2023 Regulatory Update

Mar 13, 2023

While sustainability efforts and environmental policies have been at the forefront of transportation industry news, legislation regarding either topic may be difficult to pass over the next two years. With the Republican Party recently taking control of the House of Representatives, Congress is split. Experts predict this will affect the amount of bills passed, especially those centered around environmental regulations, at least on a national level. However, this doesn’t mean there will be a shortage of other potential regulations for the transportation industry. In fact, several rules introduced before the COVID-19 pandemic are now being revived and revised in 2023, and policies and procedures initiated in 2022 will remain prevalent throughout the new year. Here are a few of the top regulatory issues to watch this year:


Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse:

In December 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a final rule to create a clearinghouse of drug- and alcohol-related violations for those with a commercial driver’s license (CDL). As of January 2020, carriers are required to report positive test results and refusals to test into the database. Employers are also required to access this database when looking to hire potential drivers and to query the database annually for current drivers.

Currently, employers are required to verify safety performance history, including drug and alcohol testing results, for the applicant’s previous three years of employment. However, until January 6 of this year, employers had to ask applicants or their previous employers for historical information. The January 6 adaptation allows employers to now check the clearinghouse for historical information. An additional provision, set to take effect later in 2023, creates automatic notifications sent to employers regarding any new infractions for drivers they have previously queried. This will help employers identify any of the 89,000 professional drivers who received a positive test and did not complete their return-to-duty requirements.


Speed Limiter Proposal

The FMCSA recently announced plans to submit its final proposal on commercial motor vehicle speed limiters in June 2023. This proposal has been adapted from its original notice of intent released in 2022, after which the FMCSA requested comments from the transportation industry. The filing proposed all commercial vehicles weighing over 26,001 pounds must be equipped with devices used to regulate the vehicle’s maximum speed.

Since that initial filing, more than 15,000 comments were received on the Federal Register. Opinions have been split, both between drivers and corporations. Many large transportation companies already utilize speed limiters and have seen benefits; however, the top speeds are regulated by the company itself and not any governing body.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) officially announced its support of speed limiters set at a maximum speed of 70 miles per hour in trucks equipped with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), and a top speed of 65 miles per hour in trucks without AEB and ACC.

“Prior to this update, our policy had called for a universal maximum set speed of 65 miles per hour. However, new data, technology, and safety concerns made this policy outdated,” according to the ATA. “Factors such as speed differentials between trucks and passenger vehicles, rapidly increasing interstate speed limits nationwide, and the emergence of forward collision mitigation, automated emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control technologies shifted the safety discussion. Our concerns focused on rear collisions by passenger vehicles into trucks and how speed differentials contribute to those collisions. The result was our revised policy of 70 miles per hour (in conjunction with AEB and ACC).”

The final proposal is set to be unveiled in June of 2023. As of right now, the FMCSA has not announced a specified maximum speed or a timeline for vehicles to install speed limiters.


Electronic IDs

Another rulemaking set for debate in 2023 is the requirement for electronic ID systems on commercial vehicles. These IDs would wirelessly communicate the vehicle’s unique ID number to commercial vehicle inspectors. This would enable inspectors to know all commercial vehicles in their areas as well as the drivers’ safety and driving histories. Inspectors would then be able to focus on those vehicles and drivers with histories of noncompliance for impromptu inspections. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) explained that this would not be a punishment, but more a learning opportunity for drivers in the field. Additionally, drivers with exemplary safety histories would be able to skip inspections, saving companies time and money.

Those opposed to the proposal are concerned about privacy and cybersecurity—two issues that will need to be addressed by the FMCSA. The proposed rulemaking was filed in late 2022 and is currently seeking comments from industry stakeholders.


Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program

In 2017, the National Academy of Sciences released data from a study on the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. This report identified several policies that need improvement and outlined six recommendations as solutions to those problem areas. On February 15, 2023, the FMCSA proposed several adjustments to CSA that address many of the issues outlined by the National Academy of Science’s study. While the FMCSA did not propose implementation of every suggested policy change, it did propose several substantial changes to the system. These changes include reorganizing new safety categories, compiling roadside violations into 116 violation groups, changing severity weights from a 1-10 scale to a simple 1-2 scale (including three categories which will have adjusted intervention thresholds), no longer including non-safety related infractions when calculating month-to-month performance, focusing on incidents that occurred within the previous 12 months, extending the Utilization Factor to include motor carriers that drive up to 250,000 VMT per average PU, introducing new segments for individual vehicle types (cargo tank, straight beds, etc.), and including data collected from non-preventable accidents.

·       For more information on these proposed changes, visit CSA Prioritization Preview - Home (dot.gov).


Continuation of the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program (SDAP)

In July 2022, the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program (SDAP) was launched as one potential solution to the driver shortage problem. The program allows individuals under the age of 21 to drive commercial trucks across state lines under certain conditions. The goal is to engage 18- to 20-year-olds and give them a head start in the trucking industry.

While the program was initially met with enthusiasm, it has been slow to kick off. One of the biggest issues is that commercial carrier fleets must be willing to create their own training programs and train the young drivers themselves. As of the beginning of 2023, only 15 carriers have been approved to hire and train drivers under SDAP. Timing is key but not necessarily fluid at this point. The driver shortage is a big problem across the country and certainly needs to be addressed as soon as possible. However, the nation is just emerging from a global pandemic that caused unprecedented economic and supply chains fluctuations. Most carriers are focused on resuming business “as usual” after the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic rather than investing the time and money it takes to adopt the SDAP program. As 2023 progresses, keep an eye on this program as more carriers are sure to sign on as economic conditions normalize, and focus can be turned to proactive solutions for industry issues.