Fleet Management

FMCSA Issuing Proposed Safety Fitness Rule

January 15, 2016

By David Cullen

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Photo: U.S. DOT
Photo: U.S. DOT

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced on Jan. 15 that it is formally initiating a Safety Fitness Determination rulemaking that will “enhance the agency’s ability to identify non-compliant motor carriers.”

FMCSA said the SFD Notice of Proposed Rulemaking updates the agency’s safety fitness rating methodology by “integrating on-road safety data from inspections, along with the results of carrier investigations and crash reports, to determine a motor carrier’s overall safety fitness on a monthly basis.”

Word of the proposed rule, in the works since 2007, came three days after a coalition of trucking stakeholders announced they would challenge the validity of the rulemaking because it would “ignore the clear mandates of the FAST Act [the recently passed highway bill]” by incorporating] current on-road safety performance data.

FMSCA said the proposed SFD rule would replace the current three-tier federal rating system of “satisfactory–conditional–unsatisfactory,” which has been in place since 1982, with a single determination of “unfit.”

A carrier that is determined to be unfit would be required to either improve its operations or cease operations. 

The agency also said the proposal would permit FMCSA to assess the safety fitness of approximately 75,000 companies a month.  By comparison, it is now only able to investigate 15,000 motor carriers annually– with less than half of those companies receiving a safety rating.

Per FMCSA, the proposed methodology would determine when a carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles based on:

  • The carrier’s performance in relation to a fixed failure threshold established in the rule for five of the agency’s Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs)
  • Investigation results; or
  • A combination of on-road safety data and investigation information

“The proposed rule further incorporates rigorous data sufficiency standards and would require that a significant pattern of non-compliance be documented in order for a carrier to fail a BASIC,” FMCSA stated.

When assessing roadside inspection data results, the proposal uses a minimum of 11 inspections with violations in a single BASIC within a 24-month period before a motor carrier “could be eligible to be identified as ‘unfit.’ If a carrier’s individual performance meets or exceeds the failure standards in the rule, it would then fail that BASIC.  The failure standard will be fixed by the rule. A carrier’s status in relation to that fixed measure would not be affected by other carriers’ performance.”

FMCSA said that failure of a BASIC based on either crash data or compliance with drug and alcohol requirements would only occur following a comprehensive investigation.  

The agency estimates that under the proposed rule, less than 300 carriers each year would be proposed as “unfit” solely as a result of on-road safety violations. FMCSA said its analysis has shown that carriers identified through this on-road safety data have crash rates of almost four times the national average. 

“This update to our methodology will help the agency focus on carriers with a higher crash risk,” said Scott Darling, FMCSA’s acting administrator. “Carriers that we identify as unfit to operate will be removed from our roadways until they improve.”

FMCSA will publish the Safety Fitness Determination NPRM in the Federal Register on Jan. 21. The proposal will be available at www.regulations.gov at docket number FMCSA-2015-0001.  Initial comments will be due March 31, 2016, and response comments will be accepted for an additional 30 days.


  1. 1. Rob [ January 15, 2016 @ 11:07AM ]

    I see abuse of power, grudges, and alot of drivers suffering due to the actions of a few. Coersion at its finest. I agree at the company level if it is due to equipment violations and such, but this potentialy puts drivers out of work for sure. WOW it goes on and on

  2. 2. Alex [ January 15, 2016 @ 11:37AM ]

    This is really getting out of hand. Soon their will be no small carriers left.

  3. 3. Terry folk [ January 15, 2016 @ 12:52PM ]

    This is nothing more than an agency that wants to expand their money grabbing operations and hire thousands of new inspectors with our tax money.

    We are already feeling a major impact from all these...now...certified medical examiners who think every driver I send in for a DOT Medical Exam has sleep apnea. Employers and employees are spending thousands of dollars while these medical exxaminers send one after another to a specialist for some reason another.
    This agency is getting way out of hand and is losing focus on their primary reason for their existence. Talk about something snowballing out of control!
    They are just turning into another EPA type enforcement agency.

  4. 4. Dewayne [ January 16, 2016 @ 09:26AM ]

    Their goal is to get all small companies out of business. So the big companies can run things. The problem with that is they dont and wont have enough drivers. Most of the freight wont get moved. The drivet shortage will go down quick.

  5. 5. Ruben [ January 17, 2016 @ 11:31AM ]

    Money talks again!

  6. 6. Daron [ January 18, 2016 @ 10:00AM ]

    This is what's wrong with America. If they would use this for safety that's one thing but they use this to make money. Safety is not a small oil leak that is not hitting the ground or mud flaps that don't have reflective tap when you have a trailer hooked or a tire that has 90 lbs instead of 100. THIS IS ABUSE OF POWER TO MAKE MONEY.

  7. 7. julie [ January 19, 2016 @ 03:59AM ]

    Im for it we do our work in house and if you cant do basic work on your vehicle like lights, fuses, adjusting brakes then you shouldnt have a truck. We teach our Drivers and they carry tools.

  8. 8. Richard [ January 20, 2016 @ 09:37AM ]

    One question Julie...Do you pay your drivers to carry their tools and fix YOUR trucks?
    If not fix them yourself, NO dribver should do ONE thing for any employer that is not PAID FOR P)ERIOD...NOTHING!

  9. 9. Richard D MAcpherson [ January 21, 2016 @ 02:57PM ]

    This is all well and good,but when we talk about all the companies that need to comply with the ruling why do I continue to see rail trailers come into my yard that could never pass a safety check at all. I see rail trailers come into my yard and they are not even locked onto the dolly that they ride on. The brakes are no good at all. Even more problems with these trailers can be listed, but if a box trailer and tractor have to comply than why not every trailer and or company.

  10. 10. Joe Blow [ January 28, 2016 @ 12:06PM ]



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