Congressional opposition brews over carrier safety rating plans

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 5/9/2016

The proposal to give motor carriers a monthly safety rating based, in part, on the CSA safety measurement system hadn’t even completed its first comment period before congressional pressure to back off the proposal mounted.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing to modify how the agency issues safety fitness determinations on motor carriers.

Currently, motor carriers receive a rating only following a full-blown compliance review. Following the review, the agency issues a safety rating of “satisfactory,” “conditional” or “unsatisfactory.”

The feds are proposing to change that and allow for automatic issuance of the safety ratings – determining whether a motor carrier is fit to operate and should remain in business – based on five of the seven scored BASICs or categories in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety measurement program, an investigation or a combination of CSA data and an investigation. The ratings would be issued monthly.

The program’s proposal is so complex that the agency extended the original deadline for comments from March 21 to May 23.

In the meantime, the FAST Act mandated reforms of the CSA safety measurement program. The accompanying mandated review of the program is underway to determine whether or not the program does identify high-risk motor carriers and can predict crash risk. Based off that review, FMCSA is required to follow up to Congress with its plans to address any shortcomings revealed in the review.

With the review not yet completed and possible reforms ahead for the safety measurement program, lawmakers are not pleased that FMCSA is forging ahead with a plan to label motor carriers based in any part on the CSA program.

The most recent attack was on May 4 when 36 lawmakers, led by Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., and Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, sent a letter to FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. The lawmakers called on the agency to hold off on moving forward with the Safety Fitness Determination proposal to allow “the congressionally mandated CSA reform process to be fully completed.”

That was the second charge at the proposal led by Barletta. In mid-March, the Pennsylvania lawmaker called on the House Appropriations Committee to prohibit the spending of agency funds to finalize a Safety Fitness rule until the CSA reforms are completed. The 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill will soon be taken up in the House of Representatives. It’s not known at press time if the prohibition will be considered in the full bill.

With only a couple of weeks left to comment on the program, only 78 comments have been received. The vast majority of the comments are not supportive of the program and many of those echoing lawmakers’ concerns that CSA simply is not a reliable program

To review the full proposal and/or to submit comments, click here.

Of course, submitting comments electronically via the internet isn’t your only option. You can still:

  • Fax comments with the Docket ID FMCSA-2015-0001, to 202-493-2251;
  • Mail comments with the Docket ID FMCSA-2015-0001, to:

Docket Management Facility
U.S. Department of Transportation
Room W-12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20590-0001

  • Or hand deliver comments between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday except on federal holidays to the ground floor of the U.S. Department of Transportation building, Room W-12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, D.C.
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