Since I reported on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s attempts to gain new regulatory authority over interstate drivers relative to the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program’s now-internal Driver Safety Measurement System last summer, new wrinkles have emerged in Senate bill S.1950. This bill caused an uproar over the fact that it would, among other things, mandate electronic onboard recorders for hours of service compliance for virtually all interstate carriers.
But, as they say, the lead may well have been buried — language in the bill, says Drew Anderson, director of sales for the CSA data mining services firm Vigillo, would in effect give the Department of Transportation expanded authority to disqualify a driver from operating in interstate commerce. In essence, this is the Senate’s attempt to make reality what so many drivers feared about the CSA program when information about it was initially rolled out to the public: that the DOT was about to get into the business of rating drivers and, based on those ratings, revoking CDLs.
“Under the present statutes,” says J.J. Keller’s Tom Bray, “the only time a driver can be disqualified by the FMCSA is if the driver is found to be an ‘imminent hazard’ under 383.52 or the driver disregards a Notice of Claim,” a levied fine for a violation.
The section of concern in S.1950 is 310, which deals with the definition of “disqualification” of a driver in the federal code.
Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who introduced the bill, “want FMCSA to ramp up the DSMS side of CSA,” says Anderson. “If that legislation passes as is, the federal government will have the ability to put the driver out of service, off the road, and suspend their license.”
The chances of that legislation passing, judging by a similar bill introduced in the last Congressional sessions, as Tom Bray points out, might be slim. No action has been taken on it since its early-December introduction.
Should it pass, “any of this would require rulemaking that has not even been proposed yet,” as Bray notes. “The FMCSA would need to pass rules to implement the provisions of the statute that would allow them to directly disqualify a driver. Driver SMS scores in the CSA program would tie into this as one possible reason the FMCSA would look to disqualify a driver in the future, but the FMCSA would have to get it into their regulations first.”
“We’re headed into an election year [where the economy is expected to be the biggest issue],” says Anderson, commenting on the lack of potential for much of this to proceed in any way quickly, then asking, “Do you think the FMCSA wants to be in the position of putting drivers out of work?”
Language of Section 310 is included below, and for the full text of the bill, see this page.
Some related stories:
GAO recommends more transparency for CSA
A window on FMCSA’s CSA driver-enforcement authority goals
Report: FMCSA wants to release driver safety data
CSA: Compliance plus or safety politics?
Language lurking in GAO’s CSA report to Congress
SEC. 310. FEDERAL DRIVER DISQUALIFICATIONS.
(a) Disqualification Defined- Section 31301, as amended by section 205 of this Act, is amended–
(1) by redesignating paragraphs (6) through (15) as paragraphs (7) through (16), respectively; and
(2) by inserting after paragraph (5) the following:
`(6) `Disqualification’ means–
`(A) the suspension, revocation, or cancellation of a commercial driver’s license by the State of issuance;
`(B) a withdrawal of an individual’s privilege 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, except for a parking, vehicle weight, or vehicle defect violation;
`(C) a determination by the Secretary that an individual is not qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle; or
`(D) a determination by the Secretary that a commercial motor vehicle driver is unfit under section 31144(g).’.
(b) Commercial Driver’s License Information System Contents- Section 31309(b)(1)(F) is amended by inserting after `disqualified’ the following: `by the State that issued the individual a commercial driver’s license, or by the Secretary,’.
(c) State Action on Federal Disqualification- Section 31310(h) is amended by inserting after the first sentence the following:
`If the State has not disqualified the individual from operating a commercial vehicle under subsections (b) through (g), the State shall disqualify the individual if the Secretary determines under 31144(g) that the individual is disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle.’.