FMCSA Seeks Comments About Advanced Safety Technologies

Emerging Technologies Alert

(by Boyd Stephenson and Justine Kasznica)

On December 18, 2019, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA or Agency)  published an information collection notice which proposes a limited scope for implementing the Beyond Compliance motor carrier safety program.[1]  According to the notice, FMCSA personnel intend to query a little over 100 motor carriers with strong safety records about what technologies they employ and what programs or practices they engage in to achieve strong safety results.  According to the notice, this research will be packaged into a technical report, which the Agency researchers will then incorporate into a Beyond Compliance report the Agency is required to transmit to Congress.  If only motor carriers are consulted, technology providers may lose the opportunity to identify safety innovations that are not yet widely known to the trucking industry.  The docket for comments will remain open through February 18, 2020.

Background

In the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, (FAST Act) Congress directed the FMCSA to establish the Beyond Compliance program.[2]  Congress designed Beyond Compliance to identify advanced trucking safety technologies and practices that are not required by regulation but which improve safety.  After identifying these technologies, motor carriers would participate in the Beyond Compliance program by adopting these advanced safety technologies.  FMCSA would then reward the carriers by publicly recognizing the motor carrier.  Congress has also directed the Agency to deprioritize trucks operating for carriers that meet Beyond Compliance criteria for roadside inspection by either creating a new measurement category in FMCSA’s online CSA Safety Management System (SMS) or by designating that Beyond Compliant carriers’ CSA SMS scores are otherwise improved by participating in the program.

Congress also required FMCSA to adopt a process in which any interested party could submit a technology or process for inclusion in the program.  The law will also require the agency to publicly post Beyond Compliance-certified technologies and processes on its website when the program is operational.  Because of this public listing, the Beyond Compliance program represents an excellent opportunity for safety technology providers to expand their audience to include motor carriers interested in taking advantage of Beyond Compliance rewards.  But, to do so, technology providers need to ensure that their product or process falls within the program’s scope.

FMCSA Notice

The notice contains no information about other information collection efforts. While FMCSA officials might intend to perform similar outreach to technology developers or providers in future information collections, the results from this first information collection are likely to determine next steps and the program’s ultimate contours.  Additionally, FMCSA officials have not indicated if they intend to list specific providers and products on the Beyond Compliance website or only types of technology certified.

Motor carriers generally are not also technology developers or providers.  A motor carrier’s safety director can identify technologies and processes that they believe make a difference and may even be able to provide data supporting their claim.  But, because motor carriers are not typically designing the next generation of safety products, speaking only to them risks building status quo bias into the report and, eventually, into the Beyond Compliance program.  Technology providers may have valuable information about what practices may be the most effective for improving safety.

Motor carriers and safety technology developers and providers should watch this issue closely and consider commenting on the proposal so that their products and processes can eventually be included in the program. For more information about the notice and guidance in preparing comments, contact Boyd A. Stephenson at (202) 853-3452 or bstephenson@babstcalland.com or Justine M. Kasznica at (412) 394-6466 or jkasznica@babstcalland.com.

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