A line of parked trucks

Trucking bigwigs and freight brokers are pushing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to slap safety ratings on carriers that currently don’t have one. Remarkably, more than 90% of the freight market operates without such a rating. Consequently, this lack of rating is causing quite a stir among the major players.

The FMCSA is considering a new method to determine if carriers are fit to operate trucks across state lines. The stakeholders are discussing a new approach called a safety fitness determination (SFD). This follows a preliminary notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) issued in August. It’s got people talking.

The numbers from FMCSA don’t paint a pretty picture. Out of the 690,091 carriers up for a safety rating in 2021, a staggering 94%—that’s around 646,777 carriers—didn’t have one. Too many carriers operating without a clear safety rating worry people.

Nine of the nation’s largest truckload carriers, comprising the Trucking Alliance, express dissatisfaction. They argue that relying on other metrics due to the lack of ratings puts these unrated carriers at a disadvantage when it comes to safety-based decisions.

The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), representing truck brokers and 3PLs, is in agreement with this concern. They stress the urgent need for a rulemaking process to address the issue.

FMCSA itself admits to loopholes in its current safety rating system. Carriers can operate even with a conditional rating, which doesn’t seem right when safety breakdowns are detected. This leads to a large chunk of carriers on the road without any safety rating, a potential recipe for unsafe conditions.

The possible fixes for this situation differ widely among industry groups. Some propose a straightforward ‘fit/unfit’ rating system, while others favor a more detailed five-point scale. There’s a call for clarity in the ratings system—making it simple and easy to understand for everyone involved.

But it’s not just about safety—changing the rating system could have a significant impact on how carriers operate. Some argue that adopting a binary rating could compel carriers to suspend operations until someone reconsiders their ratings, potentially causing disruptions.

It’s a tricky situation that needs careful consideration. Everyone agrees that safety is paramount, but finding the right approach—one that’s fair, effective, and clear—is the challenge on the table.