In July, the FMCSA submitted a report on the driver fitness component of CSA, outlining the agency’s objectives for the upcoming years, to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations.
“[The] report responds to the Committee’s request by identifying the programmatic goals and current and planned activities for FMCSA’s driver program, including the steps the Agency would take to implement a driver safety fitness determination (SFD),” the report states.
In addition, The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the FMCSA’s report and recommended the agency, “develop a plan for implementing driver fitness ratings that prioritizes steps that need to be completed and includes a reasonable timeframe for completing them. The plan should also address the safety implications of delayed implementation of driver fitness ratings.”
Today, the Department of Transportation announced the FMCSA’s intent to address driver fitness sometime this month.
According to the announcement in the Semiannual Regulatory Agenda report, the rule would revise 49 CFR part 385, Safety Fitness Procedures.
“Currently, the safety fitness rating of a motor carrier is determined based on the results of a very labor intensive compliance review conducted at the carrier´s place of business. Aside from roadside inspections and new entrant audits, the compliance review is the Agency´s primary intervention,” the DOT report states.
Under the new rule, the FMCSA would “implement a broader array of interventions, some of which would allow the FMCSA to contact with ore carriers.”
The rule would allow the FMCSA to establish new fitness determinations based on crashes, inspections, investigations and violation history, as opposed to just the standard compliance review.
“This will enable the Agency to assess the safety performance of a greater segment of the motor carrier industry with the goal of further reducing large truck and bus crashes and fatalities,” the DOT report states.
In response to the requirements of MAP-21 and the agencies’ requests, in July, the FMCSA issued this timeline of proposed driver fitness regulations:
Year 1: The FMCSA would assess the feasibility of establishing a new driver fitness plan by identifying driver-level data sources for monitoring individual drivers’ safety performance on a continuous basis and establishing a severity weighting system for various violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and identifying options for considering drivers’ crash involvement.
Year 2: The agency will identify and develop a driver safety management system aimed at: identifying who the most unsafe drivers are, intervene with the driver to either modify the behavior or to remove the driver from service. ”The FMCSA would also initiate regulatory impact analyses to consider the number of drivers who would likely be rated unfit, and estimate the potential safety benefits in terms of crashes, injuries, and fatalities prevented by removing unfit drivers from the Nation’s roadways,” the report states.
Years 3—5: The FMCSA will test the new driver safety fitness methodology and make modifications.
Year 6: The FMCSA will use what they learned from the new driver safety fitness methodology and establish a notice-and-comment on rulemaking to establish a new driver fitness safety program, including enforcement penalties. The FMCSA will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
Year 7: The FMCSA would evaluate comments on the NPRM and issue a Final Rule and final regulatory impact analyses. Compliance with the new driver fitness rules would likely be 1-2 years later.
Year 8: The FMCSA would work to implement the new driver fitness program, including training state and federal personnel, motor carriers and drivers.
Year 9: The FMCSA would fully implement the Driver SFD program beginning with the compliance date established by the Final Rule.
“The FMCSA has adopted a vision for the future that strives for zero CMV crashes, injuries, and fatalities by moving toward a crash-free and fully accountable CMV transportation lifecycle. To this end, as outlined above, the Agency is considering plans to augment existing driver efforts by developing an enhanced methodology to identify drivers posing the highest safety risk and implementing enforcement processes to address drivers’ unsafe behavior,” the report states.