Drivers

New Highway Law a Big Work Order for FMCSA

August 28, 2012

By HDT Staff

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The new highway law sets an ambitious agenda for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration over the next couple of years.

Most of the requirements in MAP-21 came from the agency's strategic plan, said administrator Anne Ferro as she introduced a presentation Monday on the agency's plans to implement the law.

(MAP-21 stands for Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.)

It adds up to 29 new rulemakings within 27 months, not counting those already under way, said the agency's director of government affairs, John Drake.

Included are provisions that have been headline news, such as the field study on the 34-hour restart in the hours of service rule, and the electronic logging mandate.

But there are numerous smaller provisions that have considerable weight. Starting October, for example, the agency will have authority to levy higher enforcement penalties and declare unsafe carriers as an imminent hazard.

MAP-21 also provides for revised standards for safety grants to states, easier terms for waivers, exemptions and pilot programs and new authority for the agency to order the return of household goods that are being held hostage.

Drake said the agency will be looking for comments on these issues next month. He also spelled out a portion of the agency's schedule for the next several years.

2013 deadlines

Due July 2013 is a joint report by the Transportation and Defense Departments on how to help U.S. military veterans get truck-driving jobs.

The 34-hour restart study is due next September.

October 2013 will be busy. Due the first of the month are the electronic logging rule and a requirement that states set up standards for how they will automatically notify carriers of drivers' moving violations and suspensions.

On the same day the agency will owe a national registry rule, reports on hazmat safety permitting and rental truck accidents, new guidelines for safety inspections.

On the last day of the month the agency is supposed to post its entry-level driver training rule.

More in 2014

The agency has until April 1, 2014, to finish work on a written proficiency exam for those seeking operating authority. The test must cover the applicant's knowledge of the safety rules.

It has until the following October to finish the national clearinghouse for drug and alcohol test results.

This rule, which has long been sought by the industry, will require carriers to query the clearinghouse when screening applicants for driving job, and annually after they are hired. Third-party service providers could do these searches. The initial proposal for this rule is due this December,

Also due that October is a study of truck size and weight limits ordered up in MAP-21.

Trucking and shipping interests had been pursuing a provision to let states raise the limits in Interstate highways from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds on six-axle vehicles. That provision got into an early version of the bill on the House side, but was struck and replaced by the study.

The study must cover safety, pavement and bridge costs, and diversion of freight from the railroads and other modes.

Funding

Congress debated a lot about money as it wrote MAP-21, but the safety agency held its own on funding. Authorization amounts remain about the same as they have been, Drake reported.

The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program is the key agency grant program, providing funds to states for safety enforcement. It is authorized for $212 million this fiscal year, and is slated to rise to $218 million in 2014.

Administrative funding also will rise, from $223 million this year to $259 million in 2014.

Grant authorizations for new entrant audits will go up slightly, from $29 million this year to $32 million in 2013 and 2014.

Funding for the Commercial Driver License program will remain at $30 million for the next two years. Also steady is funding for border enforcement, at $32 million, Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks at $25 million, and safety data improvement at $3 million.

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