As new motor carriers enter the trucking industry in record numbers, more needs to be done to ensure they operate safely on our roadways. Oftentimes, new motor carriers suffer from a lack of knowledge and minimal of experience in motor carrier safety and compliance . FMCSA recently confirmed this, reporting in its recent Safety Research Forum that over a five-year period between 2015 and 2020, recent motor carriers that are graduates of the new entrant program had twice as many total crashes and nearly twice as many fatal crashes per power unit within 24 months of graduation, when compared to the established motor carriers they were measured against. Based on this data the New Entrant Safety Assurance (NESA) program has failed at fulfilling its original intent of helping carriers by setting them up for success. NESA is not enhancing safety. It needs to be changed.

There have been many challenges with the program, with the most significant being an ever-increasing number of new carriers entering the business. These numbers spiked in 2021 and 2022, when on average approximately 10,800 for-hire carriers were signing up per month, as compared to 4,800 per month in 2019. In 2023, the number scaled back slightly to 9,400 per month, but remained almost double what was commonplace prior to 2020. At the same time, new entrants were increasing, and motor carrier enforcement staff at the state level has been decreasing, which has led to new entrant safety audits not being completed on time and resulted in a focus more on quantity versus quality of the audits being completed. This has put stress on every aspect of the program. Other challenges have included an inadequate initial carrier vetting process (to identify chameleon carriers and fraud), lack of an adequate onboarding process (including training and testing), as well as not having a robust early-stage oversight and monitoring process for these newly minted carriers. The overarching concern is it too easy to become a motor carrier. Practically speaking, it is more difficult for drivers to get a CDL than it is to become a motor carrier.

We can change this paradigm and right the ship. FMCSA has on its rulemaking docket implementing a proficiency examination requirement for new entrants, which is long overdue, having been mandated by Congress back in 2012. Secondly, much more education needs to take place. Most carriers entering the business want to do things right, they just need some training, guidance, and expertise. We also need to provide more support and assistance to the states in helping to streamline the program and make it more flexible and efficient for them to implement.

Like most employers do in the workplace, when bringing on a new hire, they are not just onboarded and left to figure things out on their own. New employees need continual care, training, assessment, monitoring and mentoring to help them be successful. New entrant motor carriers are no different, yet today we let them run their business essentially untrained and with no substantive oversight. It should not be a surprise they are having problems.

We can and need to do better. Many of these new motor carriers will end up being the future of trucking, and we owe it to them, the motoring public, and the rest of the industry to help those that want to do it right, and to make it a bit harder on those who don’t.