Issues Expected to Impact Trucking in 2015

Mar 24, 2015 By:

Transportation is a highly regulated industry. At Ruan, teams across the company stay abreast of potential and impending regulatory changes that could affect operations. By staying up-to-date and being proactive, Ruan ensures regulatory compliance and customer satisfaction. Here are some of the most significant transportation issues expected to affect the industry in the next year.

Electronic Logging Device Mandate

The highway bill passed in June 2012 included a section requiring the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to issue a final rule mandating electronic logging devices (ELDs) for heavy-duty trucks. While the initial deadline was not met, a final rule is expected to be published by November 9, 2015, which means enforcement of the mandate would begin in 2018, according to Commercial Carrier Journal. The two-year delay until the rules are enforced would allow carriers to prepare for installation and stagger implementation costs among their fleets, and also give technical providers time to comply with specifications.  ELDs in all vehicles would help to ensure compliance with HOS rules.

Speed Limiter Mandate

The FMCSA is expected to publish a rulemaking proposal requiring that all heavy-duty trucks to be outfitted with speed limiters, eliminating a truck’s ability to go above a set speed, by June 8, 2015, according to Commercial Carrier JournalAt this point, the FMCSA has not indicated what the limited speed would be after the mandate takes effect. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) supports the use of speed limiters, and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) insists that the devices would be of minimal cost of carriers.

Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

An FMCSA proposal is pending that would create a clearinghouse of drug- and alcohol-related violations for those with a commercial driver’s license. The central database would house verified positive drug and alcohol tests, as well as names of drivers who refuse to be tested. Carriers would be required to report positive test results and refusals to test into the database, and employers would also be required to access this database when looking to hire potential drivers—and to query the database annually for current drivers. The clearinghouse would likely have the positive consequence of removing drugged and drunk drivers from the industry. A final rule is expected in December 2015.

Safety Fitness Determination

The FMCSA is expected to issue a proposal for the next step in its safety compliance program, Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA), by July 2015. The Safety Fitness Determination would allow the FMCSA to use ratings from the CSA BASICs and data from investigations and inspections to produce a “fitness” score for carriers, according to Commercial Carrier JournalThe FMCSA would then use the score to target carrier for intervention if the score was low enough.

Hours-of-Service 34-Hour Restart Study

The FMCSA recently began a study of the 34-hour restart provision that was suspended in December 2014 following several complaints about the effectiveness of the rule.

 The rule, which went into effect July 2013, required that a driver’s 34-hour restart include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. because the FMCSA argued that nighttime sleep is more rejuvenating than daytime sleep. FMCSA reverted to the less strict restart rule that was in place prior to July 2013 that simply required a driver to be off duty 34 hours in a row.

In its study, the FMCSA will study drivers who drive 60 to 70 hours a week at night. The two restart approaches will be studied and compared regarding safety events, fatigue, alertness and driver health, according to Heavy Duty Trucking. Following the study, the FMCSA may reinstate the rule or opt to leave it the way it is.

Minimum Insurance Liability Requirement

The FMCSA and other agencies are studying the industry’s minimum liability insurance requirement. The current $750,000 general freight insurance minimum for carriers was established by Congress in 1985, and it has not increased since then. As required by the 2012 federal highway bill, the FMCSA has analyzed the insurance minimum and released a proposed rulemaking for comment late in 2014.

The FMCSA analysis found that the minimums need to be reevaluated due to increasing medical costs and changing statistical life estimates. According to Overdrive, the FMCSA is considering a range of numbers, but one option would be to peg the minimums to the Consumer Price Index. The general freight requirement would jump to $1.6 million. Minimum requirements for hazmat freight would increase as well.

Highway Bill Reauthorization

The U.S. Congress must reach a decision about a long-term highway bill before the current highway funding program expires in May. Failure to act on creating a long-term bill could result in another extension of the current highway bill—which does not provide enough money to maintain or improve roads.

President Obama has called for reform of corporate taxes and for some of the proceeds of that reform to go to a long-term highway bill. Congress, however, does not like this approach to generating funding, nor does it support raising fuel taxes, which currently fund the Highway Trust Fund. Proponents of a federal gas tax increase argue that the tax has not risen with inflation for several years, and vehicles are getting more fuel efficient, requiring less fuel in general.

As a result of the lack of funding, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. a D+ grade on its infrastructure report card, and getting the nation’s infrastructure to working order would require $3.6 trillion by 2020, according to the Washington Post.

If Congress fails to create a long-term highway bill, it will likely be forced into a short-term extension of the previous bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). When MAP-21 was signed into law in 2012, it did not increase highway funding over the previous bill.