WASHINGTON – Federal regulators, responding to industry criticism of their proposed changes to the way carriers are rated to determine their fitness to operate, have backed off on the proposal pending the results of a major study.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said in the Federal Register that it would withdraw its January 2016 proposal to rework the Safety Fitness Determination rule until the National Academy of FMCSSciences completes its study of the agency’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program.
Withdrawal of the rule represented a key regulatory victory for the United Motorcoach Association, which focused on the issue throughout 2016.
UMA also made blocking the rule a priority during last April’s Capitol Hill Days lobbying effort, during which association members held more than 400 meetings with federal legislators.
FMCSA’s action came only weeks after more than 60 industry groups, led by UMA, sent a letter to new Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asking her to rescind the rule.
“This regulatory win is a victory for the common-sense safety reform that our nation needs”
In the letter, the industry groups contended that the safety fitness determination proposal should be placed on hold until FMCSA fixes the CSA system, as it was ordered to do by Congress.
The groups said there are a number of flaws in the data that drives the current Safety Measurement System (SMS) within CSA.
“This regulatory win is a victory for the common-sense safety reform that our nation needs,” said Dale Krapf, chairman of UMA and Krapf’s Coaches. “UMA thanks Secretary Chao and many members of Congress who have helped us on this issue.”
The proposed rule would have established a new motor carrier safety rating system based on scores generated by the CSA program. It would have done away with the Conditional, Satisfactory and Unsatisfactory rating system in favor of a simple Fit and Unfit designation.
The new rule would have determined when a motor carrier is unfit to operate commercial motor vehicles based on its on-road safety data, an investigation, or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.
FMCSA previously announced that it would issue a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking sometime this year, followed by a final rule.
“However, after reviewing the record in this matter, FMCSA withdraws the (proposed rule) and cancels the plans to develop a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” the agency said.
“The agency must receive the correlation study from the National Academy of Science, as required by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, assess whether and, if so, what corrective actions are advisable, and complete additional analysis before determining whether further rulemaking action is necessary to revise the safety fitness determination process.”
Results of the study are expected in June.
The letter to Chao – signed by 62 industry groups, including several state and regional motorcoach associations affiliated with UMA and most major transportation trade associations – said it didn’t make sense “to build a new safety fitness determination system upon a flawed system which is currently undergoing congressionally mandated review and reform and is likely to change.”
“While we support the goal of an easily understandable, rational safety fitness determination system, this proposal is built on a flawed foundation. We urge you to rescind this ill-advised and harmful rulemaking immediately and participate fully in the reform of the CSA/SMS process as mandated by Congress.”