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Execs Ask FMCSA to Change Several Steps Before Chassis Safety Rule Takes Effect
Monday, 15 February 2010 00:00

Trucking and intermodal leaders are pressing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to change two key safety reporting steps before the agency’s delayed chassis safety rule finally takes effect on June 30.

The Intermodal Association of North America, American Trucking Associations’ Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference and the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association told agency officials why pre-trip and post-trip equipment condition reports must be revised, during a Feb. 3 meeting with Administrator Anne Ferro.

Late in December, FMCSA granted the request by trucking and ocean carriers to come up with new procedures for handling equipment condition reports and moved the effective date to June 30. The reports are important because they record the condition of chassis used for tens of millions of intermodal truck trips annually among ocean terminals, rail yards, warehouses and customers.

Intermodal interests “are trying to speak with one voice,” said David Manning, president of Tennessee Express, Nashville, Tenn. “That’s the best chance we have to get the rules aligned with what we need. FMCSA is anxious to get the regulations right before they roll them out.” 

Truckers want mandatory pre-trip inspection by drivers before they leave an ocean or rail terminal, said Curtis Whalen, director of ATA’s intermodal conference.

“We still believe very fervently that the pre-trip inspection needs to be the focus of safety,” he said. “If you don’t have it, you are losing the first and best measure of whether a provider’s equipment is roadable.”

The other issue is the need to simplify inspection reports when chassis are being returned to the ocean and rail terminals, said Manning, who is chairman of the intermodal conference and a member of IANA’s board.

One problem, Manning said, is that ocean carriers typically want the document called a driver vehicle inspection report, or DVIR, to be submitted in paper form. But railroads moving toward automated procedures for processing trucks through terminal entry gates want electronic submission of the DVIR.

Another key issue, Manning noted, is the ocean carriers’ preference to retain only DVIR reports that note defects such as a problem with brakes, tires or lights.

Whalen said there is no point in accumulating reports when the returned chassis has no problems because all that does is increase the administrative burden on the ocean or rail carrier that provided the chassis.

FMCSA didn’t return calls and e-mails requesting comment on the meeting last week, when the federal government was closed from Monday through Thursday because of heavy snow.

The ocean carrier group, which represents steamship lines that own or lease 85% of the chassis used for intermodal service, also didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Whalen said he intends to develop a formal document to present to the agency showing an intermodal industry consensus that pre-trip reports should be required and an end to requirements for retaining DVIR reports even if they show no defects.

No further meetings have been scheduled, and the agency gave no date when it would respond to the intermodal industry’s concerns, Manning said.

Industry officials praised the agency for listening to the industry’s concerns as they await a response.

“Any time there is a dialogue about the best way for all stakeholders to understand and comply with the regulations, that is a solid development, particularly when it is facilitated by FMCSA,” Tom Malloy, an IANA vice president, told Transport Topics.

“That shows they are interested in understanding the intermodal business from the perspective of all of the stakeholders in implementing new regulations,” Malloy said.

“It was helpful to have everyone at the table,” Manning said. “The FMCSA doesn’t understand everything about intermodal. One of things we hope to do is reiterate in writing what we need.”

“The forum was great,” Manning told TT. “Was a lot accomplished? We’ll have to wait and see what we hear from FMCSA.”

“I believe the FMCSA meeting yesterday served to provide the agency with a candid discussion on the implementation obstacles that the regulations are generating,” IMCC Director Whalen said.

Transport Topics, 2/15/2010