FMCSA’s Martinez seeks industry partnership, shares concerns on California rest break law

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Updated Oct 29, 2018
FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez addresses fleet attendees and vendors at the American Trucking Associations’ 2018 Management Conference & Exhibition in Austin, Texas.FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez addresses fleet attendees and vendors at the American Trucking Associations’ 2018 Management Conference & Exhibition in Austin, Texas.

Nine months into his tenure as Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Ray Martinez made it clear how the agency will move forward under his leadership.

“There is school of thought in some of your states and certainly in Washington D.C., that more laws and more regulations necessarily equals better safety,” said Martinez to a roomful of fleet executives and vendors at the American Trucking Associations’ 2018 Management Conference & Exhibition in Austin, Texas. “This is a logical fallacy… that it improves safety with little or no consequence to how things actually work out in the real world, either in commerce or on the enforcement side.”

Martinez added that the trucking industry and its stakeholders must do their part to ensure FMCSA meets its intended goals of preventing crashes and fatalities involving commercial vehicles.

“This is a two-way street. As we look to existing regulations and seek to improve, update or in some cases eliminate them, we want to make sure that we proceed in a manner that gives us improved safety results.”

As a sign of the FMCSA’s willingness to listen to and engage with the trucking industry, Martinez may well have signaled which side the agency will be on in the determination of preemption for California’s Meal & Rest Break law. The law states that drivers must receive a 30-minute rest breaks for every five hours worked and 10-minute rest breaks for every four hours. ATA argues in its petition the Federal Aviation Authorization Act (F4A) allows federal hours-of-service regulation to supersede any related state laws and regulations.

“I am very concerned about a patchwork system where every state gets to decide these issues,” said Martinez, to a round of applause from the audience. “That is not just an issue of commerce, that is an issue of safety. Everything we look at is through the lens of safety, and that is how we will be evaluating this.”

Martinez said FMCSA will begin evaluation immediately after the public comment period ends on Monday, October 29, and a decision will be made after “due evaluation.”

On the subject of the electronic logging device mandate, Martinez said work remains in a “transitional phase” as drivers, carriers and law enforcement adapt to the new technology, but early results show promise. Since April, when full enforcement of the ELD mandate began, less than 1 percent of the 1.4 million inspections resulted in a driver being cited for failure to have an ELD when they were required to do so, and HOS violations have decreased 48 percent over the last year.

“This is to the credit of the industry for strong compliance efforts,” said Martinez. “ELD implementation has given us the opportunity to reexamine current HOS regulations to see where adjustments or improvements may be needed.”

FMCSA published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking looking for input on current HOS regulations that resulted in more than 5,000 responses during the comment period.

“We are on a fast track… to synthesize those [comments] and move forward to the next step,” said Martinez.

Martinez also announced FMCSA’s initiative to combat human trafficking. “America’s roadways, airways and waterways are being used to enslave people as we speak,” he said. “[U.S. Department of Transportation] Secretary Chao is committed to putting end to this inhumane and criminal activity.” Martinez congratulated Sherri Brumbaugh, president and CEO of Garner Trucking and ATA vice chairman, on her appointment to DOT’s advisory committee on human trafficking.

FMCSA already has started communication efforts to prevent human trafficking, and Martinez noted the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act expands FMCSA’s outreach and education program to include to include human trafficking recognition, prevention and reporting activities.