Ray Martinez, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), is urging motor carriers, drivers and law enforcement to “stay tuned” because 2019 should be a big year for trucking regulations.

Hours of Service  As PrePass wrote in August 2018, “FMCSA Opens New Look at Trucker Hours of Service Rules,” citing the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate and the 99% compliance found during inspections, FMCSA said the time is right to review the hours of service (HOS) rules. In an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), FMCSA asked for public information and data in four HOS areas:

  • Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers;
  • Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions (currently, only the 11-hour driving time can be extended under adverse conditions);
  • Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8-hours of continuous driving; and
  • Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment.

The response has been robust, with over 5,200 comments filed, most calling for more flexibility in HOS. FMCSA will now move to the next step, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), in which the agency will ask for comments on specific changes to the HOS rules, which could include any or all of the four areas where FMCSA gathered information under the ANPRM. While FMCSA cannot reveal what will be proposed before publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register, some observers believe that the discontinuance of a split sleeper berth pilot project in late 2018 suggests the agency is ready to move forward to increase HOS flexibility.

The date of NPRM publication is as yet unknown – first FMCSA must clear its proposal with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the White House. Once published, a new round of public comments and hard data will drive the outcome on any changes to HOS.

CSA/IRT  FMCSA has worked on revising the Compliance, Safety Accountability (CSA) program, assessing fleet and driver safety, following Congressional concern over its shortcomings and a National Academy of Sciences critique. (See the PrePass whitepaper, “Overhaul of FMCSA’s CSA Program Under Way”.)

As part of the update, FMCSA will adopt “Item Response Theory,” (IRT), to replace the old Safety Measurement System (SMS). IRT brings greater mathematical precision to safety analysis – but also demands a greater level of data input. Recently, Administrator Martinez said details on the IRT model will be available by the end of 2019.

In the end, IRT will move FMCSA away from the “crash risk” approach of the current CSA model toward an evaluation of how fleets value and implement safety across their entire operations. For more on achieving a better “safety culture” under IRT read the PrePass blog, “The PrePass Guide to Achieving a Trucking Company Safety Culture.”

By the way, one of the weaknesses of the old CSA was its inclusion of non-preventable accidents in calculating a fleet’s safety risk. FMCSA instituted the Crash Preventability Demonstration Project to test whether and how non-preventable accidents could be removed from that consideration. Administrator Martinez noted that the demonstration project will come to an end in August 2019 – to be followed by “full implementation.” PrePass will keep readers advised of the timing and details of the new FMCSA treatment of non-preventable accidents.

AOBRDs  Long before Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) were mandated, some fleets had petitioned FMCSA to use earlier versions of the technology in place of paper logs. The earlier versions were called “Advanced On-Board Recording Devices” or AOBRDs. Because those carriers had invested in driver log technology before it was mandated, they were given extra time to transition to ELDs.

That time is about up, and Administrator Martinez is urging those carriers not to wait till the last minute to make the switch. December 16, 2019 is the deadline to move from AOBRDs to ELDs.

Extensions of time beyond this deadline are not likely to be granted.

You can learn more about other upcoming changes in trucking regulations by listening to some previous episodes of the “Eyes on the Road” podcast, presented by PrePass.