49 USC 31144 - Safety fitness of owners and operators

(a) In General.— 
The Secretary shall
(1) determine whether an owner or operator is fit to operate safely commercial motor vehicles, utilizing among other things the accident record of an owner or operator operating in interstate commerce and the accident record and safety inspection record of such owner or operator
(A) in operations that affect interstate commerce within the United States; and
(B) in operations in Canada and Mexico if the owner or operator also conducts operations within the United States;

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(2) periodically update such safety fitness determinations;
(3) make such final safety fitness determinations readily available to the public; and
(4) prescribe by regulation penalties for violations of this section consistent with section 521.
(b) Procedure.— 
The Secretary shall maintain by regulation a procedure for determining the safety fitness of an owner or operator. The procedure shall include, at a minimum, the following elements:
(1) Specific initial and continuing requirements with which an owner or operator must comply to demonstrate safety fitness.
(2) A methodology the Secretary will use to determine whether an owner or operator is fit.
(3) Specific time frames within which the Secretary will determine whether an owner or operator is fit.
(c) Prohibited Transportation.— 

(1) In general.— 
Except as provided in section 521 (b)(5)(A) and this subsection, an owner or operator who the Secretary determines is not fit may not operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce beginning on the 61st day after the date of such fitness determination and until the Secretary determines such owner or operator is fit.
(2) Owners or operators transporting passengers.— 
With regard to owners or operators of commercial motor vehicles designed or used to transport passengers, an owner or operator who the Secretary determines is not fit may not operate in interstate commerce beginning on the 46th day after the date of such fitness determination and until the Secretary determines such owner or operator is fit.

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(3) Owners or operators transporting hazardous material.— 
With regard to owners or operators of commercial motor vehicles designed or used to transport hazardous material for which placarding of a motor vehicle is required under regulations prescribed under chapter 51, an owner or operator who the Secretary determines is not fit may not operate in interstate commerce beginning on the 46th day after the date of such fitness determination and until the Secretary determines such owner or operator is fit. A violation of this paragraph by an owner or operator transporting hazardous material shall be considered a violation of chapter 51, and shall be subject to the penalties in sections 5123 and 5124.
(4) Secretary’s discretion.— 
Except for owners or operators described in paragraphs (2) and (3), the Secretary may allow an owner or operator who is not fit to continue operating for an additional 60 days after the 61st day after the date of the Secretarys fitness determination, if the Secretary determines that such owner or operator is making a good faith effort to become fit.
(5) Transportation affecting interstate commerce.— 
Owners or operators of commercial motor vehicles prohibited from operating in interstate commerce pursuant to paragraphs (1) through (3) of this section may not operate any commercial motor vehicle that affects interstate commerce until the Secretary determines that such owner or operator is fit.
(d) Determination of Unfitness by State.— 
If a State that receives motor carrier safety assistance program funds under section 31102 determines, by applying the standards prescribed by the Secretary under subsection (b), that an owner or operator of a commercial motor vehicle that has its principal place of business in that State and operates in intrastate commerce is unfit under such standards and prohibits the owner or operator from operating such vehicle in the State, the Secretary shall prohibit the owner or operator from operating such vehicle in interstate commerce until the State determines that the owner or operator is fit.
(e) Review of Fitness Determinations.— 

(1) In general.— 
Not later than 45 days after an unfit owner or operator requests a review, the Secretary shall review such owners or operators compliance with those requirements with which the owner or operator failed to comply and resulted in the Secretary determining that the owner or operator was not fit.
(2) Owners or operators transporting passengers.— 
Not later than 30 days after an unfit owner or operator of commercial motor vehicles designed or used to transport passengers requests a review, the Secretary shall review such owners or operators compliance with those requirements with which the owner or operator failed to comply and resulted in the Secretary determining that the owner or operator was not fit.
(3) Owners or operators transporting hazardous material.— 
Not later than 30 days after an unfit owner or operator of commercial motor vehicles designed or used to transport hazardous material for which placarding of a motor vehicle is required under regulations prescribed under chapter 51, the Secretary shall review such owners or operators compliance with those requirements with which the owner or operator failed to comply and resulted in the Secretary determining that the owner or operator was not fit.
(f) Prohibited Government Use.— 
A department, agency, or instrumentality of the United States Government may not use to provide any transportation service an owner or operator who the Secretary has determined is not fit until the Secretary determines such owner or operator is fit.
(g) Safety Reviews of New Operators.— 

(1) In general.— 
The Secretary shall require, by regulation, each owner and each operator granted new operating authority, after the date on which section 31148 (b) is first implemented, to undergo a safety review within the first 18 months after the owner or operator, as the case may be, begins operations under such authority.
(2) Elements.— 
In the regulations issued pursuant to paragraph (1), the Secretary shall establish the elements of the safety review, including basic safety management controls. In establishing such elements, the Secretary shall consider their effects on small businesses and shall consider establishing alternate locations where such reviews may be conducted for the convenience of small businesses.
(3) Phase-in of requirement.— 
The Secretary shall phase in the requirements of paragraph (1) in a manner that takes into account the availability of certified motor carrier safety auditors.
(4) New entrant authority.— 
Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, any new operating authority granted after the date on which section 31148 (b) is first implemented shall be designated as new entrant authority until the safety review required by paragraph (1) is completed.
(5) New entrant audits.— 

(A) Grants.— 
The Secretary may make grants to States and local governments for new entrant motor carrier audits under this subsection without requiring a matching contribution from such States and local governments.
(B) Set aside.— 
The Secretary shall set aside from amounts made available by section 31104 (a) up to $29,000,000 per fiscal year for audits of new entrant motor carriers conducted pursuant to this paragraph.
(C) Determination.— 
If the Secretary determines that a State or local government is not able to use government employees to conduct new entrant motor carrier audits, the Secretary may use the funds set aside under this paragraph to conduct audits for such States or local governments.