While good in theory, shippers say, the result would be impracticable, expensive, difficult to enforce, and might end up doing more harm than good.
“Even if the rules were legally sound and well-designed (which they are not), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) cannot credibly assert that its proposed rules can be implemented with no costs or other adverse impacts to shippers and intermediaries, or to the transportation system of which the trucking industry is the most important part,” the National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council (NASSTRAC) said in comments to the agency.
While saying it has “no sympathy” for shippers or intermediaries who try to pressure truckers into violating safety regulations, NASSTRAC said FMCSA’s proposal is “stunning overreach” and abuse of its regulatory power.
“In effect, FMCSA seeks to deputize virtually all American businesses … and individuals shipping personal property and household goods, as unofficial compliance personnel regulated by this agency,” NASSTRAC said its comments.
Here’s why FMCSA proposed the rules, and how they would theoretically work. The agency was afraid shippers might coerce trucking companies by threatening to withhold business unless the carriers were willing to bend hours of service rules in order to win the business.
While claiming its rule “does not affect industry productivity” or impose any additional costs, FMCSA’s proposal would nevertheless hit shippers and intermediaries with penalties of up to $11,000 per offense for shippers who do not “inquire about the driver’s time remaining” on his or her legal hours of service.
In theory at least, the rule appears to require that it is the duty of the shipper, consignee and intermediary to inquire that every driver, for every freight movement, would have to be queried by trucking companies’ customers as to whether the equipment is in good shape, whether drivers are in compliance with all alcohol and substance abuse rules, whether additional parts and accessories may be needed, among other details.
“Many shippers, receivers and intermediaries lack the expertise to just driver responses to many of these inquiries, and the idea that they will take no time and cost no money is unsupportable,” NASSTRAC told FMCSA.
John M. Cutler Jr., general counsel for NASSTRAC, said the rule was mandated by Congress as part of the MAP-21 federal highway legislation. While intended to protect drivers against coercion from shippers, FMCSA’s proposal is overly broad.
While nobody is defending shippers who pressure their carriers into violating any safety regulations, Cutler said, this rule requires shippers and receives to inquire about each driver and each shipment as their legal availability to make runs within HOS regulations as well as having to discuss the safety of driver’s equipment.
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