Two notices recently published in the Federal Register may provide clues to where the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is heading on important trucking regulations: driver detention and truck maintenance.

These notices, known formally as Information Collection Requests (ICR) are required any time a federal agency looks to access new data from the public. The two FMCSA ICRs seek:

Impact of Truck Driver Detention Time on Safety and Operations

FMCSA proposes to survey 80 motor carriers and 2,500 truck drivers, from all segments of trucking, over the course of 12 months. Those companies and drivers who agree to participate would allow FMCSA access to electronic logging devices, transportation management systems, vehicle telematics systems and safety records, in addition to answering survey questions. FMCSA would look at the frequency and severity of detention time, contributing factors, and outcomes, including lost productivity, supply chain impacts, hours of service violations, and accidents. The agency proposes to use a working definition that detention occurs when dwell time – total time at a facility – exceeds two hours.

The survey results and analysis would attempt to correlate detention time and truck safety, as well as “facilitate private sector decisions that lead to  a reduction in detention time” – specifically labeled “private sector decisions.” This is because FMCSA does not have broad jurisdiction over shippers and receivers.

Comments on this ICR are due by Oct. 23, 2023.

Truck and Bus Maintenance Requirements and Their Impact on Safety

FMCSA has detailed regulations on truck maintenance. Vehicle maintenance is a key component of the Safety Measurement System score used in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety evaluation program. The ICR references a 2014 research study showing that motor carriers targeted for intervention due to “vehicle maintenance” issues had a 65% higher crash rate compared to the national average.

So, why does FMCSA need a new ICR on this familiar topic? Because the FMCSA maintenance regulations speak to “systematic maintenance,” with no definition of what constitutes “systematic.” Left undefined, motor carriers may not know whether their maintenance programs meet federal specifications, while, absent crash or vehicle breakdown records, federal and state inspectors may not know if the carrier maintenance program needs improvement.

FMCSA will hire the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) to conduct online surveys of 578 carriers. They will be divided equally between those with excellent vehicle maintenance scores and those who have recently experienced federal or state interventions due to maintenance issues. Half of the participants will also complete a carrier maintenance management survey on maintenance practices, intervals, personnel and facilities.

VTTI will produce a “recommended best practices” report on minimum inspection intervals, mechanic qualifications and training, and certification of maintenance facilities, as well as a working definition of “systematic maintenance.” According to the ICR, the VTTI recommendations may trigger future FMCSA rulemakings in these areas.

Due to an incorrect comment period shown in the initial Federal Register publication, comments on this ICR are due by Oct. 23, 2023 following a correction issued in the Federal Register.

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