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FMCSA: A period of uncertainty

Feb. 12, 2015

DALLAS. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) director, office of enforcement and compliance, Joe DeLorenzo, shared an insider’s look at the agency’s rulemaking processes and offered clarification and advice to fleets on compliance questions during a presentation at the Omnitracs Outlook 2015 conference being held here this week. The bottom line: a certain amount of ambiguity is inevitable, so it is always best to be prepared:

Some of the topics DeLorenzo covered:

+ ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices):  A Final Rule on electronic logging devices is expected this year, DeLorenzo said. The primary goals of the new rulemaking are to improve safety by cutting down on hours of service (HOS) violations and to provide some uniformity in the industry when it comes to HOS logging. “Right now, there are a myriad of different device out there,” he said, noting that none of them are really ELDs. Instead, they are all AOBRDs, or Automatic Onboard Recording Devices.

“We are very cognizant of the fact that this has to be a smooth transition for the industry, for officers and for inspectors,” he added. “[Especially during this time of transition], “ensure that your drivers really understand how ELDs work and, if they are stopped, make sure that they are prepared to give the officer what they need… We are also working with enforcement to be able to accept ELDs.”

+ CSA Safety Fitness Determination:  CSA is actually not a rule but a system and a process, DeLorenzo said. The system is called SMS or the Safety Management System. The process is what FMCSA does  — activities such as issue a warning letter, launch an investigation or conduct a compliance review.

The proposed Safety Fitness Determination will take the CSA system and processes to the next level.  The goal is to help FMCSA access the safety of more fleets more often than it presently does, DeLorenzo told the audience, but it still needs to go through the rulemaking process before it become a reality. When it does, safety fitness determinations will not be “relative,” he said.

+ Crash determination: Accidents figure into CSA’s Crash Indicator BASIC and 100,000 crash reports are uploaded by FMCSA annually, DeLorenzo said, with no determination of the carrier’s role in the crash.

Determination is made, however, before assigning an adverse safety rating to carrier, he noted. There is some question about how to best conduct a crash [fault] weighting analysis.  Using just police accident reports for crash weighting benefits the implementation of the crash weighting determination process, but when FMCSA compares police accident reports (PARs) to FARs (Fatal Accident Reports) there is a fair amount of inconsistency between the two, he observed.

“Every crash is different,” he said. “I have never seen an easy crash to evaluate.”  That said, DeLorenzo noted that crash involvement, regardless of the carrier’s role in the crash, has been shown to be a good predictor of future crashes.  Crash determination procedures are open now for public comment. “Really, we are looking for help,” he added.

+ Data Qs: So-called “Data Qs” are intended to provide a process for carriers to file a Request for Data Review (RDR) to identify concerns that information in FMCSA’s data system may be incomplete or incorrect. “When filing an RDR, remember to take the time to file a good RDR, DeLorenzo said,” along with anything you have to substantiate your claim. Write a specific and detailed report.”

+ HOS 34-hour restart: FMCSA, under pressure from the trucking industry, temporarily suspended enforcement of certain 34-hour restart restrictions in the current Hours of Service rule pending a study of their impact. FMCSA is now looking for additional drivers to participate in the study. In the meantime, DeLorenzo said, “It is a period of uncertainty.”

About the Author

Wendy Leavitt

Wendy Leavitt joined Fleet Owner in 1998 after serving as editor-in-chief of Trucking Technology magazine for four years.

She began her career in the trucking industry at Kenworth Truck Company in Kirkland, WA where she spent 16 years—the first five years as safety and compliance manager in the engineering department and more than a decade as the company’s manager of advertising and public relations. She has also worked as a book editor, guided authors through the self-publishing process and operated her own marketing and public relations business.

Wendy has a Masters Degree in English and Art History from Western Washington University, where, as a graduate student, she also taught writing.  

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