To ensure the safety of all travelers on our nation’s roadways, all drivers must follow certain rules. There are licensing requirements, speed limits, sobriety checks and more. Many states also require vehicles to meet specific EPA standards to be allowed on the road.
The trucking industry is no different. As truck drivers likely spend more time than other drivers on the road, they and their vehicles are required to follow certain rules. It can be difficult, however, to enforce all those rules, given the number of trucks that travel each day. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed a new rule that it says will allow the agency to assess the safety of more carriers. It is hoped that this, in turn, will lead to safer roads.
The Current Safety Measurement System
The current system for determining whether or not a truck carrier is fit to travel is known as the Safety Measurement System (SMS). The FMCSA uses this system to identify companies with safety problems and target them for intervention. Under the SMS, officials assess carriers through inspections both on the road and at the carrier’s headquarters, as well as with the analysis of violations and crash data. Carriers can receive one of three prioritizations: satisfactory, conditional and unsatisfactory. Satisfactory and conditional ratings allow carriers to continue to operate. These ratings are also based on a scale as compared to other carriers.
There are seven main areas of focus in the SMS:
- Unsafe driving
- Crash indicator
- Hours of service compliance
- Vehicle maintenance
- Controlled substances or alcohol
- Hazardous materials compliance
- Driver fitness
Currently, each carrier is given a grade from 0–100 in each category, with 100 being the most unsafe. From there, a number of equations are used to calculate a figure which then translates into one of the three named ratings.
The Proposed Safety Fitness Determination
With the SMS system, the FMCSA is only able to evaluate a small number of carriers. They say that a new Safety Fitness Determination system (SFD) will enable them to assess the safety of many more carriers to increase safety for all drivers. While maintaining the seven focus areas, the SFD will:
- Move to a rating system of either “fit” or “unfit.” Unfit carriers will not be allowed to operate until appropriate improvements are made.
- Compare a carrier only to an absolute failure system. The performance of one carrier would have no effect on any other carrier.
- Carriers would be assessed monthly.
- More safety data would be included to make a safety rating determination.
The FMCSA says it hopes this rule will help them to more efficiently identify unsafe trucking companies and get them off the road. The proposed rule could into effect in 2019.
Despite good intentions and laws aimed at keeping people safe, accidents still happen. If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a truck accident, the experienced legal team at the Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm can help. Fill out our contact form to learn more about your rights.