Senate DOT appropriations bill would set e-log, CSA safety fitness determination deadlines

Updated Jun 10, 2014

The Senate’s version of the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Transportation contains language that would prevent the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from dragging its feet in producing a final electronic logging device mandate rule and proposing its long-planned Safety Fitness Determination rule under the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program. 

FMCSA has continued to push back its own schedule for releasing the SFD

The Senate’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill gives the agency $592.3 million in funding for the 2015 fiscal year and came out of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee Thursday, when an amendment was added to suspend the 2013 hours-of-service rule for at least a year until more study can be done to justify its restart provisions.

If passed, the bill would require FMCSA to publish a final ELD rule by Jan. 30, 2015. The current highway funding bill, MAP-21, required the agency to produce a proposed rule by Sept. 30 of 2013, but the agency didn’t publish the proposal until March of this year.

The public comment period on the rule ends June 26, after which the agency will begin work on a final rule, taking into account feedback gathered during the 90-day comment period. 

The agency usually produces a final rule within a few months of the end of public comment periods on proposed rules, and the Jan. 30 deadline would give the agency seven months to publish its final ELD rule.

Though the bill’s language wouldn’t seem to set an unrealistic target, the FMCSA has missed — substantially — several self-set timeframes on its calendar.

Citing “excessive” delays on a CSA-based Safety Fitness Determination rule, the bill also would require FMCSA to initiate a rulemaking “no later than December 2014.”

The SFD rule is the agency’s next step in its Compliance, Safety, Accountability program. The rule would allow the agency to use a similar data set it uses in CSA’s Safety Measurement System rankings to produce an actual fitness score for carriers. It could then use the scores to target carriers for intervention. 

The THUD bill text calls the SFD rule “the cornerstone of CSA,” adding that until the rule is implemented, “FMCSA continues to rely on a rating and enforcement system that fails to place sufficient emphasis on both driver and vehicle qualifications, thereby compromising safety on our nation’s highways.”

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In its most recent monthly report on significant rulemakings, the DOT projected Dec. 17 as the publication date for the SFD rule, which was a delay from the prior month’s Sept. 16 projected date. Sept. 16, however, was also a delay from months prior: At points last year, the rule was projected to be published in May 2014.

In another provision, the committee directs the DOT Office of Inspector General to conduct an audit of FMCSA’s mandatory compliance review process “to ensure motor carriers flagged for investigation are being investigated in a timely manner.” The “high risk carriers” report is due by April 2015 for the preceding fiscal year.

The House will convene this week to take up its version of the THUD bill.

Click here to read more on the Senate’s work on the bill last week, including the hours-of-service suspension amendment. –Kevin Jones and James Jaillet contributed to this report.