Committee Urges FMCSA to Seek Jurisdiction Over Shippers

May 2, 2011

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The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee recommended the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration seek jurisdiction over shippers, receivers and brokers who 'unduly detain' drivers.

In a letter to FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro, David Parker, chairman of the MCSAC, said the agency should seek legal authority to take action against entities other than motor carriers or drivers that cause or contribute to FMCSA safety violations. These parties have the power to 'unduly detain' drivers during the loading and unloading of trailers, sometimes days on end. These delays can potentially affect a driver's ability to make delivers on time or comply with hours of service regulations.

Parker said the FMCSA has authority over drivers and carriers, but needs more authority over shippers who play an important role in highway safety. He and the MCSAC recommend the FMCSA seek expanded authority through Congress, noting that the Federal Aviation Administration holds similar authorities.

In the letter, Parker also acknowledged that Congress has already recognized the importance of this issue as evidenced by bill HR 756 sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. DeFazio's bill aims to expand FMCSA in essentially the same way by placing a limit on the number of hours a shipper can detain a driver. The bill is currently in the House subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

This issue was originally brought to light following a study conducted by the Government Accountability Office, which found 65 percent of 300 surveyed drivers reporting detention in a one-month period. Of those, 80 percent had difficulty complying with hours of service. Moreover, the FMCSA estimates undue detention costs the industry in excess of $3 billion annually. The MCSAC recommend the FMCSA conduct additional studies suggested by the GAO report.

Additionally, Parker recommended the FMCSA set up a complaint line for drivers being unduly detained, seek action against detaining parties that place drivers in violation of HOS rules, and develop a 'Truck Driver's Bill of Rights'. The bill of rights would include detention compensation for drivers among roadside amenities like access to showers and food.

The recommendations and pending legislation are good news for the trucking industry. Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Driver's Association has called driver detention the "biggest productivity or efficiency problem in trucking." According to OOIDA, drivers spend 30-40 each week on loading docks, which the organization finds unacceptable.

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