The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has withdrawn a proposed rule revising its method for determining the safety fitness of motor carriers. The notice of proposed rulemaking, issued on Jan. 21, 2016, set forth a new methodology for evaluating whether a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles. The new methodology would have determined when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles in or affecting interstate commerce based on the carrier’s on-road safety data; an investigation; or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.
FMCSA’s proposal sought to replace its current three safety fitness ratings — “satisfactory,” “conditional,” and “unsatisfactory” — with just one rating, “unfit.” However, that idea was challenged by some industry groups, including the National School Transportation Association (NSTA). The NSTA stated that the current safety fitness rating system aligns well with the safety culture within the school transportation industry. NSTA raised concerns that the proposed new system would leave a safe carrier unrated, offering limited guidance on the safety record of the carrier and causing potential confusion among carriers, law enforcement, and the public.
In February, 62 national and regional organizations sent a letter to new Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, whose department includes FMCSA, urging withdrawal of the notice of proposed rulemaking on safety fitness determination.
FMCSA withdrew the proposed rule, saying the decision was based on the current record, including the letter to Chao and comments in response to the proposal.
In its notice of withdrawal, the agency noted that it must receive the Correlation Study from the National Academies of Science, as required by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, assess whether and, if so, what corrective actions are advisable, and complete additional analysis before determining whether further rulemaking action is necessary to revise the safety fitness determination process. The agency would also consider the comments received through this rulemaking, according to its entry in the Federal Register.
The FMCSA was established as a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on Jan. 1, 2000, pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. The primary mission of the FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. The agency’s activities include enforcement of safety regulations; targeting high-risk carriers and commercial motor vehicle drivers; improving safety information systems and commercial motor vehicle technologies; strengthening commercial motor vehicle equipment and operating standards; and increasing safety awareness.