As busy as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and other federal regulatory agencies were during 2023, they couldn’t finalize everything on their rulemaking agendas in one calendar year. So, 2024 will offer the continuation of many rulemakings from 2023. Will these regulators take on anything completely new in 2024? The Unified Regulatory Agenda says yes… but remember that the dates shown there for agency actions are only estimates.

What 2024 will bring that was not found in 2023 are the primary and general elections. FMCSA, NHTSA, and other federal regulatory bodies are “executive branch agencies,” which means they report up the ladder to the White House. In an election year, they deem some topics too politically sensitive for final agency decisions, while others receive an executive “suggestion” to expedite agency action. So, with this politically clouded crystal ball, let’s look at the “hot button,” the “merely substantive,” and the “oh-by-the-way” regulations to expect in 2024.

Hot button trucking regulations that can attract political attention.

Speed limiters.  Say “federal regulation” to a truck driver and speed limiters comes first to mind. FMCSA estimated the publication of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the actual proposed speed limiter rule, for the last business day of 2023, Dec. 29. Regardless of exactly when that Federal Register publication occurs, 2024 will likely see an extended public comment period and FMCSA listening sessions on the topic.

Whether the FMCSA proposal sets 68 mph as the maximum for truck speed limiters is unknown at this point and subject to public comment. Industry observers suggest speed limiters will apply to model year 2003 and newer trucks equipped with electronic engine control units (ECUs). A speed limiter final decision is not expected to happen until after the November general election or into 2025.

Automatic emergency braking.  FMCSA and NHTSA will issue a joint final rule on automatic emergency braking next year. This is a “hot button” issue only because earlier versions of automatic emergency braking had problems. The agencies believe they have fixed those problems. Automatic emergency braking will not entirely eliminate rear-end impacts, but it will prevent major collisions. The “heat” of this regulation will likely dissipate quickly.

Side underride guards.  NHTSA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), examining the costs and benefits of side underride guards on truck trailers. The agency found the costs exceeded benefits by six to eight times. This drew immediate rebuttal by safety advocates, including a PBS broadcast which asserted that NHTSA had overlooked many deaths and injuries caused by side underride collisions and was too cozy with the trucking industry. This is a hot-button issue which may cause NHTSA to issue a Supplemental ANPRM with potentially revised cost and benefit estimates. Politically charged, do not expect the NPRM, the proposed rule, until 2025.

Hair testing.  Hair testing awaits technical standards from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under federal law, FMCSA and other U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT) agencies must follow the technical and scientific standards set by SAMHSA. The health services agency previously expressed concern over hair testing on racial and ethnic grounds, concerns which resonate with this administration. However, university research has shown that urinalysis fails to identify about 90% of actual drug use and that hair testing results show no racial or ethnic bias. Expect SAMHSA to release hair testing standards of some nature… which FMCSA and other USDOT agencies will not consider adopting until 2025.

UIDs.  FMCSA accepted a petition by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) to require unique or universal electronic identification devices (UIDs), on all commercial motor vehicles. The comment period for FMCSA’s ANPRM on UIDs ended long ago. We will see whether FMCSA takes the next step and proposes a UID rule. Central to any proposed rule will be what information and data a UID would electronically transmit to roadside enforcement – just the vehicle ID or the universe of information that a thorough weigh station inspection would examine. Of particular concern will be the protection of truck driver personally identifiable information and motor carrier proprietary information. Politically, a survey of truck drivers found that 27 percent of them would leave the industry if the government required them to broadcast personally identifiable information (PII) as they drive. So, do not expect a final UID decision in 2024.

Merely substantive trucking rulemakings – important but not political.

CSA overhaul.  Already begun in 2023, FMCSA’s update of its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program – the heart of FMCSA’s mission — will continue in 2024. FMCSA opened its Safety Measurement System to public review, making substantial changes, including abandoning Item Response Theory and renaming the different safety categories. Following that, FMCSA issued an ANPRM on the Safety Fitness Determination process. Through all these changes, FMCSA retained and expanded the Crash Prevention Determination Program and reached out to its state partners to correct imbalances in how they handle appeals of DataQs decisions. Expect continued work from FMCSA in its CSA update, but also expect that lack of state funding and personnel will delay improvements in the DataQs appeals process.

Amendments to CDL Requirements.  FMCSA will propose permitting state driver licensing agencies to administer the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) knowledge test prior to issuing a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). This rulemaking would also allow state driver licensing agencies to administer the CDL skills test to CLP holders domiciled in other states. The goal is to facilitate the training of more truck drivers.

Broker contract provisions.  FMCSA says it will respond to petitions from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and the Small Business in Transportation Coalition by publishing an NPRM in October 2024. The petitions addressed broker contract provisions which waive a carrier’s right to review the record of transactions. OOIDA specifically requested FMCSA to require brokers to automatically provide a copy of each transaction record within 48 hours of the service completion. FMCSA will release the NPRM late in the year, so there will be no final rule until 2025.

Oh-by-the-way trucking regulations – the daily regulatory grind.

New Entrant Exams. Expect FMCSA to require a proficiency test about applicable federal safety requirements before new entrants receive operating authority.

Third-Party CDL Testers.  We can expect FMCSA to draft a rule setting out minimum standards and safeguards for states which choose to allow CDL knowledge testing by third parties.

Camera-based mirror systems. NHTSA will issue a rulemaking proposal in 2024 to set a standard for all vehicle manufacturers to follow.

Electronic stability control.  FMCSA will follow the existing NHTSA standards and require the installation and maintenance of electronic stability control systems.

In summary, 2024 is set to be a pivotal year for the trucking industry, building on regulatory momentum from 2023. Stakeholders must stay informed, participate in the public comment process, and prepare for a year of challenges and opportunities. Here’s to a compliant and successful 2024 in the ever-evolving realm of trucking regulations.

The PrePass blog and podcasts are published as a public service of PrePass®, the most reliable and technologically advanced weigh station bypass and integrated electronic trucking toll payment platform in North America. PrePass also includes INFORM™ Safety and INFORM™ Tolling software for improving truck safety scores and lowering toll costs.