11 JunKnox News: Duncan amendment is Trojan horse that will reduce trucker safety

Published 6:00 a.m. ET June 11, 2018 

An amendment has been offered by U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, R-Tenn., to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill (H.R.4) “to enhance interstate commerce by creating a national hiring standard for motor carriers, and for other purposes.” Unfortunately, this amendment will do neither. In actuality, this language will limit shipper and broker responsibility and liability as it pertains to hiring motor carriers.

Safety cannot be accomplished until the entire supply chain is accountable. The required actions identified in the Duncan amendment set a standard for shippers and brokers at such a very low threshold that it would actually reduce safety accountability. The three actions required are so easily attained that many high-risk and chameleon carriers would qualify under this set of criteria.

Per the amendment language, an entity will “be deemed to have made the selection of the motor carrier in a reasonable and prudent manner” if they ensure that the carrier is:

1. Registered with and authorized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to operate as a motor carrier or household goods motor carrier, if applicable;

2. Has the minimum insurance coverage required by federal regulation; and

3. Does not have an unsatisfactory rating under the current rating or any future safety fitness determination rule.

Bare-minimum compliance should not qualify as an accepted standard of safety. Doing so will promote a race to the bottom by allowing shippers and brokers to use insufficient information in determining which carrier to use. None of the criteria specified above reflect on the current safety performance of a carrier. Consequently, this will lead to low-cost, unsafe carriers being selected, exposing the public to physical and financial risk. Yet, it is in everyone’s best interest for the safest companies to earn the business.

A satisfactory rating assigned at one point in time is the bare minimum that allows a carrier to operate. A carrier or driver that has not yet been prohibited from driving cannot be assumed to uphold safe operating practices, especially considering that many ratings are more than 10 years old. Nevertheless, based on the amendment’s language, this could mean that a shipper or broker could ignore a carrier’s recent performance-based data during the selection process.

Hopefully, Congress will reject the language in the Duncan amendment. This Trojan horse amendment disguises the indemnification of shippers and brokers as the creation of a national safety standard. However, these “standards” contain no safety performance data and unfairly restrict other parties that may have been adversely affected in a truck crash. If Congress truly believes that safety should be a key part of any purchasing decision by shippers and brokers, they will oppose the deceptive and dangerous Duncan amendment.

By Randy Higginbotham.

Link: https://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/2018/06/11/duncan-amendment-trojan-horse-reduce-trucker-safety-randy-higginbotham/619524002/