With a bevy of new and proposed rules on the horizon, I thought it would be a good idea to go over some of them. Following are a few of the more important and/or significant regulations either being proposed, debated or enacted in the coming months.
ELECTRONIC LOGS. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continues to project September 30, 2015 as the date the agency expects to issue its long-awaited electronic logging device (ELD) rule. The rule will require most interstate commercial truck and bus drivers to begin using electronic recorders in place of paper to track their hours of work, affecting more than three million drivers.
Before the final rule can be published, it must first pass scrutiny by the U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and then the White House’s Office of Management & Budget (OMB). The rule is expected to require most drivers who presently complete paper logs to switch to ELDs within two years after the rule’s effective date. The rule will also include technical specifications for electronic logs and new requirements related to the “supporting documents” that drivers and motor carriers must retain for auditing purposes.
The ELD rule is also expected to have an exception for drivers who only have to complete a standard log eight days or fewer within a 30 consecutive-day period. These drivers would be allowed to continue using paper logs instead of a new electronic logging device.
ENTRY-LEVEL TRAINING. A proposed entry-level driver training rule is expected to be published on October 15, 2015, according to information provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee is currently meeting to develop a consensus draft of the proposed rule. Particularly, the committee is now deliberating issues to be covered in the proposed rule, including specific classroom, range, and behind-the-wheel training requirements for truck and bus drivers. Training modules for individuals applying for a hazardous materials, passenger, or school bus endorsement may also be addressed in the proposal. The committee is comprised of 26 individuals, representing a cross-section of motor carrier interests.
MEDICAL CARD ENFORCEMENT. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has issued revised guidance concerning enforcement of medical card requirements on drivers who hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The guidance says that if a driver’s CDL is valid but his or her electronic driving record does not contain medical information, the inspector should accept a paper medical certificate if it was issued within the past 60 days. Previously, the CVSA’s limit was 30 days. If the certificate was issued 61 or more days ago, the driver can be cited for failing to provide the medical certificate to the state licensing agency, a violation of 49 CFR 383.71(h).
This new guidance affects enforcement only, as the federal safety regulations themselves have not changed. The rules say CDL drivers only have to carry their medical cards for up to 15 days. The revised guidance should help drivers licensed in states that fail to meet the 10-day deadline to update the driving records of CDL drivers who have provided their medical cards to the state licensing agency.
The guidance appears in the CVSA’s latest inspection bulletin titled Enforcement of Medical Examiner’s Certificate Integration with the Commercial Driver’s License, which was revised on April 16, 2015. The bulletin guides officers on how to enforce the rules regarding the use of medical cards as proof of medical qualification. When a driver’s electronic driving record shows that his or her CDL or learner’s permit is not valid (canceled, suspended, revoked, etc.), the driver should be placed out of service (OOS) even if within the 60-day period, the bulletin notes. Drivers with a valid CDL but not carrying a valid medical card will be cited for violating 391.41(a)(1) if their electronic driving record shows no medical info on file with the state licensing agency.
TIGHTER LEASE REGULATIONS FOR PASSENGER CARRYING VEHICLES. The FMCSA, on May 27, adopted regulations governing the lease and interchange of passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The new rules intend to: 1) Identify the motor carrier operating a passenger-carrying CMV that is responsible for compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs); and 2) Ensure that a lessor surrenders control of the CMV for the full term of the lease or temporary exchange of CMVs and drivers.
According to FMCSA, this stricter action is necessary to ensure that unsafe passenger carriers cannot evade FMCSA oversight and enforcement by entering into a questionable lease arrangement to operate under the authority of another carrier that exercises no actual control over those operations. The rule will also enable the FMCSA, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and Federal and State partners to properly identify the motor carriers transporting passengers in interstate commerce and correctly assign responsibility to these entities for regulatory violations during inspections, compliance audits and crash investigations.
Additionally, the rule provides the general public with the means to identify the responsible motor carrier at the time transportation services are provided. The final rule is effective on July 27, 2015. Motor carriers of passengers operating CMVs under a lease or interchange agreement must comply on or after January 1, 2017.
NEWLY PROPOSED DRUG TESTING PROCEDURES. The share of workers testing positive for drugs is rising in the U.S., according to new data from millions of workplace tests. Traces of drugs – from marijuana to methamphetamine to prescription opiates – were found in 3.9% of the 9.1 million urine tests conducted by Quest Diagnostics in 2014, up from 3.7% in 2013.The legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use in twenty-three states such as California, Colorado and Washington, may explain some of the increase.
Therefore, in the May 15, 2015 issue of the Federal Register, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published two proposals. Specifically, the HHS wants to establish scientific and technical guidelines for the inclusion of oral fluid specimens in the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs, and to revise the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs regarding urine testing procedures.
The HHS says that because the Department of Transportation (DOT) must follow the scientific guidelines of the HHS for DOT-regulated drug testing lab procedures, participants in the DOT transportation industry drug testing program should be aware of the issues that HHS is considering. Any rule issued by HHS regarding these proposals will be taken into consideration and may affect the DOT testing program under 49 CFR Part 40, but only after the DOT conducts its own rule-making. Stay tuned!