Investigating Trucking


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Presentation by David Barnes at the 2005 national conference of Investigative Reporters and Editors in Denver, CO.

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Investigating Trucking

  1. 1. INVESTIGATING TRUCKING June 2005 IRE 2005 Conference Denver, CO From Rails to RoadsFor additional information:David BarnesDirector of Public AffairsOffice of Inspector GeneralU.S. Department of reporters generally get involved with the trucking industry following a crash. Thistip sheet is designed to help reporters covering truck-related crashes. We’ve also includedsome resources if you wish to delve deeper into trucking. While this information wascompiled with assistance from the audit staff of the U.S. Department of Transportation’sOffice of Inspector General (OIG), it is not an official document. Any errors are solelythe responsibility of the author. Questions To AskIs the trucking company licensed to operate in interstate commerce?Trucking companies operating exclusively in intrastate commerce have to ensure theirdrivers have commercial drivers licenses and follow federal drug and alcohol testingregulations. Companies operating in interstate commerce must abide by the FederalMotor Carrier Safety Regulations. the truck driver have a valid Commercial Drivers License (CDL)?Federal law requires that interstate drivers have a CDL to operate large trucks and buses.While some states allow younger drivers to operate trucks within their boundaries,interstate truck drivers must be at least 21 years of age. See below for more information.Is the National Transportation Safety Board being called in?The NTSB investigates significant transportation accidents. They also issue safetyrecommendations. Accident reports are a good source of information, as are transcripts ofhearings and forums they have held over the years. If the NTSB is called in, look on theirwebsite for a primer on covering the first few days of a transportation The public affairs contact number is: (202) 314-6100.Had the truck driver been behind the wheel longer than legally allowed?The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is considering revisions tolimits on the number of hours truck and bus drivers can work each day. For 65 years,drivers were limited to 10 hours of driving time during a 15 hour day and could work up 1
  2. 2. to 60 hours over a seven day period. In 2003, FMCSA issued new regulations allowing11 hours of driving time during a 14 hour work day, or 77 hours of work over a 7 dayperiod. The regulation was the subject of a court challenge and is currently in effect untilSeptember 30th, although FMCSA is asking Congress to make the rules permanent. TheU.S. DOT docket is online and is a great source of information for information on thehours of service rulemaking and other pending regulations. To access the docket: the drivers (both of the truck and of the car) wearing seatbelts?While NHTSA continues its efforts to increase the use of seatbelts by drivers, OIG listedseatbelt usage as one of the top challenges facing the U.S. DOT in a November 2004report. NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) havecampaigns underway to encourage truckers to wear seatbelts. The OIG report can befound at: Information on seatbelts can befound at: driver (if any) was at fault?A 1997 study by the AAA Foundation concluded that passenger vehicles are most oftento blame in truck-related crashes. Safety advocates strongly disagree. The NationalHighway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working on a crash causation studyscheduled for release later in 2005. Additional information can be found at:http://www.aaafoundation.org Things You Can Do On DeadlineObtain Basic Information About The Trucking CompanyFMCSA’s website contains safety profile and other information regarding federally-registered truck and bus companies at If you have the name or thefederal registration number (USDOT or ICC), you can find out the followinginformation: • Legal name, address and phone number of the company • State carrier identification number • Number of drivers and power units (tractors, not trailers). Note: Some carriers don’t regularly update their census information. • Whether it hauls hazardous materials • The types of cargo the company’s trucks hauls • Safety inspection results for the past 24 months • Crashes reported to FMCSA for the past 24 months. Note: Some states are slow at reporting data. • Current federal safety rating • Name of insurance company the carrier has a policy with.Locate Truck Safety Information About Your StateSummarized crash statistics for large trucks and buses involved in fatal and non-fatalcrashes that occurred in the United States are available on FMCSA’s website. You can 2
  3. 3. find both national and state-specific information at: As of May 28, the mostcurrent data available is from 2003. You can find the following information: • Number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes • Number of fatalities involving large trucks • Number of large trucks involved in non-fatal crashes • Number of large trucks involved in injury crashes • Number of injuries in crashes involving large trucks • Number of large trucks involved in tow-away crashes • Number of large trucks involved in hazmat-related crashesYou can also compare summarized crash results between all states over multiple years.These reports may be used to analyze the number of crashes reported over a period oftime and to compare crash results among states. Summary Information About State Truck Safety Enforcement ProgramsFMCSA’s website contains data regarding truck safety enforcement activity broken downby state at: there, you can pull down state-specific information about the number of roadsideinspections, traffic enforcement stops resulting in trucks or drivers being placed out ofservice and the number