Truckers Groups Sues FMCSA for Overreach on Safety Methodology

July 17, 2012
Several trucking and transportation organizations have filed suit against the FMCSA alleging the federal agency has overreached on its publication of Safety Measurement System (SMS) methodology.

ASECTT (the Alliance for Safe, Efficient and Competitive Truck Transportation), along with four trade associations and 12 other named plaintiffs, has filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit against the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Association (FMCSA), alleging that the U.S. Department of Transportation agency has overreached on its publication of Safety Measurement System (SMS) methodology.

“ASECTT members believe SMS methodology is a work in progress, unapproved for the agency’s own use in making safety fitness determinations,” says Tom Sanderson, president of ASECTT. “With no concern for the effect of its publication on shippers and brokers or the false branding of carriers and resulting economic consequences on small businesses, the agency has in effect told the shipping community it cannot rely upon the agency to do its statutory job to certify carriers as safe for use and must make an independent safety evaluation of all carriers before use. This amounts to a new rule with significant economic consequences which must be timely challenged.”

According to David Owen, president of NASTC (National Association of Small Trucking Companies), a lead plaintiff in the former suit against the agency over the issue of publication of SMS data, “We thought in the settlement of NASTC et al. v. FMCSA that the agency recognized and affirmed its statutory duty to make a safety fitness determination upon which shippers and brokers could rely. The agency’s May 16publication makes clear that it seeks to abdicate its ultimate safety fitness obligations to the shipper and broker community with no concern for the resulting prejudicial effect on safe carriers arbitrarily branded under SMS methodology. Over 1,000 of our small carrier members which the agency certifies as safe to operate on the nation’s roadways are faced with loss of business as a result of the agency’s action.”

Joining in the lawsuit are four other trade organizations, five brokers and seven named carriers.

Jimmy DeMatteis of Des Moines Truck Brokers says, “Over the past 18 months, we have tried repeatedly to explain to the agency that SMS methodology brands perfectly safe carriers as somehow unfit for use. That premature publication of percentile rankings will create chaos in the marketplace, restricting competition as the methodology is used as a tool by plaintiff’s bar to increase the shipping public’s liability for truck accidents under state law. In this context, the May 16 publication made it very clear that the agency has not heard industry’s concern and intends to deputize the shipping community to enforce the agency’s statutory responsibilities.”

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