FMCSA recommends dropping universal new entrant audits
Citing a desire to target intervention based on risk, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is recommending that Congress drop the current requirement that all new interstate motor carriers of property receive safety audits within their first 12 months. In an April 2017 report to Congress, the agency said that its analysis found that new entrants that had a driver or vehicle out-of-service rate of 50% or higher based on at least three inspections in a 90-day period had crash rates more than twice that of all new entrants as a group. Moreover, the safety performance of all new entrants had barely changed from fiscal 2012 through fiscal 2016, FMCSA said.
"The lack of improvement in crash performance among the total new entrant carrier group is likely a result of those carriers with high crash rates being obscured by the total number of carriers in the group," FMCSA said in the report. "If those carriers with demonstrated non-compliance or crash risk could be isolated and safety audit resources directed based on safety risk, FMCSA expects there to be significant opportunities for safety improvements."
Another issue is the change in how intervention activities are funded, FMCSA said. The Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act changed the new entrant program from a discretionary grant program to make it part of Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) formula grants to states. "By not requiring new entrant safety audits for all new carriers, the States could flex MCSAP funds and design their New Entrant programs to include an appropriate mix of activities without the requirement for audits. Such programs might include increased inspections on new entrants, monitoring, education, and outreach.
If Congress were to grant flexibility to target new entrants with indicators of safety problems, FMCSA and the states could continue monitoring all new entrants through the end of the 18-month provisional period, FMCSA said.
FMCSA believes one initiative related to new entrants is achieving its intended purpose: Off-site safety audits. FMCSA tested the idea of a remote audit based on submission of documentation through online uploads, email and fax in 2013 and 2014 and began rolling out the concept nationally in June 2015.
The agency's assessment of the off-site audit program found that:
Average efficiency increased by approximately 20% as measured by the number of audits completed during comparable test periods.
Off-site safety audits take 33% less time to conduct than on-site safety audits.
Off-site safety audits saved 58% on travel costs.
Carriers identified for the less resource-intensive off-site safety audit performed well
during subsequent roadside inspections.
While in the new entrant program, carriers receiving off-site safety audits have, on
average, equivalent or fewer subsequent expedited actions and violations than carriers
receiving an on-site safety audit.
As of April, off-site audits had been implemented in 31 states and were in the process of being implemented in eight more. FMCSA said it expects to complete the nationwide roll-out by October.