In an earlier article (see Holland & Knight's alert, "Is the Proposed Safety Fitness Determination Rule in Jeopardy?", Jan. 20, 2017), we addressed whether the Trump Administration would proceed with the proposed Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rule. The rule would update the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) safety fitness rating methodology by integrating on-road safety data from inspections, along with the results of carrier investigations and crash reports, to determine a motor carrier's overall safety fitness on a monthly basis. The proposed SFD rule would update FMCSA's safety fitness rating methodology and replace the current three-tier federal rating system of "satisfactory-conditional-unsatisfactory" for federally regulated commercial motor carriers (in place since 1982) with a "fit" or "unfit" rating. The FMCSA published the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) with respect to the SFD on Jan. 21, 2016.

The proposed SFD rule would use Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) data to classify the most at-risk carriers. CSA is the FMCSA's safety compliance and enforcement program, which uses Safety Management System (SMS) data to analyze carrier safety. The proposed rule was under consideration as required by the 2015 Surface Transportation bill, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. However, industry opponents of the SFD rule argue that the underlying SMS data is inaccurate.

Congress and the Obama Administration's FMCSA clashed over the use of CSA data. The Trump Administration has announced that it will implement a reduction in government regulations, announced in President Donald Trump's Executive Order titled "Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs." That being the case, and in the face of strong opposition to the SFD rule, it is not surprising that the FMCSA formally withdrew the proposed rulemaking in March 2017, stating that it "must receive the Correlation Study from the National Academies of Science, as required by the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, assess whether and, if so, what corrective actions are advisable, and complete additional analysis before determining whether further rulemaking action is necessary to revise the safety fitness determination process." 82 Fed. Reg. 14848 (March 23, 2017).

The Correlation Study is expected to be completed in June 2017. Thereafter, the FMCSA will evaluate whether to issue another proposed SFD rule. However, given the current headwinds against new regulations generally, and the opposition that industry opponents have raised with respect to this particular proposed rule, it is not expected that the SFD rule will be back in the foreseeable future.