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CSA scores would be made public again under House bill rider

The House’s 2020 Department of Transportation funding bill, in addition to its policy riders on hours of service, would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to make carriers’ scores within the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability program publicly available once again.

The bill, the annual Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations package, cleared the House’s Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, and it now heads to the full House for consideration.

Scores were pulled from public view in December 2015 by the FAST Act highway bill, due to concerns about the data’s efficacy and whether the system accurately portrayed carriers’ safety performance and safety risk.

Specifically, the FAST Act targeted the percentile rankings within the Safety Measurement System (SMS) and the underlying data used to calculate those rankings. The FAST Act bill required the National Academies of Science to study the system and denote any deficiencies. It also called for the NAS to issue recommendations for how FMCSA could reform the program to make it more accurate in its assessment of carrier safety.

In 2017, NAS issued a report recommending sweeping changes to CSA and the SMS.

FMCSA was scheduled to begin testing those recommendations via a pilot program late last year. The agency issued a 10 page report saying it planned to replace the existing CSA Safety Measurement System with a new scoring system. It also said it hoped to improve the quality of data used to score carriers, as well as make it easier for carriers to calculate their scores. The agency said it also might add an absolute scoring system, instead of relying solely on relative scores that compare carriers to their peers.

The House’s THUD appropriations package seemingly would require those reform efforts to continue, though it would require CSA scores to be made public within six months of the bill’s passage.

However, the legislation must still pass the full House and then the Senate — and likely a conference committee between the two chambers — before becoming law.

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CVSA Prepares for December 2017 ELD Implementation; Announces April 1, 2018, Effective Date for Out-of-Service Criteria Related to ELD Rule

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) will begin enforcing the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate requirements on Dec. 18, 2017. The out-of-service criteria (OOSC) associated with the ELD mandate will go into effect on April 1, 2018.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) congressionally mandated ELD compliance deadline is still set for Dec. 18, 2017. On that date, inspectors and roadside enforcement personnel will begin documenting violations on roadside inspection reports and, at the jurisdiction’s discretion, will issue citations to commercial motor vehicle drivers operating vehicles without a compliant ELD. Beginning April 1, 2018, inspectors will start placing commercial motor vehicle drivers out of service if their vehicle is not equipped with the required device. Please note, a motor carrier may continue to use a grandfathered automatic onboard recording device (AOBRD) no later than Dec. 16, 2019. The AOBRD must meet the requirements of 49 C.F.R. 395.15.

This announcement does not impact enforcement of the OOSC for other hours-of-service violations.

CVSA supports moving forward with the compliance date as specified in the rule. However, setting an April 1, 2018, effective date for applying the ELD OOSC will provide the motor carrier industry, shippers and the roadside enforcement community with time to adjust to the new requirement before vehicles are placed out of service for ELD violations.

CVSA member jurisdictions have used this phased-in approach in the past when implementing a significant change in regulatory requirements. The CVSA Board of Directors, in consultation with FMCSA and the motor carrier industry, agreed that the phased-in approach to implementation of the ELD requirements outlined in the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria will help promote a smoother transition to the new ELD requirement.

A letter was sent to FMCSA notifying the agency of CVSA’s commitment to implementing the new requirement, as scheduled, on Dec. 18, 2017, and noting the April 1, 2018, effective date for applying the ELD OOSC.

For more information about the ELD rule, visit FMCSA’s ELD implementation website.

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FMCSA Formally Withdraws Sleep Apnea Screening Rule

A rulemaking meant to establish criteria and processes for instituting sleep apnea screening requirements for truck operators will officially be withdrawn on Monday, according to a notice issued Friday by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

A sleep apnea rule would give clarity to medical examiners, carrier employers and drivers themselves about what conditions or combination of conditions would prompt a driver to be referred for an in-lab apnea test, as well as treatment protocol. Currently, medical examiners have the discretion to determine which drivers are referred for apnea testing. Absent a rule, such a system will remain in place. Industry-wide, the system has prompted questions and concerns, particularly since sleep apnea referrals can carry expensive out-of-pocket costs for fleets, drivers or both.

