Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) executive vp Todd Spencer told the DOT yesterday that “it is time we stop turning our heads from the root causes of safety problems in the industry.” Spencer’s comments spoke to problems that presently plague the trucking industry and if not addressed, will continue to contribute to the decline of safety on American highways.

During a testimony to DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regarding DOT’s multi-year reauthorization proposal, Spencer spoke of root causes such as the industry's inability to attract safe, responsible drivers and keep them, citing inadequate compensation and deplorable working conditions and pointing a finger at motor carriers who too often ignore their safety responsibilities in their scramble to fill empty seats with low-wage drivers.

Spencer aimed remarks at unfair and ineffective enforcement strategies that target truckers and called them a waste of time and resources. "Drivers are the party least able to effect change in the industry," he said. "This is why penalizing the driver fails miserably in curbing unsafe practices in the industry."

Spencer called attention to stressful conditions such as the lack of uniformity in safety rules. "The safety rules are interpreted and enforced in fantastically different ways from locality to locality," he said. "Safety, uniformity and consistency take a back seat in these instances. A truck that passes inspection in one county in the morning, might fail inspection hours later in the next state. The disparity in the focus of 'safety enforcement' from locality to locality, and even state to state, make it extremely difficult for drivers to know what is expected of them."

Reducing highway fatalities, mandatory training programs, speed limit policies, unsafe inspection stops, unworkable hours-of-service regulations, and unmodified out-of-service criteria are among other topics covered in the association's comments.”

“We will always have hours-of-service violations and tired drivers as long as drivers have to spend 30-40 hours each week on loading and unloading docks,” said Spencer. “We will always have trucks driving faster and longer than they should as long as shippers and brokers can coerce drivers to meet unrealistic schedules and be paid only for the miles they drive. We will always have unsafe truck drivers on the highways as long as 100% turnover of drivers is the industry norm, and drivers are considered a disposable commodity instead of a valued resource to motor carriers. Finally, there will be safety problems if motor carriers continue to pass off their responsibility to the government to screen and monitor the actions of their employees. We can do better and we should start right now.”