Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator John Hill’s approach to trucking safety mirrors the way a police officer patrols a neighborhood beat: focus on the trouble spots until they are cleared up.
“In 29 ½ years of police work, I can tell you from my experience that– in any neighborhood– a limited population causes almost all the problems,” Hill told FleetOwner in an interview at the Dept. of Transportation’s headquarters in Washington DC.
“The biggest challenge we face in terms of improving trucking safety is [finding] where we can achieve the biggest return on our efforts,” he said, following a press conference to unveil the agency’s proposed electronic onboard recorder (EOBR) regulation for automatically capturing driver hours-of-service (HOS) information. “That’s really going to come from focusing our energies on those carriers and drivers who don’t comply with safety regulations.”
Hill also believes that voluntary adoption of safety technology by carriers will play a big role in allowing FMCSA to focus more heavily on unsafe companies and drivers. “There are a lot of companies out there that understand that good management practices and safety technology can have a big positive impact on the bottom line,” he explained. “I’d like to see a lot more voluntary use of technology to address safety issues because I am convinced carriers can find cost savings by doing that. And that would allow us to step up enforcement on the problem carriers.”
A former Indiana state police officer, Hill joined FMCSA in 2003 as its Chief Safety Officer and Assistant Administrator. When former FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg resigned in early 2006, Hill was nominated by President George Bush to replace her, receiving Congressional confirmation on August 4.
Yet he remains a police officer at heart and his two stints as commander of Indiana’s commercial vehicle enforcement division from 1989 to 1994 and 2000 to 2003 convinced him his “focus on the worst” philosophy works best.
Among the top priorities for the agency now is to amend the HOS supporting documents regulation. Additionally, FMCSA will have to deal with the pending decision by the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on whether the 2005 HOS rules are legal, which trucking experts expects to come the first quarter.
“There’s so much we want to do, but we have this backlog of regulations to deal with– as well as lawsuits being filed against existing ones,” he told FleetOwner. “That complicates things.”
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