Federal safety officials have a vision for a driver fitness rating system, but it will take close to a decade to get it done.
In a recent report to Congress, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration outlined a nine-year plan to develop the system, contingent on getting its other work done and obtaining the resources for the job.
The idea was initially pushed by the Government Accountability Office in 2011, and adopted by the Department of Transportation in 2012.
But before the agency can turn its full attention to driver fitness, it must finish the carrier fitness rule that it’s been working on since 2007.
This regulation would in effect codify the CSA enforcement program so it can be used to issue a safety fitness determination for individual trucking operations.
Because it’s a complex rule and the CSA system is undergoing constant refinement, the agency has been slow out of the gate. The initial proposal for the rule has been bumped several times and now is scheduled for White House vetting in October and to be published early next year. A final version is not likely before 2015.
As this rule would do for carriers, the driver fitness rating system would identify the drivers who pose the highest safety risk and target them for enforcement.
In its report to Congress, the agency said it would begin by assessing the feasibility of creating a system using driver data and severity weighting.
In the second year it would develop a driver safety measurement method and processes for identifying unsafe drivers.
This would be followed by several years of testing, after which the agency would commence four years of notice-and-comment rulemaking.
This program would build on the driver elements of CSA, including the measurement system that uses data from roadside inspections and crashes to evaluate driver safety performance.
The data from this tool is available only to enforcement personnel, not to carriers, the public or the drivers themselves. It is used in carrier investigations, not to determine driver fitness.
The agency explains on its CSA website that investigators look at driver history for major violations, such as driving a truck without a commercial license or driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.