The U.S. Department of Transportation has an overwhelming list of items on its 2023 regulatory agenda, from greenhouse gas emissions in all modes of transportation to crash test dummies, interstate access, and airport safety. Regulations impacting the trucking industry make up a large “piece of the pie,” and several topics are hot-button issues such as speed limiters for heavy commercial vehicles (CMVs), and electronic logging device (ELD) requirements.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) intends to proceed with a motor carrier-based speed limiter rulemaking by preparing a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking to follow up on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) and FMCSA’s jointly issued September 7, 2016, notice of proposed rulemaking on the subject.
The new rulemaking, in subsequent consultation with NHTSA, will consider whether additional regulatory actions should be taken concerning commercial motor vehicle manufacturer requirements.
These actions would specifically impact carriers that cross state lines and operate CMVs with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight — whichever is greater — of 26,001 pounds or more. Any of these CMVs that are equipped with an electronic engine control unit (ECU) capable of governing the maximum speed will be required to limit the vehicle’s speed (exactly what that speed is has yet to be determined) and to maintain that ECU setting for the service life of the vehicle.
In filed comments to the FMCSA, Jim Ward, president of the Trucking Carriers Administration (TCA), wrote that the organization “views the decision to mandate speed limiters as a sensible next step in the ongoing effort to reduce accidents on our roadways and improve safety in the industry.”
In addition, “all Class 8 and 7 trucks manufactured after 1992 should utilize secure and reliable devices that limit the maximum speed to 65 miles per hour, or 70 miles per hour if the vehicles are also equipped with adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking,” Ward wrote.
“The current technology allows motor carriers considerable flexibility when deploying speed limiting devices to accommodate speed differentials among vehicles,” he continued. “In fact, some carriers have established implementation models that tailor flexibility based on job performance and safe driving.”
As another initiative, the FMCSA is considering a requirement that every CMV operating in interstate commerce be equipped with an electronic device capable of communicating a unique identification number when queried by a roadside system.
In response to a petition for rulemaking from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), “FMCSA is considering such amendments as a possible means to improve the effectiveness of the roadside inspection program by more fully enabling enforcement agencies to target their efforts at high-risk operators, while at the same time providing an incentive for safe and legal operations,” according to the proposed rule.
Ward wrote that TCA “is highly interested” in this proposal; however, there are caveats.
“TCA is reluctant to provide our support for the proposal without addressing important concerns regarding cybersecurity, data ownership, inspection policies, and cost,” he said. “While the association appreciates the agency’s efforts to improve efficiency within the inspection process, the industry should be privy to and have reasonable understanding of the full scope of foreseeable potential impacts before rulemaking is finalized.”
Ward noted that for TCA to endorse such a mandate, carriers and drivers would need to be assured of the security of information and protection of data ownership rights.
“TCA maintains that vehicle ownership conveys the following rights of access and control to the vehicle owner, and owner’s designees: (1) direct access to data collected, generated, recorded, or stored by the vehicle, (2) access to and use of operator data which may be personally attributable or identifiable, including driver behavior data and geolocation data, and right to grant or limit access to this data by other parties, and (3) a dependable, low risk means of interfacing with the vehicle to retrieve data,” he wrote.
Another proposed rule deals with ELDs.
The ELD rule that went into effect February 16, 2016, established minimum performance and design standards for hours-of-service (HOS); requirements for the mandatory use of these devices by drivers currently required to prepare HOS records of duty status; requirements concerning HOS supporting documents; and measures to address concerns about harassment resulting from the mandatory use of ELDs (80 FR 78292).
“Many lessons have been learned by FMCSA staff, state enforcement personnel, ELD vendors, and industry in the intervening years,” the FMCSA wrote in its proposed rule abstract. “These lessons can be used to streamline and improve the clarity of the regulatory text and ELD specifications and answer recurring questions. Additionally, there are technical modifications responsive to concerns raised by affected parties that could improve the usability of ELDs.”
FMCSA is seeking information to determine what changes would be warranted.
“(TCA) believes that in order to alleviate the question of exemptions, ELDs should be required on as many trucks as possible, including rebuilt or remanufactured engines or glider kits that can accommodate ELD technology,” Ward wrote. “FMCSA should push for expanded ELD adoption because it is an important tool to track compliance for the hours-of-service regulations, which were designed to improve safety.”
Further, Ward said that TCA does not see a need for the FMCSA to clarify the point at which a driver must switch to paper logs in the event of an ELD malfunction: Regulation 395.34(c) already requires drivers to follow the recommendation of their carrier and ELD provider when a malfunction is detected and the ELD fails to record HOS, and specifies that paper logs must be available for review.
Ward added that TCA supports removing an ELD device from the registered device list if the provider goes out of business and fails to self-revoke.
“The out-of-business provider will not have the ability to support or service the device and therefore they put the user at risk of compliance failure,” he stated. “In this scenario, FMCSA will need to allow an appropriate window of time for users to convert their equipment to properly registered devices.”
The FMCSA is also looking at proposing performance standards and motor carrier maintenance requirements for automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems on heavy trucks and accompanying test procedures for measuring the performance of the AEB systems in NHTSA compliance testing.
Other topics for proposed rulemaking include:
- Proposed changes to the record retention requirements contained in appendix A to part 379 to remove overlapping and burdensome requirements.
- A proposal to clarify the applicability of emergency exemptions and ensure that carriers and drivers are not authorized to overlook other important safety measures while performing direct assistance to emergency relief efforts. The action would also require carriers to report certain information pertaining to their use, frequency and nature of materials transported under a declaration. The data collection is important and will help inform FMCSA decision-making relating to emergency declarations.
- A proposal permitting state driver licensing agencies to administer the commercial driver’s license (CDL) knowledge test prior to issuing a commercial learner’s permit (CLP), and to administer the CDL skills test to CLP holders who are domiciled in other states. The FMCSA says it will use feedback “to determine whether greater flexibility in CDL administration can promote greater efficiency while maintaining necessary safety standards.”
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.