January 21, 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed new methods that could be used to determine if a motor carrier is unfit by publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register. This proposed new rule is known as the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD). This determination would be based on how a carrier’s on-road safety data relates to five out of seven of FMCSA’s Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).
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What is Changing with SFD?
The existing system, which has been in place since 1982 used ratings of satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory to rate motor carriers. The new system proposes to use a single “unfit” rating that would be given to carriers who are not meeting the minimum safety requirements. This would force the carrier to make improvements to their operations or cease operations.
Through this new rule, FMCSA anticipates that they will be able to assess 75,000 motor carriers a month to ensure they are running a safe operation. This is in comparison to the agency’s current capacity of being able to investigate a maximum 15,000 of these carriers a year. Less than half of those 15,000 motor carriers have been given a satisfactory safety rating.
Under the new system, all motor carriers would be assessed each month for their performance using the fixed failure measures specified in the NPRM. This will allow the agency to focus investigations on carriers that have shown that they are at a higher risk for crashes. The FMCSA anticipates that once this new rule takes effect, fewer than 300 motor carriers would be deemed unfit each year on the sole basis of on-road safety violations. This is based on analysis of on-road safety data that shows that those carriers have crash records that are four times the national average.
Before determining that a trucking company is unfit for operating commercial trucks in or affecting interstate commerce, one or more of the following factors would be considered:
- The company’s performance with a minimum of five of the BASICS
- Results of the FMCSA investigation
- On-road safety data and results of investigation
How Does SFD Differ from the Current Safety Measurement System?
- The Safety Measurement System (SMS) currently in use is a prioritization system, while SFD is a safety rating system.
- A motor carrier’s safety performance is compared to a set standard under SFD instead of being compared to other motor carriers.
- The safety ratings of other motor carriers have no impact on a carrier’s SFD safety performance, meaning carriers will no longer be placed in percentile groups with other carriers through comparison of BASIC measurements.
- SFD uses a higher standard of data sufficiency before determining that a motor carrier is unfit. A minimum of 11 inspections with violations in a BASIC would be needed before a carrier would fail that BASIC.
Sticking to the BASICs
SFD would continue to use the seven BASICs that have been used with the SMS system.
Unsafe driving refers to instances where commercial vehicles have been operated in a dangerous or careless manner. Drivers may have received tickets for reckless driving, speeding, distracted driving or improper lane changes.
Hours-of-Service (HOS) compliance refers to the operation of commercial vehicles by drivers who are not in compliance with HOS regulations, by driving while fatigued or ill. Failure to maintain proper records of duty status (RODS) would be considered a violation of this BASIC.
Driver fitness applies to a driver of a commercial vehicle being considered unfit because they have not received proper training, are inexperienced or are deemed medically unqualified. Drivers that do not have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) or appropriate endorsements are in violation of this BASIC.
Controlled substances/alcohol impaired drivers are prohibited from driving commercial vehicles. A violation of this BASIC would be a driver being charged with DWI or being found in possession of controlled substances.
Vehicle maintenance is a duty that commercial carriers must comply with by properly maintaining their commercial vehicles and securing loads to prevent shifting. Violations of this BASIC could include failure to fix brakes, lights or make other required repairs.
Hazardous materials (HM) compliance is required when transporting hazardous materials. Violations of this BASIC would be leaks of hazardous materials, neglecting to display appropriate placard/markings to warn of hazardous materials, and lacking shipping papers.
Crash indicator shows if a carrier has a history or pattern of high crash involvement. This information is derived from crash data reported by States.
The intent of SFD is to use FMCSA data to identify and remove unfit commercial trucks from the roadways. This proposed overhaul of the current screening of motor carriers expects to make the roads safer, and this is good news for Chicago drivers, their passengers and truck accident attorneys alike.