WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is looking into developing a new methodology to determine motor carrier safety.
In an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), the FMCSA requests public comment on the following:
- The need for a rulemaking to revise the regulations prescribing the safety fitness determination (SFD) process.
- The available science or technical information to analyze regulatory alternatives for determining the safety fitness of motor carriers.
- The FMCSA’s current SFD regulations, including the process and impacts.
- The available data and costs for regulatory alternatives reasonably likely to be considered as part of this rulemaking.
SFDs are currently determined based on an analysis of existing motor carrier data and data collected during an investigation, referred to as a compliance review (CR). The CR may be conducted on-site at the motor carrier’s place of business and/or remotely through a review of its records using a secure portal.
The FMCSA’s current SFD process “is resource-intensive and reaches only a small percentage of motor carriers,” according to the ANPRM. In 2019, the FMCSA and its state partners conducted 11,671 CRs out of a population of more than 567,000 active interstate motor carriers.
The FMCSA conducts CRs that are either comprehensive, reviewing all regulatory factors in full, or focused, reviewing fewer than all of the factors. A comprehensive CR may result in a satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory safety rating.
A focused CR may result in a conditional or unsatisfactory safety rating or may not result in a safety rating.
Of the CRs conducted in 2019, 306 resulted in a final safety rating of unsatisfactory, 1,842 resulted in a final safety rating of conditional and 2,701 resulted in a final safety rating of satisfactory, according to the FMCSA.
Only a small percentage of carriers with safety management control deficiencies are required to submit corrective action to continue operating and avoid a final unfit determination based on an unsatisfactory rating.
The existing SFD process analyzes six factors to assign a carrier’s safety fitness rating. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) with similar characteristics are grouped together in the six factors as follows:
- Accident factor
FMCSA calculates a vehicle out-of-service rate, reviews crash involvement and conducts an in-depth examination of the motor carrier’s compliance with the acute and critical regulations of the FMCSRs and HMRs.
Acute regulations are those where noncompliance is so severe as to require immediate corrective action, regardless of the overall safety management controls of the motor carrier.
Critical regulations are related to management or operational systems controls.
Overall noncompliance is calculated and rated on a point system within the six factors.
FMCSA specifically requests responses to the following questions:
- Should FMCSA retain the current three-tiered rating system of satisfactory, unsatisfactory and conditional? Why or why not?
- Should FMCSA include additional hazmat regulatory requirements in the SFD calculation?
- Currently, the table of regulatory factors excludes parts 172 and 173. However, there are violations in these parts included in the list of critical and acute violations in Appendix B. Should they be included in the SFD calculations?
- Should motor carriers of passengers be subject to higher standards than other motor carriers in terms of safety fitness rating methodology? If yes, what should these higher safety standards or thresholds be, and why are they appropriate? If no, why not?
- Is there a specific aspect of safety management, such as driver training, driver fatigue management and mitigation, vehicular maintenance and repair, etc., that is so fundamentally different in passenger transportation, relative to CMVs transporting property, that FMCSA’s safety fitness rating methodology should take this aspect into special consideration? If yes, what is this specific aspect of safety management, and how do you recommend FMCSA handle the matter within its safety fitness rating methodology? If no, why are the safety management aspects the same?
- How will states be affected if the FMCSA changes the SFD? What resources might be needed to accommodate any changes and how long would it take to incorporate
any proposed changes?
- The current SFD does not use all available safety data, such as all inspection-based data. Should the SMS methodology be used to issue SFDs, in a manner similar to what was proposed in the 2016 NPRM? If so, what adjustments, if any, should be made to that proposal? If not, should the FMCSA include more safety data in the SFD process in other ways and, if so, how? The FMCSA is interested in comments specifically on whether the integration of on-road safety data into the SFD process would improve the assessment of motor carriers’ safety posture and the identification of unfit motor carriers.
- Given the importance of driver behavior in preventing crashes, how would you recommend the FMCSA incorporate driver behavior data into the SFD? What data should the FMCSA use? How should this methodology distinguish between data resulting in a conviction and data without a conviction?
- What changes, additions, or deletions, from the current list of critical and acute violations should be included in the NPRM and why? Should the list be retained? Why or why not?
- Should SFD consider motor carriers’ adoption and use of safety technologies in a carrier’s rating? How should this fit into the SFD methodology?
- Should the FMCSA revise the current administrative review procedures related to administrative review and corrective action? Which of those procedures should be changed or discarded? Please give the reasons for your views.
- Given that unsafe driving behaviors, such as speeding and texting while driving, are highly correlated with crash risk, should the safety fitness rating methodology give more weight to unsafe driving violations.
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