See video of Ferro's address

SAN DIEGO. Expect to see a bevy of activity by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on several truck-related regulatory fronts later in the year along with somenew proposals from the agency as well, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro told attendees here at the 2011 Truckload Carriers Assn. Annual convention.

In a speech during the group’s second general session, Ferro said FMCSA is working on a proposed rule that would separate safety fitness rating performance data out from accident-related data contained within the agency’s safety measurement system (SMS).

“We expect to have this safety fitness determination proposed rule out later this year,” she noted, with the division between performance- and accident-based data helping the agency refine its approach to monitoring and improving commercial motor vehicle safety enforcement efforts.

Ferro added that this approach is designed to help make her agency more “proactive” instead of “reactive” in terms of getting what she called “the bad guys off the road.” For example, the agency recently sent 23,000 carriers warning letters indicating that they are displaying a worsening “trend line” in terms of the safety performance data already collected concerning their operations.

However, Ferro stressed that out of 500,000 carriers listed in FMCSA’s database only 10% have one or more “alerts” based on their safety performance data in the last 18 months. “It’s really the 2 to 3% out of our database, the carriers in the ‘high risk’ category, that we want to focus on using this data,” she said.

Ferro also noted that a final rule banning handheld cellphone use by commercial vehicle operators when behind the wheel should be released soon, along with one banning texting as well to follow.

She also addressed the controversy surrounding the agency’s proposal to supply Mexican trucks operating in the U.S. with electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) for automatically recording driver logbook information.

“We understand the real frustration over the U.S. paying for this technology for them,” she said. “Let me stress that this [EOBR] funding is a proposal only and would be limited in scope to the three-year pilot program being put in place for those Mexican carriers allowed to operate on U.S. roads.”

Ferro noted that the agency wants some way to monitor the compliance of Mexican carriers with U.S. safety regulations, and as EOBRs are not mandated yet for the U.S. trucking industry, the agency proposed to pay to have this technology installed on approved Mexican trucks. Ferro said the budget for this EOBR program ranges from $500,000 to $700,000 and that the proposal itself will be made available for public comment.

On another safety front, FMCSA is working on what it calls a “guidebook” for its new Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, to help ensure what Ferro called an “even application of the CSA rules across all the states,” especially in terms of how state commercial vehicle safety enforcement officers input information that goes into creating carrier and driver CSA scores.

“All of these efforts are aimed at what I say is improving – though you may say ‘ratcheting down’ – our focus on trucking safety,” Ferro explained. “It’s all tied back to our agency’s three core safety principals: raising the safety bar of entry to this industry; maintaining high safety standards within the industry; and getting the bad guys, both carriers and drivers, off the road.”