The year 2019 was anticipated to finally sort out the future of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program and provide a new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) safety assessment system. It was also viewed as the possible beginning of revised hours of service (HOS) regulations that would offer more flexibility to truck drivers. Strides were indeed taken on CSA and HOS this year, creating new expectations for 2020. In this first part of a two-part blog, we recap regulatory developments in 2019 and look ahead to 2020.

CSA — PrePass wrote several times about CSA in 2018 when 2019 appeared to be the decisive year that changes in the program would be implemented:

* New PrePass White Paper Outlines Changes to FMCSA’s CSA Program

* FMCSA Takes First Steps to Overhaul CSA

* FMCSA Moving to Make Changes to CSA Truck Safety Program

* CSA Follow-Up: Where the New FMCSA Safety Program is Heading

CSA, the FMCSA’s truck safety assessment program showed improvement but still had holes and inconsistencies that ultimately caused Congress to direct a review by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and a response by FMCSA. FMCSA took that direction to heart but the technical substitute recommended by NAS, known as “item response theory (IRT), has proven daunting. This is because IRT depends upon data FMCSA has not and may not be able to obtain. FMCSA has constructed a full-scale version of IRT for evaluation but will not announce whether to formally adopt IRT until September 2020.

Crash Preventability – One weakness of CSA was the use of all DOT-reportable crashes – preventable or non-preventable – in the evaluation of a motor carrier’s safety. For smaller carriers with lower mileages and reduced accident exposure, the inclusion of a non-preventable crash could raise an unwarranted red flag in the eyes of FMCSA, plus shippers, drivers and trial attorneys. Following a petition by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), FMCSA conducted a Crash Preventability Demonstration Program from August 2017 to May 2019, evaluating crashes in eight categories deemed possibly non-preventable. Fully 93% of the carrier-submitted crashes which fell within those categories were determined by FMCSA as non-preventable. FMCSA has now expanded the eligible crash categories to 15 and opened a rulemaking docket, which could lead to formally removing non-preventable crashes from a carrier’s safety evaluation. A decision could come in 2020.

Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse – On Jan. 6, 2020, the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse will begin compiling records of drug and alcohol prohibitions violations in 49 CFR Part 382, Subpart B, including positive drug or alcohol test results and test refusals. The clearinghouse will ultimately hold five years of test results, allowing employers to screen existing drivers and driver applicants, no matter where they have lived, where they are licensed and where they have worked. FMCSA will share the clearinghouse database with state driver license agencies and highway patrols, as well as with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Motor carriers, third party administrators, medical review officers and substance abuse professionals must register with the clearinghouse. Drivers may choose to register. Registration is open now. See the PrePass whitepaper “FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Greatly Changes the Truck Driver Qualification Landscape” for more details.

Click here to read part two of this blog.