WASHINGTON – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published an intermodal equipment rule that should boost truckers’ productivity by speeding up operations and ensuring chassis are safer, according to Transport Topics.


In addition, FMCSA stiffened review procedures for new trucking companies by requiring a safety audit within 18 months after operations begin.

When the rule becomes effective in March, chassis providers will be required to maintain equipment in roadworthy, or “roadable” condition that meets federal motor carrier safety standards. Truck drivers who have been penalized for defects in chassis that weren’t theirs will now be able to insist that they receive equipment with safe tires, brakes, and lights before hitting the highway.

Prior efforts by ATA and others to address roadability went nowhere until Congress made chassis owners responsible for safety and maintenance in the 2005 transportation law. FMCSA’s rule implements that law.

FMCSA said drivers waste three hours each time a defect forces them to wait for repairs or find a roadable alternative, pegging delay costs at $140.

The rule lacks a cumulative savings estimate. Based on the estimated $140 cost per incident, fleets would save $3 million annually if the rule eliminated all out-of-service incidents, which totaled 21,154 in 2006, according to Transport Topics.

Casey said IANA was disappointed that the rules ignored existing intermodal inspection standards and rejected an industry proposal to create an electronic equipment registry, eliminating the need to physically mark each piece of equipment.

FMCSA will instead require chassis marking with a six-digit U.S. Department of Transportation number. It will be displayed on a sticker, kept in a weatherproof packet, permanently marked on the chassis or listed on drivers’ paperwork that travels with the shipment.

FMCSA’s rule requires chassis providers to:


• File information forms about themselves.


• Create or maintain files that document what equipment is under their control.


• Identify equipment with a DOT number.


• Have a system for reporting and correcting equipment defects.


Providers will have 12 months to register and create recordkeeping systems and 12 additional months to mark all chassis.

The rule requires drivers to do a pre-trip inspection before hitting the road and creates a process for reporting and rectifying defects. However, the agency acknowledged the potential for inspection difficulties because drivers may not be able to see defects if there’s a container on the chassis.

FMCSA said equipment providers’ compliance costs could reach $333.4 million over 10 years, with added startup costs of up to $33.8 million.

FMCSA said the rule could trim the current percentage of intermodal equipment placed out of service during roadside inspections to 13 percent — the same rate as trailers — from the current 19 percent.