a month. I think we need an individual training and licensing barrier to entry… perhaps a one or two day course followed by an exam with a required 70% to pass. Follow this up by requiring any individual who completes the course and fails the exam to retake and pass within the next two attempts within 90 days. Further failure would result in a two year waiting period before being able to retake the course and exam during which time the individual could not be employed as a broker. The final stage of this portion would be to disallow any brokers to reenter the fold after being removed for any reason by the FMCSA. I know, this is a wall of text, but I had it in my head and now you can enjoy it!
All because we really do need a better alternative to HOS enforcement and driver safety!