Photo: U.S. Dept. of Transportation

Photo: U.S. Dept. of Transportation

The Federal Motor Carrier Administration has announced it is scrapping its proposed rule on a revised methodology for issuing safety-fitness determinations for motor carriers. The agency had issued its SFD notice of proposed rulemaking back in January of last year.

FMCSA explained in a March 23 notice in the Federal Register that despite having recently announced it would next issue a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking, it had decided “after reviewing the record in this matter” to both withdraw the NPRM and drop plans to develop an SNPR for revising SFD methodology.

However, the agency pointed out that it must receive a correlation study (mandated by the FAST Act highway bill) from the National Academies of Science before it can determine “whether further rulemaking action is necessary to revise the safety fitness determination process.” That report is due to be completed in June.

“If FMCSA determines changes to the safety-fitness determination process are still necessary and advisable in the future, a new rulemaking would be initiated that will incorporate any appropriate recommendations from the National Academies of Science and the comments received through this rulemaking,” the agency stated in its announcement.

The now withdrawn proposal on methodology would have determined when a motor carrier is not fit to operate trucks based on the carrier's on-road safety data; an investigation; or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information. 

In the NPRM, the agency had called for eliminating the current three ratings of “satisfactory,” “conditional” and “unsatisfactory” and replacing them with the single rating of “unfit.”

In February, a large coalition of trucking industry groups wrote to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to argue that the safety-fitness determination proposal should take a back seat to FMCSA fixing its Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.

The signatories to that stakeholder letter stated that their major concern with the SFD proposal is that it would use a methodology built on “flawed Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program/Safety Measurement System (SMS) data and scores, which Congress directed the agency to review and reform just months earlier in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Systems Act (FAST Act) enacted in December of 2015.”

In announcing it will drop the SFD proposal— for now, anyway— FMCSA said it was doing so based on “comments received in response to the NPRM and the February 2017 correspondence to Secretary Chao.”

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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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