Should New Entrant Trucking Companies be Tested on FMCSA Regulations?

Should New Entrant Trucking Companies be Tested on FMCSA Regulations?

Everyone knows that within the first 12 months of operating as a property carrier within interstate commerce, or 120 days as a passenger carrier, each carrier must undergo a New Entrant Safety Audit.

Oh, you didn’t know that? Well, then you must be asking yourself… is it a big deal?

FMCSA thinks so as they add “regulations proficiency tests for new carriers” to rule-making agenda.

In 2009, FMCSA considered whether to implement a proficiency examination as part of their revised New Entrant Safety Assurance Process that was released in 2008.  

Back then, Congress mandated increased oversight of new entrants because studies indicated these operators had a much higher rate of non-compliance with basic safety management requirements and were subject to less oversight than established operators.

Section 210(a) of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 took a two-pronged approach to improving the safety performance of new entrant motor carriers.

  1. First, sec. 210(a) amended 49 U.S.C. 31144 to require new entrant motor carriers to undergo a safety audit within the first 18 months after beginning operations in interstate commerce.
  2. Second, sec. 210(b) directed the Secretary to initiate a rulemaking to establish minimum requirements for applicant motor carriers seeking new entrant registration to ensure applicant carriers are knowledgeable about applicable Federal motor carrier safety standards before being granted registration.

While this rulemaking was considered in 2009, it did not go anywhere.

Now, it is back.

What will happen in 2023?

According to the Office of Management and Budget, a Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a New Entrant Safety Assurance Process rule is scheduled for August.

“We’re very pleased this has moved off the long-term actions list,” Peter Kurdock, Advocates’ general counsel, told FreightWaves.

“New carriers need to take a standardized test to make sure they’re aware of and comply with federal safety regulations. A member of the public would be astounded that the agency in charge of safe truck operations has not put into place measures enacted by Congress to make sure they’re doing everything they can to make sure drivers are compliant with the laws.

“Why they haven’t done this yet is mind-boggling. But hopefully this signals a new effort to get this across the finish line.”

What could a proficiency test look like?

The 2009 ANPRM, the proposal sought feedback in 11 areas as part of a proficiency exam for new carriers:

  1. Information on the feasibility of establishing the exam as a component of the New Entrant Safety Assurance Process.
  2. Information about analogous types of exams used in the motor carrier or other industries that could serve as models for a new entrant proficiency exam.
  3. Recommendations on testing protocols.
  4. Recommendations on how the agency should administer the exam for applicants.
  5. Recommendations on which motor carrier employees the agency should require to take a proficiency exam, and the feasibility of motor carriers retaining those employees through the duration of the New Entrant Safety Assurance Program.
  6. Information on the costs involved to develop, maintain, implement and administer the proficiency exams.
  7. Information on anticipated impacts on new entrants if the agency requires the exam as a condition for receiving new entrant authority and beginning operations.
  8. Information on how the exams would increase carrier knowledge of regulations.
  9. Information on how any increase in knowledge of regulations brought about by the exam itself would boost motor carrier safety.
  10. Other general comments related to establishing a proficiency exam as a component of the New Entrant Safety Assurance Process.
  11. Information on the particular needs of small entities in establishing an assurance process.

Is this a good idea?

Well, according to Michael Kauffman at CNS, “Honestly that’s an excellent idea. As you know, and in my opinion, the standard online FMCSA safety audits (new entrants) are a joke, they don’t generally even contact the carrier to explain anything regarding 49 CFR or safety, etc.”

On the other hand, “the on-site new entrant audits, are much more educational in nature and officers require all documentation available just like a ‘real’ audit, and the officer actually explains the requirements and WHY they are needed,” said Kaufman.

However, knowing how the FMCSA and government works, is any version of a regulations “test” likely to be created and required? I wouldn’t bet on it.

And it’s not just us.

In 2009, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposed the test. They argued that a pass/fail test “does not reflect practical knowledge of systems that will increase compliance with the regulations, does not ensure that pertinent ‘knowledge’ will be passed along to all personnel involved with safety matters, does not demonstrate that effective safety compliance systems will be established and, most important, does not in and of itself help prevent truck accidents.”

DOT Training

Drivers need to properly manage their driver logs, ELDs, and pre- and post-trip inspections. Carriers should implement quality:

  • driver training that is ongoing and consistent
  • driver education, and
  • driver awareness of current and changing traffic laws

All of this will help prevent being a target for the DOT at roadside inspections and is a valuable resource to ensure a healthy fleet, and compliant safety practices.

Our DOT trainers offer a variety of in-person or online training courses tailored to the specific needs or weaknesses of your company.

Questions about DOT Compliance, Licensing, Audits, Programs, etc.?

Our DOT Specialists are here to help!

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