3/21 Blast off! Huge Changes With New FMCSA SFD Regs

Part 1 of our 10 part blog series on the newly proposed FMCSA Safety Fitness Determination Regulations. 


Thursday, January 21.

The 60 day comment period for the FMCSA’s newly proposed Safety Fitness Determination Regulations begins.

March 21, 2016. 

The date that the comment period will end.

At that point, there will be at least a 30 day comment response period which could extend out to 180 days.

At that point, what happens depends a great deal on the comments that are received and if the FMCSA determines that they will amend the proposed regulations.

We’ll have to wait and see exactly what path this big boy is going to take, but you can bet the farm that this one is going to be like WWIII in the trucking industry.

Even before the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was released to the public last week, no fewer than 8 separate trucking or transportation advocacy groups were already voicing opposition to the changes.

There are MULTIPLE very important changes contained in these newly proposed regulations. These changes can easily be summed up in four words:




So, let’s get started.


Casting a Wider Net

One of the main points of contention behind the prior Safety Management System (SMS) was that not enough motor carriers were actually being caught in the net to be observed by the FMCSA.

It is estimated that, in 2013 (the most recent year that data is available for) the agency only reviewed about 15,000 out of over 500,000 potential carriers.

Under these newly proposed regulations, the agency estimates that they will be able to reach out and touch over 75,000 motor carriers each year.

To accomplish this, the FMCSA is going to be utilizing roadside inspection data and other information contained in the SMS to update a motor carrier’s BASIC scores on a monthly basis.

A consistent theme that emerges early in the 267 pages of the proposed regulations is that motor carriers can expect the broad sword of enforcement justice to swing more swiftly from here on out.

“Unfit” to Operate

One of the most important changes is that the FMCSA plans to do away with the old 3 tier rating system (Satisfactory / Conditional/ Unsatisfactory).

In the future, there will simply be a Go/No-Go test named Unfit.

A carrier will either be fit or Unfit to operate. Period.

The primary purpose behind this change was that these three ratings really didn’t mean much to anyone. Most folks could understand that Conditional was worse than Satisfactory and Unconditional would obviously be worse than conditional.

Insurers, attorneys, shippers, brokers and some others typically get a little twisted up about seeing a motor carrier with a conditional rating for different reasons.

The problem is that the old ratings didn’t really carry any weight.

A carrier who had slipped into the Conditional rating range usually remained there for sometime…..usually a really long time. I’ve always called this “Conditional Purgatory”.  (At least those who languish in purgatory would have a final judgement though..).

Trying to have a motor carrier move from a Conditional Rating to a Satisfactory Rating seems to be nearly impossible to accomplish. There are ways to do this, but it’s a long and typically pretty hard process to undertake.


At the end of the day, it’s relatively straightforward in print. If a carrier receives a Conditional rating, they work to fix the issues identified in the on-site inspection and advise the agency (after a nice and long period of continued compliance with the regulations) that they we’re ready to be inspected again.

But, the whole “inspected again” thing is where most carriers get very stuck.  There is a process in place for handling these issues, but it is pretty resource intensive.

(We utilize the process in our DOT Compliance support services and I’m about to write a nice paper on this process for My Safety Manager community members).

Under these newly proposed regulations, things are going to be handled much more quickly on most fronts. Motor Carriers will no longer languish in Conditional Purgatory. They’re either fit or unfit. Under the new regulatory regime, Unfit carriers will be taken off of the road very quickly.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at just how a carrier can become “unfit”.

A quick spoiler alert for the future:

Currently, only an on-site investigation can be used to generate a SFD for a motor carrier. Under the new regulations, a Focused Offsite, a Focused On-Site or a Comprehensive On-Site Investigation would be able to be used to generate a fit vs unfit Safety Fitness Determination.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment!

If you like what you’re reading, you’re going to love our upcoming webinar on the topics!

The webinar will be held on February 2, 2016 at 2:00pm EST.

My Safety Manager community members can attend for free.

All other attendees can attend for only $5!

Please sign up here!


My Safety Manager is a service of Carrier Risk Solutions. More information can be found at www.MySafetyManager.com.

Carrier Risk Solutions, Inc. is an Atlanta, Ga. based transportation risk management and safety consulting firm. Find out more about us atwww.CarrierRiskSolutions.com.