Regulations that don’t improve safety should go, OOIDA’s Spencer says

June 7, 2023

Mark Schremmer


If the regulations on the books aren’t improving safety, then maybe it’s time for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to begin taking a different approach.

That was the message from OOIDA President Todd Spencer during a Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, June 6.

Spencer is a member of the committee, which is tasked with providing advice and recommendations to the FMCSA on motor carrier safety programs and motor carrier safety regulations.

“Coming from a trucking perspective … we’ve seen lots and lots of regulations,” Spencer said. “And all of these are supposed to improve highway safety and reduce fatalities and crashes and injuries. And, you know, that’s not happening.

“At some point, I think it’s reasonable to determine the effectiveness of what’s been done so far. And if we can’t show that things actually improved as a result of this (regulation), then maybe it’s the time to put that out, that effort, downscale that effort, and move in a different direction based on some kind of real logical information that would be more likely to produce a positive benefit.”

Spencer used the electronic logging device mandate as an example. Although FMCSA indicated that hours-of-service compliance has improved since enforcement of the ELD mandate, crash numbers haven’t improved.

“If you take an objective look at these efforts, there really isn’t any connection with improved safety outcomes,” he said. “They are enforcement. They are compliance, and they haven’t improved safety … We have to admit that.”

MCSAC member Danny Schnautz, president of Clark Freight Lines, Pasadena, Texas, suggested that the agency study the industry’s safest drivers to determine the attributes other drivers can emulate.

Linking compensation and safety

Stephen Owings, a MSCAC member and president of Road Safe America, said the agency should continue to examine the trucking industry’s pay-by-the-mile system and how that places extra pressure on drivers.

He said the fact that truck drivers are only paid when the wheels are turning creates an environment that incentivizes them to push themselves to keep driving during a storm or rush-hour traffic, especially after they’ve been detained for hours at a shipper or receiver.

“Pay truckers for every hour they work whether their truck is moving or not,” Owings said.

David Heller, senior vice president of the Truckload Carriers Association, argued that some of the safest carriers use a pay-by-the-mile system and that culture may be the larger issue.

Spencer agreed with Owings.

“If the only activity you get paid for is driving, it’s hard to say that wouldn’t make you go a little farther, a little faster to make up all of the lost time,” Spencer said. “Drivers are asked to work in every type of weather and traffic environment. When the prudent speed to go is significantly below the speed limit, how does that work with compensation? I certainly would never be in the camp of dismissing the role of compensation.”

FMCSA is studying the effects of driver compensation and detention time.

The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee meeting continued on June 7. The committee is expected to provide recommendations to FMCSA. LL