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The FMCSA’s Top Safety Concerns & Their Plan to Combat Them
Mariah Barr
6 mins read

Unsurprisingly, there is a push for improved truck safety coming through the means of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Although the two agencies’ established safety concerns haven’t varied by much, a proposed budget increase and boost in staffing numbers signify they’re taking them seriously in the next fiscal year. 

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According to the FY23 budget request released by the White House on Monday, March 28th, the FMCSA is looking to grow its staff from 1,186 positions in the 2022 budget estimate to 1,285 in the FY23 request – an 8.3% increase. The NHTSA has requested an even larger 20% increase in full-time positions – from 357 to 428.  

A bigger budget and more staff to dedicate to the safety of the roadways come during a non-stop trucking boom.  

“The number of registered motor carriers keeps going up,” said Jack Van Steenburg, FMCSA’s chief safety officer, in an interview with Transport Topics. “The miles have gone up, and e-commerce has gone up an unbelievable amount. Everything’s gone up.” 

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Just as motor carrier counts continue to rise, so do the number of accidents they’re involved in. Steenburg noted that even though fatal crashes involving trucks declined slightly between 2019 and 2020, predictions for last year’s data are showing an increase, according to estimates by the National Safety Council and NHTSA. 

This correlation doesn’t seem coincidental – and the FMCSA has identified the safety issues that may be contributing to it. 

Pinpointing Trending Safety Concerns 

The FMCSA’s 21st Annual Analysis, Research and Technology Forum took place on March 23rd, and during the event, numerous safety trend concerns that were also identified at the 2021 forum were discussed.  

Transport Topics also shared that according to a top FMCSA official, the following matters are still “areas of concern” among federal trucking regulators: 

  • Speeding  
  • Distracted driving 
  • Work zone accidents 
  • Truck occupant fatalities 
  • Driver fatigue and distractions 
  • Widespread lack of seat belt use in fatal crashes 

It’s becoming clear that these issues aren’t going away, and they may even get worse if the right solutions aren’t put in place. So, what can be done about them? 

Taking Steps Toward Improved Safety 

In a Significant Rulemaking Report released in February, the FMCSA and NHTSA highlighted four scheduled rulemakings that equally share the goal of improving truck safety. 

As a variety of agency safety and research officials shared, efforts are also being taken to conduct a $30 million detailed study into the causes of truck crashes. 

Let’s take a closer look at each of the rulemakings. 

Speed-Limiting Devices 

In response to petitions from American Trucking Associations and Roadsafe America, the FMCSA and NHTSA plan a joint rulemaking that requires speed-limiting devices to be installed on heavy vehicles.  

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) Systems 

In the same Transport Topics interview, Larry Minor, FMCSA’s associate administrator for policy, mentioned the NHTSA and FMCSA are expected to unveil a new proposed regulation that will require all new trucks to install automatic emergency braking technologies.

This proposal comes at a relevant time, considering this year’s Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) International Roadcheck is right around the corner. Brake systems were the top violation in the 2021 Roadcheck, causing 26.5% of all truck out-of-service conditions. Brake adjustments accounted for 12.4% of all violations and were the fourth-highest violation last year as well.  

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Potential Unique Electronic IDs of CMVs 

We could see updates to FMCSA carrier safety regulations that every interstate commercial motor vehicle must be equipped with an electronic device that produces a unique identification number for trucks and trailers to help better target roadside safety inspections. 

Requesting public comment on this idea is included in the plans. 

Planning for Fully Automated Systems 

Minor also mentioned that the agency is working hard to safely implement automated driver systems for heavy trucks. Implementing artificial intelligence technologies is a trial-and-error process by nature; however, the risks associated with such advancements are not being ignored, and it will take time for fully automated trucks to be legal for use on U.S. roadways. 

Staying on Top of New Safety Compliance Requirements 

To put the icing on the regulatory safety cake, plans are in place to surge traffic enforcement inspections and motor carrier compliance checks, add new entrant safety audit enhancements, and improve post-accident care. That means it’s time to get audit-ready! 

Keeping up with all these new safety developments is enough to make your head spin. When you turn to Foley, you get a dedicated team of regulatory experts who will handle your DOT compliance needs and ensure you’re always meeting the latest requirements. Request a demo of the Foley platform to see how easy it can be to stay compliant!  

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