Commercial Driver Safety Rules Pushed Back Hours-of-service study, driver training panel launched

By Roy Maurer Feb 24, 2015
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Several anticipated commercial carrier regulations—including rules on electronic logging devices, speed limiters, safety fitness scores for carriers, and the establishment of a national drug and alcohol clearinghouse—have been delayed but are still scheduled for publication in 2015, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT).

On Nov. 9, 2015, about six weeks later than previously planned, the department plans to publish a final rule mandating the use of electronic logging devices by all drivers required to keep duty-status records. The rule will take effect two years after its publication date in the Federal Register, which could push the rule’s compliance deadline nearly into 2018.

The DOT believes the devices will improve safety and the recording of drivers’ hours, as well as cut down on citations that result from paperwork errors.

The rule also will provide uniformity, said Joe DeLorenzo, director of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) office of enforcement and compliance. “Right now, there are a lot of devices out there,” he said at a recent conference.

A proposed rule requiring the use of speed limiters on heavy trucks has been moved to June 8, 2015, a month later than previously projected. The department has not specified yet what the limited speed would be after the rule takes effect.

A rule allowing FMCSA to use ratings from the agency’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, along with data from investigations and inspections, to produce a safety fitness score for carriers is now projected to be published July 1, 2015, a few weeks later than the June 17 date previously reported.

The final rule instituting a database of drivers who have failed or refused to take a drug or alcohol test has been delayed six weeks and is projected to be published Dec. 14, 2015. Carriers will be required to upload their results and query the database when making new hires. The rule would go into effect 18 months after its publication in the Federal Register.

HOS Study Gets Underway

The FMCSA selected the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to conduct a $4 million study on the impact of restart breaks on commercial truck drivers’ safety performance and fatigue levels. The institute has previously carried out FMCSA studies on driver fatigue and hours-of-service (HOS) regulations as well as other driver-safety-related issues.

Congress issued a requirement in December 2014 for the agency to conduct the study before changes to the 34-hour restart provision for drivers can go into effect. The institute will track the fatigue and safety performance levels of drivers who take two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. rest periods during their 34-hour restart break, compared to drivers who take less than two rest periods during their break. The institute will recruit around 250 truck drivers from small, medium and large fleets across a variety of operations for the study and compare five months of their work schedules, assessing crashes, near-crashes, crash-relevant conflicts, operator fatigue/alertness and short-term health outcomes for the two groups.

“A better understanding in which the new hours-of-service provisions are being implemented by drivers, and to better quantify fatigue and the relative road safety risk, is an extremely important issue for highway safety,” said Richard Hanowski, director of the institute’s safety center.

Entry-Level Driver Training Committee Announced

The FMCSA announced Feb. 10, 2015, the formation of an advisory committee charged with negotiating new behind-the-wheel safety training requirements for entry-level professional truck and bus drivers, to be proposed by the fall of 2015, with a final rule expected in 2016.

The members of the Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee comprise a cross section of motor carrier interests, including training organizations, bus and trucking industries, law enforcement, labor unions, and safety advocates.

“With more people and freight crossing our country than ever before, this committee’s work will be critical to ensuring that commercial drivers are fully capable of operating their vehicles safely,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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