ATA has petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to formalize a rule expanding the use of driver violation notification programs. Called Employer Notification Systems (ENS), they allow regulatory agencies to automatically notify employers of changes to a driver's motor vehicle record. Eleven states currently use some form of ENS.
In California, for example, anyone who hires CDL holders to operate commercial motor vehicles must use the state's Employer Pull Notice program. The California program generates 75,000 notices each month giving employers information about recent driver violations and/or revocations of driving privileges. The safety benefits are such that over 48,000 public and private sector employers have joined the program, covering CDL and non-CDL drivers.
The ATA petition seeks rulemaking changes that would give carriers that participate in such programs an alternative to the annual driver reviews required by FMCSR. More importantly, the rule would provide motor carriers with more timely notification when employees are convicted of serious traffic violations or have their licenses disqualified by the state.
Although current regulations require drivers to notify employers within 30 days if they're convicted of a traffic control violation or within one business day of receiving a notice that revokes, suspends or withdraws their driving privileges, many do not comply. Consequently, fleets often don't find out about these violations until they're doing a driver's annual review.
One carrier found that only 30% of the violations that generated notices through the ENS program were reported by the drivers themselves during the prescribed time limits.
Given that the relationship between driver behavior and crash involvement has been well established, these unreported violations could result in crashes by undetected at-risk drivers. Consequently, FMCSA should act expeditiously on the ATA rulemaking request.
First, the request would formalize a rulemaking interpretation published by FMCSA in January 2003 exempting carriers from conducting annual reviews if drivers are enrolled in ENS programs, provided the programs update their records every time a state agency adds a violation and/or suspension to a driver's file.
Second, the request could establish a precedent, thus raising national awareness, regarding the use and implementation of ENS systems. In fact, the programs are not widely used, nor even recognized, by carriers who do not operate in the handful of states where ENS is available.
Greater use of ENS programs would lead to earlier detection and management of at-risk behavior — an essential ingredient in reducing the number and severity of truck crashes.
Unfortunately, including ENS program language in the rules may not be a regulatory slam dunk. States could lose a significant revenue stream from annual employer MVR requests. which would be supplanted by ENS notifications. In addition, the current 11-state mix of ENS programs is a patchwork quilt, with different operating schemes (e.g., public vs. private, mandatory vs. voluntary) and architectures.
Jim York is the ass't. vice president of technical services for Zurich Risk Engineering in Schaumburg, IL.