Exemptions

Exemptions Compromise Safety, Impede Uniform Enforcement

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) opposes the inclusion of exemptions from federal safety regulations in legislation.

When an exemption is provided through legislation:

  • CVSA supports inclusion of a ‘safety clause’ as a part of any exemption statutorily enacted, similar to that in 49 USC § 31315(b), providing for an equivalent level of safety, as well as language that would allow for the elimination of the exemption if an equivalent level of safety cannot be demonstrated.

  • CVSA supports requiring that, before any exemption from federal safety regulations goes into effect, a pilot program be conducted to evaluate the safety impacts of such an exemption. The exemption would go into effect automatically, unless the pilot program demonstrates a negative safety impact.

  • States should not be held accountable for crashes, fatalities and incidents that occur that are outside of their legislative and regulatory authority.

In general, exemptions from federal safety regulations have the potential to undermine safety, while also complicating the enforcement process. First and foremost, safety regulations exist to protect those who use our nation’s roadways. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and the Hazardous Materials Regulations exist to ensure that those operating in the transportation industry are equipped to do it safely. Furthermore, every new exemption is an opportunity for confusion and inconsistency in enforcement, which undermines the very foundation of the federal commercial motor vehicle enforcement program—uniformity.

However, there may be instances when exemptions could be appropriate and also not compromise safety. Recognizing that, 49 USC § 31315(b) already provides a mechanism for those in industry to obtain an exemption through an administrative (agency) process. This process includes providing for an equivalent level of safety, requiring that the exemption “would likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such exemption.” In addition, exemptions obtained through this process are limited to a maximum of two years (subject to renewal), which provides oversight to ensure that safety is not compromised and an opportunity to eliminate exemptions that have not maintained an equivalent level of safety. This is the proper model.

In contrast, exemptions obtained through legislation do not always include safety considerations and are difficult to remove once established. Because a process exists for industry to pursue exemptions through an administrative process, CVSA opposes the inclusion of exemptions from federal safety regulations in legislation.

At the very least, when exemptions are included in legislation, CVSA supports inclusion of a ‘safety clause’ as a part of any exemption statutorily enacted, similar to that in 49 USC § 31315(b), providing for an equivalent level of safety, as well as language that would allow for the elimination of the exemption if an equivalent level of safety cannot be demonstrated. Also, Congress should monitor the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) management of the administrative process for granting exemptions to ensure responsiveness to applications.

Another approach could be to require that, before any exemption from federal safety regulations goes into effect, a pilot program be conducted to evaluate the safety impacts of such an exemption. The exemption would then go into effect automatically, unless the pilot program demonstrates that an equivalent, or better, level of safety has not been achieved and going forward would be monitored on a routine basis, to ensure that an equivalent level of safety is maintained over time.

Finally, States should not be held accountable for crashes, fatalities and incidents that occur that are outside of their legislative and regulatory authority. Currently, a State’s performance is evaluated by FMCSA on a number of factors, including crash rates. However, the method by which the data is currently compiled does not take into account that certain portions of the commercial motor vehicle population are outside government oversight and the enforcement community’s authority, such as statutorily exempted vehicles. These crash rates factor into the evaluation of a State’s ability to deliver on the goals in its Commercial Vehicle Safety Plan and can impact funds received through FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program. If a State does not have authority and, as a result, cannot exercise proper due diligence to improve safety within a sector of industry that is exempted, it is unreasonable to include that sector in any evaluation of the State’s performance.

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