Buying favor? What is 'Beyond Compliance'?

By Jami Jones, managing editor

Even with the safety measurement system CSA currently undergoing review and possibly facing an overhaul, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing to tack a new category onto the program.

Moving quickly on a mandate in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, FMCSA implemented a “Beyond Compliance” program. The idea behind the program is to reward motor carriers that go above and beyond the regulations to ensure safe operation.

The FMCSA held its third listening session on the program in late April as part of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Spring Workshop in Chicago. OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth said that the session was “packed.”

Along with listening sessions, the agency has now progressed to a Federal Register notice and request for comments on the program.

The program is to allow recognition, including credit or an improved percentile ranking in CSA, for motor carriers that install “advanced safety equipment”; use enhanced driver fitness measures; adopt fleet safety management tools, technologies and programs; or satisfy other standards determined appropriate by FMCSA.

Viewed by many as a “pay to play” program or one that buys favor with the agency through the purchase and installation of technology on the trucks, the “Beyond Compliance” program has not been well-received by small motor carriers in particular.

That mindset and pushback has drawn out comments from agency officials during listening sessions held in Atlanta and Louisville, Ky., regarding the focus of the program.

Bill Quade, administrator for enforcement and program delivery at FMCSA, said at the Louisville listening session that the Beyond Compliance is more than just technology.

“Technology by itself without a management program isn’t the answer,” Quade said. “While technology is within the sphere, it is not strictly a technology program.”

FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling recently reiterated that sentiment during a recent visit to OOIDA headquarters.

The notice seeking comment specifically lays out the agency’s proposed plan to add a separate safety measurement category, called BASICs, within CSA that would appear when a motor carrier is approved and participating in the Beyond Compliance program.

The proposed program would be open only to interstate motor carriers that have successfully graduated from the new entrant monitoring phase. Those motor carriers would be eligible only if they do not have a conditional or unsatisfactory safety rating and are not over the intervention level for any of the safety measurement categories. Finally, the program would also require that the technology or safety program must be “applied to the company’s population of vehicles or drivers to adequately achieve the performance goal and improve safety.”

The agency proposes that motor carriers interested in participating in the program would have to submit an application online with the agency that would identify the motor carrier by DOT number. The application would outline the proposed technology or program, how many trucks and/or drivers it would cover, cost, installation time frame and, finally, “self-certification.”

Third-party contractors will conduct application review and monitoring of the program participants.

After six months in the proposed program, the motor carrier’s program or technology will be evaluated to determine the effect on baseline performance measures. If the baseline is improved, the “Beyond Compliance” BASIC will indicate that the motor carrier is “improved.”

The agency proposes to remove a motor carrier from the program if the carrier receives a conditional or unsatisfactory safety rating; is declared an imminent hazard; receives a carrier out-of-service order; or has its authority revoked.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been wary of the premise of the program since it was first introduced. The program, OOIDA contends, has the potential to leave small-business motor carriers and owner-operators out in the cold. OOIDA has demanded that the program be driven by proven safety performance only.

The Association’s criticism is on its FightingForTruckers.com website. The website also recommends ways to protect safe small trucking operations from a program that exclusively requires bartering for a better score. LL