The National School Transportation Association is urging its school bus contractor members to contact their local U.S. House of Representatives in an attempt to thwart a “flawed” proposal announced in January to change the commercial carrier safety rating system.
As first reported in January, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration responded to a congressional mandate in the Moving Ahead for Progress for the 21st Century (MAP-21) federal highway reauthorization law of 2012 to overhaul the safety fitness program that has been in place since 1982. Congress directed FMCSA to develop a simple and easily understandable rating system to help customers compare the safety performance of passenger carriers when making decisions on selecting providers.
NSTA added that the new system would “radically” change the carrier safety rating system from satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory determined by compliance reviews to a singular rating of "unfit." Carriers who are not qualified as unfit, which apparently means they have a satisfactory safety record, would be unrated in the new system. NSTA commented that this “would obviously create confusion for those trying to ensure they are choosing a safe carrier.”
The proposed program would instead derive from on-road safety data in relation to five of FMCSA’s seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs), namely an investigation, or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information, NSTA explained.
But NSTA said the new system “is based on flawed data” and scores from the Compliance, Safety and Accountability/Safety Measurement System, or CSA/SMS.
“The FMCSA should complete the reforms to the CSA/SMS system before proceeding to a new method of evaluating safety fitness of my operation,” a NSTA statement reads. “In the meantime, the current safety fitness rating system available to customers would remain in place.”
NSTA said it is also seeking language in the FY 2017 DOT appropriations bill to require FMCSA to complete CSA/SMS reforms before proceeding with new rulemaking.
Additionally, NSTA said FMCSA’s proposed rule also bypasses a stipulation of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act that was enacted December. The FAST Act requires FMCSA to issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or negotiated rulemaking for any new “major rule” it seeks to create.