FMCSA Proposes New Rule for Determining Safety Fitness of Motor Carriers
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced a rulemaking proposal designed to enhance the agency’s ability to identify non-compliant motor carriers.
What it is
The Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) would update 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.
“Ensuring that motor carriers are operating safely on our nation’s roadways is one of our highest priorities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Using all available information to achieve more timely assessments will allow us to better identify unsafe companies and get them off the road.”
How it will help
The proposed rule will help to make the roadways safer in a variety of ways:
- It will help the agency focus on carriers with a higher crash risk
- Carriers identified as unfit to operate will be removed from the roadways until they improve.
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.
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.
How “bad” motor carriers are identified
The proposed methodology would determine when a carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles in or affecting interstate commerce based on:
- 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)
- investigation results
- or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.
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.
The FMCSA is encouraging 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. To learn more, click here.