If you have ever felt unsure about how transportation regulations and laws impact your business as a motor carrier, don’t worry because it’s not just you. In fact, 56% of carriers wish they had more visibility into government policy and the impact of regulatory changes. As we all know, the U.S. government is extremely complex, which makes it very difficult to monitor transportation-related policies. Because of this, we’re here to provide you with an update on some key current transportation regulations and a few that are pending.
Hours of Service
One of the most prevalent regulations in the industry is hours of service (HOS). This refers to the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty to help ensure that drivers stay awake and alert. On June 1, 2020 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revised four policy provisions to provide greater flexibility for drivers. These four provisions went into effect on September 29, 2020 and include:
- Short-Haul Exception: expands the short-haul exception to 150 air-miles and allows a 14-hour work shift to take place.
- Adverse Driving Conditions: expands the driving window during adverse driving conditions by up to an additional 2 hours.
- 30-Minute Break Requirement: requires a break of at least 30 consecutive minutes after 8 cumulative hours of driving time.
- Sleeper Berth Provision: Modifies the sleeper berth exception to allow a driver to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least 7 hours of that period in the berth combined with a minimum off-duty period of at least 2 hours spent inside or outside the berth.
For more information on HOS, including the FMCSA’s new online tool that allows users to enter driver records to see if there are potential violations, click here.
Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse
The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, rolled out in January 2020, is an electronic database that tracks commercial driver’s license holders who have tested positive for prohibited drug or alcohol use along with refusals to take required drug tests. The rule requires employers to populate the Clearinghouse with their employees’ drug and alcohol violations and to verify completed steps in the return-to-duty process (follow up testing/plans/programs).
DOT issued a final rule earlier this year that allows FMCSA to fine drivers and carriers up to $5,833 for each violation. Fines will be updated on a yearly basis due to inflation. With the program in motion for almost 1.5 years, the Clearinghouse recently published a report with a few interesting bits of information:
- Since reporting started in January 2020, the Clearinghouse has over 80,000 different reported violations.
- The violations are heavily skewed towards drugs vs. alcohol as only about 1,800 violations are alcohol-related.
- 2021 is currently on pace to have more violations than 2020.
- The most common violation is the use of marijuana, which accounts for more than half of all entries in the Clearinghouse.
- Louisiana has the highest number of violations per employer, while North Dakota has the lowest.
New Driver Testing
As of February of this year, the FMCSA passed a final rule to streamline the process for men and women interested in entering the trucking workforce. The rule allows states to permit third-party CDL instructors to both teach applicants and administer their CDL tests. This is meant to alleviate testing delays while eliminating a needless expense to the applicant. An estimated savings of $18 million annually is expected for eligible driver trainees and motor carriers. To view a copy of the final rule, click here.
Highway User Fee – Connecticut
The Connecticut legislature has approved the use of a Highway User Fee, a truck-focused tax estimated to raise $90 million annually to fund infrastructure projects. Taking effect on January 1, 2023, carriers that want to use a Connecticut highway must apply for a permit and must report their own mileage to state tax officials. Fees will be calculated based on the tractor-trailer’s weight and the number of miles traveled. Rates begin at 2.5 cents per mile for vehicles between 26,000 and 28,000 pounds to 17.5 cents for vehicles weighing more than 80,000 pounds. No vehicle weighing less than 26,000 pounds will be subject to any fees.
Speed Limiters for Heavy-Duty Trucks
Introduced in May 2021, the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act would limit commercial vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds to 65-70 mph with the use of an adaptive cruise control system and automatic emergency braking. The bill is named in honor of a 22 year old man who was killed in a car-truck collision in 2002 while returning to college. Numerous groups have endorsed this legislation, including the American Trucking Association, Road Safe America, the Institute for Safer Trucking, and more.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) opposes any attempt to require speed limiters, arguing that they increase congestion and speed differentials between trucks and cars, ultimately leading to more crashes. OOIDA also says that speed limiters give an unfair advantage to larger carriers over small business truckers.
In March, a group of bipartisan lawmakers in both the House and Senate re-introduced the Drive-Safe Act, critical legislation that will answer the country’s massive driver shortage by promoting opportunity and enhanced safety training for emerging members of this growing workforce. As the average age for truck drivers is 46 years old, the act focuses on one of the primary obstacles to bringing younger drivers in the industry: the requirement that they are at least 21 years old to drive in interstate commerce. A coalition of more than 120 companies and trade associations have endorsed the act, which creates a two-step apprenticeship process to ensure these individuals are safe and prepared. The act aims to create enormous opportunities for countless Americans seeking a high-paying profession without the debt burden that comes with a four-year degree.
How You Can Influence Government Policies
Time will tell whether the above pending regulations will pass, and we will continue to keep you abreast of any changes. Public opinion is an integral part of policymaking as decision-makers pay attention to input from logistics professionals across the country, especially those involved in well-known transportation trade associations. Some of these associations include the Consumer Brands Association, American Trucking Associations, and the National Private Truck Council. If you have any questions about how these regulations impact you, feel free to contact us.