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FMCSA Regulations: What’s Coming in 2019
4 mins read

JANUARY 3, 2019 – With 2018 behind us, many of us are looking towards the new year with optimism for what lies ahead: both personally and professionally. For better or worse (depending on your perspective), the FMCSA has its own list of tasks it hopes to accomplish this year – and some of them will hopefully be a welcome change for motor carriers.

Hours of Service Reform

All of the controversy around the ELD mandate shed some light on something the trucking industry has known for a long time: the current hours of service regulations are outdated – and don’t give drivers the flexibility they need to do their jobs well. The FMCSA has committed to fixing this issue, with new guidance expected early this year around four specific hours of service areas:

  • Expanding the on-duty time for drivers who use the 100 air-mile exemption
  • Extending the on-duty limitation for the adverse conditions exemption
  • Revising the current 30-minute break requirement
  • Providing more flexibility around sleeper berth time

More than 5,100 comments were received this fall when the agency asked for public feedback on the suggested changes– confirmation of the industry’s passion for hours of service reform.  To give them more time to focus on this issue (and review all of the comments more quickly), the agency recently canceled the split-sleeper berth study that was supposed to kick off this year. The goal of the study was to evaluate whether giving drivers more flexibility in managing their sleeper berth time impacted their overall safety on the road. The agency felt that continuing this study was “moot,” as sleeper berth time is one of the hours of service areas being considered for reform.

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DOT Hair Testing

A recent legislative package that was signed into law is holding the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for finishing the hair testing guidelines that were due by December 2016. These guidelines are the first step in making hair follicle drug testing a DOT-approved drug testing method. Although many trucking companies already use hair testing as part of their pre-hire process, urine must still be collected for all DOT-regulated tests.

Whether hair testing will become a DOT-approved testing method (and when) should become clearer by the close of 2019.

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Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse

With the federal Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse going into effect on January 4, 2020, the DOT will need to finish all work on the database to ensure it’s ready for next year.  Once the implementation date hits, employers will be required to report all of their employees’ drug and alcohol violations. This information will stay in the database for five years and will be reportable to all current and future employers.

ELD Mandate Deadline

2019 will also bring the final ELD mandate deadline, with all drivers who are using an AOBRD having to make the switch over to an ELD by December 16. As long as they had purchased their AOBRD prior to the initial compliance deadline in 2016, these drivers were able to continue using their devices for an additional two years.

We’ll dig into each of these topics in more detail as the year progresses – particularly the anticipated hours of service reform, which will hopefully bring some much-needed relief to the industry. What changes are you most hoping for this year? Leave us your comments below!

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