Should owner-operators and carriers get some sort of recognition and regulatory reward for going above and beyond the required basics? That’s the question the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is posing.

A “request for public comment” published Thursday in the Federal Register outlines a concept FMCSA calls “Beyond Compliance.”

“Beyond Compliance would include voluntary programs implemented by motor carriers that exceed regulatory requirements, and improve the safety of commercial motor vehicles and drivers operating on the Nations’ roadways by reducing the number and severity of crashes,” the notice states.

FMCSA points to the success of an Employer Notification System test that found when participating carriers received immediate notification that a driver had been issued a citation, conviction or commercial driver’s license disqualification, “they took action.”

Similarly, the agency cites studies on roll stability control, tire pressure sensors, and lane departure warning systems that demonstrate safety benefits, yet are not mandated.

Additionally, FMCSA noted industry support for the idea that “an incentive-based approach to improving carrier safety would be a more effective tool than the current penalty-based system.”

Indeed, a 2007 Transportation Research Board (TRB) study concluded that Beyond Compliance programs could provide significant incentives for carriers to adopt best practices, but that more research was needed.

And an American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) report in 2011 identified possible alternatives for giving carriers credit against things like BASIC scores or leeway on Inspection Selection System (ISS) values, based on activities that are believed to improve safety and reduce crashes.

For its part, FMCSA assigned the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) the task of making recommendations on the matter by June. Discussion began in the panel’s March meeting. The three basic areas for consideration are:

  1. What voluntary technologies or safety program best practices would be appropriate for beyond compliance?
  2. What type of incentives would encourage motor carriers to invest in technologies and best practices programs?
  3. How would FMCSA verify the voluntary technologies or safety programs were being implemented?

The FMCSA notice poses similar, specific questions in its call for public comment.

American Trucking Assns. backs the initiative.

"ATA supports measures to incent, recognize and reward carriers that exceed minimum regulatory requirements and voluntarily adopt progressive tools and technologies,” said ATA spokesman Sean McNally. “The development of a 'Gold Standard' program, of sorts, would be a new and creative approach to improving truck safety."

The docket may be reviewed and comments posted on regulations.gov.