WASHINGTON — Federal regulators are providing a rare glimpse into information they may consider for a significant rule affecting how carriers are considered fit to be operating.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published on Friday a “notice of data availability” — or “NODA” — to alert the public about a set of studies it could rely on to develop a proposed or final rule that will be used to determine a carrier’s safety fitness rating.

“This NODA is necessary to disclose such possible reliance and to provide the interested public an opportunity to comment on the accuracy and relevance of the information,” FMCSA stated.

P. Sean Garney, a motor carrier regulations expert and co-director of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, pointed out that it’s the first such notice to be published by the agency since its inception more than 20 years ago, based on a search of Federal Register documents.

“What’s more interesting to me are the research titles listed and what they could mean for rulemaking,” Garney told FreightWaves. He noted that of six reports listed in Friday’s Federal Register notice, three are related to the effectiveness of driver-assist types of technology. A fourth study that is not listed in the Federal Register but has been added to the rulemaking docket relates to the effectiveness of front-crash prevention systems in reducing large truck crash rates.

All four cited a positive correlation between technology and safety.

“Could FMCSA be suggesting they’re considering crediting carriers who go beyond compliance by adopting safety technology?” Garney asked.

FMCSA posed that question — whether its current safety fitness determination (SFD) regulations consider motor carriers’ adoption and use of safety technologies in a carrier’s safety rating — in an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) issued last year.

The OOIDA Foundation, an affiliate of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, is reviewing the studies mentioned in the notice, an OOIDA spokesman told FreightWaves.

In comments filed on the ANPRM, OOIDA, which represents small-business truckers, maintained that installing safety technologies does not ensure improved safety.

“We believe rewarding carriers that simply adopt safety technologies without improving actual safety performance would only benefit motor carriers who can afford costly new technologies,” OOIDA stated. “If these motor carriers are rewarded with better safety ratings, then smaller carriers would likely see their safety rating downgraded without any actual change in their safety performance.

“We would also note that CMVs equipped with safety technologies today still end up in crashes. Driver training, experience, and safety performance must still be valued…over the mere installation of safety technologies.”

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) sided with OOIDA in opposing FMCSA formulating a rule that would consider a carrier’s use of safety technology into the SFD.

In comments filed on the ANPRM, CVSA asserted that if a motor carrier that proactively deploys safety technology intended to prevent or mitigate the severity of crashes ends up receiving an ‘unfit’ designation from FMCSA, the technology is not having its intended benefit.

“Either the technology has been purchased but is not being used properly, or the motor carrier’s other safety management processes are so insufficient that their poor performance offsets the safety benefit of the technology,” CVSA stated. 

“Either way, the end result is that the SFD methodology has identified patterns of unsafe behavior that could, if deemed accurate, justify removing the motor carrier from operations. That determination should not be masked by adjustments to the SFD methodology in an attempt to reward carriers for deploying safety technology unsuccessfully.”

Reports and studies that FMCSA may consider in formulating a new safety rule:

Bell, Jennifer L., et al. (2017). “Evaluation of an in-vehicle monitoring system (IVMS) to reduce risky driving behaviors in commercial drivers: Comparison of in-cab warning lights and supervisory coaching with videos of driving behavior.” Journal of Safety Research.

Cicchino, Jessica B. (2017). “Effectiveness of forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking systems in reducing front-to-rear crash rates.” Accident Analysis & Prevention.

Lotan, Tsippy and Toledo, Tomer (2006). “In-vehicle data recorder for evaluation of driving behavior and safety.” Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board.

Cai, Maio, et al. (2021). “The association between crashes and safety-critical events: Synthesized evidence from crash reports and naturalistic driving data among commercial truck drivers.” Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies.

Chen, Guang Xiang (2008). “Impact of federal compliance reviews of trucking companies in reducing highway truck crashes.” Accident Analysis & Prevention.

NHTSA (2023). 2021 FARS/CRSS coding and validation manual.

Teoh, Eric R. (2021) “Effectiveness of front crash prevention systems in reducing large truck real-world crash rates.” Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Related articles:

Feds told to start rating ‘unrated’ trucking companies for safety

FMCSA seeks advice on new safety rules for carriers

FMCSA changing how it identifies unsafe carriers

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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