FMCSA pilot program would allow CMV drivers to pause hours of service for rest break

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Photo: vitpho/iStockphoto

Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking public comment on a proposed pilot program that would allow commercial motor vehicle operators one rest break of up to three consecutive hours but no less than 30 minutes during every 14-hour on-duty period.

Under the program, announced in an Aug. 28 press release and published in the Sept. 3 Federal Register, CMV drivers could pause their on-duty period when taking the rest break, “provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off duty at the end of the work shift.” The agency estimates a sample size of 200-400 drivers for the program, which could last up to three years.

“FMCSA wants to hear directly from drivers about the possibility and safety of an hours-of-service pause pilot program,” Jim Mullen, who stepped down as the agency’s acting administrator at the end of August, said in the release. “The agency remains committed to exploring ways to improve safety on our roadways, while increasing flexibility for truckers. We encourage drivers, motor carriers and interested citizens to review the proposed pilot program and provide substantive public comments for FMCSA to review.”

The proposal comes on the heels of a highly anticipated final rule – published in the June 1 Federal Register and set to take effect Sept. 29 – FMCSA claims will add flexibility to hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers. Under the rule, the agency will:

  • Change the short-haul exemption to 150 air miles from 100, and 14 hours on duty from 12, to be consistent for rules with long-haul truck drivers.
  • Extend the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions.
  • Revise the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving.
  • Reinstate the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks equipped with sleeper berth compartments.

However, the final rule doesn’t include a proposed provision that would have allowed covered CMV operators one rest break of up to three consecutive hours during every 14-hour on-duty period.

“In our comments on the recently revised hours-of-service rules, we called for a pilot program to study the impacts this type of change would have on highway safety and our industry,” American Trucking Associations spokesperson Sean McNally told Safety+Health. “We are pleased to see that FMCSA has taken our suggestion and we will work with the agency to ensure this program yields meaningful data that can be used for future rulemakings.”

Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, supports the proposed program as well.

“While we advocated that the final HOS rule should have included the split duty provision, we think the pilot program can provide substantive data to permanently give drivers more control over their daily schedules,” Pugh said in an article published Aug. 28 in OOIDA’s Land Line magazine. “We will work with the agency to ensure the pilot program is conducted in the most productive manner possible so additional HOS improvements can be implemented as soon as possible.”

Comments on the pilot program are due Nov. 2.


McCraren Compliance can help you understand and comply with FMCSA, DOT and ADOT and ensure your drivers and your vehicles operate safely and efficiently.

Call us Today at 888-758-4757 or email us at info@mccrarencompliance.com to schedule your free FMCSA Compliance Assessment

It’s Brake Safety Week

Today is the start of Brake Safety Week, which is Aug. 23-29. Throughout the week, law enforcement personnel will conduct roadside safety inspections to identify commercial motor vehicles with brake violations. Vehicles discovered to have critical brake violations, or other critical vehicle inspection item conditions, as outlined in the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria, will be removed from roadways until those violations are corrected.

Inspectors will also pay special attention to brake hoses/tubing, which must be properly attached, undamaged, without leaks and provide adequate flexibility. Brake hoses/tubing are an essential component of the braking system. If they fail, braking capability may be seriously compromised.

Brake Safety Week is part of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) Operation Airbrake Program, a vehicle safety initiative focused on the inspection and identification of commercial motor vehicles with brake violations. Although inspection of a vehicle’s brake system and its components is always part of the roadside inspection process, Brake Safety Week aims to highlight the importance of brake systems and proper brake maintenance, operation and performance.

During Brake Safety Week, inspectors will perform the same roadside inspections conducted on any other day of the year. However, in addition, inspectors will be collecting brake-related statistics, and at the conclusion of the week, that data will be submitted to CVSA for compilation and analysis. The results will be released later in the year and will include the out-of-service rates for the week, along with data on brake hoses/tubing. Gathering, analyzing and releasing such data helps jurisdictions appropriately allocate resources, and it reminds motor carriers of the importance of proactive vehicle maintenance. Last year, 13.5% of vehicles inspected during Brake Safety Week were removed from roadways for critical brake-related violations.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) latest “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts” report, of the recorded vehicle-related causes for fatal crashes in 2017, brake systems was cited as the third most frequent vehicle-related cause, after other vehicles and tires.

