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Few parties file replies in SFD NPRM

Although more than 150 initial comments were filed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to change the agency’s process for assigning safety fitness determinations (SFDs), only a half-dozen substantive reply comments were filed.

A coalition of organizations representing primarily small carriers – Air & Expedited Motor Carriers Association; Alliance for Safe, Efficient and Competitive Truck Transportation; American Home Furnishings Alliance; Auto Haulers Association of America; National Association of Small Trucking Companies; The Expedite Alliance of North America; Transportation Loss Prevention & Security Association; and Western States Trucking Association – emphasized six points in response to comments filed by various other parties or to information obtained since the May 23 deadline. In its reply the coalition argued that:

  • FMCSA must reaffirm that fit to operate means fit to use;

  • The NPRM would appear to be a pointless – or at least premature – exercise;

  • A system of rankings based on roadside inspections is fatally flawed – with or without peer grouping;

  • A new approach could ensure equitable treatment for all carriers;

  • Lack of other stakeholders’ attention to the proposed investigation-based SFD method does not free FMCSA to adopt it.

The American Trucking Associations devoted much of its reply to reiterating its support for a three-tier SFD system – Assessed – Unfit; Assessed – Not Unfit; and Not Assessed – to ensure that it is clear whether a carrier had actually been assessed by FMCSA. Assigning only “Unfit” ratings ignores the fact that about 450,000 motor carriers would not be assessed by FMCSA’s proposed SFD regime, ATA said. Much of the rest of ATA’s comments disagree with the Teamster union’s comments regarding the 34-hour restart of hours-of-service weekly limits and regarding the union’s claim that high BASIC failure standards negate the effects of regional enforcement disparities.

This latter point was the sole focus of the reply comments filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which emphasized in its initial comments that any SFD system based on data in the Motor Carrier Management Information System is unworkable. OOIDA presented detailed data on enforcement activity normalized for vehicle miles traveled. “Trucks passing through States with relatively high levels of enforcement are being subjected to higher standards than trucks passing through States with lower enforcement rates.”

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association emphasized three points in its reply comments. First, eliminating current satisfactory safety ratings would create major problems for the transportation community, NMFTA said. In addition, FMCSA should not go forward until the underlying SMS data is shown to be uniform, accurate and correlated with safety performance. Finally, the timeframes for administrative appeal are wholly inadequate, NMFTA said.

C.H. Robinson focused on a single issue: The current availability of absolute measures. The large intermediary recommended that FMCSA hide all absolute measure data because of its potential misuse out of the context of a carrier’s safety event group. If FMCSA does not or believes it cannot hide absolute measures it should add a warning label that absolute measures vary widely depending on safety event grouping and that shippers, brokers and others should not compare absolute measure scores across safety groupings for any purpose.

The National School Transportation Association devoted most of its reply comments to reiterating its concerns with the NPRM.

To read all comments on the SFD NPRM, visit

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