A new commercial driver panel has been implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety administration as part of its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee.
Members of MCSAC come from various safety enforcement groups, trucking companies, and labor organizations. The new panel, which was announced in mid-September, will work to advise leaders within FMCSA on safety topics and current issues surrounding things like driver training, parking challenges, and hours-of-service regulation changes.
The commercial driver panel will consist of up to 25 drivers within various industry sectors, including tractor-trailer operators, motorcoach drivers, hazardous material-haulers, and transporters of agricultural goods.
“Truck drivers and other commercial vehicle operators are American heroes who have stepped up during the current public health emergency to keep our economy moving,” said Elaine Chao, U.S. Transportation Secretary. “So, their input is essential to strengthening safety on the roads.”
FMCSA said that over the last few years, it has worked diligently to listen to the concerns and opinions of commercial truck drivers across the country and to implement those comments into further safety initiatives.
“The Department of Transportation and this Administration believe in listening to our drivers and hearing their concerns directly,” said Wiley Deck, FMCSA Deputy Administrator. “We know that many of the solutions to the challenges we face don’t come from Washington–they come from the hard-working men and women who are behind the wheel all over our nation. This new subcommittee to MCSAC will further help us hear from America’s commercial drivers.”
Longtime MCSAC member and vice president of Clark Freight Lines, inc., Danny Schnautz, explained that panelists come from a multitude of regions across the country and will hopefully bring a wider variety of perspectives to the discussions and ideas brought to light through MCSAC’s efforts. Schnautz said personal experiences and stories from drivers can unveil the realities that many drivers across the trucking industry face on a day-to-day basis.
Schnautz, who has 180 drivers operating CMVs within his company, said he works to communicate with his drivers each day and to hear their concerns–and that listening to these first-hand accounts of daily driver life is what helps him really understand the goings on of the industry as a whole.
“Some driver says, ‘One time, I was going through Florida…’ [and] whenever you realize that there’s thousands of those stories that say, ‘One time this happened…’ then, you can put together a pretty good pattern, and you can see what’s good and what’s bad in the way we’re regulating trucks,” Schnautz explained. “These are differences that don’t come out unless you’re talking to a driver, because management really can’t tell those stories.”
The experiences he hears about show Schnautz the kinds of worries drivers have that others throughout the industry may not be paying much attention to, such as parking availability, waiting times, hours-of-service regulations, and factors of FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, and Accountability program. Then, Schnautz is able to bring these concerns straight to the panel.
Going straight to the source and into the trucking field is the best way for government officials to learn about what truckers really want for their jobs and livelihoods, Schnautz said. Government officials like Deck, who has been working as deputy administrator for only a couple of months, would be able to gain deeper insight into the realities of the industry by going on ride-alongs or visiting loading docks.
“Don’t discount what you can gain by investing that time to get out,” he said. “Really, we’ve got to prioritize that.”
Right now, the FMCSA is seeking nominations for MCSAC membership from those with particularly beneficial experience, training, and education regarding commercial motor vehicle issues and industry initiatives. A nominee needs to represent at least one of the four membership sectors, which include: safety advocacy, labor, industry, or safety enforcement.
Additionally, members of the committee will need to be able to attend at least two or three meetings each year, either in person or virtually. Nominations are due by November 30th and interested parties can find more information on applicant requirements and eligibility here.
Additionally, FMCSA said it will continue to host discussions and listening sessions with members of the motor carrier industry and the public in order to gain further insight and opinion in the priorities and efforts of the agency.