Compliance Corner: Looking Back and Looking Ahead
December 1, 2011
This has been a year of change on the compliance and regulatory front for both drivers and their employers. At the top of the list is the long-anticipated roll out of Compliance, Safety, Accountablity (CSA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) safety and compliance program.
From a regulatory standpoint, 2011 included a rulemaking changing how drivers obtain a learner’s permit to operate a commercial motor vehicle and by the end of this year we could see regulations addressing hours of service and driver use of cell phones. Let’s review some of the highlights of 2011 and look ahead to 2012.
Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) became a reality in 2011. Drivers as well as the general public can access a trucking company’s scores in five of the seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). A trucking company is able to access its scores in all seven of the BASICs. Cargo-related and crash indicator BASICs scores are not available to the drivers or the general public.
Based on these scores, warning letters are sent to trucking companies who have safety problems that are not yet serious, but could be in the future. FMCSA’s goal with the letters is to encourage trucking companies to address these problems before they become a serious issue.
Throughout the year, FMCSA made changes to the program’s scoring and website in response to feedback from those affected by the program. It is expected FMCSA will continue to make changes to the program in 2012.
Also, 2011 marked the first full year that FMCSA’s Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) was used by trucking companies and drivers to conduct pre-employment safety searches. PSP allows trucking companies to electronically access driver inspection and crash records as part of the hiring process. Drivers are able to access this data to verify its accuracy.
During its first year (May 2010 – May 2011), 380,000 pre-employment safety searches were conducted.
Hours of Service
As of press time, we were still waiting for an hours-of-service final rule. It is expected to be published by the end of 2011. This rulemaking is the result of a settlement of litigation filed by several advocacy groups in 2009.
The proposal, issued December 29, 2010, included a potential change in driving time from 11 hours to 10 hours. The proposal also included changes to the 34-hour restart, and the definition of on-duty time.
Over 20,000 comments were filed. Most oppose the proposed changes.
It is expected that any changes to the regulations issued in the final rule would not go into effect until mid to late 2012.
Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs)
February 1, 2011, FMCSA issued a proposed regulation that would mandate electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) for a large portion of the motor carrier industry.
The proposed mandate would include any vehicle or combination of vehicles 10,001 pounds or more, any size vehicle hauling a placardable amount of hazardous materials, and certain types of passenger vehicles.
FMCSA estimates that 500,000 motor carriers would be covered under this proposed regulation.
As of press time, a final rule was expected to be published in mid-2012, though it is unknown at this time how recent legal action will affect this timetable.
In late August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ordered that FMCSA remove its rule requiring the installation and use of EOBRs by motor carriers with serious patterns of non-compliance.
In its decision, the Court stated that FMCSA did not address the difference between productivity and harassment of drivers and did not explain what the agency will do to prevent driver harassment from occurring.
The rulemaking is back at FMCSA for further proceedings.
In December 2010, FMCSA published a proposal banning the use of cell phones by drivers while operating commercial motor vehicles. The proposal would prohibit drivers of commercial motor vehicles from reaching for, holding, or dialing a cell phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle.
FMCSA estimates that four million drivers would be affected by the proposed ban.
As of press time, a final rule was expected by the end of 2011.
Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP)
In May, FMCSA issued a final rule establishing minimum standards for the issuance of a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). This rule requires anyone applying for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to first obtain a CLP. States are required to have the program in place by July 8, 2014.
2012: Another Busy Year
Regulatory and compliance activity is expected to continue at a steady pace next year.
In January, states will begin requiring drivers who hold a CDL to submit their current medical examiner’s certificate (card) to their state driver licensing agency. This is the first step in merging the CDL and medical examiner’s certificate. All CDL holders will be required to submit this document to their state driver licensing agency by 2014.
Also in 2012, FMCSA is expected to issue a proposal addressing motor carrier fitness and a final rule on entry-level driver training.
Jill Schultz is an Editor — Transportation Safety for J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. Contact her at email@example.com. Also be sure to check out J. J. Keller’s website at jjkeller.com
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