The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Assn. wants to shift the responsibility of maintaining intermodal equipment from the trucker hauling it to the owners.
Speaking at the recent Port Operations and Safety Seminar in San Diego, OOIDA's Todd Spencer said the current practice of holding owner-operators and motor carriers responsible for intermodal equipment is not only unfair, it also transfers the responsibility for safety of the equipment away from the parties with the greatest opportunity to maintain and repair it.
"Intermodal equipment sits in the ports or rail yards until it is tendered to a trucker to make a delivery," he said. "Owner-operators have little opportunity to inspect for less than obvious defects on intermodal equipment when it is assigned to them as they are scheduled to make a delivery. And these inspections are most often an exercise in futility. Truck drivers pulling intermodal equipment report that in 65 percent to 90 percent of instances the equipment they are offered or assigned to will have defects that can warrant a ticket or have the vehicle placed out of service."
Even a lengthy search for a defect-free container chassis may not locate one, Spencer said, since there really is no incentive for the owners of intermodal equipment to do needed maintenance and repair.
Spencer said truckers are often forced to make repairs without being reimbursed for the repair expense.
Also, truckers are charged back for repair expenses by the owner of the intermodal equipment when the defect may have occurred long before the trucker ever took possession of the equipment.
"This isn't a situation that can and should go on as is," Spencer told the group. He said OOIDA would be working hard to make sure these issues get the attention they deserve with FMCSA officials and U.S. lawmakers in Washington, D.C.