FMCSA Shelves Carrier Safety Fitness Determination

The Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) has been postponed. Brokers are disappointed that they still won’t have a clear guideline to help select safe carriers. The carriers themselves wanted to kill the rule, because the guidelines were based on safety data that carriers consider to be badly flawed.

Proposed rulemaking withdrawn

On March 23, FMCSA announced that it will withdraw its January 2016 notice of proposed rulemaking, which would revise the method for issuing a Safety Fitness Determination for carriers.

The proposed rule was opposed by many carrier associations because the safety determination would be partially based on data from the Safety Measurement System BASIC ratings from the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program. In the FAST Act highway funding bill, passed in December 2015, Congress directed FMCSA to remove BASIC scores and certain BASIC categories from public view, saying that the scores did not accurately reflect a carrier’s safety risk.

Shown are the 7 BASIC categories tracked by FMCSA.

According to the Overdrive Online, “The withdrawal comes a few weeks after industry groups asked new transportation secretary Elaine Chao to kill the rule.”

The FMCSA, however, does not say the rule is dead. Its notice in the Federal Register says:

After reviewing the record in this matter, FMCSA withdraws the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and cancels the plans to develop a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The Agency must receive the Correlation Study from the National Academies of Science, as required by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, assess whether and, if so, what corrective actions are advisable, and complete additional analysis before determining whether further rulemaking action is necessary to revise the safety fitness determination process.

Brokers Association Supports SFD

Not everyone is pleased that the SFD has been postponed. The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), a trade organization for freight brokers and 3PLs, announced in its newsletter this week:

TIA has been a supporter of the SFD rulemaking because it cleared up how safety ratings for motor carriers are presented to the public, and removed the confusion and liability traps that surround the four-tiered rating system. The entities that hire motor carriers need a clear-cut line to determine which carriers are safe to use and which carriers are not.

The four-tiered system TIA refers to is the FMCSA’s current carrier rating of Satisfactory, Conditional, Unsatisfactory, and Unrated.

The proposed rating system would simply designate a carrier as Fit or Unfit to operate.

National Carrier Hiring Standard Bill Re-Introduced


DAT’s carrier monitoring service, DAT CarrierWatch®, includes a link that allows users to see publicly-available CSA data on any carrier. CarrierWatch also provides information on a carrier’s DOT authority, safety rating, and insurance coverage—including the ability to print or save copies of the carrier’s actual insurance certificates. Learn more.

On a related note, on March 16 four congressmen introduced a bill that would create a national hiring standard for motor carriers. Similar legislation has been introduced in the last two Congresses.

The bill would require that 35 days before selecting a motor carrier, a shipper, broker, forwarder, or receiver verify that the motor carrier is:

  • Properly registered with the FMCSA
  • Has obtained the minimum insurance
  • Has not been given an unsatisfactory safety rating

The bill would prohibit any CSA, SMS, or other data from being used as evidence in a civil action for damages resulting from a claim of negligent selection or retention of such motor carrier.

TIA supports this legislation, stating, “Interstate commerce needs a national hiring standard for motor carriers rather than allowing a patchwork of state court decisions to determine the hiring standard for motor carriers.”