New leadership at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has dusted off some previously submitted petitions that apparently fell through the cracks or were largely ignored.
Additionally, the agency is proposing largely positive expansion of the Crash Preventability Determination Program. This is FMCSA’s solution to the years of comments heard from the industry regarding crashes that are reflected in their Safety Measurement System record yet were not at fault. It is always important to note the standard used by FMCSA is not that the operator was not at fault, but rather whether the motor carrier could have prevented the crash.
As you will see, the United Motorcoach Association concludes New York’s application of their 19-A regulations to out-of-state passenger carriers and Chicago’s emblem requirements are preempted by federal statutes.
Identification of Interstate Motor Vehicles; Petition for Determination: City of Chicago Registration Emblem Requirement
In January 2012, Allerton Charter Coach, Inc., submitted a petition requesting that FMCSA determine the Chicago Ground Transportation Tax registration emblem display requirement to be preempted by federal law. The administration failed to publish a determination and reopened the comment period.
UMA filed comments supporting the Allerton petition, which reflects considerable passenger carrier frustration. The FMCSA’s determination will have national significance.
UMA further commented that the passenger carrier industry is increasingly faced with local political subdivision permit requirements, fees, taxes and visible decal or emblem requirements that essentially vanished following passage of the Federal Aviation and Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA). In deregulating the interstate and intrastate passenger carrier industry, Congress intended market forces to bring a selection of price and service to the benefit of the consumer.
UMA stressed that passenger carriers cannot pursue permits in every political subdivision, as the time required to obtain permits and pay for fees, taxes, decals or emblems and the cost to do so often exceeds the value of serving the local marketplace. UMA also pointed out that local entrenched bus and motorcoach companies frequently support these obstacles to nearby or regional competitors for obvious reasons.
To review the proposal, complete UMA comments and comments of others, visit https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FMCSA-2012-0086.
Article 19-A of the State of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law
On Sept. 12, 2013, FMCSA published a request for comments on petitions seeking a determination that Article 19-A of the State of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law governing drivers of passenger-carrying interstate motor vehicles is preempted by federal law.
The comment period closed on Nov. 12, 2013. The agency never reached a determination, and, upon industry request, FMCSA reopened the comment period.
FMCSA sought comment on what effect, if any, Article 19-A and its accompanying regulations have on interstate motor carrier operations; the regulatory scheme’s safety benefits, if any; and whether it constitutes a burden on interstate commerce or is incompatible with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). FMCSA also requested specific information on how New York enforces Article 19-A against interstate passenger carriers.
UMA submitted comments stating that FMCSA goals can only be achieved through uniform compliance, application and monitoring. A panoply of state- or political subdivision-imposed duplicative and/or burdensome regulations undermines accurate measures and required response.
In summarizing, UMA concluded New York’s Article 19-A is incompatible with the FMCSRs and Safety Management Cycle and unnecessarily burdensome to passenger carriers and drivers. UMA requested the FMCSA Administrator find the requirement preempted by federal statute.
To review the proposal, complete UMA comments and comments of others, visit https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FMCSA-2013-0353.
Crash Preventability Determination Program
In a notice and request for comments, FMCSA has proposed to modify the Safety Measurement System to remove from the prioritization algorithm crashes that are found to be “not preventable.”
Removing not-preventable crashes should assist the agency in prioritizing motor carriers for intervention. FMCSA also proposes to note not-preventable determinations in the driver’s Pre-Employment Screening Program. Additionally, the agency proposes to consolidate two of the original eight crash types in the demonstration program and to start reviewing an additional eight crash types to determine if crashes in the additional categories are predominantly not preventable.
FMCSA advises the agency will continue to display the crashes in SMS with notations of not preventable, preventable or undecided. Crashes with not-preventable determinations would be removed from the SMS Crash Indicator or Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) calculation.
UMA suggests preventable or undecided notations likely have some correlation with the small number of Requests for Data Review (RDR), particularly by passenger carriers. There is some rationale for a motor carrier deciding not to submit a crash they conclude to be not preventable in order to avoid exacerbating potential liability through the risk of an agency determination of preventable or undecided.
UMA has recommended FMCSA consider the merits of removing not-preventable crashes altogether and not post preventable or undecided.
To review the proposal, complete UMA comments and comments of others, visit https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FMCSA-2014-0177.
UMA applauds the agency for taking time to address important issues brought before previous administrations and hopes it adopts the industry recommendations. We are cautiously optimistic.