FMCSA proposes new rule for determining safety fitness of motor carriers

First public comment period commences on rulemaking proposal

Posted January 18, 2016

On January 15, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a rulemaking proposal designed to enhance the agency’s ability to identify non-compliant motor carriers. According to FMCSA, the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), to be published in the Federal Register, would update the agency’s safety fitness rating methodology by integrating on-road safety data from inspections, along with the results of carrier investigations and crash reports, to determine a motor carrier’s overall safety fitness on a monthly basis.

FMCSA states that the proposed SFD rule would replace the current three-tier federal rating system of “satisfactory–conditional–unsatisfactory” for federally regulated commercial motor carriers (in place since 1982) with a single determination of “unfit,” which would require the carrier to either improve its operations or cease operations.

The agency says, once in place, the SFD rule will permit FMCSA to assess the safety fitness of approximately 75,000 companies a month. By comparison, the agency is only able to investigate 15,000 motor carriers annually — with less than half of those companies receiving a safety rating.

FMCSA reports that the proposed methodology would determine when a carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles in or affecting interstate commerce based on:

  1. The carrier’s performance in relation to a fixed failure threshold established in the rule for five of the agency’s Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs);
  2. Investigation results; or
  3. A combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.

According to the agency, the proposed rule further incorporates rigorous data sufficiency standards and would require that a significant pattern of non-compliance be documented in order for a carrier to fail a BASIC.

FMCSA also says that when assessing roadside inspection data results, the proposal uses a minimum of 11 inspections with violations in a single BASIC within a 24-month period before a motor carrier could be eligible to be identified as “unfit.” If a carrier’s individual performance meets or exceeds the failure standards in the rule, it would then fail that BASIC. The failure standard will be fixed by the rule. A carrier’s status in relation to that fixed measure would not be affected by other carriers’ performance.

Failure of a BASIC based on either crash data or compliance with drug and alcohol requirements would only occur following a comprehensive investigation.

FMCSA estimates that under this proposal, less than 300 motor carriers each year would be proposed as “unfit” solely as a result of on-road safety violations. Further, the agency’s analysis has shown that the carriers identified through this on-road safety data have crash rates of almost four times the national average.

FMCSA encourages the public to review the NPRM and to submit comments and evidentiary materials to the docket following its publication in the Federal Register. The public comment period will be open for 60 days. FMCSA will also be providing a reply comment period allowing for an additional 30 days for commenters to respond to the initial comments.


 

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