U.S. House representatives have introduced an amendment to H.R. 1120 that would affect the trucking industry in several ways. H.R. 1120 was originally introduced by the House in 2013 as a way to prevent uncertainty in the labor market, and the amendment seeks to do the same with the trucking industry. The overall goals of the proposed language are to improve interstate commerce through creating a national standard for motor carriers.
What H.R. 1120 Would Do
The primary purpose of the new proposal would be to nationalize hiring standards for motor carriers. Under the language of of the bill, freight forwarders, brokers, shippers, and receivers would be required to do the following before hiring a motor carrier:
- Ensure that the motor carrier has current and accurate registration with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration;
- Check that the motor carrier has the minimum amount of insurance required under law; and
- Check that the motor carrier does not have an “unsatisfactory” rating for safety.
The proposed standards are a way to put nationally recognized best practices into law..
Currently the FMCSA uses the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program to quantify and rate each motor carrier under each motor carrier’s Behavior, Analysis, and Safety Improvement Categories, known as CSA BASICs. But according to many in the industry, the current standards and rules under CSA BASICs are confusing and should not be used as a tool in hiring motor carriers. CSA BASICs rates a motor carrier on the following categories:
- Unsafe Driving;
- Hours-of-Service Compliance;
- Driver Fitness;
- Controlled Substance/Alcohol Regulation Compliance;
- Vehicle Maintenance;
- Hazardous Materials Compliance; and
- Crash Indicator.
While rating motor carriers based on CSA BASICs can be helpful to the FMCSA, it too often is overly complicated for those companies hiring motor carriers. If passed, the bill would replace this system by simply requiring a freight forwarder, shipper, receiver, or broker to find out whether the motor carrier is safe or not.
Impact on the Industry
This proposed legislation would go a long way to provide stability to an increasingly unstable legal landscape. As many transportation companies know, negligent selection of a motor carrier can cripple a company’s business plans. CSA BASICs does not help in that regard because it increases the number of ways a plaintiff can accuse a company of being negligent. Of course brokers, shippers, receivers, and freight forwarders have a responsibility to act reasonably and safely in selecting a motor carrier, but CSA BASICs has many categories that can be picked apart and scrutinized by plaintiff’s attorneys. As a way to mitigate that problem, under the proposed legislation in H.R. 1120, hiring would be based on a simple safe or not safe rating issued by the FMCSA. Having one standard that companies can look to before hiring a motor carrier can go a long way in stabilizing the industry.
The trucking industry’s legal landscape continues to change and develop. As it does, trucking companies will be well served to have a truck law focused law firm on their side to help them when they need it. The attorneys at Anderson and Yamada, P.C. are ready to represent you and your company’s interests.