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.


JBS President, Alec Gizzi, and His Capital Hill Visit: Day 1

My visit to DC this week (Day 1):

So after a full day of Board Meetings with our industry associations, TIA arranged for the FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro to stop by and share her thoughts on her Agency’s commitment to highway safety. The DOT’s favorite administration has a full plate of rulings that must be issued before November this year. No doubt that these rules will change the way trucking companies operate in the US. Leading the way this summer is the new Hours of Service rule making that will go into effect July 1st. Pending lawsuits will not deter Administrator Ferro from launching the 32 hour re-start rule that some OTR trucking companies have said will effect their gross margins up to 5%-8%. 

Next up for Ferro is enacting the Unified Registration System (URS) combining DOT & MC numbers for motor carriers, brokers, and freight forwarders into one unified number that will easily distinguish which mode of carriage freight moves. She expects this to be presented by August. 

With the MAP21 bond increase set for October 1st, FMCSA has to issue some specific guidelines on how to enact certain requirements written into the law. For example, what are the funding requirements for bond companies that issue them or defining the term “interlining” which is sometime used for convenience by motor carriers that are brokering their loads without a broker license. Administrator Ferro hopes to have these in place by September, not leaving herself much time here for error! And finally EOBR (Electric On-Board Recording) devices in trucks to replace the written log books that can lead to easy manipulation by drivers trying to stretch their hours.

On top of all this is the one big change she inherited back in 2009 when appointed by President Obama. Of course I am speaking of CSA and all of the backlash she is getting from the transportation industry regarding the “basic” scores posted on the SaferSys Web Site. The “basic” scores are accumulated of 3.5 million state-wide road-side inspections done by qualified state and federal officers each year. These scores are then processed so the agency can best utilize resources for full compliance reviews (about 20,000 a year). Currently these full on-site compliance reviews are the only way a carrier can obtain a SMS (Safety Measurement System) score of Satisfactory. By November of this year, FMCSA hopes to propose a new way to enact SMS using the road-side inspections that will increase the number of carriers receiving a rating. 

Ms. Ferro also took questions from TIA members about the controversial CSA Basic Scores, but being a good politician didn’t always choose to answer them. She will rely on the industry to continue to be the watchdog since FMCSA does not have the resources to police the bad actors (a whole other blog discussion).

Yes, its a full plate for the FMCSA and Administrator Ferro this year, and let’s hope she is up to the tasks.


Hours of Service Rules for OTR Drivers

The new Hours of Service regulation imposed by FMCSA that will become effective July 1st 2013 will have little effect on JBS and KFS drivers since most of our equipment is moving in regional lanes.  However there will be a larger impact with our brokerage division that deals with long-haul OTR carriers because of the reduced overall mileage capacity per truck.  Carriers that have trucks that travel irregular routes over 1000 miles will be most affected.

The new rule calls for two major changes in the driving habits of these OTR carriers. 

  • First, the mandatory 30 minute break in a consecutive 8 hour driving period is something most drivers are doing today.  The only inconvenience is that it must now be accounted for on their logs.  The break does not have to be a “resting” break, but rather time spent taking a meal or restroom break.  This “mental time break” seems reasonable.
  • The second and more controversial rule limits the 34-hour restart to once a week or once every eight days AND must include at least two periods between 1am and 5am.  This rule will reduce a long-haul driver’s average maximum hours of driving from 82 to 70 per week (a 15% reduction)!  Most of the larger TL carriers such as Knight, Covenant, and Swift expect anywhere from 1% – 5% impact on productivity. 

Of course all of this means less capacity and higher truck rates for the shipping public and eventually the consumer.