FMCSA's Darling addressing annual ATA meeting in Philadelphia on Oct. 18. Photo: Evan Lockridge

FMCSA's Darling addressing annual ATA meeting in Philadelphia on Oct. 18. Photo: Evan Lockridge

PHILADELPHIA — The acting chief of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration committed the agency to working even more closely with trucking’s stakeholders to improve highway safety in his address here on Oct. 18 to the American Trucking Associations' Management Conference & Exhibition.

FMCSA Chief Counsel T.F. Scott Darling III stated that “there are 1,100 FMCSA employees making a difference [to improve safety], but we need partnerships [with trucking interests] to accomplish more. That’s why next year we will continue to push for partnerships” to help advance rulemakings.

Darling, who has headed the agency for over a year, was officially nominated to fill the vacant appointment of FMSCA Administrator by President Obama in August.

Darling remarked that the agency “depends on truck drivers and their companies to deliver goods and we need them to operate safely.” He said that FMCSA and trucking “must do all we can to take unsafe drivers and carriers off the road.”

As an example of the benefit of partnering, Darling said the industry “stepped up” when FMCSA “asked for help to reach drivers for data for our study of the effects of the hours-of-service restart provisions.”

He said that effort yielded data from more than 220 drivers as well as from trucking companies. “All the data points are being examined and we plan to submit our report to the [DOT] Office of the Inspector General in the coming months.”

Darling also said that, thanks to stakeholders “participating fully in the process,” the agency is completing a rulemaking on entry-level driver training despite “a compressed timeline” and said that is scheduled to be published by the end of the year.

The FMCSA chief reported as well that a new online unified-registration system for motor carriers is being developed that will save fleets both time and money.

As for the highly anticipated final rule that will mandate the use of electronic logging devices, Darling said it is “to be published soon.” He said that once it’s in effect, it “will save [an estimated] 20 lives and prevent more than 400 injuries a year and will improve [hours-of-service] compliance.”

Darling added that the White House’s Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the proposed Safety Fitness Determination rule and that FMSCA will be seeking public comment on it as well.

He also advised that the agency’s “militray skills training waiver” program that “removes the skills portion of CDL training” for qualifying military veterans has just been expanded to all 50 states.