Channel 19

Todd Dills

A window on FMCSA’s CSA driver-enforcement authority goals

| August 10, 2011

I thought I’d share a document leaked earlier in the year — specifically in May, and to the Transportation Weekly publication — that purported to be a draft highway bill whose genesis was within the Obama administration. It contains a 12-page section headed by “Driver Safety Provisions,” beginning on p. 366, that seems to further confirm Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration intentions to expand authority in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability enforcement regime to rate individual drivers, using inspection and crash data.

I wrote about this in the current issues of both Overdrive and Truckers News, the story also available in text online, sources within the agency and former FMCSA administrator John Hill, among others, confirming the long-term plan to rank individual drivers in a manner with a look and feel similar to the way carriers are now ranked under CSA. The leaked highway-bill draft seems to go farther than that in some instances, its recommended revisions to U.S. code suggesting a desire to give FMCSA power to disqualify individual drivers irrespective of whether their employing/leasing motor carrier is being audited or whether their state CDL credentials are otherwise in order.

Just check out the following recommended insertion into U.S. code, defining grounds for the “disqualification” of a driver:

(A) The suspension, revocation, or cancellation of a commercial driver’s license by the State of issuance.

(B) Any withdrawal of an individual’s privileges to drive a commercial motor vehicle by a State or other jurisdiction as the result of a violation of State or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control (other than parking, vehicle weight or vehicle defect violations).

(C) A determination by the Secretary that a person is not qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

(D) A determination by the Secretary that a commercial motor vehicle driver is ‘unfit’ under section 31144(h) of this title.

While (A) and (B) are nothing much new, regarding the last two, you might recall FMCSA’s own words on the subject of the DOT’s ability to disqualify a driver — during the big CSA information push, beginning in late 2010, it was standard operating procedure for any story that appeared about the program to include a caveat from a federal official noting that they did not have any such authority. Well, if they get what they apparently want, as indicated above, they will have just such authority. Give a read to p. 366-378 via this link and tell me your own thoughts on it all in the comments here or by email: tdills [at] rrpub.com.

Remember, of course, that this is just a draft — the House outline of transport-reauthorization priorities did not appear to include any such language or intent when it was introduced in early July. And time is dwindling for Congress to reauthorize the transport programs, suggesting we’ll more than likely get another temporary extension of current highway bill this year rather than a new long-term plan.