On the one hand, it might seem to be quite impressive — and certainly sufficient — that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration can reportedly investigate and audit approximately 15,000 commercial truck carriers every year.
Hearing that, passenger-vehicle motorists across California and the rest of the country should feel reasonably safe, right?
There’s that other hand, though, and what it indicates is this, according to a recent media article regarding federal safety standards applicable to the nation’s commercial trucking fleet: there are reportedly more than 200,000 for-hire carriers currently active on U.S. freeways and interstates.
That kind of dampens any initial inclination to feel reasonably well protected by fleet inspections and enforcement, doesn’t it?
And the number of commercial rigs on state and national roads is increasing, which is obviously making it increasingly difficult for safety inspectors to identify problematic carriers and drivers and keep them out of action.
The aforementioned article notes that only about half of the vehicles inspected by FMCSA officials annually receive a safety fitness rating and, for those that do, that rating can stay the same for many years, during which time overworked inspectors often do not conduct a subsequent compliance review.
The FMCSA wants to up its game on inspections, rating scores and enforcement actions taken against problem drivers and trucking firms, and believes it is on the verge of doing so with a proposed rulemaking that it hopes will soon become final.
The agency says a new and more meaningful rating system that will rely more on real-time technologies will enable it to timely inspect and continually oversee far more carriers in the future than is the currently the case.
Not everyone in the trucking industry is on board with that expressed aim. Some trucking companies claim that the data and processes the FMCSA intends to use to rate companies and punish some of them are flawed in material ways.
If there is further work to be done that will allow for a more accurate identification of carriers that truly pose risks to the public, then the FMCSA will obviously have to undertake it and follow through.
As the above-cited article states, the hoped-for result of regulators’ new initiative is “a system that in practice is worthy of the vision behind it.”