The OOIDA Guide to Trucking Industry

Trucking Industry’s Critical Concern: Safety Fitness

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), a key advocate for the rights and interests of truckers across the nation, has recently voiced significant apprehensions about the existing process used by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

At the heart of OOIDA’s concerns is the principle that no motor carrier should be unfairly penalized due to the current system’s shortcomings. The association’s critique, directed towards FMCSA’s methods of evaluating carriers, highlights several critical points:

  1. Ineffective Current Processes: OOIDA emphasizes that the current safety fitness determination process lacks effectiveness. The association argues that this system, which significantly impacts a carrier’s ability to operate, is marred by the use of data that is often inaccurate and inconsistent. This flaw in data collection and analysis is a core issue, as it directly influences the determination of a carrier’s fitness to operate.

  2. Limited Scope of Reviews: The statistics are telling – in fiscal 2019, out of more than 567,000 active interstate motor carriers, only 11,671 underwent compliance reviews. This limited scope means that a vast majority of carriers never receive a safety fitness rating, leading to an uneven playing field. OOIDA rightly points out that such a small sample size cannot provide a comprehensive or objective assessment of the overall safety fitness of the trucking industry.

  3. The Need for a New Methodology: The association calls for a shift in the FMCSA’s approach. It argues for a methodology that focuses on actual safety performance rather than just regulatory compliance. This change is crucial for a fair and effective evaluation system that truly reflects a carrier’s commitment to safety.

  4. Criticism of CSA and SMS Programs: OOIDA is particularly critical of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) and Safety Measurement System (SMS) programs. Since their inception in 2010, these programs have been under fire for not achieving their intended goal – a reduction in crashes, injuries, and fatalities. OOIDA asserts that without a shift towards incentivizing actual safety performance, these programs will continue to fall short of their objectives.

  5. Past Proposals and Current Stance: The FMCSA’s past attempts to integrate the CSA Safety Measurement System into generating safety fitness determinations met with opposition from OOIDA and others, leading to the withdrawal of a 2016 proposal. Currently, the FMCSA is reviewing comments from stakeholders, including OOIDA, before deciding on any new proposals.

As we await FMCSA’s next steps, it’s clear that the trucking industry is at a crossroads. The need for a fair, objective, and effective safety fitness determination process is paramount. It’s not just about compliance – it’s about ensuring the safety and wellbeing of every individual who is a part of this critical industry.

For truckers and carriers, these developments are more than regulatory changes; they are about their livelihood and the very essence of their day-to-day operations. The role of organizations like OOIDA in advocating for a more equitable system cannot be overstated. As the dialogue continues, the trucking community’s collective voice will shape the future of safety fitness determinations, striving for a system that is just, reliable, and truly reflective of the safety standards that the industry upholds.

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