WASHINGTON — After reviewing public comments, including a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao from 62 national and regional organizations of motor carriers asking for withdrawal of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Carrier Safety Fitness Determination, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has done just that.
The agency will post the official notice of withdrawal in Thursday’s Federal Register.
The new methodology would have determined when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles in or affecting interstate commerce based on the carrier’s on-road safety data; an investigation; or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.
FMCSA had recently announced that, rather than move to a final rule, a Supplemental Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) would be the next step in the rulemaking process.
“However, after reviewing the record in this matter, FMCSA withdraws the NPRM and cancels the plans to develop a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” the notice said. “The agency must receive the Correlation Study from the National Academies of Science, as required by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, assess whether and, if so, what corrective actions are advisable, and complete additional analysis before determining whether further rulemaking action is necessary to revise the safety fitness determination process.”
In the NPRM, the FMCSA proposed to eliminate the current three ratings of satisfactory, conditional and unsatisfactory.
Instead, the FMCSA proposed only one rating of “unfit.”
There were commenters that supported the fact that this change would not allow conditional carriers to operate without improving their operations and would make it much clearer for the shipping community to determine which carriers may or may not operate.
However, other commenters, including the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), Minnesota Trucking Association, School Bus Inc., National School Transportation Association, and the American Trucking Associations opposed the proposed change.
ATA wrote that the proposal to remove the term “safety rating” may have negative, perhaps unanticipated, consequences.
Specifically, ATA explained that there will be no means to distinguish fleets whose safety management controls have been verified during compliance reviews (i.e. those labeled “satisfactory”) from fleets that have not been reviewed.
Second, the ATA said there would be no means to separate fleets with documented deficiencies (i.e. those labeled “conditional”) from all other fleets not labeled “unfit.”
In addition to the inequity this creates for fleets that have earned a “satisfactory” rating, the ATA said it believed it does a disservice to third parties and the general public, who should be alerted to the fleets with documented problems.
ATA also proposed that FMCSA allow fleets that have been investigated to maintain their satisfactory ratings; this idea was echoed by NMFTA and the Intermodal Association of North America.
Further, ATA suggested that FMCSA consider three labels: Assessed - Unfit, Assessed - Not Unfit, and Not Assessed. ATA noted that a tiered naming convention such as this could help eliminate confusion and leave third parties better informed.