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New Methodology for Safety Fitness Determinations Proposed by FMCSA

On Aug. 29, 2023, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for developing a new methodology to determine when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in or affecting interstate commerce. With the proposal, the FMCSA requested public comment on:

  1. The need to revise the regulations prescribing the safety fitness determination (SFD) process;
  2. The available science or technical information the agency uses to analyze regulatory alternatives for determining the safety fitness of motor carriers;
  3. The FMCSA’s current SFD regulations, including the process and impacts;
  4. The available data and costs for regulatory alternatives reasonably likely to be considered as part of this rulemaking; and
  5. Responses to specific questions raised within this NPRM.
New Methodology for Safety Fitness Determinations Proposed by FMCSA (1)

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Overview

This NPRM does not make any specific proposals but asks for input on the potential use of the safety measurement system (SMS) methodology to issue SFDs in a manner similar to the 2016 FMCSA proposed rule. This request for input complements the FMCSA’s 2016 NPRM titled ‘‘Carrier Safety Fitness Determination.” The 2016 NPRM proposed SFDs based on the carrier’s on-road safety data, an investigation or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information; however, the rule was withdrawn in 2017.

This NPRM seeks input regarding new methodologies to determine when a motor carrier is not fit to operate CMVs in or affecting interstate commerce. The intended effect of this action is to more effectively use FMCSA data and resources to identify unfit motor carriers and to remove them from roadways. More specifically, FMCSA requests answers to questions in the following areas:

  1. Assessing the efficacy of the existing three-tier system categorized as Satisfactory, Conditional or Unsatisfactory.
  2. Evaluating proposals for alterations to the current administrative review procedure, revisions to the list of acute and critical violations and adjustments to the associated calculations.
  3. Determining whether passenger carrier standards should surpass those established for property carriers, and if so, how this distinction should be implemented.
  4. Analyzing the potential ramifications of SFD adjustments on individual states.
  5. Evaluating the feasibility of incorporating SMS data into carrier ratings, taking into consideration that inspection data presently does not influence the existing methodology.
  6. Exploring the potential utilization of driver performance metrics and violation data in the assessment process.
  7. Examining the question of whether a carrier’s utilization of safety technologies should be considered as a contributing factor and delineating the methodology for its inclusion.

The proposed rule does not impose any new requirements on motor carriers. However, motor carriers should become familiar with the proposed rule and determine how the proposal, if implemented, would affect their operations.