Safety fitness ratings revamp ‘flouts’ will of Congress, groups say

Safety fitness ratings revamp ‘flouts’ will of Congress, groups say

Roadside data flawed, unfair to small carriers, coalition argues

A pending rulemaking that is expected to incorporate roadside inspection data and computer calculations to determine a carrier’s safety fitness rating violates congressionally mandated regulatory reforms and disregards specific provisions of the FAST Act, according to an ad hoc coalition of small-business associations.

In a letter to several senators and representatives who have supported reform of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) trucking safety scoring system, the groups contend the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rulemaking will continue to use much of the same data that Congress wants reviewed.  

“A ‘quickie’ rulemaking on SFD criteria, in which any aspects of the agency’s flawed SMS methodology would be treated as a given and small-business impacts would be ignored, is patently not what Congress intended in the FAST Act,” says the letter from the coalition, which includes the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, the Western State Trucking Association, Alliance for Safe, Efficient and Competitive Truck Transportation and others.

Several members of the coalition have fought CSA since its launch in 2010, having successfully argued in court for clarifications to be made to the FMCSA website and, most recently, in Congress to have public display of trucking company safety rankings removed entirely.

Though the SFD rule has not been published, the letter cites violations of new rulemaking procedures put in place by the recently passed highway bill, as well as the known “statistical defects” and the disparate impact of roadside data on small carriers.

Most essentially, “any safety fitness determination based upon roadside compliance data and crash statistics developed for use in SMS/CSA methodology” is precluded the FAST Act, says the letter.

FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling said earlier this week the agency expects to publish the rule sometime in January.

Speaking to Fleet Owner with regard to the agency’s 2016 regulatory agenda, Bill Quade, FMCSA associate administrator of enforcement, explained that the agency is working to complete the data verification steps that Congress wants.

The reforms called for in the highway bill, similarly, will not impact the Safety Fitness Determination proposed rule. Quade emphasized that the SMS scores within the CSA system are “relative,” as carriers are ranked among comparable fleets and operations. In the pending fitness rule, “absolute standards” will be used to rate carriers. Additionally, the “data sufficiency concerns” that will be “less relevant.”

“We’re going to get comments on it, and our hope is that we can move forward with a new system to rate [carriers] for their recent on-the-road performance,” Quade said.

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