As the wheels of the trucking industry rolled into 2023, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) set the stage for a year filled with pivotal regulatory developments.

From the contentious discussions surrounding truck speed limiters to the examination of unique identification devices (UIDs) transmitting truck data to law enforcement, each development brought its own set of challenges and even controversy. This recap delves into the key highlights of changes in trucking regulations during 2023, providing insights into critical areas such as: automatic emergency braking, side underride guards, drug and alcohol testing procedures, and the evolving landscape of broker and freight forwarder regulations, among other areas.

Speed limiters. FMCSA announced a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM), targeted for publication in late 2023. Some contend that FMCSA has settled on a maximum of 68 mph for truck speed limiters, applicable to model year 2003 and newer trucks equipped with electronic engine control units. FMCSA says that any decisions await completion of the rulemaking process. Read additional PrePass coverage in a two-part series.

UID. In 2022, FMCSA accepted a petition from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) to examine “unique” or “universal” identification devices (UIDs) that would electronically transmit truck identification, and perhaps much more, to roadside law enforcement and issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the topic. While the comment period on this proposal ended before the start of 2023, talk about it was frequent during the year. Do not expect FMCSA to issue a final rule about UID in 2024.

Automatic emergency braking. A joint effort by FMCSA and NHTSA, the two agencies published their proposal this past summer, calling for automatic emergency braking (AEB) standard for all heavy vehicles above 10,000 pounds. FMCSA is expected to issue its final rule on AEB in April 2024. The rule will require and standardize equipment performance for AEB on heavy trucks.

Side underride guards. NHTSA examined the costs and benefits of side underride guards on truck trailers and found costs exceeding benefits by six to eight times. This drew immediate rebuttal by safety advocates and NHTSA extended the comment period on its ANPRM.

Hair and oral fluids testing. The use of oral fluids testing of truck drivers for drugs and alcohol is now approved. Hair testing, on the other hand, still awaits technical standards from an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which were not released this past summer as anticipated.

Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse revelations. The FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse expanded its notifications to motor carriers of newly entered truck driver data. The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse also reported a 32% increase in positive tests for marijuana, possibly in part driven by truck driver use of CBD gummies.

Broker and freight forwarder rulemakings. FMCSA has issued a final rule on broker and freight forwarder financial responsibilities. FMCSA also promised an NPRM on broker contract provisions which purport to waive motor carrier rights to review the record of transactions.

CSA review. Long in the works, FMCSA’s update of its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program is fully underway. FMCSA opened its Safety Measurement System to public review, making substantial changes, including abandoning Item Response Theory (IRT) and renaming “BASICs.” 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.

As we bid farewell to 2023, we find ourselves on the cusp of a new chapter in the trucking industry. The blog peeks into the crystal ball, offering a glimpse of what lies ahead in 2024. The wheels keep turning, and the PrePass blog remains your reliable guide through the twists and turns of the ever-evolving regulatory road. Buckle up, stay informed, and join us as we navigate the complex terrain of trucking regulations in the year to come.

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