FMCSA To Publish Proposed Safety Fitness Determination Rule

by SCOPELITIS, GARVIN, LIGHT, HANSON & FEARY

On January 21, 2016, the FMCSA will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) in the Federal Register to establish new methods for determining a motor carrier’s fitness to operate in interstate and intrastate commerce. According to the proposed rule, the FMCSA will eliminate the existing three-tier safety rating system (i.e., Satisfactory, Conditional, Unsatisfactory) in favor of a single determination of Unfit. Unlike the current safety rating system which is premised entirely on the FMCSA’s on-site investigations, the proposed safety fitness determinations will be based on roadside inspection data, FMCSA investigations, or a combination of the two. While the proposed rule does afford carriers that receive proposed Unfit ratings the opportunity to petition the FMCSA to upgrade the rating in limited circumstances, carriers whose proposed ratings become final will be prohibited from operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate or intrastate commerce.

According to the proposed rule, the FMCSA will assess carriers on a monthly basis using fixed failure metrics for each of the seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (“BASICs”). Carriers that “fail” two or more of the BASICs in a given month will receive a proposed Unfit rating. BASIC failures can stem from (1) on-road safety data exceeding the “absolute failure standards” of a given BASIC; (2) a single acute or critical violation discovered by the FMCSA in a given BASIC during an investigation; or (3) some combination of the two. According to the FMCSA, the proposed “absolute failure standards” for each BASIC differ from the current intervention thresholds in that they would reflect the carriers’ own performance against the failure standard and would not be impacted by other carriers’ performance.

The NPRM, which is currently available on the FMCSA’s website, seeks comments on several components of the proposed rule. Initial comments are due by March 31, 2016, and the FMCSA will be accepting response comments through the end of April. The Scopelitis Firm is analyzing the interest in submitting comments on behalf of a coalition of motor carriers. If you are interested in joining the coalition, please contact Tim Wiseman or Brandon Wiseman of the Firm’s Indianapolis office at (317) 637-1777.