Back to basics

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans to make it more difficult for prospective carriers to enter the trucking business in the future. FMCSA is putting the finishing touches on the New Entrant Motor Carrier Safety Assurance Process, which was first put out for public comment in December 2006. According to the proposal, The agency has identified 11 regulations that it believes are essential

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans to make it more difficult for prospective carriers to enter the trucking business in the future.

FMCSA is putting the finishing touches on the New Entrant Motor Carrier Safety Assurance Process, which was first put out for public comment in December 2006. According to the proposal, “The agency has identified 11 regulations that it believes are essential elements of basic safety management controls necessary to operate in interstate commerce and proposes that failure to comply with any one of the 11 regulations would result in automatic failure of the audit.” In other words, one strike and you're out for new carriers.

The violations that would result in automatic failure are:

  1. Failing to implement an alcohol and/or controlled substances testing program.

  2. Using a driver who has refused to submit to an alcohol or controlled substances test.

  3. Using a driver known to have tested positive for a controlled substance.

  4. Allowing an employee with a suspended, cancelled or revoked commercial driver's license to drive.

  5. Allowing an employee to drive even though he/she is disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.

  6. Operating a motor vehicle without having the required minimum levels of financial responsibility coverage.

  7. Using a disqualified driver.

  8. Using a physically unqualified driver.

  9. Failing to require a driver to make a record of duty status.

  10. Requiring or permitting the operation of a commercial motor vehicle declared “out-of-service'' before repairs are made.

  11. Using a commercial motor vehicle not periodically inspected.

FMCSA officials contend that these infractions are so basic that any carrier not in compliance should not be allowed to operate. While some industry stakeholders contend that this back-to-basics push by FMCSA will make the roads safer, others say that the changes are so common-sense that they're ludicrous and won't add to safety at all.

“I always thought that the new entry requirements were ridiculous,” says Rick Craig, director of Regulatory Affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “Plus, it won't stop anyone from getting into the business if they really want to.”

Carriers who don't pass will be allowed to reapply, according to the rules.

Still, potential carriers might be discouraged from entering the industry, according to FMCSA Administrator John Hill. Speaking at a recent National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) meeting, he said he expects 30 to 40% of new entrants will have some difficulty meeting the new standards.

These new standards, in addition to proposals that would require 120 hours of classroom time for new drivers, are seen by many as FMCSA's way of answering critics' complaints that they have been too lax on enforcement. Others privately suggest FMCSA is caving in to demands by some in the industry who want to decrease capacity during a time of low freight volumes. Critics contend that when freight volumes finally turn around, tight capacity will favor the larger, more established carriers.

Whether or not the regulations actually keep new blood from entering the business and keep a lid on capacity remains to be seen, but shippers are watching the action closely. “We have not yet gotten any feedback from our members,” says Peter Gatti, NITL exec. vp. “Right now, it's hypothetical. We don't know how it will play out. We'll have to wait and see, but obviously, our members want increased capacity, not less.”

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