PROPOSED HAIR DRUG TESTING RULES: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sent the proposed final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review on Tuesday, June 11. This hair-test rule would establish the scientific and technical guidelines for the inclusion of hair specimens in the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs and establishes standards for certification of laboratories engaged in drug testing for federal agencies. Currently, a urine sample satisfies drug and alcohol testing requirements for the FMCSA. Due to the significance of the regulation, OMB will have 60 to 90 days to review it. Once approved, federal agencies will be able to review the rule prior to posting it for public comments in the Federal Register.
STREAMLINING THE CDL PROCESS: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced June 27th a proposed rule to streamline the process for men and women interested in entering the trucking workforce. The proposed rule is intended to allow states greater flexibility in conducting skill tests for individuals seeking a commercial driver’s license (CDL). “The Department is committed to reducing unnecessary barriers to employment for men and women interested in obtaining jobs in the trucking industry,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. Federal rules currently do not permit a CDL skills instructor who is also authorized by the state to administer the CDL skills test to perform both the instruction and the qualifying testing for the same applicant. This proposal would eliminate that restriction and permit states the discretion to allow qualified third-party skills trainers to also conduct the skills testing for the same individual.
TRUCK CRASH FATALITIES RISE AGAIN: Fatalities from crashes involving at least one large truck are expected to rise roughly 3% in 2018 (NHTSA June 2019 Traffic Safety Facts). Initial reports show while traffic fatalities for 2018 are projected to be down about 1% from 2017, the fatality rate for crashes involving at least one large truck are projected to go up. A total of 37,133 people died as a result of traffic fatalities in 2017. That number is projected to reduce by 383 deaths for 2018.
HOURS OF SERVICE PROPOSAL COMING SOON: The administrator of the FMCSA expects an announcement on the revised HOS rule soon but did not give an exact date during testimony to a Senate committee on Wednesday, June 19. “I really do believe we are in the very final stages of that process, and I am hopeful that it will be in short order,” said FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez. “But I hesitate to put a certain date on it.” The proposed rule continues to be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where it was sent for review on March 28. OMB has a 90-day allowance to review the rule and can grant one 30-day extension before being published in the Federal Register. An anticipated announcement of the proposed HOS rule was expected on June 7 but was later pushed back to the end of June.
HOS AG RULE PASSES THROUGH OMB: A pre-rule impacting the hours of service for drivers delivering agricultural commodities was approved by the White House’s Office of Management & Budget (OMB) on June 21. The next step in the process by the FMCSA will be publication of the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register, so industry stakeholders will have an opportunity to comment on the rule. FMCSA is determining to what extent it should revise or clarify the definitions of “agricultural commodity” or “livestock” in the HOS regulations. Current regulations exempt livestock and agricultural commodity haulers from the HOS when operating within a 150 air-mile radius during planting and harvesting season.
SNOW AND ICE REMOVAL LAW: Pennsylvania state law already allows police to ticket car and truck drivers for fines of $200 to $1,000 if the wintry precipitation causes serious injury or death, but the Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously on June 19 to advance a bill that is intended to be proactive on the issue of ice removal from vehicles. Drivers would be required to make “reasonable efforts” to remove snow or ice from all parts of their vehicles within 24 hours of a weather event. Offenders would face a maximum fine of $1,500 if the wintry precipitation causes serious injury or death. The bill would include an additional protection allowing police to ticket drivers between $25 and $75 for failure to clear snow or ice before they take to the roads.
DOT EXAMINER SENTENCED: A former Pennsylvania DOT medical examiner was sentenced for certifying medical exams he never administered. On June 5, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia sentenced Dr. Michael McCormick to three years of probation and fined him $1,000 for signing off on DOT exams he never did. McCormick had his uncertified staff members at Express Med Urgent Care conduct a DOT physical exam on at least one patient in April 2017. McCormick’s staff completed the DOT medical exam report under his name and National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners number. Under false pretenses, the patient was issued an exam certificate. After the investigation, FMCSA removed McCormick from the National Registry and voided 223 active medical examiner certificates held by commercial drivers.
NUMBER OF TRUCKERS AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH: The US Census Bureau released information detailing the updated characteristics in the American Trucking Industry. A statistic of note, in 2016 the number of employer and self-employed trucking businesses reached 711,000, surpassing the pre-recession high. Additionally, among younger truckers under 35, more are women, Hispanic and are more educated than their counterparts age 55 and older. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of trucking businesses grew almost 16%, outpacing total growth across all industries.
NEW PROGRAM HELPS VETERANS FIND JOBS: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s FMCSA announced on June 17 that it is accepting applications for a pilot program to permit 18-20-year-olds who possess the U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate large trucks in interstate commerce. “This program will help our country’s Veterans and Reservists transition into good-paying jobs while addressing the shortage of truck drivers in our country,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.