Turn Signals – Issue 39

Special Alert No. 17 • January 18, 2016

On January 15th, the Federal Motor Carrier Administration published its long-promised proposed rules to replace motor carrier safety ratings. Called a Safety Fitness Determination, the agency will no longer classify trucking companies as Satisfactory or Conditional. They will simply be authorized to operate. Carriers that FMCSA wants to shutter for safety reasons will be designated as “Unfit”, the equivalent of today’s Unsatisfactory rating.

The big changes are how the agency determines that a trucker is Unfit, which will happen when the motor carrier “fails” two of the seven CSA Basics. Failure is defined differently from the current CSA Alert scores and can happen in three ways: (1) two Basics being failed by highway violations in the CSA Safety Measurement System, (2) one Basic being failed by highway violations and one Basic being failed by an investigation, and (3) two Basics being failed by an investigation.

The CSA Basics of Crash Indicator and Controlled Substances & Alcohol cannot be failed because of highway performance, only through an investigation. Any of the other five Basics can only be failed by its highway data if there are 11 inspections with violations over the last 24 months for that individual Basic. Using a carrier’s “measures”, or equations involving CSA severity points and time weighting (plus other factors for Unsafe Driving), FMCSA has established baseline measures. Equaling or exceeding of a measure will result in the failure of that Basic. The agency predicts these baseline measures will equate to these CSA scores: 96 for Unsafe Driving and Hours of Service Compliance, and 99 for Vehicle Maintenance, Driver Fitness, and Hazmat Compliance.

Other than for Crash Indicator, failure of a Basic in an investigation means a carrier has at least one instance of an acute violation in a Basic, or two critical violations which involve 10% or more of the documentation inspected had that particular violation. FMCSA is proposing to reduce the number of general acute violations from 25 to 9 and critical violations from 34 to 25. Hazmat acute violations would be reduced from 17 to 1 and critical violations from 20 to 10. Note that it is proposed that acute and critical violations can be charged in any investigation, which would include new entrant audits and focused interventions and not just comprehensive reviews. FMCSA has not decided how long acute and critical violations would remain on a carrier’s record and could be matched with future Basic failures from highway performance to trigger an Unfit declaration.

Failure of the Crash Indicator Basic in an investigation occurs if the carrier had more than 1.5 preventable accidents per million miles in the previous 12 months (1.7 for urban carriers). A minimum of 2 crashes in the last 12 months is required to make the calculation. FMCSA has tightened the definition of non-preventable crashes which can be removed for the accident rate calculation to mean the carrier driver not only was not at fault but could have avoided the crash.

What if a carrier is declared Unfit? To prevent its shuttering in 60 days, it must file a petition with FMCSA within 30 days (15 days for Hazmat carriers). The carrier must convince FMCSA that it has corrected its defects and implemented safety management plans to prevent future violations. If the agency agrees, it will issue a “compliance agreement” under which the company must operate.
If the motor carrier violates the agreement, FMCSA can close its operation immediately.

It is expected the trucking industry will vigorously oppose these changes. Good luck and be safe!

Article republished with permission. Published by Nicholas Wingerter and TRUCK SAFETY ©2016 All Rights Reserved.