Work Continues on Vetting System for New Motor Carriers

An advisory panel recommended FMCSA ensure new entrant carriers have their safety audits within a year on average, with "chameleon carriers" and others not in compliance found through roadside inspection data and other procedures.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has posted the Sept. 2 report delivered by its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee to help the agency ensure new entrant motor carriers know how they must comply with federal safety and hazmat regulations before beginning interstate operations. The report answers FMCSA's Aug. 25, 2009, Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public comments on the subject.

This effort is under way because FMCSA implemented a final rule last February, with a compliance date of Dec. 16, 2009, that adopted an automatic failure component for the safety audit. If a new entrant violated any of 16 essential elements of basic safety management controls necessary to operate in interstate commerce, it would fail. And seven incidents or regulatory violations found in a roadside inspection or by any other means than the safety audit would trigger expedited action against the new entrant.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety filed a petition for reconsideration, however, on Jan. 15, 2009, alleging FMCSA had not established minimum requirements for applicant motor carriers as required, and the agency agreed to initiate this further rulemaking.

Beyond saying FMCSA should conduct more thorough investigations of new entrants, the advisory committee recommended having companies that hold a DOT number update their MCS-150 forms annually and whenever updates are triggered by another event. (MCS-150 is the form used to apply for a USDOT number.) The committee said FMCSA should ensure each new entrant is tested to assess knowledge of federal motor carrier safety regulations, hazmat regulations if applicable, penalties for failure to comply, safety management practices with a focus on driver performance measurement and distracted driving issues such as fatigue, the 16 automatic failure violations, and Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) 2010. The committee said "chameleon carriers," which it defined as "a carrier that attempts to register as a new entrant and attempts to operate as a new entity to evade detection for a prior non-compliance," and others not in compliance should be found through roadside inspection data and other procedures.

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