CVSA created Brake Safety Week to reduce the number of crashes involving commercial motor vehicles with brake system deficiencies by conducting roadside mechanical fitness inspections and removing commercial motor vehicles with dangerous brake conditions from our roadways. Brake Safety Week is supported by CVSA member jurisdictionsFMCSA and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

 


McCraren Compliance can help you understand and comply with FMCSA, DOT and ADOT and ensure your drivers and your vehicles operate safely and efficiently.

Jim Mullen to exit as acting head of FMCSA

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Photo: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Washington — Jim Mullen will step down as acting administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at the end of August, a Department of Transportation spokesperson confirmed Aug. 17.

The former chief counsel for the agency, Mullen assumed the role of acting administrator in October after Raymond Martinez resigned from his post as FMCSA administrator after almost two years. He now oversees construction of DOT’s redeveloping John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, MA.

“At the end of the month, Jim Mullen will be leaving the department,” a DOT spokesperson told Safety+Health. “We greatly appreciate Jim’s service and the work he has done for our country.”

The spokesperson confirmed that former FMCSA Director of Government Affairs Wiley Deck, now a senior policy advisor to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, will succeed Mullen as deputy administrator.

During Mullen’s tenure, FMCSA fully implemented its Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and unveiled a highly anticipated final rule the agency claims will add flexibility to hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers.


McCraren Compliance can help you understand and comply with FMCSA, DOT and ADOT and ensure your drivers and your vehicles operate safely and efficiently.

Call us Today at 888-758-4757 or email us at info@mccrarencompliance.com to schedule your free FMCSA Compliance Assessment

Annual truck and bus brake inspection blitz to take place Aug. 23-29

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Photo: Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance

Greenbelt, MD — Commercial motor vehicle inspectors throughout North America will conduct both announced and unannounced brake system inspections Aug. 23-29 during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s annual Brake Safety Week.

Inspectors are expected to place special emphasis on brake hoses and tubing during this year’s outreach and enforcement campaign.

Last year’s event resulted in 34,320 inspections and identified 4,626 vehicles (13.5%) with out-of-service conditions.

In a July 8 press release, CVSA President John Samis said vehicle and driver safety remain the “top priority” of the alliance, and conducting inspections is an especially vital task amid the COVID-19 pandemic as drivers transport essential goods.

“We need to do everything we can to ensure that the vehicles truck drivers are driving are as safe as possible,” Samis said. “Brakes are one of the most important systems in a vehicle. Failure of any component of a brake system could be catastrophic. Routine brake system inspections and component replacement are vital to the safety of commercial motor vehicles.”

The event, scheduled during Brake Safety Awareness Month, is part of CVSA’s Operation Airbrake campaign conducted in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

Brake Safety Week is Set for Aug. 23-29

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) Brake Safety Week will proceed as scheduled, Aug. 23-29. Enforcement officials will inspect commercial motor vehicles throughout the week and vehicles found to have critical out-of-service brake violations, or other critical vehicle out-of-service inspection item violations, will be restricted from traveling until those violations are corrected. Vehicles that pass eligible inspections may receive a passed-inspection CVSA decal.

Checking brake system components is always part of the roadside inspection process; however, inspectors will be paying special attention to brake hoses/tubing during this year’s Brake Safety Week to highlight the importance of those components to vehicle mechanical fitness and safety.

The brake systems on commercial motor vehicles are comprised of components that work together to slow and stop the vehicle, and brake hoses/tubing are essential for the proper operation of those systems. Brake hoses/tubing must be properly attached, undamaged, without leaks and appropriately flexible. Brake hoses/tubing are an important part of the braking system so when they do fail, they can cause problems for the entire braking system.

During last year’s International Roadcheck inspection and enforcement initiative, brake system and brake adjustment violations accounted for 45.1% of all vehicle out-of-service conditions. That’s more than any other vehicle violation category. And during last year’s Brake Safety Week, 13.5% of the commercial motor vehicles inspected had brake-related vehicle inspection item violations and were placed out of service.

