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FMCSA Seeks More Safety Data for Cargo Vans

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted Jul 22nd 2020 2:30PM

Cargo vans and small trucks under 10,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) are exempt from most federal commercial truck regulations. But if the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) meeting on July 13 and 14 is any indication, that might change at some point down the road.

The MCSAC pointed to the recent surge in the last-mile package and small goods delivery sector — primarily because of COVID-19 — saying there appears to be a gap in safety oversight of both drivers and vehicles in the small truck and van segment.

“I guess this is one of those instances where you don’t know, what you don’t know. We need to do a deeper dive into this,” Larry Minor, the FMCSA’s associate administrator for policy, told the committee.

That’s because, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), there was only one fatal crash recorded involving a vehicle in the 6,001 to 10,000 lb. GVWR class in 2018. “But this was based on the way [NHTSA] coded the data — the total number is probably much larger,” Minor said.

Minor said the committee will call on nine companies with large fleets of trucks and cargo vans under 10,000 lbs. GVWR, including Amazon, to learn more about their fleet safety practices.

“Even though we may not have any regulatory authority over [these types of vehicles], there’s a safety conversation to be had to make sure we have the best available information, and that those who are operating them have the best possible safety practices to ensure that their time on the roadway doesn’t decrease safety.”

Although this meeting focused on the last-mile delivery sector, what could the prospect of increased federal oversight of commercial vans mean to expedited trucking?

“This issue is driven more by Amazon and those in that last-mile delivery market. But it opens up some interesting things that could affect our market down the road depending on what [the FMCSA] does,” John Elliott, chief executive officer for expedite carrier Load One LLC, said

“The FMCSA is starting to question the safety numbers because they’re not really recorded in that [vehicle class],”. “So, they’re pointing a light to something that has kind of lived in the shadows for a long time.”


Would this be a good thing for the industry?

Elliott’s outlook: “I’m not a fan of regulation in general. But do I think that companies that operate outside the legal parameters and compliance — whether that be lack of proper insurance, having no safety program, having no training on [cargo vans] — do I think that’s a good thing? No, I don’t. So, I believe that our industry has the responsibility to operate safely. You would hope that a motor carrier would view it that way and realize that safety plays a huge economic impact on their company. In the expedite world, we see that out of some — but not the majority of expedite carriers, unfortunately.”

What are your thoughts?