FMCSA Dismisses Concerns about Safety Fitness Rule and CSA Reform


Roadside inspections and violation data would be much larger factors in determining a carriers’ fitness to operate, rather than the current system’s heavy use of on-site compliance reviews.

A proposed rule issued in January by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will, if implemented, allow the agency to issue about 150 times more carrier safety assessments a year than it does now, said FMCSA reps in a media update held about its proposed Safety Fitness Determination rule.

The rule will in short do away with the three-tier Satisfactory, Conditional and Unsatisfactory carrier rating system and replace it with a two-tier system, Fit and Unfit. It will also change the way the agency determines those ratings, concentrating more on roadside inspection and violation data rather than on-site compliance reviews.

Industry groups since the January issuance of the proposed Safety Fitness rule have argued the agency violated provisions of the FAST Act by moving forward with the SFD rule. A group of 33 lawmakers in the U.S. House also have taken aim at the rule proposal. The trucking groups and group of lawmakers argue the agency should have implemented the Compliance, Safety, Accountability reforms required by the FAST Act before issuing the Safety Fitness proposal.

The agency, however, argues otherwise, saying the FAST Act did not limit its ability to proceed with the rule.

If the National Academies of Science, the group tasked with studying the CSA program and issuing recommendations to the agency about fixing the system, comes back with recommendations regarding the SFD rule, FMCSA will incorporate them into the rule when it is developing the rule’s final version.

The agency will also take into account feedback from industry stakeholders about the rule when crafting the final draft, and encouraged those in the industry like carriers and owner-operators to offer feedback. The comment period is open until May 23, and comments can be made at this link.

The SFD rule will allow the agency to target and weed out carriers most at risk for crashes. Per FMCSA’s calculations, the 300 carriers that would currently fall under an unfit designation have a crash risk four times greater than the national average.

Currently, the agency conducts about 15,000 on-site investigations a year. When the Safety Fitness rule takes effect, FMCSA will be able to assess about 75,000 carriers a month, per its estimates.

Carriers deemed Unfit to operate will have an opportunity to implement corrective actions and enter into an agreement with the agency to continue operation.

There is still time to file your comments or opinion concerning this proposed rule. Comments must be filed by May 23, 2016. Contact Don Egli at the IMTA office for a list of talking points, a sample comment letter or for instructions on how to file comments.