A Look at the Trucking Industry in 2014

Posted by Julieanne White

 

If you're in the trucking industry, you may be interested in this article from Go By Truck News. Regulation of the trucking industry is expected to continue in the new year, with the slate already full of proposals for new laws and regulations. In fact, 2014 is set to present the largest concentration of regulatory changes in the history of the industry, according to Economist Eric Starks. 

eric

Eric Starks

Legislation
Increased Fuel Tax

On the legislative side, at least six important bills have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. The “Update, Promote and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials Act” may be the most far reaching. Known as the UPDATE Act, H.R. 3636 would phase in a 15-cents-per-gallon increase of the federal fuel tax over three years. Once the 15-cent increase is reached, the tax would be permanently indexed to inflation.

The revenue generated by the increase would be applied to improvements in federally maintained highway systems.

Hours of Service

Bills have been filed in both the House and the Senate to fight the hours-of-service restart provision for commercial truck drivers. The bills would rescind the provision that calls for two overnight 1-5 a.m. periods of rest until after a study on the effectiveness of the HOS rules has been completed and reviewed. Both pieces of legislation have been referred to committee in their respective chambers.

Size and Weight Limits

The “Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act of 2013,” first introduced in May, has been referred to committee in both the House and the Senate. The bill seeks to alter truck size and weight limits on the National Highway System.

Presently, the Federal Highway Administration is conducting a study ordered in the MAP-21 bill to compare tractor-trailers of different sizes and weights. It will look at the vehicles’ impact on safety, infrastructure, enforcement and competition.

Port Facilities

Filed in both the House and the Senate, the “Clean Ports Act of 2013” act would allow states to enact requirements related to port services provided by commercial motor vehicles. The bill states that such restrictions should be “reasonably related to the reduction of environmental pollution, traffic congestion, the improvement of highway safety or the efficient use of port facilities …” This legislation has been referred to committee in both chambers.

Harbor Tax

The Harbor Maintenance Tax would be repealed by the passage of the “Maritime Goods Movement Act for the 21st Century.” This Senate bill would instead establish a Maritime Goods Movement User Fee of the value of containerized cargo. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

Rules and Regulations
Electronic Logs

The White House Office of Management and Budget is currently entertaining two safety related proposals. The first deals with electronic logs, the second with a database of driver drug and alcohol test results.

A final rule to mandate the use of electronic logs is expected before the end of 2014. The general provisions of the proposal call for near universal use of e-logs and sets technical and communications standards. It will have prohibitions against using e-log devices to harass drivers, and it will contain requirements for hours-of-service supporting documents.

The FMCSA will post its proposal and ask for comments before the final rule is published. 

Drug and Alcohol Database

A database consisting of the test results of commercial driver drug and alcohol tests is also being considered by the Office of Management and Budget. The proposal will make it mandatory for employers to search driver results in the database during the hiring process. Employers would have to verify that a driver who has had a positive result has completed the return-to-duty requirements before hiring. Although the search is mandatory, the employer must get the driver’s permission to perform it.

The proposal contains other driver protections as well. It would allow drivers to check their own records for free and notify them anytime their records are changed, released or updated with new test results. There would also be a dispute procedure and an appeal process.

The proposed rule was due in December 2013 and is expected any time. FMCSA will host a comment period.

Carrier and Driver Safety

FMCSA will submit expansion and codification of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program to the U.S. Department of Transportation this month with publication set for May. Along with this process, FMCSA is creating a new carrier safety rating process and standards for testing drivers diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Safety Equipment

The FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are working on a joint proposal to require speed limiters set at 68 mph. This proposal is scheduled to be published in June. 

The NHTSA is also looking at a recommendation for mandatory stability control systems on tractor-trailers.

In addition to the changes lawmakers and regulators are pursuing this year, FMCSA will continue to increase enforcement on the latest industry regulations. Drivers and carriers should expect to deal with the changing regulatory landscape for some time.

“It’s hard to calculate the impact these changes will have,” Starks said. “The problem is not so much the regulations themselves. It’s the fact that they’re all happening at once. But make no mistake, these regulations will be game-changers.”

 

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