When you enter any industry you will be overwhelmed by numerous acronyms; and the trucking industry is no different. In addition to MPG, EOBR, GOAL and others, your carrier will add to the list of letters that will become significant to your job.
Add to these alphabet mixtures a list of governing bodies that have even more influence over your job, DOT, FMCSA, NHTSA, NTSB and your head will start to hurt trying to remember which group has authority over what parts of your daily duties.
It’s to your benefit to understand each of these organizations so you can be better informed and prepared in knowing what to expect from each one. Some have regulatory authority and some do not. Some make recommendations and some do not. Knowing the parameters of each group and what control (if any) they have over the trucking industry should be important to you.
You are probably the most familiar with the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT) led by Secretary Ray LaHood. This is a government entity that was established by an act of Congress in 1966. The DOT is a large organization and oversees eleven administrations, which include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Regardless of your role in the trucking industry, each of these agencies has some influence in your occupation. You can blame the railroads for the enactment of interstate regulation, as the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 was intended to give the government control over the rail industry. In 1995 the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was terminated and its functions were relegated to the Federal Highway Administration under the US DOT.
The ICC lost much of its effect during the passage of the Motor Carrier Regulatory Reform and Modernization Act of 1980 under President Carter and “deregulated” the trucking industry. One of the roles of the ICC was to issue Motor Carrier numbers to interstate carriers and the department of transportation now assumed this duty; the designation was referred to as DOT numbers.
The other regulatory bodies under the DOT that directly affect the trucking industry include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) which works with states to ensure the safety of our nation’s highways. Administrator Victor Mendez currently leads this agency. The mission of the FWHA is to “improve mobility on our nation’s highways through national leadership, innovation, and program delivery.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), under the leadership of Administrator Anne Ferro, was established in 1999 to prevent commercial motor vehicle related fatalities and injuries. This agency’s focus is on safety and has the authority to enforce safety regulations, strengthen commercial motor vehicle equipment and operating standards, and to increase safety awareness. Current initiatives include hours of service review, CSA implementation and EOBR implementation.
Another agency under the DOT’s authority is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which appears to have similar goals to FMCSA, but is also concerned with four wheelers and other motor vehicles. NHTSA, under the leadership of David Strickland, focuses on distracted driving, impairment, seat belt use and child safety restraint use.
One additional organization under the DOT umbrella is the Surface Transportation Safety Board (STB), which is an economic regulatory agency led by Daniel Elliott III, its current Chairman. This agency focuses on the railroad industry and was created as a successor to the ICC.
In addition to these agencies, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was created as an independent agency to promote safety and assist victims of transportation related accidents and to investigate accidents to determine probable cause. Currently Deborah A. P. Hersman chairs the board that was originally placed under the DOT in 1967, but was changed to a separate entity in 1974. The agency has no authority to regulate, fund or be involved in the operation of any mode of transportation and is directed only to investigate and recommend corrective actions from an objective viewpoint.
You may have wondered why so many government agencies had an interest in the trucking industry, but now you understand that some are concerned about safety, some focus on commercial vehicles and other are charged with investigating accidents. The one common thread for all these groups is a focus on safer and more efficient transportation.
The next time someone complains about the government’s involvement in transportation, you’ll be better educated on each agency’s role.
© 2011, Truck Drivers News Blog. All rights reserved.