Alternative compliance

Incentivizing carriers for safety initiatives is worth the discussion

If you have ever listened to the Dave Nemo Show on SiriusXM Radio, you may have tuned in to TCA’s bimonthly show called Load ’Em Up, Move ’Em Out. Appearing as a guest on a recent show, the topic of alternative compliance became the subject of the discussion. While I hope I provided some insight on the topic for the listeners, the conversation did become food for thought on what will most likely be talked about more frequently as the regulatory agenda continues along its laborious path.

As we all know, regulatory changes are slow moving at best. Not only does it seem like forever to issue a rulemaking, but going from start to finish is at least a two-year minimum. Now throw in the inevitable legal challenge and any realistic timeline for a contentious regulation that would actually help the trucking industry can be tossed out the window. For example, it has been five years since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration first issued its notice of proposed rulemaking on electronic onboard recorders, and there is still no end in sight since the courts made its harassment ruling. This lengthy wait for important mandates is one reason to consider the theory of alternative compliance, which we discussed on the show.

Alternative compliance is based on the notion that the “best compliance is voluntary compliance.” Studied by the American Transportation Research Institute in 2011, incentivizing safety solutions that go above and beyond current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) may be a path that the industry is heading down. By incorporating additional safety measures into a fleet’s operation, carriers are finding that the safety ROI is well worth their investment and also provides an additional opportunity to ensure that all parties involved, i.e., shippers and drivers, will have a greater chance of arriving at their destination in a safe manner.

Incentivizing carriers to go above and beyond does sound ambiguous, so let me clarify. A urine-based drug testing program, for instance, is required by every carrier that operates on our nation’s highways; however, a carrier that adopts a hair-based program, as well as a urine-based, to test for a history of drug use could be deemed to go above and beyond the scope of the FMCSRs and earn an incentive for doing so. These incentives could exist in the form of CSA-related assistance or other safetyrelated matter that aids and encourages carriers to explore non-regulatory solutions to their safety programs.

Drug testing is just one example of many that exist in today’s technologically advanced environment. Speed limiters, training simulators, and electronic logging devices are other technologies that can increase the safety performance of drivers but are not federal mandates. These are just the tip of the iceberg of proven industry safety measures that aid in improving a fleet’s compliance and safety performance.

Alternative compliance and the idea of incentivizing the adoption of safety solutions, however, remain merely a theory, one that has not yet been placed on the regulatory agenda and has not even been the subject of quality discussions. It also helps remind us that even if the concept does come to fruition, the industry will still be looking at the same timeline for implementation mentioned a few paragraphs earlier. Rather than making safety regulations full-on mandates, incentivizing carriers that go above and beyond has its advantages as it rewards those fleets and drivers that practice higher levels of safety every day.

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