Motor carrier industry opposes proposed safety fitness rule
Associations representing property and passenger carriers almost uniformly objected to major aspects of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to change the agency’s process for assigning safety fitness determinations (SFDs), including a near consensus that any NPRM is premature until FMCSA fixes the Safety Measurement System (SMS) as demanded by Congress. A provision in the House transportation bill would block the NPRM accordingly.
The most extensive analysis of the NPRM was filed by a coalition of organizations representing primarily small carriers – Air & Expedited Motor Carriers Association; Alliance for Safe, Efficient and Competitive Truck Transportation; American Home Furnishings Alliance; Auto Haulers Association of America; National Association of Small Trucking Companies; The Expedite Alliance of North America; Transportation Loss Prevention & Security Association; and Western States Trucking Association.
Among other things, the coalition’s comments addressed all the aspects of the NPRM that rely on flawed SMS methodology; explored the negative impact of all proposed SFD methods on due process in general and on small carriers in particular; analyzed the inspection-based method using current SMS data to show how ineffective it would be in promoting safety; exposed serious flaws in the regulatory evaluation; and offered an alternate process that would be far more effective in overseeing the entire motor carrier community.
Notable entities generally supporting the NPRM were the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the Transportation Intermediaries Association, C.H. Robinson and leading trucking critics, although the latter pushed for a rule that covered more motor carriers. While TIA and C.H. Robinson mostly support the NPRM they generally argue that FMCSA should publish lists of unfit carriers in lieu of SMS data and other information that has been misused by the public.
Two principal groups representing the driver community were deeply split. The Teamsters union generally supports the NPRM, while the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association opposes the rule and objects to any regulation that would assign SFDs based on data in FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System, or MCMIS.
One objection raised by the American Trucking Associations and emphasized in particular by several very large carriers – Schneider National, J.B. Hunt and Knight Transportation – is the argument by using absolute failure standards that vary by safety event group the NPRM creates different safety standards for large and small carriers.
Small carriers received support from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, which expressed concern that the proposed SFD methodology is flawed and that the proposed rule would have a disproportionate impact on small carriers. FMCSA needs to consider alternatives that would minimize significant impacts on small carriers and should – in any event – wait until the review of SMS mandated by Congress is completed.