Today, January 21, 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will publish in the Federal Register a NPRM to establish the new methods they will use to determine when a motor carrier is "unfit." This proposal will radically change the way the FMCSA assigns safety ratings for all interstate carriers.
What will change?
Under this proposal there would no longer be the three ratings as there is today (satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory); instead the proposal would only include one "unfit" safety rating.
Using the existing roadside inspection data or results of an investigation (or both), the carrier could automatically be declared unfit if the data supports the rating. Currently, a carrier rating cannot be determined solely by inspection data and generally results when a review (investigation) is conducted. This NPRM, however, would change that and allow carriers to be determined "unfit" based on roadside inspection data only.
Here's how that might work...
A carrier would have to generate at least 11 roadside inspections during the prior 24-month period and each inspection must have at least one violation to be counted. The FMCSA would only use five of the current BASICs (Unsafe Driving, HOS, Driver Fitness, Vehicle Maintenance and HM) in the calculation. This proposal would mean the carrier's score would have to be in the 96th percentile for Unsafe Driving and HOS and the 99th percentile for the other four BASICs and the carrier would have to fail at least two of the BASICs. The carriers would be rated only against an absolute failure score, and not against other carriers as the SMS current system currently does.
If a carrier is determined "unfit" they will have available several remedies and 15 days to try to mitigate the rating with FMCSA. The FMCSA anticipates this change will not increase the unfit carrier number significantly and will serve to address the problems associated with "only being able to assess a small number of carriers each year due to limited resources." They also contend that this change will address the current problem of conditional carriers who are operating indefinitely.
What does this mean for you?
If your BASICs are extremely high, you will need to address those issues. If you don't have problem areas when you view your SMS data, you can relax. For carriers who want to check where they would be under the proposed system, the FMCSA has developed a calculator you can use. Have your current SMA data available when you log in and check it out at https://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/sfd/SFDCalculator.aspx.
Finally, the FMCSA is seeking comments on this proposal if you care to weigh in. Reference docket number FMCSA-2015-0001 at www.regulations.gov.