On January 21st, FMCSA published in the Federal Register the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the much anticipated carrier safety fitness determination (SFD). The Administration proposes to change the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) to revise the current procedure for issuance of a Safety Fitness Determination for motor carriers. Below, we look into what the new methodology is, what the changes are from the current system in place, what carriers would do if deemed unfit in the new proposed ruling, and the impact this new ruling will have on the industry.

The Proposed New Methodology

The new methodologies would determine when a motor carrier is not fit to operate by basing the carrier’s on road safety data in relation to 5 out of 7 of the Agency’s BASICS, an investigation, or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information. The purpose of this new proposed way of determining fitness is to more effectively use the FMCSA’s data and resources to identify unfit motor carriers and to remove them from service.

Changes from the Current System

The new rule also proposes to eliminate the current 3-tier rating system of “satisfactory”, “conditional”, and “unsatisfactory.” This would be replaced with a single determination of “unfit.” The FMCSA proposes to evaluate carriers on a monthly basis. A motor carrier would be made “unfit” if it:

  • Failed 2 or more BASICs based exclusively on on-road safety data from 11 or more inspections in a 24-month period with one or more violations in each, in a single BASIC, before a carrier could fail the BASICs;
  • Had violations of the proposed set of critical and acute regulations, identified through an investigation, that cause the motor carrier to fail 2 or more BASICs; or
  • Failed 2 or more BASICs based on a combination of data from inspections and investigation results.

The new proposed methodology would also take a carrier’s monthly performance and compare it to what the Agency is calling a “absolute failure standard” that would be set in regulation based on each safety event group. This would eliminate the current method that ranks carriers based on peer event groups/performance of other carriers.

Only preventable crashes would be used in calculating the new Safety Fitness Determination. The differs from the current method which only determines the preventability of crashes to contest a carrier’s recordable crash rate after the Safety Fitness Determination.

Options for Carriers if they are Deemed unfit under the new rule

A motor carrier would have four different administrative proceedings available to them:

  • A review of material errors in assigning a proposed unfit SFD;
  • A review claiming unconsidered on-road performance inspection data;
  • A review after a request to operate under a compliance agreement; and
  • After a final “unfit” designation, a carrier can apply to continue to operate by applying for a new operating authority. They would be subject to a new safety registration, and new operating authority if the Agency deems necessary. They would maintain the same USDOT number under URS to show history of operation.

What would the impact of the new rule be?

The Agency estimates that 364 more motor carriers than the number that currently receive an “unsatisfactory” safety rating will receive a final “unfit” Safety Fitness Determination.

Under the proposed rule, it would identify and make “unfit” carriers involved in 41 more fatal crashes, 508 more injury crashes, and 872 more tow-away crashes in a subsequent year. The crash reduction elicited from these carriers is what the Agency is using to promote the benefits of the proposed rule.

Some points of impact that industry stakeholders has raised to the FMCSA are how this new rule will impact relationships, insurance requirement policies, contracts, the strain on small carriers/owner operators who may not have time or resources to comply, and the impact on the individual driver.

What’s next?

Initial comments from the industry are due by March 21, 2016, and any response comments will be accepted for an additional 30 days after that time. Check back on our blog soon for updates, and visit the FMCSA’s site directly for more information at: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sfd.


References consulted

Safety, Fitness Determination – TIA webinar. Attended Feb 10, 2016.

Changes to the FMCSA’s Carrier Ratings and the Safety Fitness Determination was last modified: by