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Monday, March 1, 2021

FMCSA to add eighth BASIC

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering a new element to its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) system by including a voluntary safety compliance program similar to how the SmartWay Transport Partnership is geared to incentivizing environmental technology and practices among carriers.

The proposal is part of the so-called “Beyond Compliance” system required by the FAST Act highway bill, which requires the agency to provide some sort of recognition to motor carriers that go above and beyond baseline compliance – either by crediting those efforts in the existing Safety Measurement System of the CSA program or create a new BASIC category of measurement.

In a Federal Register notice published last week the agency appeared to be leaning toward adding an eighth BASIC.

Like the SmartWay Transport Partnership with the U.S. EPA, in which carriers voluntarily invest in verified fuel-efficient technology in exchange for being named and promoted as a certified ‘SmartWay’ carrier, the new voluntary SMS category would require carriers to apply to be a part of it.

FMCSA Associate Administrator for Enforcement Bill Quade told attendees at a Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Workshop event in Chicago, that the new BASIC would show that a carrier has put a safety-enhancing technology, practice or program into use in its trucks and/or operations.

Some carriers have expressed the opinion that FMCSA should instead “assist carriers in improving their (CSA) scores” rather than creating a new, separate BASIC.

Joe Rajkovacz, representing the Western States Trucking Association, said FMCSA’s focus should be on improvements within the existing CSA SMS. Particularly, he said, eligibility requirements for participants, with associated costs, seem to exclude those who might otherwise have benefited.

Furthermore, some felt the proposal to lock out ‘Conditionally-rated’ carriers could be problematic. Rob Abbott of the American Trucking Associations, noting the struggle carriers have faced getting even consideration of an upgrade from Conditional to Satisfactory as agency division resources are spread thin. “Would it be wrong to recognize a fleet with a Conditional rating that had made an investment in improving safety?”

Swift Transportation’s Nick Malchesky noted he might have a tough time justifying “paying to be a part of something I’m already paying millions of dollars to put in,” referencing his company’s investment in safety technology. “We’re already paying, so to ask us to pay again to fund [the program] seems a little unfair.”

The Federal Register notice is open through June 20 for comments.