FMCSA Rule Changes Aim To Improve Road Safety

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a clear goal in mind with updates and proposed changes to its rules and regulations for the road introduced in 2023 – safety.
United States Transport
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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a clear goal in mind with updates and proposed changes to its rules and regulations for the road introduced in 2023 – safety. The updates implemented last year will likely lead to a decrease in accidents. However, they will also lead to an increase in costs and operations for fleet owners.

In June, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), in conjunction with the FMCSA, announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would require heavy vehicles to have automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems. According to NHTSA statistics, there are approximately 60,000 rear-end crashes each year in which the heavy vehicle is the striking vehicle. AEB systems use multiple sensor technologies that work together to detect a vehicle in a crash imminent situation. The standard, which was adopted on May 9, 2024 and goes into effect as of July 8, 2024, requires the technology to work at speeds ranging from 6 to 50 miles per hour.

Specific to ensuring that safe drivers are behind the wheel, the FMSCA made the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse the sole query source for employers to meet the requirement to identify prospective drivers with drug and alcohol offenses as of January 6, 2023. Additionally, changes have been made to the notification process for changes to a driver's record. In the past, an e-mail was sent to an employer if new information was added to a record, including a new violation, within 30 days of conducting a pre-employment query. As of March 8, 2023, employers are notified if a change is entered within 12 months of a pre-employment or annual query. The Query History will also be updated to reflect that new information is available.

In order to address the safety of carriers in general, a NPRM was announced in August 2023 that outlines a plan to develop a new methodology for determining when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles. Currently, the Safety Fitness Determinations (SFD) are made based on existing motor carrier data and data collected during a compliance review or DOT audit. It analyzes six factors based on the FMCSA regulations and Hazardous Materials Regulations. The level of compliance is then categorized based on the need for corrective action. This process has been criticized for being resource-intensive and because it tends to reach only a small number of carriers. A prior NPRM from 2016 proposed using a carrier's absolute measure, rather than a percentile ranking, for use in the Safety Fitness Determination. The proposal was opposed at the time by motor carriers, which cited problems with the SMS data that needed correcting, and asserted that the proposal violated the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The FMCSA is seeking public comment related to this proposal.

Finally, the FMSCA has made changes to the list of acceptable electronic logging devices (ELD) used by motor carriers as of July 25, 2023. All motor carriers are required to update any ELDs on the list of devices that are not acceptable due to the companies' failure to meet the minimum requirements, including All Truckers ELD, PrimeELD, and Secure ELD, and to replace them with registered logging devices.

Fleet owners and operators alike will likely see an increase in costs to implement some of these changes. However, should the theory that these changes will increase road safety and decrease accidents ring true, owners can also expect decreased costs for repairs, litigation, and insurance premiums in years ahead.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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