Where Trucking Regulations Stand as we Kickoff 2017
As we enter into a new Presidential Administration, already expressing an agenda for less regulation, there is potential for substantial impact within the trucking industry. As a result, regulations are going to be major headlines in 2017.
Let’s take a look at the current state of the new major FMCSA trucking regulations where the rulemaking has been completed and the countdown to implementation has begun as well as those in consideration for a possible rulemaking in 2017.
Electronic Logging Device Mandate
The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate is a rulemaking that is law and the date for enforcement has been set. There is still considerable debate over this mandate. The FMCSA stands by the rule saying it will improve hours of service compliance, prevent 1,844 crashes a year and save 26 lives annually.
Back in June, FMCSA successfully defended its electronic logging device mandate in a court challenge from OOIDA. The Supreme Court also denied hearing the case against the ELD mandate.
According to Bill Sullivan of the ATA, “expect no change in the electronic logging device requirements that take effect in December”. Both political parties were involved in the passage of the requirement to have ELD’s along with the ELD mandate receiving substantial support from the major players within the trucking industry itself. Best guess is that the ELD mandate will prevail and become effective in December, 2017.
However, there is a current push as of July 2017 for a Congressional Bill to delay the Mandate until 2019. In order to become law, it must pass the House, Senate, and Signed by President Trump.
Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse
By a rulemaking requested by Congress, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is establishing a central database to contain all of the relevant drug and alcohol testing information for commercial drivers. Called the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, employers will be required to register their employees and report test results to the clearinghouse.
The purpose of the clearinghouse is to prevent CDL holders with positive drug and alcohol test results, refused required drug and alcohol tests, or who have undergone return-to-duty drug and alcohol rehabilitation process from job-hopping (moving to different states where the results do not follow them) – making it harder to hire these drivers and keeping the roads safer.
The final rule for the clearinghouse has already passed with full implementation set for January 2020. That is to say, the law has been written and finalized, but there will be a three-year waiting period while the database is created and give businesses time to comply with the rules. Best guess, because this rule has heavily supported by the trucking industry, we do not expect the Trump Administration to try and overturn this rule.
Greenhouse gas emission
The greenhouse gas emission regulations would require manufacturers to reduce emissions from trucks, buses, and cargo vans by 2027. Bill Sullivan, executive vice president and chief lobbyist for ATA, said it was possible that the new administration will try to overturn the Phase 2 greenhouse-gas emission standards recently set by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The EPA was a target of the Trump Administration throughout his campaign.
Speed Limiting Rule
This rule would require heavy-duty trucks to be equipped with an operating speed-limiting device. Although no speed limit has yet to be decided in this rule, and the rulemaking has not been finalized, the DOT’s analysis shows that a 60 mph limit would prevent between 162 and 498 on-highway deaths a year, a 65 mph limit would see between 63 and 214 deaths prevented, and a 68 mph limit would prevent between 27 and 96 lives a year. All three speeds would prevent thousands of injuries a year according to the FMCSA.
At this time, the ATA does not agree with the design of the rule. Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) trade group said “the speed limiter rule we will oppose [because] it’s completely flawed approach.” Additionally, both OOIDA and The Western States Trucking Association are against the rule. Best guess is that we could see the new administration taking steps to modify the speed limiter rule or eliminate it entirely.
Unified Registration System
FMCSA is extending the implementation date of the final stage of the Unified Registration System (URS) beyond January 14, 2017 (previous compliance date of April 14, 2017). This extension is due to needing additional time to securely migrate data from multiple legacy platforms into a new central database and to conduct further compatibility testing with its State partners.
The FMCSA is working with its Information Technology contractor to finalize a revised implementation schedule. FMCSA will publish a Federal Register Notice in early January 2017 announcing the revised regulatory compliance dates. Best guess, because the system substantially upgrades the technology used throughout the DOT and many millions of dollars have already been spent, we don’t see the implementation of phase II being challenged.
Congress acted last week to ensure the 34-hour restart would remain a tool for truckers to use to manage their weekly on-duty time, but the future of the 34-hour restart and truckers’ ability to use it without restrictions still are not permanently set.
Congress passed an appropriations bill back in December that included legislation to fix the issue. For the time being, truckers can take 34-hour restarts without the two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods, and the restart can be used as often as truckers want. That could change, pending the outcome of FMCSA’s study of the rules.
The study’s results will dictate whether the 34-hour restart rule will go back into effect. The law says truckers operating under July 2013 rules must “demonstrate statistically significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity, and work schedules, in comparison to…drivers who operated under the restart provisions in effect on June 30, 2013,” for such rules to go back into effect. Best guess, the FMCSA will not be able to demonstrate significant enough improvement to warrant adding the restrictions back to the 34 hour restart rule. The rule will stay as is.
Sleep apnea is a breathing-related sleep disorder that causes brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. These pauses in breathing can last at least 10 seconds or more and can occur up to 400 times a night. Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that often goes unrecognized and undiagnosed. In order to diagnose sleep apnea, your doctor may send you to a sleep center for testing. You may be asked to spend a night at the center, where experts will monitor your sleep.
Last month, OOIDA said it plans to file full arguments against any rule the FMCSA might propose to require sleep apnea testing standards. The FMCSA and Federal Railroad Administration launched a joint rule-making this March, requesting public comments. The advanced notice of proposed rule-making cited several fatal road and rail accidents that involved drivers or engineers suffering from sleep apnea.
That notice and the public comment period were the start of what's expected to be a long regulatory process. According to TransComply President Avery Vise, “There are going to be some significant costs to carriers, and potentially capacity-draining ramifications. I think we’re certainly going to go slow, and it may be shelved.” Our best guess, the rule is receiving a lot of push-back from industry already. We expect that push-back to be effective in shelving this rule-making for the foreseeable future.
Two things are certain in this new political era, there will be change and only time will tell what the effects will be on trucking.