FMCSA Chief Talks COVID-19, ELDs, Trucker Crash Deaths, and Broker Controversy
Washington D.C. – The Acting Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) discussed a host of issues on Friday during a conference call with 170 commercial motor vehicle (CMV) stakeholders.
Jim Mullen, Acting Administrator of FMCSA, weighed in on a wide-ranging list of trucking industry topics during the live conference call Friday morning.
The purpose of the call was to provide stakeholders an update on the Agency’s actions taken so far during the COVID-19 national emergency.
While media was not allowed to listen in, the FMCSA did provide Transportation Nation Network (TNN) with some details of the meeting.
TNN has also spoken with multiple sources who were on the call.
Emergency Hours of Service Exemption
According to the FMCSA, Mullen highlighted the “unprecedented actions” taken by the Agency in response to the COVID-19 crisis — including the first-ever hours-of-service (HOS) national emergency declaration.
The historic 50-state HOS exemption for carriers engaged in direct relief assistance is due to expire May 15.
However, Mullen indicated the Agency has yet to decide if the declaration will be extended.
Mullen also pointed to Agency actions undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic to “ensure drivers can continue to get commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) and permits, and efforts to keep rest stops and parking available.”
Trucker Crash Deaths & ELDs
Stakeholders on the call were given an opportunity to ask questions.
Mullen was asked about a brand new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, which indicates trucker crash deaths are expected to reach a 31-year high when the final report for 2019 is issued later this year.
According to sources on the call, Mullen indicated the new report was only preliminary and would comment further once the final report is issued in the fall.
James Lamb, president of the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC), asserted the electronic logging devices (ELD) mandate is correlated to the increase in trucker crash deaths since 2018.
According to Lamb, Mullen refuted any such connection between the two exists.
“The Agency does not believe they have evidence that there is a correlation between ELDs and increased large truck occupant fatalities,” Lamb tells TNN.
During an interview by phone on Fox News on Friday morning shortly before the FMCSA’s call, President Donald Trump asserted truckers are being “price gouged” by some freight brokers during the COVID-19 recession.
As part of a rather lengthy response to a question about it, Mr. Trump stated, “Oh they are price gouged. We’re going to take care of that.”
According to multiple sources, Mullen indicated the Agency was unaware of the President’s comments.
Following the call, TNN reached out to the FMCSA for further comment on the growing controversy.
An FMCSA spokesperson referred us to the White House for comment and has, thus far, declined to comment specifically on the issue.
However, according to multiple sources who were on the call, Mullen indicated the FMCSA would review federal regulation 49 CFR 371.3 relating to broker transparency.
“Each party to a brokered transaction has the right to review the record of the transaction required to be kept by these rules,” the regulation states.
The interest surrounding this particular regulation has exploded in recent days.
Multiple trucking groups have now called for the FMCSA and the United States Congress to take action to better enforce the provision.
Click HERE to read exactly what these groups are demanding.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is seeking evidence of potential violations of antitrust laws on the part of brokers before possibly opening an investigation into the matter.
Click HERE to read more on what actions the DOJ is taking.
The issue of alleged broker abuses has captured industry-wide attention since the release of a series of recent social media videos made by New Jersey trucker Rick Santiago.
The videos, which quickly went viral, mobilized many of the truckers who are currently demonstrating in Washington D.C.
Click HERE to read more about Santiago and the response from the brokers mentioned in his videos.
Truckers Rallying in D.C.
Mr. Mullen did not address nor was he asked by stakeholders to address the ongoing trucker rally in our nation’s capital.
Leaders of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) have been conspicuously silent on the entire event even though President Trump has publicly voiced support for the truckers on two occasions.
Both DOT Secretary Elaine Chao and Mullen have yet to publicly comment about the rally or a possible meeting between the truckers and the President.
TNN has asked, and did so again on Friday, if DOT leaders would encourage or discourage the President from sitting down with rally organizers, but the Agency has declined to directly answer that question.
Photo courtesy of Charles Claburn/Facebook