The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will stop using the term "Alert" to describe trucking company scores that break thresholds in CSA safety categories, following a settlement between the agency and three trucking groups.
The FMCSA will also change the color scheme on its CSA Web site, replacing its orange Alert symbol with a less alarming gold symbol, and explain that the symbol means the agency may "prioritize a motor carrier for further monitoring."
The agreement is a partial victory for trucking organizations that fought to prevent the FMCSA from publishing percentile rankings online and stop the agency from putting carriers that scored too high in certain categories on Alert status.
The National Association of Small Trucking Companies, The Expedite Alliance of North America and the Air & Expedited Motor Carrier Association sued the agency in December but turned to mediation after a federal court dismissed their petition.
The trucking groups argued that shippers and brokers would misconstrue the scores published on the FMCSA's Compliance, Safety, Accountability program Web site as "a new de facto safety rating system" replacing older SafeStat ratings.
They feared that could lead to the "blackballing" of as many as 57 percent of the carriers with existing safety rankings, with shippers and brokers turning down carriers with any "Alerts" on their record out of concern for vicarious liability.
Although the FMCSA will continue to publish CSA safety performance category scores, it will stress that those scores aren't safety ratings, and that unless a motor carrier has an existing "unsatisfactory" rating, "it is authorized to operate."
Through mediation, "we addressed the concerns raised by petitioners without compromising the CSA program and its safety benefits," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. The changes will take place on the FMCSA Web site March 25.
"We applaud the agency for affirmatively restating its sole duty to credential carriers as safe for operation," the petitioners said. "Unless a carrier is rated as unsatisfactory or out of service, the agency has determined it is fit for use."
The FMCSA is expected to launch a rulemaking this year to propose a new safety rating system based on the data collected under the CSA program.
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