Congress changes in the Transportation Industry for 2016

Highway Bill – FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transport Act)

Signed into law by President Obama last month, this bipartisan legislation will finally give relief to the industry that has not seen a multiple year (6 years) funded Highway Bill since 2005. Although the last 3 years of the bill are not yet funded, FAST Act does give hope to States, giving them the ability to do some long term infrastructure planning.

Here are a few other important pieces of the Bill that will go into effect:

  • Removal of CSA Scores: The FMCSA was ordered to take down the published CSA (Compliance, Safety, and Accountability) scores that were available for public viewing on their website.   Pressured by industry leaders including the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) President Bob Voltmann as “unreliable” and “plagued with serious data flaws”, Congress urged the FMCSA to clean up their data before the scores can be used to determine a carrier’s Satisfactory Rating.
  • Military: The bill establishing a pilot program meant to bring in young veterans and military reserves into the industry at an earlier age. Other changes would let military driving experience count toward a skills tests and it would allow military vets to receive their medical certification from Veterans Affairs doctors rather than having to use those in the FMCSA’s National Registry.
  • Driver Drug Testing Reform: The bill allows carriers to test drivers via hair test (currently using a urine test) once the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) establishes guidelines for hair testing. The bill requires DHHS to produce the guidelines within a year of the bill’s enactment.

Final Rule on Driver Coercion

The FMCSA issued its final rule on driver coercion November 30th with an effective date of January 29, 2016.   Basically under the rule it is prohibited for a shipper, receiver, motor carrier, or a broker to force (coerce) a driver to violate various regulations of the FMCSA. The rule further states that a driver MUST state to the party requesting such services that the request will force him to violate a specific FMCSA rule. A driver must bring a complaint to the FMCSA within 90 days of the alleged coercion.

Hours of Service (HOS) Rule

The Highway Bill also made a provision for FMCSA to provide Congress with an assessment on how the current 34-hour restart rule provides improvement “in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health, and work schedules”. The rule, suspended in December of 2014, will continue to be suspended until at least November.

Electronic Logging Devise (ELD) Rule

FMCSA issued their final ELD Rule in early December that will require carriers to use electronic logging devises to record a drivers’ hour of service. The 516 page rule details new technical specs for ELD’s and clarifies what supporting documents will be required. Motors carrier will have almost two years before the new rule becomes law as the deadline for compliance will not be until December 2017.