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Zero truck deaths is right goal, Ferro tells research board

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro, in response to a comment by Rep. Richard Hanna that zero truck fatalities is unrealistic, said zero deaths is the right goal. (Associated Press)

The Trucker News Services

1/16/2014

WASHINGTON — Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Anne Ferro took on both the lawmaker who filed a bill to delay the 34-hour restart provision and shippers alike during a speech at the Transportation Research Board meeting here Tuesday.

According to published reports, Ferro challenged the notion of Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., that the agency’s stated of zero-truck related fatalities is an ideology that leads to poor regulation.

Hanna has been quoted as saying accidents will happen and trying to driver the truck-related fatality rate to zero is senseless.

“[Zero deaths is] an unrealistic, impractical goal that burdens the industry and is philosophically based, not reality based,” he has said.

Not so, Ferro said.

 “Zero is the right goal,” she said Tuesday in response to a question at a forum on FMCSA research projects at the TRB meeting. “At the end of the day I wouldn’t call it ideology. I think it’s appropriate to call it a stretch goal, an aspirational goal, because we really shouldn’t suggest that we can explain and justify the fatalities and serious injury crashes that happen today.”

Ferro added that the agency should strive to eliminate crashes because drivers want to get home safely and employers want their employees to be safe and successful.

Aviation achieves this goal, and it is within reach for the bus industry, she said. And trucking can strive for significant improvements even if zero fatalities is not on the near horizon.

“To do otherwise is to question each other’s motives and incentives,” Ferro said.

In her address, Ferro sent a clear message to shippers that they’d better stop detaining and delaying truck drivers or prepare to be regulated.

“The challenges faced by drivers waiting for a load impacts safety,” Ferro said in her remarks to the TRB. “Excessive waiting times associated with loading and unloading cargo can negatively impact a driver’s schedule and interfere with that driver’s ability to comply with Hours of Service regulations.

Ferro said the FMCSA had undertaken research to better understand the problem of driver detention times and to develop strategies to mitigate excessive waiting times and their associated risks.

She said phase one of the study had been completed and a report made public early this year.

“We are currently preparing to conduct phase two, which will assess the safety and operational impact of driver detention time on work hours, Hours of Service and Hours of Service violations,” Ferro said. “Ultimately, we need more carriers, shippers and receivers to focus on needed attention on uncompensated detention time because what makes the job better often makes the job safer.”

Ferro noted that drivers have among the toughest jobs in our nation.

“They operate under very difficult conditions, they operate under extreme stress and they operate, frankly, in some cases with extreme disrespect when it comes to detention time and poor compensation given the job and the skills and knowledge they have to have,” she said.

Poor treatment at shippers and receivers is one of the most often-heard complaint from truck drivers, who consistently talk about being treated like second-class citizens by dockworkers who extend little concern about long delays.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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JB Hunt