A look at the U.S. Department of Transportation Significant Rulemaking Report coupled with new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration efforts in 2022 leads to one conclusion: 2023 will be a very big year for trucking regulations!

And that’s even before viewing the Fall 2022 edition of the federal government’s Unified Regulatory Agenda (the 2021 Fall edition was not released until the following January).

Here are the likely 2023 rulemakings and government actions by category:

What will be on the truck?

  • Speed limiters. In the second half of 2023, FMCSA will publish a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on speed limiters affecting trucks in interstate commerce. At that time, we will learn what speed or speeds will be proposed.
  • Should trucks electronically broadcast their identity to roadside enforcement? And what other information should drivers and motor carriers transmit? FMCSA asked for and received comments on an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in November. In 2023, we will learn the proposed extent of electronic truck monitoring.
  • Automatic Emergency Braking. Jointly with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, FMCSA will propose requiring and standardizing automatic emergency braking systems for heavy trucks, which already exist on some truck models. Nothing new here? How about the potential for driver over-reliance on technology?
  • Side underride guards. Truck combinations have long had rear underride guards. FMCSA has proposed strengthening their standards and adding rear underride guards to single-unit trucks. In addition, FMCSA will study side underride guards in an effort to balance safety concerns with those about added truck weight and reduced efficiency.

Who will drive the truck?

  • Entry-Level Driver Training program review. FMCSA introduced the ELDT to standardize and enhance the training regimen for new truck drivers. COVID-19 intervened, and third parties were allowed to both train and test driver applicants. Now, FMCSA is asking how things are going – which could impact the supply of truck drivers.
  • Hair and Oral Fluids Testing. An arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, called the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is responsible for the technical and scientific standards FMCSA and all DOT regulatory agencies must follow when conducting drug and alcohol testing. SAMHSA has adopted standards for oral fluids testing – non-invasive and particularly useful at roadside – but the DOT has not finalized adoption of those standards. Meanwhile, SAMHSA has not ruled on hair testing, which many trucking companies already utilize at their own expense. In 2023, these two drug-testing methodologies could become available, making the roads safer… but perhaps with fewer eligible truck drivers.
  • Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse revelations. The FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse will have accumulated three years of data in January 2023. That means motor carriers will no longer need to check with prior employers about driver applicants – the clearinghouse will hold the three years of data required by law. But, fact is, not all previous employers were candid about their past employees. Will the Clearinghouse tell a different story?

Who will be in the trucking business?

  • Independent Contractor definition. The U.S. Department of Labor is adopting a new definition of “independent contractor.” Meanwhile, the state of California will begin enforcing its statute that applies the difficult “ABC test” to the determination of employment status – subject, of course, to litigation. Either way, the long-standing trucking “independent contractor” category will be affected.
  • New Entrant exam. FMCSA reported record numbers of new trucking company start-ups – so-called “New Entrants.” The agency already has a New Entrant program, monitoring the safety of trucking companies at the start of their operations. Now, FMCSA will seek to add an actual exam for New Entrants to pass. Who will pass?
  • CSA review. Aah! The granddaddy of all FMCSA rulemakings! After the trucking industry complained about the arbitrary nature of some Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) safety evaluation procedures, Congress directed the National Academy of Sciences to provide FMCSA a more rigorous process. The NAS recommendation was “Item Response Theory” or “IRT.” FMCSA has struggled to adopt this data-intensive approach for at least two years. Now, in 2023, we may see some resolution, as FMCSA embarks on a review of all CSA components. IRT may be a casualty – or may be implemented full-scale with unknown results.

No doubt 2023 will be a very interesting and possibly very controversial year with it comes to trucking regulatory matters. Stay tuned to the PrePass blog as these stories develop.

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