FAST ACT: FMCSA's 'Beyond Compliance' program aims to bolster CSA scores

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A provision in the FAST Act will give the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration the ability to credit motor carriers for adopting new safety technologies and other devices on the carrier’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability compliance rankings.

Section 5222 of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act directs the FMCSA administrator to “allow recognition, including credit or an improved SMS (Safety Measurement System) percentile for a motor carrier that: installs advanced safety equipment; uses enhanced driver fitness measures; adopts fleet safety management tools, technologies, and programs; or satisfies other standards determined appropriate by the Administrator.”

Within 18 months, the FMCSA will implement the program by either incorporating a methodology into the CSA program, or by establishing a safety BASIC in the SMS. BASICs are categories within the CSA safety measurement program that rank like motor carriers in terms of compliance.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer criticized the “Beyond Compliance” program, saying it is reminiscent of a long-abolished Catholic practice of granting indulgences – where parishioners paid for favor and forgiveness from priests and the Church.

“That’s basically what it is,” Spencer said. “It sort of underscores our frustration with what passes for safety at the FMCSA. It’s not whether or not anything actually has a direct relationship with crashes. It’s what seems like it might, or what sounds good when you say it fast.”

The language in the bill mandates that FMCSA must provide notice and an opportunity for comment before developing the process of identifying the equipment, driver fitness standards and safety management tools that motor carriers will be credited for adopting. The process shall also provide for a petition process for reviewing advanced safety equipment, enhanced driver fitness measures, fleet safety management tools, technologies, and programs, and other standards. It must also seek input and participation from industry stakeholders, including commercial motor vehicle drivers, technology manufacturers, vehicle manufacturers, motor carriers, law enforcement, safety advocates, and the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee.

Spencer said the agency’s myopic focus on technology solutions for safety issues misses the larger view of what he and the Association believe to be the biggest safety issue for commercial drivers: the lack of an entry-level driver training standard.

“(Emphasizing technology solutions) doesn’t have much to do with what causes crashes and what doesn’t,” he said. “The purveyors of this kind of nonsense have the agency so totally bogged down, they (FMCSA) don’t even have the time to think about the real issues that cause degradation of highway safety or that would improve highway safety.

“If drivers need to stop for whatever reason – bathroom, weather, what have you – with every passing day there’s fewer and fewer places where that’s even possible,” he said. “Drivers in too many instances are penalized for making the smart safety decision.” 

FMCSA will also be required to develop performance standards for the safety technologies, and may authorize qualified entities to monitor motor carriers that receive recognition, including credit or an improved SMS percentile, under this section through a no-cost contract structure.

When it comes to disseminating information on which carriers have adopted the additional technologies or standards, FMCSA must maintain a publicly accessible website on the following information, including: 

  • The advanced safety equipment, enhanced driver fitness measures, fleet safety management tools, technologies, and programs and other standards eligible for recognition, including credit or an improved SMS percentile;
  • Any petitions for review of advanced safety equipment, enhanced driver fitness measures, fleet safety management tools, technologies, and programs, and other standards; 
  • Any relevant statistics relating to the use of advanced safety equipment, enhanced driver fitness measures, fleet safety management tools, technologies, and programs, and other standards.

Finally, the highway bill directs FMCSA to submit a report to both the House and Senate Transportation committees within three years detailing the number of motor carriers receiving recognition, including credit or an improved SMS percentile and the safety performance of such carriers.

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