A new highway bill sponsored by the Obama administration will seek more authority by expanding the role of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Several regulations have been created to help remove unsafe truck drivers from the roads. Trucking company policies that fail to address safety issues, such as drug testing and the number of hours commercial truckers can drive during and in-between shifts, are under scrutiny to determine effectiveness.
The FMCSA does not have direct authority over drivers, except when the carrier that employs them is undergoing a compliance review. The new bill, if passed, could grant the agency more direct regulatory power over drivers.
Under a section entitled, "Driver Safety Fitness Ratings," each driver would be given a safety score assigned to their compliance history, and monitored under Compliance Safety Accountability, or CSA.
The CSA collects safety data by way of the Safety Measurement System from crash reports and inspections, and then compares any violations within seven categories. These include unsafe driving, fatigued driving, use of controlled substances and alcohol, vehicle maintenance, cargo, and crash involvement. The data is publicly available.
The proposed bill would add the rating mechanism to the CSA enforcement program and would give the FMCSA the authority to disqualify drivers if their ratings fall below a certain standard. Further, the Obama administration intends to establish the National Clearinghouse for Positive and Controlled Substance Test Results. It also seeks greater authority in overseeing drug testing facilities and their staff.
Giving the government the authority to weed out unsafe drivers is designed to reduce the number of serious trucking accidents. The bill and the CSA program could affect a commercial carrier's safety record as a whole, and hold both driver and the carrier more responsible for safety. It would make it easier for enforcement measures against unsafe drivers and their carriers.
For individual drivers, their pay and employment status could be affected. The bill would expose their overall driving record among past and present employers.