On January 15, 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed a new rule to enhance the Agency’s ability to identify non-compliant motor carriers. The Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) notice of proposed rulemaking updates FMCSA’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. It replaces 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.
According to the agency, the new methodology will help the agency focus on carriers with a higher crash risk, by achieving more timely assessments. Under the proposed system, the FMCSA will be able to assess the safety fitness of approximately 75,000 companies a month (versus 15,000 motor carriers annually today).
The proposed methodology would determine when a carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles in or affecting interstate commerce based on:
- the motor 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);
- investigation results; or
- a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.
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.
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’s analysis shows that the carriers identified through this on-road safety data have crash rates of almost four times the national average.
Read the proposed rule here. According to news reports, a coalition of groups — the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, Western States Trucking Association, the ASECTT group and others are actively pushing back against the FMCSA proposed rule. Stay tuned.