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March 2021 Significant Rulemaking Report
7 mins read

The past year has indisputably been one of many changes and uncertainties.

And a new administration and a Democrat-controlled Congress could mean even more changes for the trucking industry.

Although the DOT has been silent when it comes to significant rulemaking—offering no updates to its monthly report since February 2020—many unfinished initiatives remain on the table. These were proposed by both the Trump and Obama administrations, and could reshape not only trucking regulations, but the future of the industry.

Here’s what Foley is keeping close track of (and you should be, too):

  • Automatic emergency braking is expected to be mandated for all new medium and heavy-duty trucks.
  • The minimum insurance liability requirement for heavy-duty vehicles hauling non-hazardous freight is likely to increase from $750,000 to $2 million.
  • Speed limiters are likely to be required on large trucks.
  • Sleep apnea screening is likely to be required for obese drivers (those with a BMI of 33 or higher who also exhibit other risk factors).
  • Underride side guards may eventually be required for trailers. However, this is a contentious issue that has been in talks for years because it is expected to cost the trucking industry billions of dollars.
  • A pilot program allowing drivers under age 21 to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce is once again under review. Commercial drivers under age 21 are currently allowed to work in intrastate commerce. This program is backed by the American Trucking Association.
  • The Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scoring system will continue to be studied, tweaked, and refined.
  • Hours-of-service rules changes that went into effect in September 2020 are also expected to be refined. These rules expanded exceptions around short-haul air miles and work shifts, adverse driving conditions, and sleeper berths, while also redefining 30-minute break requirements. Congress has since directed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to analyze the impacts these new rules have had on highway safety.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration recently shelved a proposal for a pilot program allowing drivers to pause on-duty driving periods. A law that would clarify definitions of employees and independent contractors has also been paused. The latter received strong pushback because some think it would make it easier for employers to classify workers—truck drivers included—as contractors so as to avoid paying benefits and employment taxes.

What else is going on in the FMCSA? Here’s a current rundown of pending regulations that are currently under review:

 Proposed FMCSA Rules

FMCSA Rule Summary Status
Application by Certain Mexico-Domiciled Motor Carriers to Operate Beyond U.S. Municipalities and Commercial Zones on the U.S.-Mexico Border The international agreement would change regulations that govern applications and would require additional information on the applicant’s business and operating practices. Undetermined. Delays attributed to unanticipated issues requiring further analysis.
MAP-21 Enhancements and Other Updates to the Unified Registration System Would implement several provisions of MAP-21 as they relate to the Unified Registration System. Would update and codify the agency’s procedures for granting, suspending, and revoking registration. The intent is to allow for greater uniformity, transparency, efficiency and predictability in those processes, according to the FMCSA. Undetermined. An NPRM was published on September 20, with comments accepted through November 22.
Consumer Complaint Information Would require carriers of household goods to submit quarterly reports of complaints received. Undetermined. Delays attributed to lack of resources and lack of staffing.
Financial Responsibility for Motor Carriers, Freight Forwarders, and Brokers Would increase minimum insurance requirements for freight and passenger motor carriers. ANPRM. The FMCSA accepted comments through last fall on several key regulatory issues related to this rule.
New Entrant Safety Assurance Process Would improve methods to ensure new applicant carriers are knowledgeable about safety requirements. Undetermined. Delays attributed to additional coordination needs.
Safety Monitoring System and Compliance Initiative for Mexico-Domiciled Motor Carriers Operating in the United States This international agreement would implement a system to evaluate the safety fitness of Mexico-domiciled carriers within 18 months of being granted authority to operate in the U.S. Would also establish suspension and revocation procedures. Undetermined. Delays attributed to unanticipated issues requiring further analysis.
Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters This rule would require the installation of speed limiting devices on heavy trucks. NPRM was published on 9/7/16 and ended on 11/7/16.
Amendments to Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program Proposes amendments to address changes in the Agency’s grant programs resulting from Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. NPRM. This rule has seen delays because it’s awaiting the development of additional data.
Safe Integration of Automated Driving Systems-Equipped Commercial Motor Vehicles  The FMCSA has requested public comment about the current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and whether they’ll need to be updated, modified or eliminated to make the safe introduction of automated driving systems on our nation’s roadways easier. ANPRM was published in late May with comments accepted through the end of August.
Hours of Service of Drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles; Transportation of Agricultural Commodities  In an effort to create a clearer definition of the term “Agricultural commodity,” the FMCSA is seeking public comment and data on the issue. ANPRM. Comments were open through September 27.
Controlled Substances and Alcohol Testing: State Driver’s Licensing Agency Downgrade of CDL The FMCSA is proposing that all State Driver’s Licensing Agencies remove commercial driving privileges from anyone who violates the current drug or alcohol regulations. Privileges would not be reinstated until the return-to-duty process is complete. NPRM. No further information is available.
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