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FMCSA to Keep Drug Testing Rate for Trucking at 50% in 2015

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said the nation’s trucking companies must continue random drug testing for at least 50 percent of drivers and other “safety sensitive” employees during 2015.

The FMCSA announced the decision December 31, based on data from 2012, even though the agency was due to have finished analyzing test results for 2013 by the close of 2014.

Trucking executives were hoping the FMCSA would lower the mandatory drug-test rate to 25 percent because the rate of positive results from random tests was below one percent for the two most recent years from which data are available — 0.6 percent in 2012 and 0.9 percent in 2011.

Federal safety agencies for the railroad, airline, marine and passenger transit modes have all sliced their testing requirements in half, to 25 percent from 50 percent, once random drug-test results fell below the one percent threshold for consecutive years.

Mark Rosekind Confirmed as New Head of NHTSA

By unanimous consent on December 16, the U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Mark Rosekind to become administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration among a batch of nominees to federal positions.

Rosekind, 59, succeeds David Friedman in his role as acting administrator. A member of the National Transportation Safety Board since 2010, Rosekind is considered an expert on driver fatigue.

Obama Signs Bill Suspending Enforcement of HOS Restart Rules

President Barack Obama signed on December 16 the appropriations bill that halts enforcement of the requirement that a drivers’ 34-hour restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods and the once-per-week limit of the restart.

Though the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is required by the law to produce a Federal Register notice to alert drivers, enforcers and other stakeholders of the change, the stay of enforcement is now legally in effect, meaning truck operators no longer have to abide by the restart provisions put in place in July 2013.

Aside from the suspension of the restart provisions, however, the law requires the FMCSA to study the rules’ impacts on drivers, carriers and safety. The agency must present a report to Congress concluding the rules boost safety before the restart provisions can go back into effect.

Congress is requiring the report study provide data that determines whether or not the 2013 restart provisions can provide a greater net benefit for the operational, safety, health and fatigue impacts they cause.

To gain the necessary data, the FMCSA will have to study two groups of drivers that are “each large enough to produce statistically significant results, according to the bill. One group will operate under post-2013 restart provisions and the other under pre-2013 restart provisions. The study must be conducted for at least five months with the FMCSA comparing the two groups based on safety critical events — crashes and over fatigue levels of drivers.

Throughout the entire process the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General must keep tabs on the agency. Only after it addresses any concerns of the OIG — and if it concludes the restart provisions enhance safety — would the FMCSA be cleared to enforce the 2013 restart rules again.

Citing Congressional Concern, FMCSA to Clarify Driver Sleep Apnea Guidance with Medical Examiners

Medical examiners in the FMCSA’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners will soon be receiving a bulletin from the agency to clarify current federal rules – or lack thereof – regarding screening and testing drivers for sleep apnea.

According to a letter from acting FMCSA Adminstrator Scott Darling to Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-La.) and Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), the bulletin will remind examiners there is no FMCSA guidance regarding apnea testing and will encourage examiners to explain to drivers that referring them to sleep apnea specialists is being done based on their judgment as medical professionals and not from FMCSA regulations.

Darling’s letter to Bucshon and Lipinski was sent in response to a letter  the two Congressmen sent to him in October. The two Congressmen wrote their letter after hearing that FMCSA-approved medical examiners were not adhering to the 2013 law prohibiting the agency from issuing guidance (in lieu of a formal rule) regarding sleep apnea screening and testing for truck drivers.

Current FMCSA guidelines medical examiners use were issued in October 2000, and it directs examiners to refer drivers to sleep apnea specialists if they detect respiratory dysfunction, like sleep apnea, that could impact a driver’s safety.

Full Reciprocity Plan Going Into Effect January 1

Carriers going through their 2015 renewal for International Registration Plan (IRP) will start to see a major change to their cab card credentials and renewal capabilities.

Beginning January 1, 2015, IRP will have fully implemented FRP — Full Reciprocity Plan — which will grant all apportion plated vehicles registration in all IRP member jurisdictions (the 48 contingent United States and 10 Canadian Provinces).

With this change, carriers renewing their fleets this December and beyond will receive cab cards for all apportion plated vehicles displaying the 58 jurisdictions. This eliminates the carriers’ need to indicate which jurisdictions they intend to operate in on an annual basis.

Full Reciprocity Plan will also bring about the following changes:

  • Adding jurisdiction supplements will be eliminated
  • No more trip permits for apportion plated vehicles
  • Ability to consolidate multiple fleets registered by a single carrier

Registration fees will be based on each fleet’s actual distance per jurisdiction for the 12-month reporting period used at the time of renewal. Estimated distance will no longer be necessary with the exception of a new carrier fleet registering under IRP for the first time. New carriers without IRP history will pay fees based on the Iowa estimated distance chart for the initial registration year.

For additional details, please explore the Q&A available from IRP at www.irponline.org.

IRS Backs off Heavy Vehicle Use Tax E-file Rule

In a final regulation published in the Federal Register on October 29, the Internal Revenue Service has rescinded the requirement that anyone paying the federal heavy vehicle use tax for more than 24 vehicles must file and pay electronically.

IRS states in the introduction to the amended regulation that the change was made to reduce the burden on small businesses. In the future, IRS will accept paper filings of the HVUT Form 2290 for fleets of any size.

This should be a welcome change for many carriers, since the requirement for electronic filing meant that nearly all large filers for the HVUT had to use third-party services that assess filing fees to complete the return.

NTSB to FMCSA: Ban Hands-Free Phone Use

The National Transportation Safety Board does not feel truck drivers should use hands-free phones while driving

The board’s recommendation was one of several changes it want the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to make in the wake of a 2013 truck-train crash that caused a derailment, hazmat fire and explosion.

Some believe the key contributing factor to the crash was the driver was distracted by a call on his hands-free phone as he was approaching the tracks.

The board recommended that the FMCSA conduct a full compliance review on new entrants that fail a safety audit or a corrective plan, or are issued an expedited action letter

FMCSA Delays Expected Publication Dates for Minimum Insurance

Federal regulators have moved back by nearly a month their projected announcements of two proposed rules, one to raise the minimum insurance requirement for interstate motor carriers and the other requiring speed limiters on new heavy trucks, a new Department of Transportation.

The proposal to raise the insurance minimum, originally scheduled for publication later this month, has been delayed until October 22.

The proposed speed-limiter rule has been delayed several times, most recently projected for December 12, and now is not anticipated until January 12.

The anticipated Federal Register publication date for two other major regulations — a proposed carrier safety fitness determination rule and a final drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule — remained unchanged.

Darling Named Acting Administrator of FMCSA

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx named Scott Darling as acting administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on August 22. He will succeed Anne Ferro, who left the agency to become president of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

Before becoming the FMCSA’s chief legal counsel, Darling served as deputy chief of staff and assistant general counsel to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Darling has been the FMCSA’s chief legal counsel since 2012. But, his selection dashed some expectations that the agency would tap William Bronrott, the deputy administrator.

President Barack Obama has not said whether Darling will be nominated as the permanent FMCSA administrator.

Roadcheck 2014 Results

Of the 72,415 drivers inspected in this year’s Roadcheck inspection spree, 4.8 percent were placed out-of-service, and more than half were due to hours of service or logbook violations.

Of the driver OOS orders, hours violations accounted for 46.5 percent, according to the data released this week by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, who organizes the annual inspection blitz in conjunction with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

False logs accounted for 13.7 percent of the OOS orders, and disqualified and suspended drivers made up another 20 percent.

Nearly 70 percent of the inspections performed were Level I, the most thorough roadside inspection level.