On Thursday, May 21st, Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) along with Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced S. 1454, the “Transportation and Logistics Hiring Reform Act”, which would enhance interstate commerce by creating a national hiring standard for motor carriers. The bill serves as a vital reform measure on addressing the confusing and conflicting vagaries created by the CSA scores within the marketplace.
Currently, industry stakeholders are often asked to second-guess the FMCSA on determining which carriers are safe to operate and those that are not. Congress tasked the FMCSA with evaluating motor carrier safety and empowering them with the sole authority to revoke the interstate operating authority of unsafe motor carriers or otherwise place unsafe motor carriers out-of-service and off the road.
S. 1454 would require that before hiring a motor carrier, a shipper, broker, forwarder, and/or receiver ensure that the motor carrier is:
- properly registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA);
- has obtained the minimum insurance; and
- has not been given an “unsatisfactory” safety rating.
S. 1454 plays an important role towards improving safety within the transportation industry, specifically by establishing a National Standard for Hiring Motor Carriers. As you are aware, under the Bill, an entity (broker, shipper, receiver, forwarder, etc.) would be required to ensure that a carrier is properly registered, has obtained the minimum required insurance, and is not unsatisfactory. Currently, there is no standard or duty of care an entity must take when hiring a carrier and this is a huge step towards removing unsafe carriers from the highways.
The language has been misunderstood to represent that brokers are looking to absolve ourselves of liability from truck accidents, this is not the case. Our industry’s desire is to have predictability when hiring a carrier and simplifying the standard by removing the 50 plus State standards and placing it back on the Federal Agency, in the end we are talking about interstate commerce here.
S. 1454 would prohibit any “data” other than the national hiring standard from being used as evidence against an entity in a civil action for damages resulting from a claim of negligent selection or retention of such motor carrier. Furthermore, the bill would require the Agency to complete the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rulemaking within an 18-month period.
Congress recognized the importance of a single, interstate system of trucking and logistics regulation by pre-empting state regulation of the rates, routes, and services of motor carriers, brokers, and forwarders (Title 49 U.S.C. Section 14501). S. 1454 would do the same for interstate liability associated with the selection of a motor carrier. Interstate commerce needs a national hiring standard for motor carriers rather than allowing a patchwork of state court decisions, to determine the hiring standard for motor carriers.