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July 2021 Significant Rulemaking Report
6 mins read

Due to a combination of the COVID-19 crisis and the White House administration changeover, significant rulemaking from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has all but ground to a halt over the past 18 months.

However, the agency just released an updated list of rules that it views as a priority and plans to tackle in the second half of 2021 and in 2022. With wheels beginning to turn again on the regulation front, it’s important that you as a motor carrier keep yourself apprised so that you can continue to run a safe, compliant fleet.

Here are some of the issues that the DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have prioritized and plan to work on over the next several months.

Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Revisions

 The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse has been in effect since the beginning of 2020, and so far, more than 46,000 violations have been recorded in the database. Using the information and experience culled from the past year-and-a-half, the FMCSA has proposed to “streamline and improve error-correction procedures, queries, and consent requirements.” While the agency doesn’t provide more specific information, it has set a date for its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for February 2022.

DOT Clearinghouse fines have doubled in 2021. Are you at risk?

Automatic Emergency Braking

A proposed rulemaking from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would require that automatic emergency braking become standard on all heavy trucks. These systems alert drivers to obstacles based on a predefined distance and closing rate—and if necessary, automatically apply the vehicle’s brakes to avoid or mitigate collisions.

This has been an issue up for discussion for some time. The DOT and NHTSA originally published a notice in October 2015 granting a petition for rulemaking submitted by the Truck Safety Coalition, the Center for Auto Safety, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Road Safe America looking at establishing safety standards for automatic forward collision avoidance and mitigation systems.

The Administration expects to publish its proposed rulemaking in April 2022, at which time it will seek comments on the proposal. It cites the thousands of large truck and bus crashes that have continued to increase annually, and notes that, for several years, it has researched such systems in heavy vehicles. According to the rule’s abstract, “This rulemaking proposes test procedures for measuring performance of these systems.”

New Driver Vision Standards

 The FMCSA has proposed an alternative vision standard for certain drivers—that is, those unable to meet the current distant visual acuity or field of vision standard (or both) in one eye. Currently, drivers in this category are prohibited from operating in interstate commerce without an FMCSA exemption.

Finally, A Better Way to Manage DOT Physicals 

However, proposed amendments to FMCSA regulations would allow drivers who qualify under an alternative vision standard to complete carrier-administered road tests in order to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). This would eliminate the need for thousands of exemptions, according to the agency, as well as grandfather provisions.

Based on recommendations from FMCSA’s Medical Review Board, to be physically qualified under the alternative vision standard, a driver must:

  • Have in the better eye distant visual acuity of at least 20/40, with or without corrective lenses, and field of vision of at least 70 degrees in the horizontal meridian.
  • Be able to recognize the colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard red, green, and amber.
  • Have a stable vision deficiency.
  • Have had sufficient time to adapt to and compensate for the change in vision.

The DOT published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on this measure in January 2021, and has projected a final rule by February 2022.

Also in the Works

A number of other rules from the DOT, FMCSA, and NHTSA are in various pre-rule, proposed, and final stages. Some of these include:

  • Safe integration of automated driving systems (proposed rule stage).
  • Broker and freight forwarder financial responsibility (proposed rule stage).
  • Passenger and hazardous materials and railroad highway grade crossings (proposed rule stage).
  • Area for voluntary installation of vehicle safety technology on the interior of windshields (proposed rule stage).
  • Assessment of Federal Motor Vehicle safety standards for lighting (pre-rule stage).
  • Assessment of Federal Motor Vehicle safety standards for brakes (pre-rule stage).
  • Certification of safety auditors, safety investigators, and safety inspectors (final rule stage).
  • Controlled substances and alcohol testing: State driver’s licensing agency downgrade of CMVs (final rule stage).
  • Rear impact guards and rear impact accessories; certification labeling and annual inspection requirements (final rule stage).
  • Commercial Driver’s License standards, requirements, and penalties; exclusive electronic exchange of driver history record information (final rule stage).

As always, Foley is here to help with all your compliance needs. Have questions about any of these new measures or the many other existing compliance requirements? Contact us today!

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