The rule’s official withdrawal comes two weeks after the agency hinted in an annual regulatory update that the rule was on the chopping block. There was some confusion then, given that the report said the rule had been withdrawn on an unspecified date in June. However, no official notice had been published in the U.S. Federal Register, which is required to formally rescind a rule.

Friday’s notice, however, validates the U.S. DOT’s July update to its regulatory calendar.

The agency worked on the sleep apnea rule persistently in 2016, including the publication of a so-called pre-rule, listening sessions held around the country and apnea-focused meetings by two of its prominent advisory committees. However, the agency did not gather enough data to warrant a rulemaking, it said in the July regulatory update.

In the notice published Friday, FMCSA says the current protocol in place for apnea screening is sufficient. That protocol, spelled out in a bulletin issued in January 2015 by FMCSA, puts the onus on drivers’ medical examiners, encouraging them to refer drivers for apnea testing if they “believe the driver’s respiratory condition is in any way likely to interfere with the driver’s ability to safely control and drive a commercial motor vehicle.”

FMCSA’s published pre-rule, known as an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, last March sought industry input for guidance on developing a rule. The agency also sought input from its advisory committees last year, including the MRB and the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, whose members include trucking industry stakeholders. The groups recommended that FMCSA in its sleep apnea rule require drivers who have a Body Mass Index of 40 or higher be automatically referred for apnea testing.

The groups also recommended that truckers with a BMI of 33 or higher, and who meet other qualifiers (like being male and older than 42), be referred for apnea testing, too. See the full list of apnea screening criteria recommended by the FMCSA committees at this link. Truckers referred for apnea testing, under the MCSAC/MRB recommendations, would receive a temporary certification pending their test results.

FMCSA to Begin Making Crash Preventability Determinations

FMCSA handed the trucking industry a significant victory this week when they announced a planned demonstration project to begin making preventability determinations on crashes meeting certain criteria and incorporating them into motor carriers’ CSA Safety Measurement System records. The announcement comes in response to comments by ATA on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 2015 Crash Weighting Study.

Motor carriers will be able to submit preventability challenges beginning August 1, 2017, for crashes the agency feels are more likely to have been unavoidable. That includes crashes in which the commercial motor vehicle was struck: in the rear; while parked; by a motorist driving under the influence; or by a motorist driving the wrong way. Motor carriers can also challenge the preventability of certain single-vehicle crashes including: animal strikes; suicide by truck; infrastructure failures; or trucks struck by falling objects.

If, after reviewing the evidence provided by the motor carrier, FMCSA finds the crash to be not preventable, it will be appropriately labeled on a carrier’s CSA profile and their Crash Indicator Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) score will be re-calculated with the crash omitted. FMCSA will display this new score to logged-in motor carriers and law enforcement alongside the traditional Crash Indicator score which includes all crashes.

FMCSA will use the data from the demonstration project to determine whether removing non-preventable crashes improves the accuracy of the Crash Indicator BASIC. The program will last at least one year. 

FMCSA Proposes National Drug and Alcohol Testing Clearinghouse for Drivers

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UPDATED — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced a proposed rule to establish a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for all national commercial driver’s license holders.

The clearinghouse would help improve roadway safety by making it easier to determine whether a truck or bus driver is prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle for failing to comply with federal drug and alcohol regulations, including mandatory testing, according to the agency.

Current federal regulations require employers to conduct mandatory pre-employment screening of a CDL driver’s qualifications based upon his or her driving record. However, there has not been a single federal repository recording positive drug and alcohol tests by CDL holders that employers would be able to search to ensure that the driver is able to perform safety-sensitive duties.

The proposed rule announced would create such a repository and require employers to conduct pre-employment searches for all new CDL drivers and annual searches on current drivers.

“We are leveraging technology to create a one-stop verification point to help companies hire drug and alcohol-free drivers,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “This proposal moves us further down the road toward improving safety for truck and bus companies, commercial drivers and the motoring public everywhere.”

