TODAY’S HIGH-TECH WORLD OF TRUCKING. Through a recent partnership with the FMCSA and Virginia State Police, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recently installed new technology at three of its motor carrier weigh stations that help keep compliant trucks moving and help stop non-compliant vehicles. The new technology is called the Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR), and it checks trucks that cross the scales at weigh stations in Carson, Stephens City and Dumfries for compliance with federal and state rules. The new technology will also be installed at weigh stations in Alberta and Troutville later this year. As a truck drives crosses the weigh station scales, the ALPR reads the truck’s plate and queries DMV’s system to locate any companies that have suspended credentials or owe Virginia any outstanding taxes, fees or penalties. If a truck is flagged by the system, the driver is asked to pull into the weigh station where the driver has the opportunity to correct any issues. In the future, this ALPR system will also have the capability of interfacing with the Commercial Vehicle Information Exchange Window (CVIEW) for roadside screenings. This other interface will extend screening to include compliance issues with other states. The ALPR system is the latest piece of DMV’s new smart roadside technology program. As part of this program, existing weigh-in-motion technology has already been implemented at most of Virginia’s weigh stations (high-speed weigh-in-motion scales are set into the road just before the weigh stations). Think you can still hide? Get your affairs in order and start running legally or they will get you!
ATA BACKS FMCSA. If you haven’t heard, the American Trucking Association (ATA) has filed an amicus brief (friend of the court) with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in support of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) defense of electronic logging devices. ATA supports the use of electronic logging devices, which have demonstrated the ability to improve carriers’ compliance with FMCSA’s hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. In the brief, ATA urges the court to reject the calls to prevent fleets from using these powerful compliance tools. FMCSA’s rules governing the voluntary use of electronic logging devices to records HOS data are being challenged by a group that has successfully overturned the agency’s proposal to mandate electronic logging for the carriers with egregious HOS violations. Thousands of responsible, safety-minded fleets throughout this country voluntarily already use this technology to ensure their drivers are complying with the federal HOS requirements. The ATA went on to say that the court should dismiss this challenge and reaffirm the long-standing authorization to voluntarily use electronic logging devices while FMCSA works toward addressing questions about a future, wider mandate for their use.
HAZMAT SCORES & CSA. Changes to the FMCSA’s CSA program that place additional emphasis on hazardous materials handling are apparently causing a steep spike in scores of some carriers with otherwise “Satisfactory” safety records. Apparently, new methodology is causing some carriers with low crash rates and a reputation for safe performance to be assigned high scores in that category, which is inconsistent with their overall performance in other categories, and causing their CSA score to unfairly spike.
CHAMELEON CARRIERS MUST GO. The Government Accountability Office (GSA) says that the FMCSA could better reduce the number of fleets that evade enforcement penalties by gaining new operating authority if they would more closely compare new motor carriers’ information to old carriers that had legal issues. The surface transportation reauthorization bill the Senate passed last month would give FMCSA power to set its own federal standard for carrier succession and only that standard would have to be proved in court. The government is hoping to crack down on carriers who “close shop” and then re-open under another name to avoid penalties, bad safety ratings and debts.
PORT HAULERS NOW LIABLE. The FMCSA said the agency will soon begin (July 2012) to count some container chassis safety violations against truckers, which is the next step toward full implementation of federal chassis safety rules. Carriers will be held responsible for violations that they should have seen on pre-trip inspections. FMCSA said they still have a few things to work out about defects that are found during roadside inspections – such as a taillight that burns out on the road or other violations that result from faulty maintenance or road vibration – but if the violation should have been found on the pre-trip inspection, it will now go against the driver. The law was passed back in 2005, but it is still a long way from completion.
HOS BACK IN THE COURTS – AGAIN. The Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and the Truck Safety Coalition have all challenged the federal government’s revised hours-of-service (HOS) rules again! The groups said they will ask an appeals court to reduce the maximum daily driving limit to less than 11 hours, reject the rule’s definition of driver off-duty time and eliminate the 34-hour restart provision. In a related development, the shipper group NASSTRAC (National Shipper’s Strategic Transportation Council) filed a motion on March 23 seeking to intervene in the HOS lawsuit in support of FMCSA’s decision to retain the 11-hour driving limit and to “defend” other aspects of the lawsuit in opposition to these challenges made by the public interest groups. Why are all these “non-trucking” groups even getting involved? I am so tired of all this arguing over the HOS rules. Why can’t we just let the trucking industry solve its own problems and allow drivers to do their jobs
BEWARE OF PHONY DOT LETTERS. Carriers have been receiving fraudulent letters that appear to be from the DOT seeking banking information. The latest batch of letters state they are from the “U.S. Department of Transportation Procurement Office” and they are signed by “Julie Weynel, Senior Procurement Office.” FMCSA advises carriers not to respond to these letters, as the agency would never ask carriers for their banking information.