Brake Safety Week is part of law enforcement’s effort to reduce brake-related crashes by conducting roadside inspections and identifying and removing unsafe commercial motor vehicles from roadways.

“Despite the pandemic, commercial motor vehicle safety inspectors continue to prioritize vehicle and driver safety by conducting inspections every day,” said CVSA President Sgt. John Samis with the Delaware State Police. “Safety is always our top priority and it’s our mission to ensure the vehicles on our roadways have met all safety standards and regulations. This is especially important as we rally behind truck drivers as they transport essential goods during this public health crisis. We need to do everything we can to ensure that the vehicles truck drivers are driving are as safe as possible.”

In addition to CVSA’s Brake Safety Week, August is also Brake Safety Awareness Month. Along with inspections and enforcement, law enforcement agencies also engage in outreach and awareness efforts to educate drivers, motor carriers, mechanics, owner-operators and others on the importance of proper brake maintenance, operation and performance.

“Brakes are one of the most important systems in a vehicle,” added Sgt. Samis. “Failure of any component of a brake system could be catastrophic. Routine brake system inspections and component replacement are vital to the safety of commercial motor vehicles.”

Brake Safety Week is part of CVSA’s Operation Airbrake program, in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

Operation Safe Driver Week Starts Today

Greenbelt, Maryland (July 12, 2020) – Starting today through July 18, law enforcement personnel will issue warnings or citations to commercial motor vehicle drivers and passenger vehicle drivers engaging in dangerous driving behaviors as part of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) Operation Safe Driver Week.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), although Americans have been driving less due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, the fatality rate per mile driven increased 14% compared to March 2019. NSC’s traffic fatality  confirms that speeding and reckless driving during the pandemic led to a disproportionate number of crashes and fatalities.

As the  of vehicles on roadways decreased in March and April, the average speed in the five largest U.S. metropolitan areas increased by as much as 75% compared to January and February. And in some of the normally more-congested areas of the country, average speeds increased by as much as 250%. For example, the average 5 p.m. speed on Interstate 405 in Los Angeles went from 19 mph to 68 mph. In Chicago, the average speed on Interstate 290 more than doubled to 62 mph from 24 mph. In the Washington, D.C., region, average speeds during the evening rush rose from 27 mph to nearly 70 mph on the capital beltway, well above the 55-mph speed limit. And  to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, from March 23 to May 3, tickets issued for driving 100 mph or more increased 53% compared to 2019, even as traffic levels decreased.

To address his disturbing increase in speeding during the pandemic, this year’s Operation Safe Driver Week will focus on speeding.

Other unsafe driving behaviors that enforcement personnel will be looking for throughout the week include distracted driving, following too closely, improper lane change, etc.

Behavioral  from five weeks prior to the first stay-in-place order (Feb. 6 to March 15) was analyzed and compared to data generated over the next five weeks (March 16 to April 19) – a time frame in which most shelter-in-place orders were announced. According to the data, speeding was up by 27% on average and hard braking climbed 25%. Phone usage on the nation’s roadways increased in the weeks following the stay-at-home guidelines, up by 38% in mid-April. These behavioral changes contributed to a 20% increase in collisions per million miles traveled since the beginning of the shutdowns.

To find out about Operation Safe Driver Week events in your area,  the agency/department responsible for overseeing commercial motor vehicle safety within your jurisdiction.

CVSA – in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the law enforcement community and the motor carrier industry – launched the  in 2007 to reduce the number of deaths and injuries resulting from dangerous driving behaviors.

Notice of Enforcement Discretion Determination: Random Controlled Substance and Alcohol Testing

July 6, 2020

NOTICE OF ENFORCEMENT DISCRETION DETERMINATION:
RANDOM CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE AND ALCOHOL TESTING

On March 13, 2020, the President declared a national emergency under 42 U.S.C. § 5191(b), related to the effects of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is aware that the motor carrier industry continues to experience operational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency. As the Nation engages in a phased re-opening, the pace of return to normal operations will vary across the country. In some regions of the United States, motor carrier employers subject to controlled substance (drug) and alcohol testing under 49 CFR part 382 may be unable to comply with certain testing requirements due to the ongoing impacts of the emergency.

