Trucking interests in the US want the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to charge in different directions, but the agency seems to be short of resources.

Fierce lobbying from different interest groups spilled over into a hearing in Washington where the House Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure was seeking input from industry stakeholders on how to mend supply chain problems.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) was gunning for a bill, aimed at preventing a speed mandate for trucks, already in the works at the FMCSA. They argue that forcing truckers to run slower than other vehicles would cause a rise in accidents, on top of being uneconomical.

However, they got massive pushback from a broad group, including the American Trucking Associations, which recently conducted a survey of its members that showed 98% had already deployed speed limiter technology.

Rather than work on rules that require trucks to be fitted with speed governors, the OOIDA wants the FMCSA to require brokers to provide electronic copies of every transaction record within 48 hours of the service being completed. They have accused brokers of evading regulations designed to establish fairness between carriers and brokers, and complained about lack of enforcement of those rules by the FMCSA. They argue that lack of transparency is hurting the industry.

This push was also met with resistance, this time from the Transport Intermediaries Association (TIA). Anne Reinke, its president and CEO, argued that pushing transparency in commercial relations was outside the agency’s purview, which was safety.

She told congressmen a stronger push on safety initiatives would go a long way to make supply chains more efficient. She said: “The safest and most secure marketplace is also the most efficient and functional marketplace.”

According to the TIA, crashes involving large trucks are up by 10%; moreover, 92% of trucking firms are unrated, the organisation claims.

This is due to a combination of an outdated physical audit system used by the FMCSA, and a lack of resources at the agency to conduct safety inspections for most truck operators, Ms Reinke told the committee. It only has capacity to inspect the large players, which has left many small trucking firms without an official safety rating and has created confusion about safety, she added.

She stressed that a new safety rating system was needed that should be based on reliable data.

And the agency has also been unable to stem a rising tide of fraud in the industry, according to the TIA. Ms Reinke said more than 80,000 complaints had been submitted to the National Consumer Complaint Database, but none has been investigated by the FMCSA.

Apparently, many of the complaints have been about fraud. Ms Reinke said: “The supply chain is in the midst of a fraud epidemic, estimated to cost brokers, carriers, and shippers around $800m.

“Unfortunately, there is an increase in bad actors in the space, illegally brokering freight, registering as carriers using hundreds of MC numbers and holding freight hostage, without any legal consequences.”

It is unclear what conclusions the committee members have drawn from the hearing on what measures would make supply chains more resilient. Looking to beef up the FMCSA might be a good start.

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