June 27, 2024

FMCSA Safety Fitness Determination Listening Session Recap

On June 25, 2024, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration held an online listening session concerning potential changes to the Safety Fitness Determination process. FMCSA issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the SFD process in late 2023.

Safety Fitness Determination is a process intended by FMCSA to identify unfit motor carriers and remove them from the nation’s roads. At present, the end result of an SFD assessment is a final carrier safety rating of Satisfactory, Conditional or Unfit, though approximately 92% of carriers have no rating at all.

The SFD process used by FMCSA relies heavily on the conduct of carrier investigations – called Compliance Reviews or CRs – and does not fully consider on-road data from roadside inspections and crash reports. CRs require time and manpower to conduct. There is not enough enforcement “bandwidth” to conduct investigations on a large percentage of the nation’s 567,000 active interstate motor carriers. As a result, FMCSA is currently able to conduct CRs on only 1-2% of motor carriers.

This reliance on CRs produces three seemingly undesirable results:

  • Some truly “Unfit” motor carriers may not be investigated at all, thereby endangering other highway users.
  • Carriers assessed as “Conditional” cannot upgrade their safety rating without the conduct of yet another CR, leaving them in a difficult business situation as customers and insurance companies often avoid “Conditional” carriers.
  • New Entrant carriers, those recent to the business, cannot readily obtain a CR to demonstrate an excellent safety record.

The June 25 FMCSA listening session saw 200+ participants, supportive of improvements to the current SFD process, grapple with specific steps that could be taken. Here are apparent points of consensus:

  • The three tiers of safety ratings should remain, though the label of “Conditional” should be modified to avoid punishing carriers, and the entre SFD process accelerated by reducing reliance on CRs.
  • FMCSA should make greater use of on-road data, especially from roadside inspections. Within FMCSA, that on-road data resides in the Safety Measurement System (SMS), which must await completion of its own proposed revisions before incorporation into the SFD process.
  • Greater emphasis should be placed on unsafe driving violations, such as speeding and texting while driving.

FMCSA will hold two more listening sessions on Safety Fitness Determination.

FMCSA is also accepting written comments through August 7, 2024, at SafetyFitnessDetermination@dot.gov.