In recognition of these barriers to full compliance in some locations, the Agency may exercise discretion to determine not to enforce the minimum annual percentage random testing rates for drugs and alcohol, and the requirement that each employer ensure that the dates for administering random drug and alcohol tests are spread reasonably throughout the calendar year, as set forth in 49 CFR 382.305(b)(1) and (2) and 49 CFR 382.305(k), respectively. FMCSA emphasizes, however, that employers capable of meeting these requirements must continue to do so.

Employers must continue to select drivers at the required rate of 50 percent of their average number of driver positions for controlled substances, and 10 percent for random alcohol testing during the calendar year 2020.  If a test is unable to be completed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the motor carrier must maintain written documentation of the specific reasons for non-compliance. For example, employers should document closures or restricted use of testing facilities or the unavailability of testing personnel. Additionally, employers should document actions taken to identify alternative testing sites or other testing resources.

Similarly, employers who are unable to ensure that the dates for administering random controlled substances and alcohol tests are spread reasonably throughout the calendar year should document the specific reasons why they did not meet this requirement. For example, in addition to the lack of available testing facilities or personnel, there may be other factors, such as prolonged or intermittent driver furloughs due to the impacts of COVID-19.

The Agency issues this Notice to assure employers unable to fully comply with the requirements identified above that we will provide reasonable enforcement flexibility during this unprecedented pandemic, while also meeting FMCSA’s core safety mission. This Notice is not intended, and should not be perceived, as suspending the current random testing requirements.

This Notice pertains to employers’ noncompliance, during calendar year 2020, with the random testing requirements described above. The Agency may exercise enforcement discretion in connection with motor carrier investigations occurring in calendar year 2021.

This Notice:

  1. Acknowledges the current and anticipated disruptions to the administration of drug and alcohol testing caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency;
  2. Considers the interests of public safety and the continuing need to free up medical supplies and facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
  3. Requires that employers who are capable of complying with 49 CFR 382.305(b) and 49 CFR 382.305(k) must continue to do so; and
  4. Creates no individual rights of action and establishes no precedent for future determinations.

Jim Mullen
Deputy Administrator
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Group petitions FMCSA to delay final rule amending trucker hours-of-service regulations

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Photo: Grafissimo /iStockphoto

Washington — A coalition of safety advocacy groups, in conjunction with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, is petitioning the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to reconsider a controversial final rule the agency claims will add flexibility to hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers.

Submitted June 30 and filed by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers, the Truck Safety Coalition, and the Teamsters, the petition requests a stay of the effective date of the final rule – slated for Sept. 29 at press time – until the FMCSA administrator can further review the petition.

Under the rule, announced in a May 14 agency press release and published in the June 1 Federal Register, FMCSA will:

  • Change the short-haul exception to 150 air miles from 100, and 14 hours on duty from 12, to be consistent for rules with long-haul truck drivers.
  • Extend the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions.
  • Revise the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving.
  • Reinstate the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks equipped with sleeper berth compartments.

The final rule doesn’t include a proposed provision that would have allowed covered commercial motor vehicle operators one rest break of up to three consecutive hours during every 14-hour on-duty period.

The petition cites National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data showing that 4,951 fatalities in incidents involving a large truck occurred in 2018, as well as other research highlighting fatigue-related hazards associated with the profession.

According to preliminary data released in NHTSA’s May 2020 Traffic Safety Facts report, fatalities in incidents involving a large truck are projected to have increased 1% in 2019.

“The final rule is not in the public interest and does not meet the agency’s statutory mission in carrying out its duties to assign and maintain safety as the highest priority,” the groups contend in the petition. “The agency had failed to address the significant risk to public safety posed by fatigued drivers of CMVs at a time when large truck crashes continue to increase.”

Jim Hoffa, Teamsters general president, and Lamont Byrd, director of the Teamsters’ safety and health department, voiced their opposition to the final rule in a May 14 press release.

“In an effort to increase so-called ‘flexibility’ for trucking companies, the FMCSA is abandoning safety and allowing drivers to push themselves to the limit even further,” Hoffa said. “Trucking is already one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs. We shouldn’t be sacrificing the health and safety of drivers just to pad the profits of their big business bosses.”

yrd added: “Extending the workday to 14 hours for CDL-qualified short-haul drivers will result in an increase in occupational injuries and driver fatigue. We are also concerned with the revised rest break provision. This revised rule could allow a driver to spend hours performing physically demanding work and then drive up to eight hours without having to take a break.”

