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NTSB Calls for Audit of FMCSA's Safety Oversight

November 07, 2013

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UPDATED -- The National Transportation Safety Board has sharply criticized the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's oversight processes in light of several deadly crashes that the board investigated, saying the findings from these investigations raise serious questions about the oversight of motor carrier operations and is recommended audits of the agency’s oversight processes.

The NTSB also opened the investigative dockets, including more than 2,100 pages, from four recent commercial vehicle accidents resulting in 25 deaths and 83 injuries. In each accident, investigators identified safety deficiencies and noted red flags that had been present prior to the crashes but were unnoticed or were not acted upon by FMCSA regulators until after the crashes, says NTSB.

"While FMCSA deserves recognition for putting bad operators out of business, they need to crack down before crashes occur, not just after high visibility events," said NTSB chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "Our investigators found, that in many cases, the poor performing company was on FMCSA's radar for violations, but was allowed to continue operating and was not scrutinized closely until they had deadly crashes."

The NTSB says it found concerns with both the thoroughness and quality of FMCSA's compliance reviews and their increasing reliance on focused compliance reviews, which examine only a limited portion of the commercial operation. NTSB is issuing two safety recommendations to the Department of Transportation calling on it to conduct audits on these oversight activities and to address any problems uncovered by the audits.

The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the U.S. and significant accidents in other modes of transportation, such as railroad, highway, marine and pipeline.

The American Trucking Associations used the announcement by NTSB to reiterate its earlier stances calling on FMCSA to mandate electronic logging devices in commercial trucks and to improve its Compliance Safety Accountability fleet safety monitoring and measurement system.

“NTSB’s finding that a truck driver in a fatal crash, and many of his co-workers, routinely carried two log books is unacceptable and would have been prevented by the use of a mandatory electronic logging device,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO. 

 ATA also highlighted NTSB’s recommendations regarding how the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration identifies and investigates potential problem carriers.

“FMCSA must improve its CSA program to better identify carriers more likely to be involved in future crashes,” said ATA Chairman Phil Byrd, president of Bulldog Hiway Express, Charleston, S.C. “We look forward to the forthcoming Government Accountability Office and DOT Inspector General CSA audit reports and hope they emphasize the need to ensure that the program accurately measures crash risk and focuses on unsafe fleets,”

Highlights of NTSB Sited Crashes

In Elizabethtown, Ky. on March 2, a commercial truck operated by Highway Star, a motor carrier based in Troy, Mich., was traveling northbound on Interstate 65 at about 67 mph when it approached slowing traffic ahead. Despite a straight roadway, with a clear line of sight, the truck driver did not brake until just prior to colliding with the rear of a 1999 Ford Expedition. Upon impact, the Ford burst into flames, and six of its eight occupants died as a result of the crash.

According to NTSB, FMCSA had completed an oversight review of Highway Star five days before the crash. It was a focused, non-rated compliance review that did not examine records related to driver compliance with hours-of-service regulations. FMCSA conducted this focused review, rather than a full compliance review, even though each of the prior reviews of the company had found driver-related violations, and the carrier had a longstanding history of driver hours-of-service violations.

Following the March 2013 crash, FMCSA completed a full compliance review of the motor carrier, which resulted in an "unsatisfactory" rating. It then, post-crash, issued an "imminent hazard" out-of-service order to Highway Star for not monitoring driver hours of service, permitting drivers to falsify records of duty status, and failing to preserve records of duty.

In Murfreesboro, Tenn. on June 13, 2013, a truck operated by the Louisville, Ky.-based carrier H&O Transport, collided with eight other vehicles that had slowed in the eastbound traffic lanes of Interstate 24. The collisions caused two fatalities in a passenger vehicle that overturned and was consumed by fire, as well as injuries to six occupants of other vehicles involved in the crash.

The driver was in violation of the hours-of-service rules at the time of the accident and had numerous previous violations, according to NTSB. In addition, several other drivers had similar violations, many of which the FMCSA was aware through roadside inspections and previous compliance reviews.

Despite H & O Transport's history of hours-of-service violations, FMCSA only conducted a "focused" compliance review in 2011, which was "non-rated" and allowed the motor carrier to operate. Following the accident, a post-crash compliance review conducted by FMCSA rated the carrier as "conditional" which again allowed them to continue to operate.

The two other crashes cited by NTSB involve motor coaches. 

Update adds reaction from ATA.

Comments

  1. 1. GREG FOREMAN [ November 09, 2013 @ 11:12AM ]

    I like nothing more than to see and read about two federal agencies getting into a "urinating" match over authority and/or jurisdiction. One "fecal" agency telling the other "fecal" agency it's not doing its job, or as in this case, not doing its job correctly should make for some interesting reading over the next few months. The federal government can not regulate or evaluate anything, "a la" Bernie Maddof, Allen Standford, health or education and, now, health care. They, referring to governmental agencies, certainly can not supervise or regulate the trucking industry.

  2. 2. Dick Gaib [ November 09, 2013 @ 12:17PM ]

    Greg Foreman's above rant is just why the trucking industry, and it's truck drivers have a bad reputation. At 72, and several million miles, without a highway accident. I have seen it all. I also have not had a ticket in 20 plus years. I would hate to see the business if they had not started drug testing, and got a central clearing house for the ability to allow only one drivers llcense nationwide With the increase in traffic today. . The hate for regulation is , just a smoke screen for rednecks, that do not care about anyone else. They tailgate, cut in and out of traffic, , speed, and it puts them into places that just increase their chance for an accident. Yes, the new hrs of service, are dumb, when it comes to the 1am-5am 2 periods, and the 30 min required break period. We have a barely trained, new just out of school group of drivers, that after a few months, thing they are super truckers, and most learn the hard way. Sadly, when they do, it reflects badly on us all. The trucking companies, need to change their pay policy, and go to practitial miles, over truck approved routes, that would lessen the rush, for miles, some. It would also, make if a far more fare rate for all, shippers and receivers. With this information, trucking companies, would be more able to know just how long, it takes to make a run, from shipper to receiver. Just like some of the government regulators, some of the companies, do not live in the real world. Many do not take into account the difference in time traffic, in the eastern cities and major large cities., that it takes. The drivers are hurt by this, and then they wonder why, the driver turnover in truckload, gets worse.

  3. 3. Ron [ November 15, 2013 @ 09:24AM ]

    I think that the fmcsa was right on with the way they came down on violation in the 90's but as we all know government agencies always over regulations will come it's a fact!! Most people don't realize this is part of the elite's plane! You take control over the shipments of the goods and health care you have control over the people wake up America!!!!!!!!!!

 

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