Note: This article appears in the February 2016 edition of Barnes & Thornburg LLP's Logistically Speaking e-newsletter.
Like almost any other industry, the transportation industry is affected by a myriad of government regulation. Some of the new regulations are summarized below.
FMCSA Uniform Registration System
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has begun implementing its new Uniform Registration System (URS), which will require communication with the FMCSA electronically using a personal identification number. Under the URS, MC numbers will be eliminated and USDOT numbers will be assigned to all registrants. Brokers, exempt carriers, and private carriers will be required to register and obtain USDOT numbers. Application forms will change, and more parties will be required to make filings. Problems have been reported by early users of the System, which may prompt some changes to make the process more “user friendly”.
Electronic Logging Devices
Under a Final Rule adopted by the FMCSA on December 10, 2015, motor carriers have two years within which to install, and require drivers to use, electronic logging devices to record a driver’s duty status. Limited exceptions apply to this mandate. For example, driveaway drivers who drive the units to be delivered need not use ELDs. Nor do drivers of trucks manufactured before model year 2000, or drivers who use paper logs for no more than eight days during a thirty day period.
Driver Coercion Rule
In November 2015, the FMSCA issued a “driver coercion rule,” intended to prevent drivers from being “coerced” (by economic pressure or otherwise) into operating vehicles in violation of regulations governing mechanical safety, hours of service, and other matters. Carriers, brokers, shippers, and others are prohibited from taking adverse action – such as withholding business - against drivers who refuse to operate vehicles in violate of regulations. Violations may result in fines of up to $16,000 per offense, even in cases where efforts at coercion fail. Brokers can be liable if they hire exercise control over a driver whom the broker attempts to coerce to deliver a load in violation of safety regulations.
Safety Fitness Determination
On January 21, 2016, the FMCSA published in the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to establish new methods for a motor carrier to be identified as unfit. The proposed rule would replace the current three-tier system for safety ratings (satisfactory-conditional-unsatisfactory) with a single determination of “unfit,” which would require the affected carrier to either improve its operations or cease operations. Interested parties have until March 21, 2016 within which to submit comments about the proposed rule.