The trucking industry, through the American Trucking Association (ATA), submitted a petition to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), requesting a determination that the state of California’s meal and rest break rules are pre-empted by federal law. In response, 19 Democratic members of the House of Representatives and the Senate have “strongly” urged the DOT […]

According to the U.S. federal government statistics, over 4,300 people have been killed in crashes involving tractor-trailers and other large trucks in 2016, which is a 28 percent increase over 2009. Fatal truck crashes are growing at almost three times the rate of deadly crashes overall in the U.S. For years, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has supported life-saving legislation that would require all heavy trucks to be equipped with crash-avoidance technology.

Specifically, the NTSB has demanded that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal regulatory agency responsible for protecting people from danger on U.S. roadways, to take action to prevent trucks from rear-ending other vehicles. On at least 10 occasions since the late 1990s, the NTSB has recommended that the NHTSA require forward crash avoidance and mitigation systems on all heavy trucks.

Two decades after the safety board first made their recommendation, NHTSA still has yet to publish a proposed regulation, much less implement one.

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Federal Motor Carrier Safety AdministrationOn August 21, 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) announced that it has commenced a rulemaking process that is aimed at reforming specific areas of the current hours-of-service regulation. The hours-of-service (HOS) regulation was enacted to limit the total operating hours a commercial truck driver works on duty. The FMCSA will be examining four areas of the existing regulation. Once decided, the new rules, will be published as an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

The four specific areas “under consideration for revision” by the agency include:

  • Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers;
  • Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to 2 hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions;
  • Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8 hours of continuous driving; and
  • Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment.

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) passed a new rule which requires truckers to install an electronic logging device (ELD) to record the number of hours they are on or off the road. These ELDs must be installed by April 1, 2018. Ahead of this deadline, the FMSCA granted agricultural truckers a second 90-day extension on ELD compliance.

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A USA Today Network investigation revealed that some port trucking companies have used legal loopholes, shell companies, and bankruptcies to escape judgments by labor court judges. The ongoing investigation reveals that some port trucking companies serving top retailers use such tactics to take advantage of drivers.

The investigation examined California labor commissioner and court cases filed by more than 1,100 port truck drivers. Of the almost 60 companies found to have violated the law, at least 12 have avoided the judgments against them by shifting assets into new business names. Some delayed paying and filed for bankruptcy protection or pressured drivers to accept settlements.

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has withdrawn a proposed rule revising its method for determining the safety fitness of motor carriers. The notice of proposed rulemaking, issued on Jan. 21, 2016, set forth a new methodology for evaluating whether a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles. The new methodology would have determined when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles in or affecting interstate commerce based on the carrier’s on-road safety data; an investigation; or a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.

FMCSA’s proposal sought to replace its current three safety fitness ratings — “satisfactory,” “conditional,” and “unsatisfactory” — with just one rating, “unfit.” However, that idea was challenged by some industry groups, including the National School Transportation Association (NSTA). The NSTA stated that the current safety fitness rating system aligns well with the safety culture within the school transportation industry. NSTA raised concerns that the proposed new system would leave a safe carrier unrated, offering limited guidance on the safety record of the carrier and causing potential confusion among carriers, law enforcement, and the public.

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The Obama administration today is proposing training standards for entry-level commercial truck and bus operators, as mandated by Congress as part of MAP-21.

In a statement, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx called it a “major step towards ensuring that commercial vehicle drivers receive the necessary training required to safely operate a large truck or motorcoach.”

Specifically, those seeking a “Class A” commercial drivers license would have to have no less than 30 hours of training behind the wheel from a program that meets minimum FMCSA standards. This also includes at least 10 hours of practice driving.

For a “Class B” commercial driver’s license, applicants would have to have at least 15 hours of training behind the wheel and seven hours on a practice range.

The new standards would apply to any first-time CDL applicants, those with a current CDL license seeking an upgrade or additional endorsement, and anyone who had previously been disqualified from a CDL again seeking to be licensed. Military drivers, farmers and firefighters would continue to be exempt.

Yesterday, December 2, 2015, Congress released a report detailing the results of the bicameral agreement reached concerning the terms of the surface transportation reauthorization bill commonly known as the “Drive” Act or the “FAST Act” (“Fixing America’s Surface Transportation”). The original House and Senate proposals for the Act included a number of anti-safety provisions which were strenuously objected to by Public Safety Advocates, including Trucking Attorneys like myself. I pointed out some of the key problems with the initial proposal in a prior blog.

Fortunately, the Members of Congress serving on the Conference Committee listened to the facts and to the arguments presented for greater safety, and made a number of positive changes to the final bill.

Examples of these improvements include:

  • Removal of a section which provided exemptions to hours of service requirements for certain classes of truck drivers;
  • Modifications to the “teen drivers provision” such that there will be a limited pilot program and a greatly reduced volume of higher-risk drivers who are permitted to drive large trucks across state lines;
  • Removal of a provision designed to limit the liability of shippers and brokers who negligently hire unsafe trucking companies;
  • Removal of a proposed Amendment which would have prohibited states from providing additional meal and break protections for truck drivers; and,
  • Modifications to the language in the Act that will eliminate some of the hurdles the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) must navigate in making its determination as to whether minimum insurance limits for large trucks should be raised.

Unfortunately, not all of the anti-safety provisions were eliminated from the final bill. The bill still includes:

  • Vehicle weight limit exemptions for the shippers of logging products and milk products, and for large trucks powered by natural gas; and,
  • Provisions restricting public access to certain CSA scoring data, and implementing other procedures which may impact the Safety Management System (“SMS”) ratings maintained by the FMCSA for trucking companies.

While the bill is not entirely free of anti-safety provisions, I would like to extend a thank you to those Members of Congress who listened to the appeals for public safety and worked to improve the final bill.

12/3/15 Update: “The FAST Act” Still Contains Anti-Safety Provisions

Members of the United States Congress are currently negotiating the final language of a transportation bill known as “the DRIVE Act.” This legislation will have a major impact on everyone using our nations’ roadways in the years to come.

The terms of the Act have been a subject of debate for some time now, and certain anti-safety provisions (such as the proposed increase in the maximum weight limit for commercial trucking) have been defeated. However, the current legislation still contains numerous provisions that must be removed because they present a threat to the health and safety of the public. Some examples include:

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On February 18, 2015, I wrote about a New York City-area scheme where three individuals helped as many as 500 people cheat on the Commercial Driver’s License (“CDL”) test. More recently, a multi-agency investigation in Florida has uncovered a similar scheme involving a commercial truck driving school. The Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General, the FBI, Homeland Security and the Florida Highway Patrol joined forces to uncover the plot, which enabled unqualified drivers to receive CDLs. Ellariy Medvednik, Natalia Dontsova, Adrian Salari and Clarence Davis were all charged in connection with the investigation. These people were affiliated with Larex, Inc., a commercial truck driving school that marketed itself to Russian-speakers online. Read more