Federal Officials Hope More Coordinated Data Will Result in a Safer Trucking Industry

March 7th, 2016 by Attorney Julie Butcher

The federal agency whose job it is to oversee the safety of the trucking industry is proposing a change in regulations that will provide a monthly rating of regulated commercial motor carriers. If the system is enacted, it may result in safer trucks on Kentucky roads; more trucking companies will come under scrutiny and motor carriers may need to act faster to avoid being taken off the roads.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has published a rulemaking proposal that updates its safety rating methods by using safety data from truck inspections, findings of carrier investigations and crash reports to determine a motor carrier’s safety fitness on a monthly, updated basis according to Overdrive.

The proposed Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rule could replace the existing rating system of “Satisfactory, Conditional and Unsatisfactory” with a single determination of unfit. FMCSA’s goal is to better use information it has available to provide more timely assessments to identify unsafe companies and get their trucks off the road. If a carrier is deemed unfit to operate they will have to shut down until safety improvements are made.

The FMCSA’s power to shut down unsafe trucking companies is not new. In 2010 an Alabama based trucking company was shut down after one of its trucks was involved in an accident near Munfordville, Kentucky, which killed ten people according to LancasterOnline. The proposed regulation would involve a new way to determine when and why such a closing should occur.

If the regulation is enacted, FMCSA estimates it will enable it to assess the safety of about 75,000 companies a month. Currently the agency can investigate only 15,000 motor carriers annually. Less than half receive a safety rating. The FMCSA has an online SFD calculator that motor carriers can use to see how the rule could affect them.

The proposed new rating will use the agency’s Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories to come up with a rating. Failure of two of the following will result in an unfit rating: hours-of-service compliance, driver fitness, unsafe driving, vehicle maintenance and hazardous materials. That rating would occur due to roadside violations, investigatory findings or a combination of the two. The agency estimates less than 300 motor carriers each year would be “unfit” due solely to on-road safety violations.

The proposed regulation is being criticized by the trucking industry. One of the comments on the proposed regulation is from Michael Ennis, the president of Ennis Corporation, a trucking company based in Clarion, Iowa. His reservations are:

  • FMCSA’s data could inaccurately label carriers as unfit when they are actually operating safely.
  • Roadside enforcement of trucking regulations is inconsistent, possibly resulting in unsafe trucks passing while safe ones do not.
  • Smaller operators often don’t have the resources for a comprehensive safety program and their ability to change required scores to avoid or end an unfit rating is limited.
  • Implementing the proposed regulation, “will be extremely detrimental to the industry.”

Regulation of any industry results in costs and benefits. While the country needs the trucking industry to keep the economy going, we also need safe trucks next to us while we drive on Kentucky roads and trucking companies that value operating safely. If you or a family member has been injured in a truck accident, the personal injury attorneys at the Julie Butcher Law Office have extensive experience handling the claims of those injured in commercial motor vehicle accidents. Call us at 859-233-3641 or fill out our contact form so we can talk about the circumstances of your case and how we might help your family obtain justice.