Cover Story
In the pipeline
There's been talk about tons of new regs facing the industry. Here's a quick primer on some biggies headed your way.

By Jami Jones
senior editor


With the introduction of CSA 2010, much of the industry is focusing harder on complying with the federal motor vehicle regulations.

With some recent hot-button regulations on the radar – hours of service and the texting ban – FMCSA is poised to move on even more with 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 through the end of 2010 and on into 2011.


CDL testing and learner’s permit standards

Status Waiting on final rule

This rulemaking is designed to revamp the commercial driver’s license knowledge and skills testing. The agency’s goal is to ensure the applicant has the appropriate knowledge and skills to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

The rule will also do things such as establish a minimum age limit, address issues related to a driver’s home state, and set maximum issuance and renewal periods.

FMCSA has a target date of Feb. 25, 2011, for publishing the final rule in the Federal Register.


Driver training

Status Waiting on final rule

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 in January 2011, with a target date of May 27, 2011, to publish the final rule in the Federal Register.


Certified Medical Examiner registry

Status Waiting on final rule

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 February 2011. The agency’s goal is to publish the final rule in the Federal Register on July 1, 2011.


Restricting the use of cellular phones

Status Notice of proposed rulemaking

This rulemaking is intended to restrict the use of cell phones while operating a CMV. There’s not a real clear indication on whether the agency intends to ban cell phones altogether or just limit their use to hands-free devices.

The proposed regulation, as of press time, was under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget. The agency plans to publish the proposal in the Federal Register right after Christmas, on Dec. 26, 2010.


Electronic on-board recorders

Status Notice of proposed rulemaking

FMCSA is toying with the idea of expanding the current electronic on-board recorder mandate to include more motor carriers. The agency does not indicate whether it would be an industry-wide mandate, or just widen the net on the chronic offenders.

The agency also plans to consider reducing or eliminating current “paperwork burdens” associated with supporting documents in favor of expanded electronic on-board recorder use.

The rule has been sent to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation for review. It’s the agency’s goal to publish the NPRM on Dec. 23, 2010.


CSA 2010: Safety Fitness Determination

Status Notice of proposed rulemaking

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.

The agency had planned to be through the NPRM stage of the rulemaking process in 2008. Now, the plan is to submit it to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation for approval in December 2010 and to publish it in the Federal Register on June 15, 2011.


Drug and alcohol test database

Status Notice of proposed rulemaking

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 2011, with the proposed rule publishing in the Federal Register in September 2011.