June 24, 2024

FMCSA To Hold Safety Fitness Determination Listening Session

On June 25, 2024, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will hold 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. The PrePass Safety Alliance submitted formal comments to that Docket in November 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.

Unfortunately, the SFD process used by FMCSA relies too heavily on the conduct of carrier investigations – called Compliance Reviews or CRs – and not sufficiently on on-road data from roadside inspections and crash reports. CRs require time, money, and, most of all, manpower to conduct. There is simply 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 overreliance on CRs produces three 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 yet another CR, leaving them in a potential safety death spiral as customers and insurance companies avoid “Conditional” carriers.
  • New Entrant carriers, those recent to the business, cannot obtain a CR to demonstrate their excellent safety record.

In its comments to the Docket, PrePass urged four steps toward an improved SFD process:

  • Place greater reliance on on-road data, because, in the end, it is what happens on the highway that demonstrates true safety. When Compliance Reviews are necessary, the use of focused CRs rather than comprehensive CRs will save on “bandwidth.”
  • Include all relevant safety data. At present, some safety violations considered “acute” or “critical” by FMCSA standards re not even included in the SFD process.
  • Make the SFD process transparent and replicable so motor carriers can take steps to improve their safety practices knowing how FMCSA will measure their results.
  • Publish carrier safety ratings with the marketplace in mind, specifically moving away from the “Conditional” terminology which presently condemns a carrier to Purgatory.

People may participate in the FMCSA listening session by registering here.