Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems says it commends the efforts of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in creating its draft plan for increased highway safety. While the company sees value in the direction that FMCSA is moving, it also offered recommendations to further strengthen elements of the plan as a part of its response to the FMCSA during the plan’s public comment phase.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 2011-2016 Strategic Plan: Raising the Safety Bar, reflects the agency’s commitment to reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial motor vehicle transportation. Three core principles shape the draft plan: raise the bar to enter the motor carrier industry; maintain high safety standards to remain in the industry; and remove high-risk carriers, drivers, and service providers from operation.
“Bendix applauds the efforts of FMCSA in taking a leadership approach to addressing commercial motor vehicle safety for all parties concerned – fleets, owner-operators, drivers, passengers, and shippers,” said Fred Andersky, Bendix director of government relations. “As the draft plan points out, significant improvements have been made during the last decade to reduce the number of fatalities, injuries, and property-damage-only crashes involving commercial motor vehicles. While the trend has improved, Bendix, like FMCSA, believes the numbers still remain too high.”
To help FMCSA reach its safety goals for commercial vehicles, Bendix highlighted three key areas for further consideration and refinement as the agency finalizes the strategic plan.
First, Bendix recommends placing greater emphasis on incorporating vehicle safety technologies into FMCSA’s regulatory and compliance priorities. Technologies exist today that can help fleets, drivers, and owner-operators strengthen their safety performance by helping mitigate crash situations, as well as potential inspection issues. The FMCSA reports that the single largest factor impacting truck safety and truck crashes is the behavior of other motorists. Bendix believes that safety technologies can help commercial vehicle drivers help combat these circumstances, as well as conditions brought on by inclement weather and road quality. Technologies include onboard safety systems, such as lane departure warning, full-stability systems, and forward collision mitigation and warning technologies. They also include supportive safety technologies such as tire pressure monitoring systems and brake stroke monitoring.
Second, the company suggests that FMCSA use creative means involving CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) scores and the compliance review process to provide incentives for fleets and owner-operators to adopt both onboard and supportive safety technologies. Bendix believes incentivizing can be done both proactively, by encouraging the motor carrier to adopt technologies before a problem occurs, as well as reactively, by helping the motor carrier to resolve issues after an unsafe incident or crash takes place.
Third, Bendix carries the philosophy that motor carriers – not solely mandates – should be the catalyst to drive safety technology adoption. According to Andersky, the company also acknowledges that regulation is a reality for every member of the commercial vehicle industry.
“What remains highly problematic for us all, however, are the undue and extended delays between notices of proposed rulemaking, final rule release, and subsequent implementation,” Andersky said. “Few things have a greater impact on the market, on technology development, and on ongoing business operations than the ‘impending’ nature of regulations.”
Bendix recommends the development of, and adherence to, realistic timetables associated with key regulatory initiatives. It is critical that the agency maintain specific time frames for specific steps in developing, reviewing, commenting on, and implementing regulatory efforts – from notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) through publication of the final rule. Specific timelines help all businesses – whether a carrier, manufacturer, or supplier – effectively and efficiently plan for forthcoming regulations.
Andersky added that it is essential to remember that while safety technologies can help commercial vehicle operators on the road, they do not replace the need for alert, careful drivers practicing safe driving habits, as well as continuous, comprehensive driver training.