After multiple delays, FMCSA published a proposed rule in the Aug. 22 Federal Register. The initial comment deadline also was delayed before FMCSA on March 2 submitted the proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.

In a May 14 video posted on the Department of Transportation’s YouTube channel, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said the final rule’s provisions “will help drivers reach their destination safely without feeling like they’ve got to race against the clock to comply with federal mandates. They will also help truckers get the rest they need when they need it. When safety rules make sense, drivers are better able to comply, and that benefits everyone.”

COVID-19 pandemic: FMCSA extends waiver for certain preemployment drug tests

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Photo: DakotaSmith/iStockphoto

Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted to recently furloughed commercial motor vehicle drivers a 90-day waiver from certain preemployment drug testing requirements, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective June 5 and set to expire Sept. 30, the waiver amends current regulations requiring drivers to undergo preemployment drug testing and produce a negative test result to their employer before performing safety-sensitive functions, which includes operating a CMV. The regulation offers an exception to drivers who have participated in a testing program within the past 30 days and either:

  • Were tested for controlled substances within the past six months
  • Participated in the random controlled substances testing program for the previous 12 months.

Under the waiver, the exemption period is extended to 90 days from 30.

“As employers begin to recall drivers who were furloughed, laid off or otherwise not working for the company for more than 30 days, the cost and logistical barriers of testing a large influx of drivers in a short time frame are significant, at a time when the commercial trucking and motor coach industry is facing unprecedented economic challenges,” the waiver states. “This problem is further compounded by the reduced availability of controlled substances testing resources due to continued facility closures or other testing impediments caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

FMCSA says offering “temporary regulatory relief from this burden” is possible “without negatively impacting safety.” Further, the agency “reserves the right to revoke” the waiver as a result of drivers’ involvement in incidents or employers’ inability to comply with terms.

The waiver comes in response to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order No. 13924 – Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery, issued May 19.

Marijuana tops list of substances identified in CMV drivers’ failed drug tests: FMCSA

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Photo: vitpho/iStockphoto

Washington — The first report to use data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse shows that, from the database’s Sept. 28 launch through May, marijuana was the most common substance found in positive drug and alcohol tests among commercial motor vehicle drivers.

The national online database – aimed at enhancing road safety by providing, in real time, the names of CMV drivers who fail drug and alcohol tests – identified 10,388 positive tests for marijuana. Cocaine (3,192) and methamphetamine (2,184) were the next most common substances detected.

Under federal regulations, motor carriers must conduct pre-employment drug testing in addition to random testing. Employees who test positive are prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions, which includes operating a CMV.

According to the report, 19,849 CMV drivers had at least one violation and were unable to operate until completing the return-to-duty process – including 15,682 drivers who had yet to begin the process.

In an article published June 15 in the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s Land Line magazine, Amber Schweer, supervisor of OOIDA’s drug and alcohol consortium, said the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational use in numerous states may be complicating the problem.

“There is a huge misconception that just because it is legal on the state level that it will be OK on the federal level,” Schweer said. “That is not the case.”

CBD products also figured to factor into the findings, Schweer added. In a Feb. 18 policy and compliance notice, the Department of Transportation cautioned that CBD products may contain higher levels of THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – than DOT allows in a controlled substance. DOT added that CBD use is not a “legitimate medical explanation” for a safety-sensitive employee who tests positive for marijuana.

“There are so many companies that claim you won’t test positive using their product when in reality they cannot guarantee that,” Schweer said. “Drivers are not heeding the warnings that are put out there and, unfortunately, are facing expensive and detrimental consequences to their career.”

Overall, the clearinghouse observed 21,156 positive tests for substance misuse among CMV drivers during the reporting period. Multiple substances can appear in positive tests, FMCSA notes in the report, which does not include the total number of tests conducted. Future reports are set to be released monthly. Employers made more than 905,000 queries into the clearinghouse since it was fully implemented Jan. 6.