Under the proposed rule, FMCSA-regulated truck and bus companies, Medical Review Officers, Substance Abuse Professionals, and private, third party U.S. DOT drug and alcohol testing laboratories would be required to record information about a driver who:

  • Fails a drug and/or alcohol test,
  • Refuses to submit to a drug and/or alcohol test, and
  • Successfully completes a substance abuse program and is legally qualified to return to duty.

Private, third-party U.S. DOT drug and alcohol testing laboratories also would be required to report summary information annually. This information would be used to help identify companies that do not have a testing program.

To ensure the privacy of drivers involved, each CDL holder would need to provide his or her consent, before an employer could access the clearinghouse.

Drivers who refuse to provide this information could still be employed by the truck or bus company, however, they could not occupy safety-sensitive positions, such as operating a commercial motor vehicle.

Federal safety regulations require that truck and bus companies that employ CDL drivers conduct random drug and alcohol testing programs. Carriers must randomly test 10% of their CDL drivers for alcohol and 50% of their CDL drivers for drugs each year.

In addition to random testing, truck and bus companies are further required to perform drug and alcohol testing on new hires, drivers involved in significant crashes, and whenever a supervisor suspects a driver of using drugs or alcohol while at work.

The proposed rule was directed by Congress in the most recent transportation bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.

The American Trucking Associations praised the FMCSA for finally issuing the congressionally mandated proposal.

“ATA has been a strong advocate for the creation of this process to help protect motorists since 1999,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “It is unfortunate that it took so long for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to act on this common sense safety solution, but we are pleased the agency has finally taken the first step toward creation of this clearinghouse.”

FMCSA Pulls Authority of Carrier in Long-Haul Mexico Program

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has revoked the authority of one of 14 Mexico-based trucking companies it approved earlier to run in its long-haul cross-border program.
Sergio Tristan Maldonaldo, doing business as Tristan Transfer, had its provisional operating authority pulled on Jan. 23 after it received a conditional safety rating in December and was ordered to cease all interstate operations in the U.S. An FMCSA spokesperson told The Trucker newspaper FMCSA investigators discovered the company had violated hours of service regulations among several other infractions There have been more than 12,600 crossings into the U.S. by Mexican companies in the current program, with about 60 made by Tristan Transfer.
Nearly three years ago FMCSA announced the beginning of its long-haul cross-border program with Mexico, following a previous one that was started by the agency and later stopped by Congress and President Obama. Both were challenged by the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Teamsters Union with the current program being upheld by a federal court, following the U.S. Supreme Court last month saying it would not consider a petition to overturn it.

FMCSA Plans to Drop Driver Inspection Reports if no Defects

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Owner Operators: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans to ease the regulatory burden on drivers by dropping the requirement that they file inspection reports even when there are no defects in the truck.

Right now, drivers must turn in vehicle inspection reports whether or not the truck has defects.

The agency estimates the industry could save $1.5 billion a year without affecting safety, said Polly Trottenberg, Under Secretary for Policy at the Department of Transportation.

“The savings from each report is modest, but when you consider it provides almost daily savings for millions of drivers it has a large impact,” said Trottenberg in testimony before the House Small Business Committee earlier this month.

The agency plans to publish the proposal in September, as part of the Obama administration’s regulatory reform initiative.

The proposed change follows a similar change the agency adopted last year for a small segment of the industry. In June, at the request of intermodal chassis groups, the agency dropped the report requirement for chassis with no defects.

Because the pending change will affect a much larger group of drivers, the agency decided to seek comments, Trottenberg said.

FMCSA Grants Exemptions to Hearing-Impaired Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted the first exemptions to rules for interstate commercial drivers when it comes to hearing standards.

Forty individuals received permission to operate commercial vehicles in interstate commerce effective last Friday. It’s good for two years and may be renewed.

The request was made of the agency last May, with comments taken until the end of July. FMCSA received 570 responses.

