Congressmen want FMCSA to slow down carrier rating rule

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A group of 36 members of the U.S. House have sent a letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s top dog, Acting Administrator Scott Darling, urging him and his agency to halt work on its new Safety Fitness Determination carrier rating system pending the FAST Act-required reforms to the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.

 The Representatives’ letter, sent to Darling late Wednesday, is not the first sent by lawmakers regarding the agency’s January-published Safety Fitness Determination rule. It also is the latest in a long line of letters or statements from industry groups raising concerns over the agency’s procession with the SFD rule, despite Congressional direction in the December-passed FAST Act.

The SFD rule proposes, in short, to change the agency’s three-tier rating system (Satisfactory, Conditional, Unsatisfactory) to a two-tier system: Fit or Unfit. The rule would also more heavily tie that safety fitness determination to data derived from roadside inspections and violations, like CSA’s Safety Measurement System rankings.

Like letters past, the 36 lawmakers undersigned in Wednesday’s letter argue that the SFD rule, even if not in direct violation of FAST Act stipulations, is in violation of the spirit of the law and the required overhaul of the CSA program.

“While you are in the process of implementing the FAST Act reforms, it is inconceivable that you would propose using the same data and analysis Congress has agreed is faulty in a new safety fitness determination methodology,” the lawmakers write, adding that the CSA reforms should be “fully completed” before the new carrier rating methodology is formed.

FMCSA, however, has said it’s well within its legal boundaries to produce the Safety Fitness rule, despite the required CSA reforms in the FAST Act. In a media briefing held last month, FMCSA’s head of compliance Joe DeLorenzo said the rule does not make use of the most questionable parts of CSA — the percentile rankings and alerts, which were pulled from public view by the FAST Act — and that the rule would expand FMCSA’s ability to target high risk carriers.

The public comment period on the proposed rule is open until May 23. Click here to file a comment.

Click here to see the letter sent to Darling on Wednesday.