U.S. Capitol Photo: David Cullen
A lot of lobbying and politicking went on in Washington throughout 2015, but by year's end these were the five things (presented roughly by date) that got done that most helped or will help trucking keep rolling ahead...
Beyond Compliance. It’s still as true as when it was announced in April that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration may eventually take into consideration a motor carrier’s “proactive voluntary implementation of state-of-the-art best practices and technologies” when evaluating its safety program.
Dubbed “Beyond Compliance,” the nascent initiative would include voluntary programs implemented by motor carriers that exceed regulatory requirements and result in the improved safety of vehicles and drivers as determined by a reduction in the number and severity of crashes.
FMCSA stated that if Beyond Compliance moves forward, it “would not result in regulatory relief” but it foresees an “incentive-based approach to improving carrier safety” working as a “more effective tool than the current penalty-based system.”
Electronic Stability. An anticlimactic but significant rulemaking, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finally issued its long-anticipated mandate requiring electronic stability control (ESC) systems on Class 7-8 trucks and large buses. The rule will take effect for “most heavy trucks” in 2017, per NHTSA.
This regulatory effort dated back to at least 2011, when the National Transportation Safety Board first issued a recommendation that ESC be required on heavy-duty vehicles.
As noted by ATA Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki when the rule came out, “Many fleets have already begun voluntarily utilizing this technology and this new requirement will only speed that process.”
Phase 2 GHG/MPG. A monster of a regulatory development, the proposed Phase 2 fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas emissions rules rolled out in June are aimed at 2021 to 2027-model-year trucks and tractors and 2018-to-2027 MY trailers.
The big difference with this proposal from the Phase 1 rules is that Phase 2 would regulate trailers for the first time and set GHG limits for complete vehicles – tractor with trailer. However, the new rules would also set separate engine fuel-efficiency standards for light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles.
The Phase 2 proposal also addresses natural gas vehicles and engines, including emissions from the crankcase and liquefied natural gas (LNG) boil-off, two of the largest sources of on-vehicle methane emissions. And the proposed rule affects glider kits. These kits would be subject to GHG limits and would require, starting in 2018, that engines used in them meet the same standards as new vehicles.
Electronic Logging. A much-anticipated regulation, and one much-dreaded by many smaller fleets and owner-operators, was announced in December — the rule that will require truck and bus drivers who currently use paper log books to adopt ELDs within two years.
The rule strictly prohibits using ELDs to harass drivers. It also establishes new hours-of-service supporting document requirements that FMCSA said will reduce paperwork reductions. Under the mandate, apps for smartphones and other wireless devices can serve as ELDs, so long as they satisfy tech specs, are certified and are listed on an FMCSA website.
TCA Director of Safety and Policy David Heller told HDT that there’s nothing unexpected in the rule. He said the mandate will help “alleviate some of the burdens regarding supporting documents, eases compliance with the Hours-of-Service Regulations and furthers the efforts of the agency in the fight against driver coercion and harassment.”
Highway Bill. Yes, Virginia, trucking finally got a long-term highway passed by Congress and signed by the President, and it was all wrapped up weeks before Santa Claus arrived.
On the other hand, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act essentially had been in the works for ten years. That’s because the last highway bill to run longer than two years become law way back in 2005.
Besides fully funding highway and transit projects to the tune of $305 billion bill for five years, the FAST Act came nicely packaged with some fiercely lobbied for presents from Congress that trucking will be enjoying for years to come, including:
- Language that retains the suspension of the 34-hour restart provisions until the Dept. of Transportation jumps through some substantial hoops
- Reforms of FMCSA’s CSA, including removing its carrier scores from public view until the required reforms are completed
- Authorizing use of hair-testing as an alternative to urine-testing in conducting certain tests of drivers for use of controlled substances
- Establishing a (very limited) pilot program for those between age 18 and 21 who received truck training during their military service so that they can drive certain commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.