Professional fleets and drivers know it is good business to stay safe, legal and compliant. That can mean keeping an eye on laws and rules that are in transition at the federal and state levels. Here’s a quick snapshot of some coming changes that may affect your operations.
FMCSA Proposes Streamlining Curriculum For Upgrades From Class B To Class A CDLs
On June 29, 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to remove the requirement for eight specific instructional units when existing Class B CDL holders upgrade to a Class A CDL.
The proposal targets theory (knowledge) instruction in “non-driving activities” that Class B CDL holders have already received and which would be duplicative to receive again when seeking a Class A license.
Those units are: handling and documenting cargo; environmental compliance issues; post-crash procedures; external communication; whistleblower/coercion; trip planning; drugs/alcohol; and medical requirements.
FMCSA notes that the curriculums for these eight instructional units are virtually identical at the Class B and Class A driver-trainee levels and that the content is unaffected by the type of commercial motor vehicle driven by Class B CDL holders (straight trucks) compared to Class A licensees (combinations).
Applicants for Class A CDLs who do not already hold a Class B CDL would still be required to receive these eight instructional units. The agency emphasizes that no changes are proposed for “behind the wheel” training elements.
Similarly, FMCSA proposes to retain the required training for those upgrading from a Class B to a Class A CDL in hours of service (HOS) requirements, fatigue and wellness awareness, as the agency believes Class A operations typically involve more exposure to problems in those areas.
FMCSA estimates that an annual average of 11,340 driver-trainees would be affected by the proposal, each experiencing a reduction of 27 hours in time spent completing their theory instruction, with a cost savings of $182 million over 10 years, 94% of which would benefit the driver-trainees.
Comments on the NPRM must be submitted by August 28, 2018. The full proposal can be found at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/06/29/2018-13871/eldt-commercial-drivers-license-upgrade-from-class-b-to-class-a
Left Lanes Are Not For Loiterers
Many state legislatures are following up on citizen complaints about vehicles lingering in the passing lanes and are placing fines and prohibitions on the books for any driver utilizing the left-most lane of multilane highways except, generally, for active passing of another vehicle or preparation for a left-hand turn or exit.
Mississippi and Idaho have enacted laws effective this July, focused on “impeding the flow of other traffic traveling at a lawful rate of speed.” They join a long list of states which already have laws designed to keep traffic flowing by controlling how the left-most lane is used. Other states are targeting trucks. The Oklahoma legislature considered amending its existing left-lane law to prohibit large trucks entirely, but the bill failed to pass. Louisiana similarly considered but failed restricting trucks during the Baton Rouge evening rush hour. A Pennsylvania truck-specific bill sits in committee. It would allow cities to establish “commuter lane zones” accessible only by two-wheelers.
There are two lessons to be learned from these developments. One, know the state laws where you operate and observe the road signs for lane restrictions. Two, watch your speed. Too slow is increasingly defined as a legal nuisance, while too fast remains a safety issue that can affect your Compliance Safety and Accountability (CSA) score.
States are raising their fuel taxes
The federal fuel tax rate has not been increased since 1993, but states are still actively raising their fuel taxes to meet highway maintenance needs.
Effective this July 1, fuel taxes increased in seven states: Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont. They join California, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia among the states that have previously increased fuel taxes. One state, Nebraska, has actually lowered its fuel tax rate.
If you are comparing prices for the least expensive place to purchase fuel, exclude the state fuel taxes from your calculation. That’s because fleets operating interstate will proportionally pay those fuel taxes through their International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) account anyway. Compliance with IFTA, by the way, is one item in qualifying for an electronic bypass system like PrePass.