FMCSA administrator Raymond Martinez said that the agency would be open to ideas from others on how to improve highway safety. Photo: David Cullen

FMCSA administrator Raymond Martinez said that the agency would be open to ideas from others on how to improve highway safety. Photo: David Cullen

ORLANDO, FLORIDA — Greeted warmly as he stepped up to the podium to address the 80th annual convention of the Truckload Carriers Association on March 26, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Raymond Martinez opened his remarks in kind, saying right off the bat that “safety is our priority, but we [at FMCSA] do not have a monopoly on that.” He explained that the agency he’s helmed for just shy of a month “needs to remain open to ideas other may have” on how to improve highway safety.

Martinez said he wants to “drive down” fatalities involving large trucks, which rose 5.4% in 2016. But, he said, “I’m not sure we are going to get answers from people who work in our [FMCSA] building. We need some answers from you.”

“If we can reach our safety goals through guidance, and not additional rulemaking, we will take that path,” he added.

Martinez said listening to what trucking advocates have to say on safety rules will only become more critical now. “The challenge is that as the economy improves, more miles will be run and with that the possibility of more crashes. But we can drive those incidences down.

“We have work to do,” he continued, stating that it is a fact that “large trucks and buses are disproportionately involved in crashes. Martinez said he has been charged by President Donald Trump and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao with “reviewing existing regulations to see what may not be working or needs updating.”

“I believe the electronic logging device rule is an improvement [for complying with] hours of service,” Martinez stated. “But there is some worth in looking at hours of service” to improve how that rule works. He stressed that the “process must start with an honest conversation” between FMCSA and stakeholders on what works and what does not in the current HOS rule.

Noting that the so-called “soft enforcement” period for the ELD rule ends on April 1, Martinez was happy to report that “compliance rates [for the ELD mandate] continue to improve weekly and have hit a rate as high as 96%.”

Martinez reiterated that FMSCA has promised to soon publish final guidance for the ELD rule regarding both the 150 air-mile exemption and use of personal conveyance. He noted that the agency is also readying final rules on setting minimum entry-level driver training requirements and building a national clearinghouse of alcohol and drug use violation data.

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