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EYE ON TRUCKING: Letter about granting FMCSA power over shippers stirs up hornet’s nest

“Numerous times I have had delays of four to seven hours at shippers and receivers for no reason whatsoever," one trucker wrote.

The Trucker News Services

5/31/2011

Last month, David Parker, chairman of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC), wrote a letter to FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro suggesting that FMCSA ask Congress to grant the agency statutory authority “over other entities that cause and/or contribute to violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (e.g., shippers).”

If you’re not aware of this panel, it was established by former Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and is charged with providing advice and recommendations to the FMCSA administrator on motor carrier safety programs and motor carrier safety regulations.

Within minutes of when we posted information about the letter on our website and on our Facebook page, there was a volley of replies from truckers that can only leave the impression they are certainly concerned with more than the impending changes to Hours of Service and the likely implementation of a rule that would require EOBRs.

Here’s a sample.

Donna Eschenbacher Warden: “Not being able to stop your 14-hour clock when reaching shipper/ receiver is like telling a person to come back from their lunch hour and work the rest of the day without clocking in. Who wants to work for free? No one, and yet we are!!”

David Hawkins: “Numerous times I have had delays of four to seven hours at shippers and receivers for no reason whatsoever. They want the product now, but then when you get there you're on their time and they just don't seem to care. When you bring it up to the clerk usually they just don't say anything or you get a comment back as if who cares about our time. I think it would be great to see the government step in and finally stand up for us since we know they aren't doing anything about the quickly rising fuel costs we have.”

Rachel Booth: “The main problem is that IF the government decides to ‘take action’ against the shippers and receivers, they will probably fine them. Who will get the fines? I am rather doubtful it will come to the companies, let alone to the drivers.”

Erick L. Griffin: Let that gal [National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman] that rode with the female drivers to the Louisville truck show take a multi product load to Walmart. She might get a clue, then, as to what these warehouses are doing to drivers.”

Scott McCabe: “It's simple. With the inability to stop the clock in regard to our logs, why should we as drivers be punished by losing valuable hours of work and money by sitting at a shipper or receiver for multiple hours because of their negligence?”

Nely Marcantel: “I was cited for failure to prevent a load from shifting. The load was strapped properly and the officer stated that, himself. The pallet broke, causing the steel plates to shift so I was held responsible for the shipper using old worn-out pallets.”

Brian Lewis: “Yes they [shippers] need to be held accountable because I’m at one now and still not loaded yet.”

From Badger Hauling: “I think expanding FMCSA's authority is a very bad idea. They are only concerned with looking good by improving their statistics and have done a bad job with the HOS rules. I seriously question whether there is government corruption involving the insurance industry and FMCSA. They are supposed to consider all of the potential negative consequences of their safety regulations, but I think they have proven that they really don't care. We need to reduce their power, not increase it.”

Congressional action to grant the FMCSA authority to regulate shippers and receivers would be a cumbersome undertaking that would require some type of registration process, constant oversight and the ability to come down hard on violators.

Even before asking Congress to consider that authority, the FMCSA would have to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a link between detention and safety.

And while we know there is a relationship, it would be hard to prove.

Last but not least, it comes down to dollars and cents. FMCSA already is stretched thin, with barely enough staff and resources to oversee the safety of commercial vehicle companies and drivers. Adding on more responsibilities without the funds and people to carry them out would be asking for trouble.

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

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