DOT Safety Regulation Update Fast-Fax™
Week of October 17, 2011
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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced plans to question motor coach passengers about whether they received a voluntarily-administered pre-trip safety briefing from the carrier.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced this week that they would be increasing their scrutiny over the motor coach industry. This would especially include the enforcement of and compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). Before the agency can start however, it needs to gather certain information and make an assessment.
FMCSA unveiled its information collection mission in the Federal Register. The purpose of collecting this information is to assess the current levels of voluntary compliance by motor coach operators to provide pre-trip safety awareness and emergency preparedness information to passengers and to obtain passenger opinions of the implementation of the pre-trip program and any recommended improvements.
Once this information has been gathered the Department of Transportation will work to enact policy; filling in gaps that the study reveals with new regulations.
2011 has been the year of the crackdown for passenger carrying motor carriers. Due to several high-profile fatal bus crashes, FMCSA — at the behest of an angry Congress — has been focusing on removing poorly-performing carriers. The root of this particular issue, however, goes back to the 1990s. After a series of fatal crashes back then, the National Transportation Safety Board performed a study that concluded that, in the immediate post-accident environment, passengers were panicking and unsure of what to do. After consulting with the industry and with FMCSA, it was decided to recommend to carriers that that perform a voluntary pre-trip safety briefing.
What Information Are They Collecting?
According to the Federal Register entry: “FMCSA is concerned about the accuracy of self-reported data provided by motorcoach operators and requires third party validation of industry efforts to provide this information to passengers, as well as the effectiveness of the means by which the information is being provided. Currently, compliance is measured during FMCSA’s National Passenger Carrier Strike Forces. The data received from these Strike Forces has shown increased adoption levels, however this data is based solely on input from the motorcoach companies and not actual passengers.”
Essentially, FMCSA is concerned that it is being lied to. Without checking with the passengers, FMCSA inspectors are being forced to take the carriers at their word. Obviously, for the safety-conscious carrier, this isn’t a problem. FMCSA, however, is not really interested by the good carriers. They want to investigate the carriers with poor safety records. These are the carriers who are more likely to be in accidents. These are also the carriers who are more likely to lie about performing safety checks.
Where Does This Go From Here?
Once it has gathered the information that it needs, FMCSA will be able to put together a detailed study and present its recommendations. In all likelihood this will result in new regulations. Indeed, given the depth and breadth of safety regulations for passenger carriers, it is surprising that this was not already a regulation. Similar rules have long been common practice for the airline industry and for certain modes covered by the Federal Transit Authority, such as ferries. The timeframe of such an action, however, is probably relatively far into the future. FMCSA has to begin its studies, collect the information, provide a report to Congress and THEN begin the rulemaking process. It should be noted, however, that FMCSA has requested emergency processing of the matter. This action, performed in deference to the number of people killed in motor coach accidents in 2011, means the entire process may be accelerated. FMCSA granted itself powers to fast-track new regulations deemed non-controversial; it is likely that this proposal would be included in those regulations. Passenger carriers should prepare themselves for both the increased questions and the questioning of customers in the short term. In the long-term, carriers should expect new regulations.
Editor: Roxanne Swidrak, Vice President, Operations • 1-800-253-5506 • www.FoleyServices.com • Vol. 111, No. 710 • © Foley Carrier Services, LLC. 2011