Regulatory guidepost

CSA is serving as a guide for future FMCSA regulations

Much ado has been made in recent years about the lack of data regarding rulemakings that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has put forth in an effort to make the industry safer. That lack of data has even gotten a few rules into the courtroom with legal challenges over the legitimacy of the numbers that the agency is using in its regulatory development process. Well, it has occurred to me that FMCSA may be taking the same path that it hopes carriers take when it comes to improving upon the industry safety record.

In preparation for my annual regulatory update for TCA’s Safety and Security Div. meeting, in which I provide valuable knowledge regarding the regulatory and legislative landscape (horn tooted), I reviewed a chart of top driver violations as reported by the CSA Safety Measurement System. That chart reported the top 17 violations that drivers were tagged with during inspections and reported through CSA. Of those violations, I realized that most had rulemakings in the works. In other words, the agency was using CSA as a regulatory roadmap of sorts to identify top concerns that need addressing—much like carriers do.

The top two driver violations are related to driver logs; in fact, three of the top 10 were log related, and all could be addressed through the adoption of e-logs. As I wrote in last month’s column, carriers across the country are beginning that adoption process while the agency develops a rule that will stay out of the courts.

The industry has been plagued for years with the seemingly innocuous medical certificate violation, yet it continues to be the major contributor to the driver fitness BASIC score. As soon as states get in line with the CDL/medical certificate marriage, the wallet medical card will be a thing of the past. Then as carriers, we can only hope that drivers will carry their commercial driver’s license with them as it will be directly linked to the driver’s DOT physical.

We can also imagine many more of these issues being addressed in the long-awaited rule that will provide minimum standards for entry-level driver training. One can even imagine the agency developing a speed limiter rule, since TCA and even ATA have policies that support governing speeds. In others words, I cannot be the only person who is looking at this list and seeing rules being developed to make our roads safer for the industry and the motoring public in general.

In what I can now see as the consummate data gathering device, CSA has become a rulemaking support mechanism that provides information and data on possible future rulemaking that the industry needs. We know this because CSA effectively has become the game-changing program that the agency hoped it would be. This measurement system has changed the way safety departments operate by providing the same access to data that the agency itself has had, and carriers are doing exactly what the agency hoped for and that is addressing issues themselves. Carriers are effectively regulating themselves to bring down scores that may be out of line, which will soon be followed by a federal mandate of sorts that has little or no pushback because many carriers have already adopted the technology or rules to keep scores in line. The bottom line? If you are looking for a regulatory update, look no further than what your CSA scores are telling you.

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