FMCSA, SC&RA are partners in progress

15 April 2008

When SC&RA held its first Oversize/Overweight Transportation Symposium 20 years ago, the event focused almost entirely on the need for permit uniformity among the states. As the meeting evolved to become known as the Specialized Transportation Symposium, its scope also widened.

From the beginning, it was obvious that, despite their differences, symposium attendees from throughout America shared a concern for safety. Increasingly, attention shifted to federal safety regulations involving the transportation industry nationwide.

Trucking executives at the symposium found themselves asking one another how to stay compliant with current federal safety regulations, keep up with proposed regulations in the pipeline for implementation or existing ones under consideration for updates, make their viewpoints effectively known to regulators, and more.

Seeking timely, reliable answers to these questions, SC&RA began inviting federal officials to the symposium. The interaction between these officials and industry members fostered feelings of mutual respect and understanding, much as it had between state officials and industry influentials ever since the first symposium.

Partnership begins

The relationship grew even stronger after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established as a separate agency within the US Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000, pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., FMCSA employs more than 1,000 individuals, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

FMCSA's mission to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses has always meshed with SC&RA's mission to provide the unique information and any other lawful activities members need to safely, legally, and profitably transport, lift, and erect oversize and overweight items.

FMCSA speakers have become a staple of the symposiums.

That tradition will continue in 2007 with two speakers from the agency scheduled to appear at the Specialized Transportation Symposium, March 7-9, at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, Orlando, FL.

Dan Hartman, FMCSA's associate administrator for enforcement and program delivery, will be the opening speaker. He will explain FMCSA's present and future regulations, and safety strategies. Among the topics he is expected to cover are electronic on-board recorders; hours of service; and SafeStat, FMCSA's online data analysis program.

Hartman returned to FMCSA last April after serving three years at the Transportation Security Agency as the first director of transportation infrastructure security. Before that, he served 28 years in various supervisory and leadership positions, overseeing FMCSA's motor carrier enforcement program, the commercial driver's license program and the motor carrier safety assistance program. He also spent nine years in the Federal Highway Administration's field offices in Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Baltimore.

Rules review

Larry Minor, director of FMCSA's Office of Bus and Truck Standards and Operations, will also speak at the symposium on a number of federal regulatory issues. He also was a presenter at last year's symposium. His office is responsible for policy and program development activities concerning driver qualifications, hours of service, truck andbus safety standards and inspection, repair and maintenance requirements for commercial vehicles. He will highlight proposed rules under consideration.

Minor began his federal career in 1989 as a mechanical engineer responsible for developing truck and bus safety regulations for the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Motor Carriers. He served as chief of FMCSA's Vehicle and Roadside Operations division from 1999 through February 2006, when he was appointed director of the Bus and Truck Standards and Operations office. He was appointed to the senior executive service in February 2005.

Minor pointed out that SC&RA members can take an active role in the rulemaking process by submitting comments on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). He noted two current NPRMs of interest to the association's members. Both rules may be viewed online at www.fmsca.dot.gov. Click on “Latest Rules and Notices” on the left side of the homepage. On the next screen, click on “Proposed Rules,” also in the left column.

On January 18, FMCSA issued through the Federal Register a 56-page NPRM on Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) for Hours-of-Service (HOS) compliance. “I think it's very important for the industry to participate in this rulemaking to make sure their voice is heard,” says Minor. “The agency offered its perspective by proposing to require EOBRs only in cases of serious HOS compliance problems. We certainly expect numerous comments from those who believe we should mandate the devices on all commercial motor vehicles. We want to hear everyone's views, so it's important that SC&RA members submit their comments to the docket.”

Comments for this NPRM are due by April 18.

Comments sought

Minor also said SC&RA members involved with intermodal transportation issues should review a 38-page NPRM issued through the Federal Register on December 21, 2006. This NPRM - Requirements for Intermodal Equipment Providers and Motor Carriers and Drivers Drivers Operating Intermodal Equipment - is mandated by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEALU). The rulemaking would require intermodal equipment providers to:

Register and file with FMCSA an Intermodal Equipment Provider Identification Report, display the USDOT Number, or other unique identifier on each intermodal container chassis offered for transportation in interstate commerce

Establish a systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance program to ensure the safe operation condition of each intermodal container chassis

Maintain documentation of the program

Provide a means to effectively respond to driver and motor carrier reports about intermodal container chassis mechanical defects and deficiencies

Comments for this NPRM are due by March 21. SC&RA will continue to monitor these and other FMCSA rulemaking activities and keep members informed through presentations at its major meetings, as well as articles in American Cranes & Transport and the SC&RA newsletter.

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