2020 saw dramatic changes and recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Regulations, as well as state-driven policies that have significantly impacted carriers and their drivers across the United States. With the recent change in U.S. leadership, carriers and drivers can anticipate more changes throughout 2021.
New Hours of Service (HOS) regulations came into effect as of September 29, 2020, defined by the FMCSA to provide “greater flexibility for drivers without adversely affecting safety.” The FMCSA put exceptions in play for short-haul trips, adverse driving conditions, added sleeper birth provisions and a 30-minute break requirement after eight hours of drive time.
A proposed regulatory guidance statement for HOS has recently been released for comment to define “yard moves.” The update would clarify what is considered a yard move, affording the driver the ability to record these types of functions as “on-duty” rather than “drive time,” ultimately allowing more time on the road. Comments were being collected until February 3, 2021, through the Regulations.gov website.
The FMCSA also launched the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse in 2020. It has been widely reported that the initiation of this information-sharing platform quickly eliminated thousands of drivers from the commercial driving pool. Current testing consists of traditional urine analysis; however, many call for regulators to make hair follicle drug testing the standard, citing it as significantly more accurate. A recent University of Central Arkansas study on driver safety indicates that the upgrade to this type of test could potentially eliminate up to 300,000 additional drivers from the road. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposal to incorporate this type of testing, released in September 2020, which has not been adopted to date, also requires the collection of an alternative specimen to confirm the results. Recent discussions suggest that this could weaken the objective of using hair follicle testing and create a wave of liability issues throughout the industry, with much more discussion on this topic anticipated in 2021.
Additional FMCSA regulations that were tabled during the previous federal administration and existing HOS rules are expected to be revisited under the new government. After proposed revisions to lawmaking were halted in 2017, items such as a speed limiter mandate, an increase to carrier insurance liability minimums and sleep apnea screening for drivers could all be reconsidered. A recent Overdrive article discusses these opportunities and a renewed focus on emissions regulations.
State legislation impacts, such as California’s AB5 law, which, without exclusions for trucking companies, would restrict carriers’ ability to contract with owner-operators are also being closely monitored. Joe Rajkovacz, Head of Government Affairs at the Western States Trucking Association, recently commented that “the decision will likely determine the extent to which a Democratic Congress pushes forward with nationalizing AB5.” While the current preliminary injunction to exempt truckers is expected to be reviewed early in 2021, no matter the outcome, the industry can expect this to set the tone for moving forward nationally.
At Ascent Global Logistics, we continue to monitor all regulatory changes closely, so our clients don’t have to. Our carriers are best-in-class, keeping ahead of industry regulation changes and trends to ensure as little exposure to our client’s freight as possible. Ascent continues to help its clients simplify supply chain management by providing customized solutions, premium customer service and state-of-the-art technology.
Who says logistics has to be complicated? We certainly didn’t. Contact the Ascent team to learn more.