Truck Inspection Exemptions Could Lead to More Crashes
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the government agency responsible for regulating the trucking industry and protecting the public from unsafe trucks and trucking companies. Recently, though, the FMCSA has been granting more exemptions from vital truck inspections, which could undermine the agency’s mission and lead to more truck wrecks on our highways.
CVSA Raises Concerns Over Growing Exemption Totals
In February 2016, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) — a nonprofit trucking safety organization — sent a concerned letter to the FMCSA that questioned the large number of regulatory exemptions the agency had granted over the previous year.
“With so many exemptions… it is possible that roadside inspectors will no longer accurately enforce the regulations or may stop enforcing certain regulations all together,” read the letter, which was signed by CVSA Executive Director Collin B. Mooney.
In the letter, the CVSA argued that the growing number of exemptions created a burden for truck inspectors — who must keep track of exemptions, including how and when they apply — as well as the agencies who train them. The CVSA suggested that the FMCSA include state and local enforcement agencies in new rulemaking and exemption decisions, and the nonprofit group also said the FMCSA should work to reduce the overall number of exemptions.
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“While CVSA does not object to these exemptions on an individual basis, exemptions complicate the enforcement process,” the letter continued, “causing confusion and inconsistency in enforcement [and undermining] the very foundation of the federal commercial motor vehicle enforcement program: uniformity.”
Increased Exemptions Are Part of a Troubling Trend in Trucking
The CVSA’s concerns should resonate with the public because poorly-inspected trucks create dangerous conditions on our highways. Trucking companies often neglect vehicle maintenance and skirt safety regulations to increase profits, and inspections are the only real tool available to pressure them into following the law.
These truck inspections are anything but a formality: during the CVSA’s annual “Brake Check” truck inspection event in 2016, inspectors placed 26% of trucks they checked out of service for safety violations — and that figure came during a publicly-announced inspection event when truckers and truck companies knew they would likely be inspected and received notice about the inspection criteria beforehand.
In addition, the rise in truck inspection exemptions is just one part of an overall pattern of regulatory rollbacks and highway safety defeats in recent years. Trucking companies have successfully lobbied lawmakers for less oversight, and our highways have become more dangerous as a result.
Although the trucking industry claims that it doesn’t need the additional supervision, the numbers speak for themselves: between 2009 and 2015, the number of deaths each year from trucking accidents increased by 22 percent. This rise in fatalities reversed a 10-year trend of steady decline in truck crash deaths, and today, one out of every 10 deaths on U.S. highways involves a collision with a large truck.
While inspections can’t prevent every deadly truck crash, allowing more trucking companies to get around them — especially in the face of rising truck crash totals every year — is the last thing regulators should be considering. Unfortunately, it’s just one more indicator of a larger deregulation trend that continues to make our highways a more dangerous place to drive.
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CVSA: Too many exemptions. (2016, February 23). Go by Truck News. Retrieved from https://www.gobytrucknews.com/cvsa-too-many-exemptions/123
Large trucks: 2015. (2016, November). Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Retrieved from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks
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