FMCSA makes move to prevent operation of chameleon carriers, bus companies
The new system would allow FMCSA to determine whether someone is a chameleon carrier or reincarnated or an ongoing bad actor, FMCSA chief Anne Ferro said.
By LYNDON FINNEY
The Trucker Staff
WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Wednesday published in the Federal Register a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a Unified Registration System (URS), a revised system that hopefully will prevent the operation of chameleon carriers and bus companies.
Forward movement in the URS rulemaking process comes at a time when the FMCSA has been questioned about its ability to prevent shuttered motor carriers and motor coach companies from reincarnating themselves under a new DOT number and at a time when FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro has in numerous speeches and interviews reiterated the FMCSA’s guiding principles, including a tougher entrant process.
“It is so easy to get an extra DOT number; it is too easy to get operating authority if you are not in the motor coach or household goods category,” Ferro said in an interview with The Trucker during the American Trucking Associations Management Conference and Exhibition at Grapevine, Texas.
“The front-end application process needs to utilize new technology so when you apply on line there are certain screens you have to answer before you get to the next question and there are behind-the-scenes checks that match other activities in which the principals of that company have been involved,” Ferro explained.
The new system would allow FMCSA to determine whether someone is a chameleon carrier or reincarnated or an ongoing bad actor, she said.
The URS would replace four current identification and registration systems with a single, online system to consolidate and simplify current registration processes and to increase public accessibility to data about motor carriers and motor coach companies.
It would also allow the agency to use a different regulatory drafting strategy than the one proposed in the original Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in 2005.
And while this and other additions to the proposed rulemaking outlined in the SPRM are largely procedural, including responses to questions raised during the public comment period for the 2005 NPRM, issuing the supplemental notice means that it will be at least two more years before any final rule can be issued because of required comment periods and then additional months for the electronic information to be purchased and programmed, sources have told The Trucker.
But it is considered a positive move among trucking industry stakeholders that there is visible progress toward the long-standing effort to better control who can and who can’t operate a motor carrier or motor coach company on the nation’s highways.
The core of the proposed rule remains the same and Ferro deems implementation of the URS the initial step in raising the bar for entry into the industry.
The proposed URS requires most regulated entities under FMCSA jurisdiction to register in the URS and update their information every two years.
The URS would require all for-hire motor carriers, brokers, freight forwarders and private motor carriers transporting hazardous materials in interstate commerce to use one central, user-friendly, online location to access the following:
• USDOT identification number system
• Application for federal operating authority system, and
• The financial responsibility information system (proof of insurance).
The proposed rule would also eliminate the use of the ICC MC number, issued when interstate operating authority is granted.
Carriers would have only one number, the USDOT number, which would be used for the registration, operating authority and insurance systems.
Motor coach companies and household goods carriers are subjected to a different new entrant process than are for-hire motor carriers. Motor coach and household goods carriers must pass a safety audit before being granted authority to operate on the nation’s highways, a procedure initiated several years ago in the wake of fatal bus accidents involving reincarnated companies.
While FCMSA officials have long said privately they wish the same process could be applied to for-hire motor carriers, the fact that as many as 45,000 motor carriers may apply each year for operating authority combined with limited agency resources, make that an impossibility.
Lyndon Finney of The Trucker staff may be contacted to comment at email@example.com.
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