The validity of a rule proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that would increase the use of inspection data in making Safety Fitness Determinations for motor carriers has been challenged by a coalition of eight associations representing trucking interests.

The group of stakeholders, which includes the Western States Trucking Association and the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, contends that “FMCSA plans to ignore the clear mandates of the FAST Act [the recently passed highway bill] when it opens a rulemaking this month that would change existing standards for determining the safety fitness of individual motor carriers.”

That’s the gist of a detail-rich, four-page letter that the leaders of the associations sent to several lawmakers who championed FMCSA reform provisions within the FAST Act. FMCSA Chief Counsel T.F. Scott Darling III was copied as well.

FMCSA has been at work on the Carrier Safety Fitness Determination (RIN 2126-AB11) rulemaking since 2007. However, few details on the proposal have yet been divulged.

The agency has said it proposes to adopt “revised methodologies” for determining when a motor carrier is not fit to operate based on: (1) the carrier's on-road safety performance in relation to five of the seven Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) tracked by the agency’s CSA program; (2) an investigation; or (3) a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.

In their Jan. 12 letter, the eight associations state that FMCSA’s Darling had advised the Transportation Research Board on Jan. 11 that the SFD Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be published “before the end of this month” and will “incorporat[e] current on-road safety performance data.”

From there, they argue that “it is apparent that the proposed [SFD] rule would incorporate the same ‘on-road safety performance data’ that FMCSA has used in calculating BASICs” under SMS and CSA. “We believe that if FMCSA goes ahead with its proposed ‘quickie’ rulemaking on use of SMS/CSA data,” such action would disregard at least three provisions of the FAST Act.

“By copy of this letter to Administrator Darling,” the authors conclude, “we are expressing our concerns that any Notice of Proposed Rulemaking involving a safety fitness determination at this time in light of the strictures imposed by the FAST Act is highly inappropriate and will be challenged.”

In an explanatory note that FMCSA issued in December, the agency said the Safety Fitness Determination rulemaking had been delayed by a need for additional coordination as well as "unanticipated issues requiring further analysis.”

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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