Please click the following links for recent news stories from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced that it recently shut down Wisconsin-based trucking company WTSA US Express and declared it an “imminent safety hazard.” The Administration’s investigation of the company revealed numerous, egregious violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, including employing drivers without valid commercial driver’s licenses and medical certifications, allowing drivers to operate without records of duty status, and failing to test its drivers for controlled substances.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has the ability to declare transportation companies and trucking companies as imminent hazards to public safety and order trucking companies to immediately cease operations and provision of services. They can obtain Orders for imminent hazard “out-of-service” and this is usually done after a review of the company’s operations.
Recently, as part of the hours of service, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) held public sessions across the country to encourage various advocates, drivers, trucking companies, law enforcement agencies and even the public to share their input on truck driver rest time and the safety and operation of commercial vehicles.
There was a computer-assisted investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation using heavy truck inspection data from 2003 to 2008 for Northwest Indiana. Some of the statistics are startling and are derived from State Police and Federal Inspectors checking 34,856 heavy trucks (i.e. semi trailers, buses and other heavy commercial vehicles) in Lake and Porter counties in Northwest Indiana between 2003 and 2008.
In June, the United States Department of Transportation gave $2.4 million in federal support toward projects to end distracted driving in California and Delaware. During the announcement of the projects, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called on the 11 remaining states to ban texting behind the wheel. Those states without such a ban include Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas.
The explosion of natural gas drilling in our area has resulted in an increased number of trucks on our roadways that are hauling materials to and from the drilling sites. Under the current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, these truck drivers could spend a maximum of 14 hours a day on-duty. The allowed 14 consecutive hours on-duty is already a dangerously long time to spend behind the wheel; however, truck companies and their drivers were violating this rule by attempting to exploit an exemption designed for special oilfield service equipment. Under the exemption, truck drivers are allowed to subtract the time that they spent waiting for equipment to be unloaded from their 14 hour daily maximum.
On Monday, October 22, 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law the Military CDL Act. The law permits states to waive a residency requirement for issuing commercial licenses to service members living in-state. According to Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., one of the bill’s sponsors, this change in the law will help service members obtain their commercial driver’s licenses in advance of leaving the military, thereby smoothing their transition to civilian life.
In the late Fall of 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (“FMCSA”) rule requiring motor carriers with the most flagrant hours of service (“HOS”) violations to install electronic on-board recorders (“EOBRs”) to monitor HOS compliance. Sounds reasonable, right? The most flagrant HOS violators have 40% higher crash rate than the general motor carrier population, so something needed to be done, right? Nope. Not according to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (“OOIDA”), another powerful trucking industry lobbying group that represents the interests of motor carriers with the most flagrant HOS violations. So, what did OOIDA do? In pursuit of justice for the most flagrant HOS violators, it filed a lawsuit on their behalf to defeat the rule… and it won.
In late December 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) issued new rules that are a step in the right direction, but not the leap that was and is necessary to keep our roadways safe. The new rules include a shorter work week for commercial drivers and a required 30-minute rest break after eight hours on duty. Unfortunately, the agency failed to reverse the dangerous change made in 2003, when the Bush administration’s “profits over people” policy increased the time that drivers could be behind the wheel each day to 11 hours. For nearly 70 years, the limit had been 10 hours.