of compliance reviews conducted in each state.Compliance reviews, which are done by Federal and state investigators, are on-siteexaminations of a company’s records and operations to determine whether they meetsafety fitness standards. Among other things, investigators look at whether trucks arebeing properly maintained and whether drivers are being forced to drive longer hoursthan allowed.An explanation of how truck safety inspections are conducted can be found at: POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP STORIESCheck The Accuracy Of Crash Data Reported By States To FMCSAA 2004 OIG report found that states were inconsistent in reporting data to FMCSA. Thedata is used by FMCSA and states to help determine which trucks to pull over forroadside inspections and which companies receive compliance reviews. The OIG auditcan be found at: posts information about data quality submitted by states at: You can find how crash and inspectiondata submitted by your state compares to other states in terms of completeness, timelinessand accuracy. 3
  4. 4. State Compliance with Federal Drivers Licensing RequirementsFMCSA sets standards for testing and licensing commercial drivers and periodicallyreviews states to monitor compliance. FMCSA issued new CDL regulations in July 2002requiring states to revoke the licenses of drivers convicted of traffic violations or drunkdriving. States must be in compliance with the regulations by Sept. 30, 2005 or risklosing a portion of their federal highway safety funds. Information on the regulations canbe found on FMCSA’s website at: of Third-Party Companies or Individuals to Conduct License ExaminationsDrivers are supposed to pass a written exam and road test, but OIG has investigatednumerous cases in which CDL applicants are paying bribes to third-party contractors.OIG’s 2002 audit identified 39 states using third-party examiners. Of those, seven statesrelied solely on the private sector to conduct CDL exams. They were Indiana, Louisiana,Michigan, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Idaho, and Washington.The 32 states (including the District of Columbia) reporting using both third-party andState examiners were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Districtof Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota,Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon,Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wyoming, Utah, Virginia, WestVirginia, and Wisconsin. OIG’s audit can be found at: learn more about the Federal CDL program, check out these websites: • American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators: • FMCSA: • OIG: If the Truck Was Hauling Hazardous MaterialsIf it was, did the driver have a hazmat endorsement on his/her CDL? Under the USAPatriot Act, truckers with existing hazmat endorsements were supposed to haveundergone a name-based background check through the Transportation SecurityAdministration by January 31, 2005. As of May 31, all drivers seeking a hazmatendorsement have to undergo a fingerprint based background check.States and the trucking industry have reported problems with the pace of backgroundinvestigations. At a May 11 congressional hearing, the American Association of MotorVehicle Administrators complained that the state of Florida has submitted 2,179 hazmatbackground check requests to TSA in 2005 and has received only 735. States that areusing TSA to conduct the background checks are complaining about insufficientlocations to handle the volume of applicants. Information on the hearing can be found at: 4
  5. 5. OTHER TRUCKING STORIESHousehold Goods Moving FraudThis is not a safety issue, but nonetheless is an issue of concern both to Congress,FMCSA and OIG. Since 2001, consumers have filed more than 10,000 complaints withFMCSA’s hotline, many accusing movers of overcharging, providing misleading andinaccurate estimates. is the agency of first resort for consumers defrauded in interstate moves.Typically, an unscrupulous operator will offer a low-ball estimate, pick up the goods andthen refuse to deliver or unload them until the consumer pays an exorbitant sum, oftenseveral times the original estimate.OIG investigates complaints against household goods carriers alleged to have engaged inegregious and intentional patterns of defrauding consumers. Background information onhousehold goods moving fraud can be found at: OIG testimony citing household goods moving fraud can be found at: American Moving and Storage Association represents 3,200 professional moversmoving interstate household David Sparkman. 703-683-7410Two things to watch for: 1. As of May 2005, Congress was debating a highway bill that would increase civil penalties and allow states to take enforcement action against companies operating in interstate commerce. 2. In congressional testimony in April, FMCSA said it is targeting states where they have seen the highest number of complaints. These states are Florida, New York, New Jersey and California. 040505a.htmMexican Trucks Operating in the United StatesMexican trucks, with the exception of a limited number of carriers with pre-existingoperating authority, are currently prohibited from operating in the U.S. beyond a narrowcommercial zone in the four border states. Under the terms of the NAFTA, Mexicancarriers were to be allowed full access to California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas inDecember 1995 and to travel freely throughout the U.S. beginning in 2000.Citing safety reasons, the U.S. Department of Transportation declined to open the borderin 1995. Congress in 2001 passed a law requiring FMCSA to add staff, build inspectionfacilities and establish procedures to inspect Mexican trucks and buses. 5
