FMCSA mulls ‘proficiency exams’ for new carriers

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Trucking news and briefs for Monday, June 19 , 2023:

FMCSA mulls ‘proficiency exams’ for new entrant carriers

A rulemaking that has been dormant since 2009 is back on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s radar.

In the Department of Transportation’s latest regulatory agenda, a date has been added to a potential rulemaking that would consider methods for ensuring a new applicant carrier is knowledgeable about the applicable safety requirements before being granted New Entrant authority. FMCSA is considering whether to implement a proficiency examination as part of its revised New Entrant Safety Assurance Process, as well as other alternatives. 

According to the agenda, a supplemental advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) will be published in August. The agenda only mentions new entrant carriers -- and not brokers and freight forwarders -- but because the new ANPRM is listed as supplemental, changes could be made to the original ANPRM. FMCSA said in a statement to CCJ it could not provide additional information as to whether the supplemental ANPRM would also include information related to a proficiency exam for brokers.

An advance notice of proposed rulemaking related to a proficiency exam for new entrant carriers was originally published in August 2009. It said that the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 required a two-pronged approach to improving the safety performance of new entrant carriers. The first prong, in section 210(a) involved safety audits within the first 18 months of authority, which has been in effect. Second, the law in section 210(b) directed the DOT Secretary “to ensure applicants for New Entrant authority are knowledgeable about applicable federal safety requirements before receiving operating authority,” and consider a proficiency exam and other requirements.

Notably, MAP-21 legislation in 2012 also mandated proficiency exams for freight middlemen like brokers and freight forwarders as well as carriers. In the wake of MAP-21's passage, a presentation by then-Administrator Anne Ferro outlined a date in 2014 for possible implementation of the new standards, which would have required brokers/forwarders to "employ, as an officer, an individual who provides to the Secretary with satisfactory evidence of related rules, regulations, and industry practices" before a grant of authority.

FMCSA told CCJ that it has moved the action from "Long Term" status to "active" status "as a sign we intend to move forward with implementing section 210(b) of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act," adding that the delay was due to other priorities since 2009, including hours of service changes in 2011, 2013 and 2020, the Unified Registration System, the ELD mandate, the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, and Entry-Level Driver Training.

The 2009 carrier-related ANPRM said that a 2003 rulemaking establishing the 18-month audit program did not include a proficiency exam, but instead required applicants to certify, on Form MCS–150A, that they were knowledgeable of the federal safety regulations and hazmat regulations.

The previous ANPRM sought information on the feasibility of establishing a proficiency exam, recommendations on testing protocols and how the test would be administered, which carrier employees should be required to take the exam, and more.

Walmart opens its largest fulfillment center

Walmart on Friday, June 16, celebrated the grand opening of a new 2.2 million square-foot fulfillment center 20 miles northeast of Indianapolis, located at 5259 W 500 N. in McCordsville. The facility is Walmart’s largest fulfillment center to date, the company said.

The McCordsville fulfillment center is the second of four next-generation facilities that brings the powerful combination of people, technology and machine learning together to achieve faster shipping and delivery, while increasing order fulfillment capacity, Walmart said.

The space is designed to expand access to the retailer’s next- or two-day shipping. Combined with the rest of Walmart’s fulfillment network, these next-generation fulfillment centers will enable the retailer to reach 95% of the U.S. population with the service. Walmart Fulfillment Services, Walmart’s end-to-end third-party fulfillment service, will also leverage the space to fulfill Marketplace items.  

“The McCordsville grand opening marks a major milestone in our supply chain modernization journey,” said Karisa Sprague, senior vice president, Fulfillment Network Operations for Walmart U.S. “With more customers shopping online, we’re leverage state-of-the-art technology to increase speed of delivery all while creating tech empowered career opportunities for our associates.”