The FMCSA has released its 2011-2016 Strategic Plan, in which it declares its desire to seek authority to regulate any entity who “may have a deleterious effect on safety though their actions,” including shippers, brokers and receivers. By doing so the FMCSA could enact safety regulations that prevent shippers, brokers or receivers from overloading vehicles, pushing delivery schedules that are impossible under hours of service limits, or otherwise negatively impacting the safety of commercial motor vehicles. While the FMCSA currently has authority to regulate truck and bus safety, its future vision is safety regulation and authority through the entire commercial motor vehicle transportation life-cycle, improving safety from the “warehouse to boardroom.”
Although it is unclear what exact regulations could arise out of such expanded FMCSA authority, the American Trucking Association has expressed its backing of such a proposal, and has recommended that the FMCSA enact a model based on Australia’s National Transport Commission’s “Chain of Responsibility” plan, which became law in 2005. Under the Australian legislation “any party who has control in the transport chain can be held responsible and may be made legally liable” for violations of safety regulations. For example, a receiver of goods could be held liable and made to pay fines if they “knowingly or recklessly engage in any conduct that induces or rewards a breach” of safety regulations.
Though final regulations are still years off, it is encouraging to see that the FMCSA is looking to increase commercial motor vehicle safety by holding all parties responsible. Treating safety as a “life-cycle” will not remove or diminish the carrier’s responsibilities, but will acknowledge that all parties involved in moving goods play a vital role in keeping the roads safe for all drivers.