By Joe Rajkovacz, CCTA, Director of Governmental Affairs
Washington D.C. – Historically, when the U.S. enters a presidential election cycle, federal agencies tend to back-off the rulemaking process. Generally, this is to avoid handing the opposing political party candidates “red-meat” to use in attacking the party currently holding the White House – in this case the Democratic Party. President Obama has a decidedly different view of this long-standing behavior and has his department secretary’s moving forward in the regulatory realm to achieve objectives he can’t accomplish by working through congress.The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is promising to issue dramatic rulemakings later this year that will have significant economic impact on all but the largest motor carriers. A couple of those rules (supported and lobbied for by the American Trucking Associations) and their projected publication date are:
- Mandating electronic on-board recorders (electronic logging devices) – due on 09/30/2015
- Mandating all heavy-trucks have a speed-limiting device installed – due on 07/23/2015
In the meantime, FMCSA has recently issued the following final rules/determinations:
- Hours of Service of Drivers: National Ready Mixed Concrete Association; Application for Exemption; Final Disposition – published on 04/02/2015. FMCSA granted ready-mixed concrete drivers an exemption from needing to comply with the 30-minute rest break requirement. The CCTA supplied comments supportive of this exemption. The exemption is in-place until April 3, 2017 and must be renewed. Drivers using the exemption MUST carry a copy of the Federal Register notice announcing the exemption. The notice can be found at: www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-04-02/pdf/2015-07567.pdf or contact CCTA’s office and we can transmit a copy of the notice to you.
- Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustments – published on 04/03/2015. FMCSA is required by congress to periodically update (increase) the fines (civil penalties) they could conceivably assess against a motor carrier or driver. When this notice was issued, many drivers were incorrectly led to think the list represented fines they would face from roadside law enforcement. Civil penalties are what FMCSA can issue after performing a compliance review (CR) on a motor carrier. The newly updated list of civil penalties represents the maximum penalty FMCSA could assess. FMCSA must consider 8 factors, including business viability when making an assessment. In reality, penalties could be anywhere between $1 and the maximum allowable.
- Beyond Compliance Program – published on 04/23/2015. FMCSA is seeking public input on “how” motor carriers might use voluntary programs – not mandated by regulations – to improve safety outcomes. The basic idea is “if” a motor carrier instituted safety management practices not required by the agency such as equipping trucks with certain advanced technology or having annual in-service “refresher” training for drivers, motor carriers could be granted some regulatory relief such as increased scale by-pass or reduced CSA percentile rankings. FMCSA is not currently considering any regulatory relief but would like to find motor carriers/groups that would voluntarily test the validity of whether this idea actually has beneficial safety outcomes.
- Medical Examiner’s Certification Integration – published on 04/23/2015. This is the final step in a process to have a CDL holder’s medical qualification status incorporated into having a commercial license. Currently, drivers must select whether they operate in intra- or interstate commerce. The choice determines whether the driver must use a medical examiner (ME) listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME). Drivers are now required to notify their state driver’s license agency (SDLA) of their choice of operation and if applicable must submit a copy of the Medical Examination Certificate to their SDLA so that proof of medical qualification can be entered onto a driver’s individual record (Note: Some states such as California require all CDL holders to submit proof of medical certification regardless of whether operating in intra- or interstate commerce. The requirement to use a ME listed on the NRCME is specific only to CDL holders choosing to operate in interstate commerce). This latest final rule will mandate that by June 22, 2018 all ME’s listed on the NRCME electronically forward the results of a medical exam to FMCSA by midnight (local time) of the next calendar day following the examination. States will get notified of results directly from FMCSA eliminating the requirement that drivers directly submit proof of certification to their SDLA. Motor carriers will still be required to get a copy of a drivers motor vehicle record (MVR) annually.
Update on FMCSA’s Entry-Level Driver Training Committee – FMCSA has posted on its website a draft of the “proposed core curriculum” requirements (see: https://cms.fmcsa.dot.gov/advisory-committees/eldtac/meetings). One thing that stands out in reading the document is the committee’s assumption that all potential CDL holders will only be operating “combination vehicles” and going in/out of warehouse facilities. Much of the draft language discusses “tractor-trailers” and “shipper/receiver” issues as related to training. Apparently, nobody gets a CDL to operate something like a dump truck for their driving career – at least that’s how the draft document reads, it’s teed up with a “long-haul” trucking bias.