Several of the applicants had previous experience driving interstate and became unable to pass the required hearing test, while others had been involved in intrastate commerce, were bus drivers, had driven smaller commercial vehicles or were looking to be first-time truckers.

In announcing its decision, the FMCSA said “that granting exemptions for these CMV [commercial motor vehicle] drivers will provide a level of safety that is equivalent to or greater than the level of safety maintained without the exemptions.”

Current FMCSA standards for hearing were adopted more than 40 years ago.

The applicants received assistance from the National Association of the Deaf. The association cited an FMCSA Medical Review Board study from 2008 that examined the relationship between hearing loss and crash risk exclusively among CMV drivers, as well as evidence from studies of the private driver license holder population, saying these studies do not support the contention that individuals with hearing impairment are at an increased risk for a crash.

In addition, the agency reviewed the applicants’ driving records. While it acknowledges there could be potential consequences of a driver being hearing impaired and/or deaf while operating a CMV under some scenarios, FMCSA said it believes the drivers covered by the exemptions do not pose a risk to public safety.

The NAD also maintained that communication in trucking is no longer hampered by hearing loss because drivers increasingly rely on smartphones and other technology to communicate with dispatch. The NAD conducted over 100 hours of interviews with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing and reports that deaf drivers face fewer distractions behind the wheel.

While most of the comments to the proposal supported granting the exemptions, including the American Trucking Associations, The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said it did not believe there was enough study evidence to support granting the exemptions and FMCSA should revise hearing standards rather than granting what it called “ad hoc exemptions.”

By Evan Lockridge, Senior Contributing Editor

Excerpt from

State Pot Laws Do Not Apply to Truck Drivers

1/29/2013  State Pot Laws Do Not Apply to Truck Drivers

By Oliver B. Patton, Washington Editor

States are loosening restrictions on marijuana but that does not mean truck drivers can kick back and light up a joint.

In last November’s election, voters in Washington and Colorado made it legal to possess an ounce of pot and use it for recreation. And Massachusetts joined the 17 other states (and the District of Columbia) that allow medical marijuana.

But marijuana is illegal under federal law, and its use is expressly forbidden for transportation workers, including truck and bus drivers.

“We want to make it perfectly clear that the state initiatives will have no bearing on the Department of Transportation’s regulated drug testing program,” said Jim Swart, DOT director of drug and alcohol compliance in a message to the industry.

DOT rules classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug that is forbidden to truck drivers.

Swart said Medical Review Officers “will not” classify a positive marijuana test as negative in the states that permit recreational or medicinal use.

The drug testing rules will apply no matter how the difference between federal and state laws is resolved, Swart indicated.

“It remains unacceptable for any safety-sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana,” he said in the statement.

According to news reports, the Obama administration is still considering what action, if any, to take in response to the votes in Washington and Colorado.

Federal statistics show that marijuana is a relatively small problem among truck drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates a 0.6% marijuana usage rate among commercial drivers in 2011, based on random tests.

The estimates for non-random tests such as pre-employment or post-crash do not break out different types of drugs, but do indicate a slightly higher usage rate in general. For instance, the estimate for a positive test for any drug in a random test in 2011 was 0.9%, while the estimate for a pre-employment test was 1.2%.

Meanwhile, FMCSA is pressing ahead with a rule that will create a national clearinghouse for drug and alcohol test results.

The proposed rule, long sought by trucking interests, has been in the works since 2009 and is scheduled to be released by the end of April. Among other things, it will require carriers to query the clearinghouse when screening applicants for a driving job, and annually after they are hired. Third-party service providers could do these searches.

In another drug-related development, trucking interests are pressing Congress to pass a bill that would require DOT to study the use of hair analysis as an alternative to urinalysis.

American Trucking Associations contends that hair analysis is more reliable and accurate than urinalysis.


Hours of Service Final Rule

The Hours of Service of Drivers Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on December 27, 2011. The effective date of the Final Rule is February 27, 2012, and the compliance date of selected provisions is July 1, 2013. Click on the link below for more information:


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