Written by: Ashley Gowder, Esq.

“On January 15, 2016, the FMCSA released a proposal that would make several significant changes to existing regulations related to the method for assigning motor carriers’ safety fitness determinations. Currently, a safety fitness determination can only be made after an on-site compliance review. Compliance reviews are extremely labor and time intensive, so only a very small percentage of motor carriers are evaluated every year.  The system also relies heavily on limited roadside data, and information available on any particular motor carrier is often outdated. These factors result in a current system that only provides a basic snapshot of the carriers’ overall safety performance.

The FMCSA’s goal with the new proposal is to take a performance based approach using current data. The FMCSA also believes the proposed changes to the safety fitness determination system will make it easier for those who hire transportation companies to determine if a prospective carrier is able to lawfully operate. Under the new proposal, “unfit” would be the only rating available.  Any carrier with failing performance in any two Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs), based on roadside inspections, compliance reviews, or a combination of the two would be deemed “unfit”.  Motor carriers would be compared monthly against a “failure standard,” established in each of the categories.  A carrier could continue to operate as long as it was not deemed “unfit”.  If a carrier receives a proposed “unfit” rating, the carrier is allowed to negotiate with the FMCSA and operate under a compliance agreement.  Violation of the terms of the compliance agreement would result in an “unfit” rating. The FMCSA estimates that approximately 3,000 motor carriers would be deemed unfit should the proposed system be implemented. This is more than double the number of unsatisfactory ratings currently proposed every year.

For those interested in further information, the FMSCA prepared a helpful webinar to provide information on the significant changes. The webinar can be accessed here:  https://connectdot.connectsolutions.com/safety-fitness-determination-notice-of-proposed-rulemaking.  National and state trucking associations are also good resources for those seeking more information about the FMCSA’s proposal and how it may affect carriers in the future.”