Where are federal agencies on key trucking-related regulations?  -  HDT graphic

Where are federal agencies on key trucking-related regulations?

HDT graphic

The U.S. Department of Labor’s new regulation on independent contractors, published Jan. 10, is just the first of a number of regulations we’ll likely see in 2024 that affect trucking.

Many expect a proposed speed limiter mandate to show up any day now. We may get news on the result of a proposal for mandatory automatic emergency braking by this summer.

Here’s a look at some of the regulatory actions we may see this year from the Department of Transportation and other agencies that affect trucking, according to the Fall 2023 Regulatory Agenda.

A note, however: The timetable dates on this regulatory agenda are notoriously inaccurate. It’s not uncommon for proposals and final rules to take longer than the agency expects. Occasionally, as happened with the recent rule on broker and freight forwarder financial responsibility, they’re even early.

Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters

More than 4,000 comments were received on a “prerule” advance notice of proposed rulemaking from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration exploring mandatory speed limiters for heavy trucks. So it’s perhaps not surprising that the agencies missed their projected date of December 2023 to put out a proposed rule.

During a December House subcommittee hearing, FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson several times responded to questions about speed limiters by pointing out that the agency had not yet published a proposed rule.

This is the second time the federal government has looked at mandating speed limiters. A previous rulemaking in 2016 did not become a final rule.

Safety Fitness Determinations

In August, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration asked for comments to help it develop a new way to determine when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles, also known as a safety fitness determination. That was a pre-rule, advance notice of proposed rulemaking.

Despite extending the comment period to Nov. 29, the agency received fewer than 200 comments. The current regulatory agenda timetable does not list any actions beyond the ANPRM.

However, on Jan. 12, the agency published information on several research reports it believes are relevant and asked for comments specifically on that research. Comments are due by Feb. 12.

Beyond Compliance and Safety Fitness Determinations

Out of the six new sources of information listed, half are technology-based, looking at an in-vehicle monitoring and coaching system, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking systems, and In-vehicle data recorders. This could well mean that the agency is seriously looking at the "Beyond Compliance" program, that would recognize carriers for their safety efforts, something Congress called for the DOT to do in the FAST Act in 2015.

Beyond Compliance was one of the factors FMCSA asked for comment on in its Safety Fitness Determination ANPRM last summer. It was a topic of discussion during an FMCSA update session last October during the American Trucking Associations' management conference. In November, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance urged the agency to move ahead with Beyond Compliance.

Automatic Emergency Braking for Heavy Trucks

In another joint rulemaking, last summer, NHTSA and FMCSA issued a proposed rule for mandatory automatic emergency braking systems on new commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds.

The final rule will “require and/or standardize equipment performance for automatic emergency braking systems on heavy trucks,” according to the regulatory agenda. Comments closed in September; 414 were received. The most recent regulatory agenda timetable shows a “final action” expected in April 2024.

Mandatory Side Underride Guards

Don’t expect mandatory side underride guards for trailers anytime soon. The regulatory agenda timetable says “analyzing comments” with a date of October.

NHTSA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking last April, then extended the comment period on that pre-rule until July. In its ANPRM, the agency outlined the results of its research, but said it still needed more information on a large number of factors that could affect its cost-benefit analysis.

Camera Mirrors

Another area where NHTSA is taking its time is in using cameras to replace rearview mirrors. Currently it is not legal to build trucks with them; however, they can be installed on trucks as an aftermarket item.

NHTSA published an ANPRM pre-rule in 2019 and the regulatory agenda timeline says “analyzing comments” with a date of August 2024.

As Stoneridge pointed out in remarks at the recent CES trade show, a five-year exemption allowing it to sell its MirrorEye rear-view camera system expires this year. The company is confident that exemption will be extended.

Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Revisions 

Will we see a proposed rule making some changes to the mandatory ELD rules late this year? The agency appears to still be mulling it over after getting comments in 2022 from an advance notice of proposed rulemaking. The agency asked for comments on potential changes in five areas: Applicability to pre-2000 engines; ELD malfunctions; the process for removing ELD products from FMCSA’s list of registered devices; technical specifications; and ELD certification.

The regulatory agenda timetable indicates October for an NPRM.

