NTSB criticizes oversight of new carriers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) fails to ensure the operational safety and management oversight of new-entrant motor carriers, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

NTSB's February 26 report recommends that FMCSA require new carriers to demonstrate safety fitness before beginning operations, and revise their safety fitness rating system to identify potential safety issues for new carriers better.

The recommendations came after three people were killed and 29 others injured in a collision between a DelCar Trucking truck semitrailer and a Greyhound bus in June 2002 near Loraine TX. The bus collided with the rear of the trailer when the truck, operated by a driver in training, left a picnic area to enter Interstate 20, according to the NTSB information.

The board's investigation revealed that the truck was not easily visible in the dark because it did not have the required retroreflective taping, and lights on the semitrailer were not working. Additionally, the truck driver's toxicology tests were positive for cocaine and the co-driver, who was required to be in the passenger seat while the driver in training was operating the vehicle, was in the sleeper berth.

Unnecessarily slow acceleration of the unlighted semitrailer onto a high-speed interstate by an inexperienced driver impaired by cocaine was determined by the NTSB as the probable cause of the accident. The report also noted DelCar Trucking's failure to exercise adequate operational oversight, and FMCSA's failure to ensure the safety of and provide adequate management for new-entrant motor carriers.

This investigation also found that the FMCSA form Safety Certification for Application for Department of Transportation Number does not require applicants to provide detailed information on operations, and that FMCSA has no mechanism for verifying the validity of an applicant's information. Therefore there is no adequate measure of a motor carrier's safety fitness at the time of application.

In compliance with FMCSA regulations, the owner of DelCar Trucking completed all required forms for new-entrant motor carriers and had certified that he was familiar and would comply with FMCSA regulations, and that he had never been convicted of possession or distribution of a controlled substance. However through its investigation, NTSB determined that the owner had little knowledge of the safety requirements and did not comply with many of them. It was also discovered that the owner had been convicted of drug possession in 1999.

Additionally, current FMCSA procedures to conduct safety audits on new entrant motor carriers up to 18 months after carriers begin operation potentially allows unsafe carriers to operate without oversight for over a year. At the time of the accident, DelCar Trucking had been a registered motor carrier for 22 months but had not had an FMCSA safety audit.

TAGS: Carriers
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