March 22, 2017 12:30 PM, EDT

FMCSA Withdraws Its Proposed Safety Fitness Determination Rule

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has withdrawn its proposed motor carrier safety fitness determination rule as it awaits a major study of the agency’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program by the National Academy of Sciences, according to the agency's March 22 announcement.

FMCSA previously announced that, rather than move to a final rule, a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking would be the next step in the rulemaking process.

“However, after reviewing the record in this matter, FMCSA withdraws the NPRM and cancels the plans to develop a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” the agency wrote in a prepublication Federal Register posting. “The agency must receive the correlation study from the National Academy of Sciences, as required by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, assess whether and, if so, what corrective actions are advisable, and complete additional analysis before determining whether further rulemaking action is necessary to revise the safety fitness determination process.”

Proposed in January 2016, the rule’s new methodology would have determined when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles based on the carrier’s on-road safety data; an investigation; or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.

“[American Trucking Associations] has long supported using data to target enforcement activities against bad actors in our industry,” said ATA President Chris Spear. “However, numerous reviews have shown flaws in the data and in the CSA system, so it makes sense to withdraw this rule which would have used CSA data to create publicly available fitness ratings.”

The withdrawal decision follows a request made by several dozen truck and bus trade organizations to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to rescind and delay the proposal.

“Our major concern with the proposal is that the new proposed methodology utilizes flawed Compliance, Safety and Accountability program/Safety Measurement System data and scores, which Congress directed the [FMCSA] to review and reform just months earlier in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Systems Act enacted in December of 2015,” according to a Feb. 15 letter sent to Chao.

The reforms are in process with initiation of a study by the National Academy of Sciences expected in June of this year, according to the truck and bus trade organizations.

“As representatives of the commercial motor vehicle operator industry representing property and passenger carriers, we do not believe it makes sense to build a new safety fitness determination system upon a flawed system that is currently undergoing congressionally mandated review and reform and is likely to change,” the group said.

The letter was signed by national and state organizations ranging from American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to the National Association of Motorcoach Operators and the National Association of Small Trucking Companies.

The National Academy of Sciences study will include an assessment of the accuracy of the CSA program’s Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories to identify high-risk carriers and predict if they correlate with future crash risk, crash severity or other safety indicators for motor carriers, including the high-risk carriers.

The study also is analyzing the methodology used to calculate BASIC percentiles and identify carriers for enforcement and the relative value of inspection information and roadside enforcement data, how the public uses the safety measurement system and what effect making the SMS information public has had on reducing crashes and eliminating unsafe motor carriers from the industry.