DataQ Review Appeals

FMCSA asked for comments on a setting up an appeals process for Requests for Data Review (RDRs) submitted to the agency through its DataQs system. Those comments closed in November. 

A number of rulemakings appear to be stalled or on the back burner.

Electronic ID

In September 2022, FMCSA asked for public comment on the idea of requiring every commercial motor vehicle operating in interstate commerce to be equipped with an electronic device capable of communicating a unique identification number when queried by a roadside system. The move was in response to a petition for rulemaking from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance as a way to improve the effectiveness of the roadside inspection program. The regulatory agenda timetable says the next action is undetermined.

Automated Driving Systems

There are a number of rulemakings in progress or to be started that involve the federal government trying to get its arm about autonomous vehicles, or “automated driving systems.”

Motor Carrier Operation of Automated Driving System (ADS)-Equipped Commercial Motor Vehicles  

After an ANPRM put out in 2019, FMCSA’s regulatory agenda previously projected it would have a notice of proposed rulemaking by the end of 2023, which obviously did not happen. The intent is to see what changes need to be made to regulations regarding CMV operations, inspection, repair, and maintenance regulations.

The regulatory agenda notes, “FMCSA has taken several actions to solicit information on issues relating to the testing and integration of ADS-equipped CMVs, including holding listening sessions beginning in 2017 and a 2018 [request for comments]. FMCSA continues to attend industry conferences, road show events and meet with various developers and other stakeholders.”

Framework for Automated Driving Systems Safety

Similarly, the agency appears to still be analyzing comments from an ANPRM published in late 2020 asking for comment on the development of a framework for Automated Driving System safety that could “objectively define, assess, and manage the safety of ADS performance while ensuring the needed flexibility to enable further innovation.”

Facilitating New Automated Driving System Vehicle Designs for Crash Avoidance Testing 

A 2019 ANPRM looking for comments on crash avoidance test procedures for automated vehicles shows “analyzing comments” with a date of October 2024.

Considerations for Telltales, Indicators and Warnings in Vehicles Equipped With Automated Driving Systems 
Meanwhile, NHTSA is looking at how federal motor carrier safety standards may need to change to address the applicability and appropriateness of safety messaging (telltales, indicators, and warnings) in new vehicle designs without conventional driver controls.  An ANPRM came out in September 2022 and the regulatory agenda timetable lists nothing after that.

More Regulatory Actions on the Horizon

A browse through the DOT regulatory agenda reveals some trucking issues federal agencies plan to look at this year, among them:

Federal Safety Standards for Hydrogen Fuel Used In Vehicles: Requirements to mitigate burst and explosion of high-pressure hydrogen fuel containers during normal vehicle operations, involvement in a vehicle fire, and post-crash, and mitigate the risk of fire due to hydrogen leakage during normal vehicle operation and post-crash. The regulatory agenda timetable had an NPRM set for the end of 2023.

Entry Level Driver Training Standard Changes: This Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) would seek information from stakeholders regarding ways in which FMCSA can enhance the physical safety of women truck drivers and trainees and address the negative impacts of workplace sexual harassment. In addition, the ANPRM would seek information from stakeholders regarding ways in which FMCSA can enhance the safety of vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and bicyclists. 

Others include:

New Motor Carrier Entrant Exams?

Finally, FMCSA appears to be looking to revisit a 2009 rulemaking to make sure new motor carrier entrants understand safety regulations before getting DOT operating authority.

This rulemaking would consider methods for ensuring a new applicant carrier is knowledgeable about the applicable safety requirements before being granted New Entrant authority. The agency is considering whether to implement a proficiency examination as part of its revised New Entrant Safety Assurance Process as well as other alternatives.

This rulemaking responds to issues raised in a petition from a 14-year-old petition from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety regarding new entrant applicant knowledge.

The FMCSA put new entrant requirements into effect in 2003, but by 2006 it had proposed stricter requirements, and issued a final rule in 2008. Under that rule, a newly registered trucking or bus company would automatically fail its safety audit if it violated any one of 16 essential federal regulations during an 18-month safety monitoring period.

The Advocates alleged that the FMCSA did not go far enough in terms of safety. So FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in 2009 asking for comments from the industry on requiring new carrier applicants to pass a safety examination. That ANPRM did not result in a proposed rule. Now, however, the agency's regulatory agenda says it will issue a second ANPRM this summer.

About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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