All That's Trucking

Guest Editorial: Did you hear the one about the FMCSA?

Senior Contributing Editor Evan Lockridge questions the makeup of a key committee advising the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

May 24, 2013

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Senior Contributing Editor Evan Lockridge
Senior Contributing Editor Evan Lockridge

This financial advisor walks into a meeting of people who advise the federal government when it comes to safety policy involving trucks and says he's in favor of speed limiters...

This may sound like the beginning of a joke, however, it's anything but funny.

Steve Owings, co-founder of the group Road Safe America, has been appointed chairman of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee. His and Road Safe America's mission is simple: to mandate speed limiters on trucks.

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Road Safe America was started by Steve and his wife, Susan, in 2003, after their son Cullum was killed when his stopped car was struck from behind by a truck going 7 mph over the speed limit with the cruise control on. Tragic? No doubt. Does this make Steve Owings an expert when it comes to leading a group that advises FMCSA about safety? Hardly.

He's been a financial advisor since 1997. Before that, he was a senior director with a telecommunications provider. Had Owings’ son not been killed, he likely would never have been involved in trying to shape trucking policy.

I'm not saying someone from trucking would automatically be more qualified to head up MCSAC. One can easily argue that would be akin to the fox guarding the henhouse. But at least the previous chairman, David Parker, senior legal council of Great West Casualty, understands the concept of risk (and the fact that you can never eliminate all risk), since he works for a trucking insurance provider and knows the legal arena.

Parker has been reappointed, along with several other former committee members. Only one of the five new members appointed by FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro is directly from trucking, Don Osterberg, senior vice president of safety and security with Schneider National. The four others, plus one alternate member, are from the enforcement, unionized transit workers, driver training or public advocacy groups. In fact, public safety advocacy groups account for six of 20 seats on the committee, including the one alternate member. With another five seats representing enforcement, FMCSA has assembled a coalition of similar-minded interests, leaving trucking in the minority.

FMCSA no doubt thinks it's doing things right. When asked why trucking has only four seats

on the committee (counting just carriers and trucking associations, though the agency claims it has five from trucking), spokesman Duane DeBruyne in an email said the agency believes the trucking industry is “adequately represented” and complies with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

What's ironic is when Ferro was appointed to head up FMCSA, some public advocacy groups cried foul, because she was working for the Maryland Motor Truck Association. Now, they no doubt think she is the best thing since sliced bread, with Owings as chairman and advocacy groups and enforcement dominating the committee.

This also begs question: Where are the drivers on this committee, the ones with real-life, over-the-road experience?

One with more than 20 years experience, over half that time as an independent with an exemplary record, applied and was turned down by FMCSA. Contrast this against the appointment of Steve Owings, who has zero experience in trucking, and it's so ridiculous it would be funny if it weren't true.

The appointment of Owings and more enforcement and public advocacy groups gives the impression the FMCSA is more interested in stacking the committee with a majority who will tell them what they want to hear rather than how trucking will be affected by new rules and regulations.

It's no wonder many people in trucking think it's a joke when the agency publicly says “we're listening” to trucking for feedback on topics from hours of service to mandatory driver training.

 

Comments

  1. 1. steve [ May 24, 2013 @ 11:06AM ]

    Evan it seems to me that this whole Administration is stacked that way,regardless of what commitee it is.Just saying.

  2. 2. Nance [ May 24, 2013 @ 12:29PM ]

    This is similar to the medical advisory group on sleep apnea including individuals with a business interest in selling more apnea screenings and CPAP machines, isn't it?

  3. 3. Tim Trucker [ May 27, 2013 @ 08:48AM ]

    I believe that this points directly to our commander and chief who believes that his selected people will massage the country into what it should be. Well I hope these truckers speeds drop even lower than those who want to lower it, and let the country spend their life waiting behind a truck. Truckers serve our country and deserve professionals in the field to decifer any changes. Thanks to all truck drivers.

  4. 4. Clifford Downing [ May 28, 2013 @ 04:49AM ]

    I have not doubt anymore that we are living in the twilight zone. The direction we are heading, and the Machiavellian methods of the government have left me with no other conclusion than the belief that my military service was nothing more than wasted time. It is a hard thing to learn to let go of something that was great, but the greatness of America is dissipating quickly. Yep, the fat lady has sung (Kate Smith who is famous for her rendition of God Bless America) and Elvis has left the building. The Facists have assumed control.

  5. 5. Leo [ May 28, 2013 @ 09:29AM ]

    During the listening sessions on HOS, many drivers asked for flexibility on taking breaks. So what do we get ? Another requirement put on us ( the 30 minute break requirement ). I think the 14 hour rule discourages drivers from stopping for anything. Because every minute they are stopped counts against available work time ( for that day). The law encourages me to drive tired.
    Now, speed limiters: I don't mind driving 65 mph. But here is the problem. A driver moves to the left lane to allow for merging traffic. He now has traffic on his right. He can turn on his right turn signal, and others will ignore it. If his truck is governed , he cannot increase speed to pass and get out of the left lane. If he slows down, the vehicles behind him will now move to the right and pass on the right. So, the trucker gets stuck in the left lane. And when he finally gets back to the right lane, it is not unusual to have a car driver cut him off and hit the brakes as payback for the trucker holding up traffic. Lawmakers need to understand what goes on on our highways. I was on I-35 in TX. in light rain. Got in the left lane to pass 4 cars traveling 45 mph in a 60 mph zone. I check my right mirror and see I am way ahead of them. But 2 cars are passing on my right , so i stay left to let them by. Car number 2 cuts me off close and repeatedly applies his brakes , until I am doing 35 mph. I turn on my 4 way flashers to warn others of my slow speed. Then this car driver cuts right across about 3 or 4 lanes and exits the highway. Apparently, he wanted to teach me a lesson about being in the left lane for 20-30 seconds longer than necessary. And he knows I can't follow him home and confront him.So he can do this with impunity. Would he try this with someone in a car? Not likely. Car drivers can jerk us around and we are at their mercy.

  6. 6. Ron [ May 28, 2013 @ 11:35AM ]

    I suggest Steve ride in a truck for one day before he makes a biased decision. I'm terribly sorry he lost his son but the actions of one shouldn't reflect on the whole industry. There are many companies governing trucks now that cause many traffic flow problems. It is physically impossible to make all trucks go the same speed too. You can set the present computers on a certain speed and there is still variances including weight where drivers will try to pass each other. They might take 10 miles to accomplish this task. Let's govern cars too! Oh no we can't have that. But weight seems to make a difference. There are more cars killing people than trucks.

  7. 7. Todd [ May 31, 2013 @ 07:24PM ]

    If this guy wants speed limiters, then let's put them on EVERYTHING, cars, trucks, EVERYTHING, then we can all run the same speed and no one can get hurt.......

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Author Bio

Deborah Lockridge

Editor in Chief

All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.

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