As the manager of a trucking company, safety is your most important concern. Protecting your drivers, your cargo and other motorists on the roads is the foundation of everything you do — and is reflected in your policies and training.
However, not every carrier has the same commitment to safety. As a result, we see all too often see news stories about horrific accidents caused by drivers or carriers with a long history of safety violation. With the passing of a new rule by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, carriers that demonstrate a pattern of safety violations can have their right to operate revoked and their trucks pulled off the road. The agency can also revoke or suspend authority to operate if a carrier employs someone with a history of egregious safety violations in a leadership position.
The FMCSA proposed the new rule in November 2012, after a string of deadly crashes involving carriers with prior safety violations or “reincarnated” carriers that were previously shut down and reopened under a new name. Essentially, the rule is designed to keep the roads safe by removing those carriers with a history of ignoring rules from them, while providing more incentive for carriers to maintain safety standards, keep equipment up to date and comply with the law.
Under the new standards, a carrier can be stripped of its right to operate if it meets one (or more) of the following criteria
1. Repeated noncompliance with statutory or regulatory safety requirements.
2. Noncompliance with the directives of federal, state or local directives designed to fix safety issues
3. Non-payment of penalties charged for safety violations.
4. Failure to respond to law enforcement actions that result from noncompliance.
The FMCSA stresses that for a carrier to be stripped of its operational authority, it must show a pattern of deliberately engaging in the aforementioned behaviors, or of attempts to conceal such behaviors. In other words, a company will not be shut down for a single violation, but only for repeated violations over a period.
No More “Reincarnated” Carriers
The new rule also brings with it greater oversight and scrutiny of applications for operational licenses. There have been cases in which carriers that have had their license revoked apply for a new license under a different name. The new rules require more investigation into applications, as well as better consolidation of operational histories to avoid giving licenses to carriers known to be dangerous.
The FMCSA notes the new rules are only likely to affect a few carriers, and that a company with a strong record of safety and compliance has nothing to worry about. In fact, only six carriers would have been impacted by the new rules in 2013. That being said, carrier managers and owners can ensure their vehicles are safe by offering extensive training, committing to vehicle maintenance, providing the latest safety and operational equipment to drivers (such as portable scales to ensure proper weight on all runs) and staying on top of the latest regulatory changes. Continue to make every effort to comply with safety directives and never attempt to conceal problems, and you’ll stay on the road and in the black.