SPECIAL REPORT: Swift confirms FMCSA’s HOS investigation

| 1/28/2004

Swift Transportation said Jan. 28 its safety rating has always been and continues to be satisfactory – but the company also said a compliance review by the Arizona division of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had resulted in a proposed safety rating of conditional.

There are three carrier safety ratings: satisfactory; conditional, meaning there are deficiencies requiring correction, but not so significant to warrant loss of carrier authority; and unsatisfactory, which is the result of acute deficiencies and would lead to revocation of carrier authority.

"Based upon internal data, external data and consultation with its regulatory counsel, Swift believes that if its rating were changed to conditional, it would be temporary and any loss of revenue would not be material," the company said.

The company responded Jan. 28 to a Jan. 27 assessment by A.G. Edwards that a conditional rating probably should be anticipated.

According to Swift, there is only one issue in dispute – the accuracy of the documentation of driving logs maintained by Swift drivers and owner-operators.

Meanwhile, a Dow Jones Newswire report said FMCSA found that 87 of 816 driver logbooks checked by regulators were false. In one instance, a journey from Phoenix to Los Angeles was reportedly done in 45 minutes, which would have meant the driver was going an average speed of about 500 mph. FMCSA proposed in 2001 and again in 2003 that the trucking company's safety rating be lowered to "conditional."

Swift response

"Swift has been in discussions with the FMCSA about the proposed rating and filed a petition for a stay of the effective date of the proposed safety rating pending a review as provided for under the FMCSA regulations," the company said.

"Swift's petition for a stay was granted by the FMCSA on Dec. 18, 2003, and the Arizona division of the FMCSA was ordered to respond to Swift's petition for review. Swift received this response on Jan. 19, 2004, and is in the process of drafting a reply."

The company said it anticipates a positive outcome.

"Swift has always maintained safety as a top priority and has a comprehensive internal audit program for review of driver log compliance. In addition, Swift regulates the speed of its tractors and vigorously enforces a company speed limit that is lower than many state speed limits. No operational safety issues have been raised by the FMCSA compliance review."

The hazmat issue

Even when a carrier temporarily drops to conditional status, it does not lose its carrier authority or ability to transport hazardous materials, though under contractual provisions standard in the industry, some customers may be able to reduce or terminate their relationship with the carrier, Swift said.

Federal regulations do not preclude a carrier from transporting hazardous materials unless the carrier has an unsatisfactory safety rating.