In January of this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a proposal to change truck fleet safety rules.
According to the FMCSA, the goal is to monitor a larger number of trucking fleets than it has in the past. This could have a big effect on truck fleets: Currently, the agency rates fleets as satisfactory, conditional, and unsatisfactory, and the current rules prevent unsatisfactory fleets from operating. Under the proposed safety rules, though, the FMCSA would eliminate the “conditional” rating. Any fleet that isn’t satisfactory would no longer be able to operate. This will mean that fleets in violation of safety standards would not be given a chance to make appropriate changes. (The FMCSA argues that, under the current system, it is often not able to monitor fleets rated “conditional,” and as a result, required safety changes are never made.) Furthermore, the FMCSA estimates that it would base its safety ratings on road-side inspection of 75,000 trucks per month.
Opponents of this proposal (including the American Truck Association and the Truckload Carriers Association) don’t like the changes for several reasons. First, they say, the proposed safety rule standards are arbitrary, and are the same as those under the current Safety Measurement System (which Congress said were unclear). The guidelines the FMCSA will use to determine safety are statistically flawed, they say. Additionally, removal of a “conditional” rating will mean that a fleet found unfit will be barred from operation, with no practical option to appeal or improve the unfit rating. Ultimately, opponents argue, the proposed safety rules will make it harder for fleets to be judged accurately while doing little to improve safety.