2010: A year of new regulations
The new regs coming down the pike at truckers are sure to change life on the road as we know it

By Jami Jones
senior editor


It’s probably been a couple of years since most truckers really studied their Motor Carrier Safety Regulations handbook. And why not? There haven’t exactly been any big new regs to worry about.

However, that’s all about to change.

The kickoff year to the next decade has a regulatory agenda packed full of regs that will certainly change the face of trucking as we know it.

The following is a roundup of some of the big regs FMCSA plans to move on, starting in 2010.

Electronic on-board recorders
Status: Waiting on final rule
Target date: Jan. 25, 2010

The rulemaking mandating the use of the so-called black boxes in trucks has been in the works since 2004. The final rule has been in limbo since May 2008. However, it’s on the move now.

FMCSA has submitted the proposed final rule to the Department of Transportation for approval, and the grand plan is to publish it in the Federal Register on Jan. 25, 2010. Those target dates are never hard-and-fast, but they do give a good indication of the agency’s plan.

The most recent incarnation of the proposed reg only mandated use of EOBRs for bad actors in the industry. The agency proposed that motor carriers with a demonstrated history of serious noncompliance with the hours of service would be subject to mandatory installation of EOBRs. All trucks – including owner-operator trucks leased to the motor carrier – would be required to be equipped with the black boxes.

The agency also included provisions that would encourage voluntary use of EOBRs. To encourage use of the devices, FMCSA proposed dangling the carrot of providing relief from other regs – like revising the agency’s compliance review procedures to review only a random sample of drivers’ records of duty status and providing partial relief from HOS supporting document requirements, if certain conditions are satisfied.

The abstract of the final rule now at the DOT for approval doesn’t hint at any significant changes from the previous proposed version of the rule. But, until it’s actually submitted to the Federal Register, it’s anyone’s guess what the final rule will actually be.

Driver training
Status: Waiting on final rule
Target date: May 27, 2010

After years of waiting on a rule that actually requires some behind-the-wheel training time for would-be truckers, FMCSA published a notice of proposed rulemaking on Dec. 26, 2007. The agency then proposed requiring 44 hours of behind-the-wheel training in addition to 76 hours of classroom time before potential truckers could test for and receive their Class A CDL.

The previous version of the proposed reg not only requires students to actually spend some time behind the wheel, but also requires them to do it at an accredited school with qualified instructors.

The truck driving schools will have to be accredited by an agency recognized by the Department of Education or by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This requirement would also apply to schools operated by trucking companies.

The agency plans to begin the approval process of its final rule in January 2010, with a target date of May 27, 2010, to publish the final rule in the Federal Register.

Commercial learner’s permit
Status: Waiting on final rule
Target date: April 30, 2010

Illegal immigrants, drivers with bad records and others who try to capitalize on loopholes in the commercial driver’s license permit regulations won’t be getting away with it much longer if FMCSA officials follow through with a proposal to tighten up the driver’s license testing and commercial learner’s permit regulation.

The agency proposed a new rule on April 9, 2008, that seeks to close up loopholes and address shortcomings in the current process.

In addition to setting new minimum standards in the permit process, the proposed rulemaking seeks to revise the CDL knowledge and skills testing.

The comment period on the proposed reg closed in July 2008. FMCSA plans to start the approval process on the final rule in December, and to publish the final rule on April 30, 2010.

Certified Medical Examiner register
Status: Waiting on final rule
Target date: May 31, 2010

In this final rule, FMCSA is looking to establish training, testing and certification standards for DOT medical examiners. Once all of those standards are met by the docs, the agency wants to keep a national registry of medical examiners that meet those standards so motor carriers, drivers, and enforcement personnel can determine if a medical examiner is qualified to conduct examinations.

The agency is also intending to require medical examiners to electronically transmit the name of the driver and a numerical identifier for each driver who is examined to FMCSA.

The agency plans to send the final rule to the DOT for approval in January 2010. The agency’s goal is to publish the final rule in the Federal Register on May 31, 2010.

Drug and alcohol test database
Status: Notice of proposed rulemaking
Target date: Sept. 30, 2010

This is one of two new rules the agency is planning to propose. This proposed rule would create a database of verified positive drug and alcohol test results and refusals. The agency is proposing to require employers to report the positive test results and refusals to the database.

The agency is also seeking to mandate that prospective employers – with an applicant’s written consent – access the system to see if it has any info on that driver’s drug and alcohol testing before hiring or allowing that applicant to drive a truck.

The plan is to start moving on the notice of proposed rulemaking in February 2010, with the proposed rule publishing in the Federal Register in September 2010.

CSA 2010: Safety Fitness Determination
Status: Notice of proposed rulemaking
Target date: May 19, 2010

This proposed rule will change how motor carriers are rated through the Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 program.

Currently, the safety fitness rating of a motor carrier is determined based on the results of a very labor intensive on-site compliance review. Aside from roadside inspections and new audits, the compliance review is the agency’s primary intervention.

Under CSA 2010, FMCSA would propose to implement more “interventions,” or enforcement tactics, some of which allow FMCSA to make contact with more carriers.

Through this rulemaking, FMCSA would establish safety fitness determinations based on safety data collected on crashes, inspections and violation history rather than on the standard compliance review.

This proposed rule is already being reviewed by the DOT, and FMCSA hopes to publish it in the Federal Register on May 19, 2010.