Whatever the political headlines of the day, federal agencies continue to add new trucking regulations, adopt new forms, and extend or discontinue previous waivers and exemptions. In this series, “Trucking Things to Know Now,” PrePass provides quick updates on regulatory developments, often with links to more information.

Civil penalties for trucking increased. By Federal Register notice, the civil penalty amounts that truck safety agencies may impose for violations of certain USDOT regulations were adjusted upward. These increases include the new USDOT civil penalties provided in the Infrastructure Bill. The notice applies to all U.S. Department of Transportation regulatory agencies, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

For example, the maximum FMCSA civil penalty on a driver for an out-of-service order increased from $1,951 to $2,072, while the corresponding assessment against a carrier rose from $19,505 to $20,719.

Under federal law, civil penalty amounts are adjusted annually, according to a statutory formula. The adjustments are effective immediately without opportunity for public comment. One more reason to stay safe, legal and compliant.

Independent contractor test reinstated by court. Federal rulemaking procedures matter. PrePass has written about the procedural steps regulatory agencies must follow. These procedural requirements affect your opportunity to comment on rulemaking proposals and help shape the regulations you operate under.

The same procedural requirements impact the ability of the federal government to withdraw an existing regulation. After all, a withdrawal changes regulation just as much as a proposal. Case in point:

Despite the current administration’s best efforts, a federal district court has ruled it did not follow proper procedure under the Fair Labor Standards Act in withdrawing the prior administration’s independent contractor test.

So, for the moment at least, the six-factor “economic realities test” remains the federal standard in determining whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor. The Department of Labor may appeal the court ruling and soon begin the process to install its preferred three-factor “ABC test” in dealing with independent contractor determinations.

Whatever your desired regulatory outcome on whatever issue, take care to follow the procedural steps because federal rulemaking procedures matter.

Alternative vision standard goes into effect. The new FMCSA vision standard for truck drivers with “monocular vision” (only one eye meeting distant visual acuity and field of vision standards) went into effect March 22, 2022 The new rule also contains standards for the better eye. Truck drivers who meet the new vision standard must, for the first time, satisfactorily complete a road test before operating in interstate commerce.

Ocean Shipping Reform Act – a win for trucking. The congressional focus on supply chain issues looks ready to yield a win for trucking. Why does a revamping of 20 year old maritime regulations matter to motor carriers? Because the legislation identifies anti-competitive practices that the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) can take action against. Now the FMC can help truckers saddled with detention and demurrage charges when trying to return a container, as well as carriers who face marine terminal rejection if they do not use a preferred chassis vendor.

Read the previous installments of “Trucking Things to Know Now: Federal Regulatory Updates.”