Today, the FMCSA finalized the Patterns of Safety Violations Rule which will enable the agency to shut down truck and bus companies if the company, or company’s owners, have a history of knowingly violating federal regulations.
“FMCSA amends its regulations to enable the Agency to suspend or revoke the operating authority registration of for-hire motor carriers that show egregious disregard for safety compliance, permit persons who have shown egregious disregard for safety compliance to exercise controlling influence over their operations, or operate multiple entities under common control to conceal noncompliance with safety regulations,” the rule states.
The agency says the rule is one of the newest enforcement tools that will help identify and target high-risk carriers.
“The rule is one of the new enforcement tools that the agency has developed in recent years to target high-risk carriers that endanger travelers by avoiding or covering up their negative history of safety compliance,” the FMCSA states.
The FMCSA says the agency will apply the rule in “egregious cases” in which carriers have a proven pattern of unsafe practices.
In 2013, the FMCSA adopted a rule to help put reincarnated carriers out of service, the FMCSA says this rule is a companion rule.
“Today’s rule goes one step further by authorizing a complete revocation of the motor carrier’s authority to operate,” the FMCSA states.
The FMCSA states that Congress directed the FMCSA to implement the rule because of the danger that unsafe carriers pose to the motoring public.
According to the FMCSA, the rule is 2-pronged. The agency will first determine whether a carrier has failed to comply with regulations or if the carrier has attempted to conceal noncompliance. If so, the FMCSA will evaluate the carrier’s history to determine whether or not the carrier has a pattern of unsafe behaviors.
If the FMCSA finds that the carrier has has a history of noncompliance, the agency has the authority to revoke or suspend the carriers operating authority and impose civil or criminal penalties.
“Motor carriers that engage in such conduct may face suspension or revocation of their operating authority registration. FMCSA acknowledges that loss of operating authority registration is a significant penalty. This rule is necessary and appropriate, however, to address motor carriers that engage in a pattern or practice of willfully violating safety regulations or forming new entities or affiliate relationships to avoid compliance or mask or otherwise conceal noncompliance,” the rule states.
The FMCSA states that each year, a number of small carriers attempts to avoid compliance or attempts to conceal the company’s noncompliance by submitting a new application for registration. Often times, the FMCSA says, the carrier applies for operation authority under a different name after their company or vehicles have been ordered OOS.
“Motor carriers and individuals do this for a variety of reasons that include avoiding payment of civil penalties, circumventing denial of operating authority registration based on a determination that they are not willing or able to comply with the applicable statutes or regulations, or avoiding a negative compliance history… They shift customers, vehicles, drivers, and other operational activities to one of the affiliated companies when FMCSA places one of the other commonly controlled companies out of service,” the FMCSA states.
In the published rule, the FMCSA cites a 2008 bus crash in Sherman, Texas, in which 17 passengers were killed and 38 others received minor-to-serious injuries.
FMCSA investigators found that the passenger carrier was operation without authority and the company was a reincarnation of another bus company that had previously been placed OOS because of safety violations.
Because of the crash, and other similar incidents, the FMCSA instituted a vetting process for carriers to review registration applications and filter out potential reincarnated carriers.
“The Sherman crash is but one example that demonstrates how the practice of avoiding compliance or masking or otherwise concealing noncompliance to circumvent Agency enforcement action or to avoid a negative safety compliance history creates an unacceptable risk of harm to the public, resulting in the continued operation of at-risk carriers and impeding FMCSA’s ability to execute its safety mission. This rule will help address these problems by providing a significant enforcement tool that allows the Agency to suspend or revoke the operating authority registration of motor carriers that show egregious disregard for safety compliance, permit persons who have shown egregious disregard for safety compliance to exercise controlling influence over their operations or operate multiple entities under common control to conceal noncompliance with safety regulations,” the FMCSA states.