  6. 6. OIG is required to conduct an annual review of FMCSA’s ability to properly inspectMexican trucks. The most recent review, issued in January 2005, found that FMCSA hassufficient staff, facilities, equipment and procedures in place to substantially meetcongressional requirements. A significant issue to opening the border is Mexico’sreluctance to allow U.S. safety inspectors to conduct compliance reviews of Mexicancarriers in Mexico. 1999, OIG has expressed concern about Mexican trucks without pre-existingoperating authority illegally operating beyond the commercial zones. OIG’s review ofFMCSA records indicates that state inspectors have already found more than 100Mexican trucking companies operating illegally outside of the commercial zones. InOIG’s January 2005 report, five states were listed as still have not adopted rules toenforce operating authority. These states are Alaska, Michigan, New Jersey, New Yorkand North Carolina.For additional information on U.S. safety regulations governing Mexican trucks, see: CONTACT INFORMATION FOR TRUCKING STORIESThis section contains contact information for a variety of organizations and groups youmight find useful in covering trucking. The information is current as of May 2005.Oversight of the Trucking IndustryThe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees the interstate truckingindustry. General information can be found at: Jim Lewis or Bill McLeod. 202-366-8810The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance is an association of state, provincial, andfederal officials responsible for the administration and enforcement of motor carriersafety laws in the United States, Canada and Mexico.www.cvsa.orgContact: Dick Henderson. 202-775-1623The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators represents the state andprovincial officials in the United States and Canada who administer and enforce motorvehicle laws.www.aamva.orgContact: Jason King. 703-908-8287 or jking@aamva.orgHighway Safety StatisticsThe National Highway Transportation Safety Administration collects crash statistics from50 states and the District of Columbia to produce the annual report on traffic fatalitytrends. The final 2004 report, pending completion of data collection and quality controlverification, will be available in August. Summaries of the preliminary report are 6
  7. 7. available on the NHTSA web site at: Trucking Industry AssociationsInformation on state trucking associations can be found at: They can tell you informationabout trucking in your state.American Trucking Associations is the largest trade association representing the truckingindustry and has a variety of experts on the industry available for reporters.Contact: Mike Russell. 703-838-1700. http://www.trucking.orgThe Truckload Carriers Association’s members are long haul trucking companies.Contact: Aimee Cirucci. 703-838-1950. http://www.truckload.orgMotor Freight Carriers Association (MFCA) is the national trade association representingunionized less-than-truckload (LTL) motor carriers. MFCA currently has six membercompanies: ABF Freight System, Inc., DHL Express, New Penn Motor Express, Inc.,Roadway Express, Inc., USF Holland and Yellow Transportation, Inc.Contact: Elisabeth Barna. 202-554-3060. www.mfca.orgThe National Tank Truck Carriers is a trade association composed of approximately 180trucking companies which specialize in the nationwide distribution of bulk liquids,industrial gases and dry products in cargo tank motor vehicles.Contact: Cliff Harvison. 703-838-1960. Organizations Representing ShippersShippers are the trucking industry’s customers. They want their freight delivered cheaply,fast and safely.The National Industrial Transportation League represents transportation managers atmajor companies.Contact: John Ficker. (703) 524-5011. www.nitl.orgThe National Private Truck Council represents companies that own and operate their owntruck fleets.Contact: Gary Petty. 703-683-1300 x. 221. Highway Safety GroupsAdvocates for Highway and Auto Safety is funded by the insurance industry.Contact: Jackie Gillan. 202-408-1711 x. 22. www.saferoads.orgPublic Citizen is a consumer advocacy organization.Contact: Joan Claybrook. 202-588-7742 7
  8. 8. Parents Against Tired Truckers was founded by the mother of a young man killed in atruck crash.Contact: (888) 353-4572 Labor GroupsThe International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million truck drivers.Contact: Galen Munroe. (202) 624-6911. www.teamsters.orgThe Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association represents more than 125,000owner operators.Contact: Todd Spencer: 816-229-5791. www.ooida.comThe Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. TTD represents the interests ofseveral million aviation, rail, transit, trucking, highway and longshore workers who aremembers of its 35 affiliated unions, including the Teamsters.Contact: Michael Buckley 202-862-9262. Publications Covering TruckingRandall Publications: This company publishes a variety of magazines for truckingcompanies and drivers, including Commercial Carrier Journal and Overdrive. Publications: The magazines published by this company are aimed primarily atdrivers. is aimed for trucking company managers. www.fleetowner.comTransport Topics’ audience is trucking industry executives. World is a weekly publication aimed at corporate executives who make freightshipping decisions. Congressional Hearings on Truck SafetySeveral congressional committees have held hearings on truck safety in recent years.Most have, at minimum, press releases and prepared statements from hearing witnesseson their websites.The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held hearings on motor carriersafety in 1999. Transcripts of the hearings held February 11, 1999, March 17, 1999,March 25, 1999, May 26, 1999, and October 7, 1999 can be found at: Testimony and background information onsubsequent hearings on truck safety can also be found on the committee’s website.The Senate Commerce Committee held its most recent hearing on highway safety onApril 5, 2005. Information can be found at: 8