Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Expands Program Offerings to Trucking Industry and Commercial Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a branch of the Department of Transportation that was established on January 1, 2001 in conjunction with the passing of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. With an annual budget just shy of $700 million, FMCSA strives to reduce and prevent the occurrence of truck-related accidents. FMCSA focuses solely on the trucking and carrier bus industries and is tasked with enacting rules and regulations designed to promote safety and awareness, evaluate collision data, and reduce the number of accidents that happen each year on America’s highways.
FMCSA oversees commercial drivers’ licenses, data and analysis, regulatory compliance, enforcement, research and technology, financial assistance for state safety programs, and more. Its main programs include:
- Commercial Drivers’ Licenses: FMCSA devises standards, drafts tests, and oversees the approval of commercial driver’s licenses.
- Data: FMCSA gathers and analyzes data on truck-related accidents and uses the results to issue reports and recommendations on crashes.
- Regulatory Compliance: FMCSA develops safety standards designed to increase safe truck driving on the nation’s highways.
- Enforcement: FMCSA enforces regulations and prosecutes violators by removing non-compliant carriers from the roads.
- Research and Technology: FMCSA studies the trucking industry, trucks, trailers, and more to better understand how to improve safety protocol and reduce collisions.
- Financial Assistance: FMCSA provides federal funding to state programs dedicated to truck inspections and safety training.
- Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA): The heart of FMCSA’s service, CSA focuses on investigating truck-related accidents. CSA conducts inspections, investigates crash sites, and issues violations when it is determined the truck driver has violated FMCSA rules. Using proprietary software known as the Safety Measurement System (SMS), FMCSA can keep track of high-risk violators. SMS analyzes data to flag unsafe truck operations. SMS uses a system of safety scores to rate and rank carriers. High-risk carriers are flagged for investigations and interventions. Most of the enforcement and investigation occurs post-crash, though FMCSA is now working on identifying safety violators before collisions occur.
- Hours of Service Regulation: One of the main causes of truck-related accidents is driver fatigue. FMCSA promulgated the Hours of Service rule, which governs when and how often a truck driver can be on the road, in order to prevent long drives with little rest. One controversial provision of the rule was the “34-hour restart.” The 34-hour restart required truck drivers to stop driving at the 34-hour mark and “restart” by taking at least two nights off from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. for sleep and rest. This was to allow the body’s circadian rhythm to adjust. Drivers could only restart one time a week. Congress demanded a study on the 34-hour restart provision’s effectiveness at reducing fatigue and exhaustion-related accidents. Many truck drivers protested the provision, arguing it hurt their ability to complete routes and pick up much-needed shifts. FMCSA is currently working with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to analyze the 34-hour restart program and offer conclusions on its success.
- Medical Examiner National Registry: Commercial drivers are required to undergo medical exams and receive certification before driving. FMCSA requires that commercial drivers use medical examiners who are trained by FMCSA, are certified, and participate in sporadic FMCSA testing and training. Over 40,000 medical examiners are now certified by FMCSA, and the agency is currently focusing on instituting a system for medical examiners to immediately transmit exam results electronically to FMCSA to prevent fraud.
- Protect Your Move: 600,000 Americans each year use moving companies for cross-country moves, yet many of these moves result in disaster, leading to 3,000 complaints filed to FMCSA annually. The Protect Your Move program educates Americans on how to choose a moving company, how to spot the warning signs, and how to pursue legal action in the event of fraud or another form of dispute.
If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident, you may face never-ending doctors’ appointments, mounting medical bills, and unexpected job loss. I am Charles H. Thronson, Attorney at Law, and I represent clients across the country who have suffered catastrophic injuries following a sudden and traumatic truck crash. I work tirelessly fighting for compensation for your injuries and do not ask for any form of payment unless I obtain monetary damages on your behalf. If you have any questions about your potential truck accident claim, call my office today at (800) 856-5417 or send me an e-mail at CThronson@parsonsbehle.com to schedule a free consultation.