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Here’s why we need the FMCSA

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To ensure safety on the roads, it is crucial to establish a standard that makes clear what qualifies as safe practice. Naturally, an authoritative body is necessary to enforce such a standard, and in this case it’s the FMCSA. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is tasked with reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. It was established within the Department of Transportation (DOT) as a part of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. This agency is responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).

The FMCSA’s Strategy

 The FMCSA improves safety conditions on the road by employing the following strategy:

  • Develop research-backed regulations that create a balance between CMV safety with efficiency.
  • Manage safety information systems to identify higher risk carriers.
  • Provide educational messages to carriers, commercial drivers, and the public.
  • Coordinate with Federal, State, and local enforcement agencies, the motor carrier industry, safety groups, and organized labor on efforts to reduce bus and truck-related crashes.

Why This Matters

The efficiency of the transport industry reflects the efficiency of the nation at large. Improving safety and enforcing regulations can sometimes create a web of red-tape barriers that may even seem to slow the system down. However, the FMCSA was designed to undertake research and technological development projects in pursuance of the optimal balance between safety and efficiency. FMCSA research is intended to provide data, statistics, and systematic studies that assess the effectiveness of CMV safety technologies and DOT regulations.

What Needs to Happen

A high degree of cooperation is necessary for federal safety regulations to be enforced by the state and local enforcement agencies at an equal level across the states. To accurately measure the effectiveness of the current safety regulations, the FMCSA must analyze the rate of incidents, severity, most common causes etc. from data received by the enforcement agencies. This requires transparent communication and information sharing between the federal and state governments, it is a significant step in the process of developing more cost effective and efficient policy.

An Example of the FMCSA’s Success

An example of the FMCSA assessing on-the-road risks and formulating data-driven policy is their, “Analysis of Naturalistic Driving Data to Assess Distraction and Drowsiness in Drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles”[1] In this study, more than 3.8 million miles of naturalistic data from 225 vehicles and 245 drivers was collected to assess the impact of driver distraction and drowsiness on heavy vehicle drivers. Although overall heavy vehicle fatal crashes have decreased since the early 2000’s, the “…ratio of large trucks and motorcoaches involved in fatal crashes per 100 million VMT [vehicle miles travelled] remains higher than that of passenger vehicles.” For this reason, the FMCSA concluded that crashes involving large trucks and motorcoaches go beyond occupants of the vehicles and requires specified safety standards to better mitigate the number of fatalities and injuries. This exemplifies the FMCSA’s role in identifying hazards, assessing them, and formulating adequate regulations to address them and improve overall safety on the roads.

To Summarize

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is a federal agency responsible for creating regulatory policies that ensure both safety and efficiency for CMV operations. This is done by managing safety information systems, providing safety education, coordinating with state/local enforcement and the carrier industry, and conducting research projects to improve CMV technologies. It is in the interest of the country to support these objectives and the FMCSA is tasked with leading the charge.

References: 

1. National Transportation Library ROSAP, “Analysis of Naturalistic Driving Data to Assess

             Distraction and Drowsiness in Drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles”, R# FMCSA-

             RRR-20-003, August 2021, https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/57153.

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