Who should be responsible for the maintenance and safety of intermodal equipment – carriers or equipment owners? That’s the basic question now being asked by the Federal Highway Administration.
Container chassis and intermodal trailers are often owned by the railroad, steamship line or other parties tendering or interchanging the equipment to the motor carrier. However, federal safety regulations make the carrier responsible for inspections and maintenance.
In a 1997 petition to FHWA, the American Trucking Assns. asked that the rules be changed to make owners more responsible for “roadworthiness” of their equipment. Motor carriers or, more precisely, their drivers, seldom have the time or facilities to do an adequate safety inspection, ATA argued. The only way to comply with safety requirements is to take the equipment out of service for inspection, which could cause shipment delays and disruptions.
FHWA acknowledged that it may be prudent to establish joint responsibility between the motor carrier and equipment, but has asked for further input from the industry.
The agency will hold field meetings, though dates and places haven’t yet been determined. It has also asked for written comments on several issues. Comments are due in writing by April 19. For more information, see the February 17 Federal Register, pages 7849-7852, at http://www.access.gpo.gov.