WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on May 19 released new guidance for motor-carrier compliance reviews under 49 CFR part 385, subpart A, during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The guidance is effective immediately and will remain in effect until the presidentially declared state of emergency is revoked. The guidance is not law, and is intended to clarify existing requirements under the law.
Under the guidance, safety investigators may use technology to access a carrier’s information and records, allowing them to conduct evaluations without on-site visits, thus reducing potential exposure to the novel coronavirus.
The guidance states, “Using the same standards otherwise applicable, FMCSA will assign safety ratings following a compliance review even if no on-site review activities have taken place. FMCSA will continue to apply the procedures in 49 CFR part 385, including the Safety Fitness Rating Methodology (SFRM) in Appendix B, prior to assigning a safety rating. This guidance does not apply to compliance reviews conducted under 49 CFR part 385, subpart B.”
The FMCSA is required to conduct reviews to determine whether owners and/or operators of commercial motor vehicles are fit to operate safely, and safety ratings are assigned to motor carriers after in-depth examinations of the carriers’ records and operations.
“Although the definition of ‘compliance review’ in 49 CFR 385.3 describes these reviews as ‘on-site,’ in practice, the advent of electronic recordkeeping and other technology now allows FMCSA to perform the same investigative functions remotely that it could perform previously only by in-person reviews of the motor carrier’s files,” the guidance continues.
Carriers can securely upload documents directly to the FMCSA; records may also be transmitted via fax, email or telephone or video calls. In addition, email and telephone or video calls may be used in place of in-person meetings during a compliance review or when discussing the findings of a compliance review.
The FMCSA noted in the guidance that “because safety investigators are able to follow all of the procedures in 49 CFR part 385 without physically visiting the motor carrier’s business premise, compliance reviews that do not include an ‘on-site’ component will limit exposure risk to COVID-19, consistent with current regulations, without compromising FMCSA’s safety mission.”