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Regulatory and Legislative Update - May 2024

TEANA

Regulatory and legislative news for May 2024 includes the FMCSA renewing consideration of knowledge/proficiency exams for carriers and brokers, the FMCSA inviting comments on its plan for a new online registration platform and Hawaii seeking exemption on student transportation options. The FMCSA is also set to revise a younger driver pilot program.

Contents

Regulation and Enforcement

Legislation

Advocacy and Comment

 

Regulation and Enforcement

FMCSA formally drops certain conditions for younger driver pilot program

As required by Congress in an appropriations act passed in March, FMCSA has dropped two requirements that it had imposed for participation in the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP) Program. The temporary program, which was established by Congress in 2021, allows employers to establish apprenticeship programs for drivers between 18 and 20 years of age to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce under certain circumstances.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 ordered the agency to stop requiring that motor carriers participating in the SDAP Program (1) install or use inward-facing cameras or (2) obtain a Registered Apprenticeship number from the Department of Labor. The change to the program applies to both new applicants and the few carriers already participating in the program. Other aspects of the SDAP Program are unchanged, including the requirements for use of automated manual or automatic transmissions; active braking collision mitigation systems; forward-facing video event capture systems; and a governed speed of 65 mpg at the pedal and under adaptive cruise control.

FMCSA said it will contact motor carriers who previously submitted applications but were missing Registered Apprenticeship numbers to determine whether they are still interested in participating in the program. As of the fourth quarter of last year, 36 carriers had met the safety qualification criteria but did not have a registered apprenticeship in place or had not provided a number to the agency.

Through the fourth quarter, 34 carriers had been fully approved for participation while 38 had been disapproved. Only 36 apprentice drivers had applied for participation, and all had been accepted. For the Federal Register notice, visit https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2024-10538. For ongoing information and updates regarding the program, visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sdap.

Pitt Ohio’s denied relief from CDL requirement of younger driver program

FMCSA has denied an application submitted by Pitt Ohio Express to exempt its drivers from one of the requirements in the agency’s Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP) Program. Specifically, Pitt Ohio said it would have less trouble recruiting drivers for the program if it could use drivers under age 21 that have a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) to operate CMVs in interstate commerce. FMCSA currently requires that an apprentice already hold a CDL prior to enrolling in the program.

In rejecting Pitt Ohio’s application, FMCSA noted that Congress authorized the SDAP Program for 18- to 20-year-olds who hold CDLs, not CLPs. Also, “granting the Pitt Ohio exemption could potentially put young and inexperienced drivers in a position of high responsibility, potentially exposing them and surrounding drivers to crashes and incidents involving CMVs.”

For the Federal Register notice, visit https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2024-10077.

FMCSA to hold virtual public meeting on registration modernization

After holding an in-person meeting on the topic in January, FMCSA is holding a virtual public meeting to hear perspectives on improving the registration experience with the agency. The second FMCSA Registration Modernization Stakeholder Day is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern on May 29 and is intended for a wide range of stakeholders, including motor carriers, brokers, freight forwarders, insurance companies, financial institutions, process agents, and third-party service providers. To register for the meeting, visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/fmcsa-registration-modernization-stakeholder-day-ii. FMCSA said those interested in participating must register before May 25.

In addition to the January meeting and outreach at the Mid-America Trucking Show in March, FMCSA last month provided some information on its plans for a new online registration system to replace the Unified Registration System (see Regulatory Update, April 2024). FMCSA invited comments by June 18 on its plans. For that Federal Register notice, visit https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2024-08439.

Carrier receives approval to use pulse lighting system

FMCSA granted Gemini Motor Transport LP’s application for an exemption to allow it to use a pulse lighting system module manufactured by Intellistop, Inc. for rear clearance, identification, and brake lamps. Current regulations require that such lighting be steady burning.

The agency said that it has determined that granting the exemption to Gemini, an individual, easily identifiable motor carrier operating a finite number of CMVs, would likely achieve a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety achieved by the regulation. The exemption approval comes with various terms and conditions related to installation, inspection, and use of the Intellistop system as well as for reporting on any incidents where its use might have been relevant to a crash. For the Federal Register notice, visit https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2024-10270.

 

Legislation

House passes bill to facilitate use of G.I. Bill benefits for CDL training

The U.S. House of Representatives on April 29 passed a bill (H.R. 5914) to increase access to educational and training opportunities for veterans, including a measure to loosen requirements on use of G.I. Bill benefits for training to obtain a commercial driver's license. The bill would eliminate a two-year waiting period for such use of benefits provided that the training program meets certain conditions. For more information on H.R. 5914, visit https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/5914.

House passes bill to increase safety scrutiny of motor carriers transporting mail

The U.S. House of Representatives on May 6 passed legislation (H.R. 7527) that would require the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to issue regulations to mandate collecting, tracking, and publicly reporting information related to deaths and injuries resulting from traffic crashes involving vehicles transporting mail.

The bill requires Postal Service employees and contractors to report within three days any traffic crash involving a vehicle used in the transportation of mail and resulting in injury or death. It also orders USPS to maintain an internal database that includes comprehensive information related to such injuries and deals and to provide an annual report to the public summarizing injuries and deaths. For more information on H.R. 7527, visit https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/7527.

House, Senate bills would establish a crash victim advocate within DOT

Identical bills (H.R. 8349 and S. 4314) have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to create a National Roadway Safety Advocate position within the Department of Transportation's policy office. The advocate, who would be a career official as opposed to a political appointee, would document and communicate recommendations from victims/survivors of highway crashes and family members of victims and survivors concerning programs and activities related to highway safety. The advocate also would serve as a resource and point of contact for those stakeholders relevant to roadway safety issues.

For information on and status of the bills, visit https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/8349 and https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/senate-bill/4314.

 

Advocacy and Comment

As noted above and in articles included in several recent Regulatory Updates, FMCSA currently is focused on adopting a new online registration system. The agency launched the effort in January with an in-person meeting of stakeholders, and further outlined its intentions in a presentation at the Mid-America Trucking Show (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV1dBuaCT4U). In April, FMCSA discussed its plans more formally in the guise of a Paperwork Reduction Act filing in the Federal Register (see https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2024-08439). That document is not a formal rulemaking document, but the agency is seeking comments by June 18.

The latest development is a virtual public meeting scheduled for May 29 – a session that FMCSA is billing as its second “FMCSA Registration System Modernization Stakeholder Day.” Registration for that session is available at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/fmcsa-registration-modernization-stakeholder-day-ii.

From an advocacy point of view, rushing to adopt a new application process that does not address either safety or fraud seems premature. The new online process apparently does not address the need for vetting carriers and brokers for compliance and safety prior to the issuance of authority.

Following FMCSA’s MATS presentation and last month’s Paperwork Reduction Act notice in the Federal Register, we filed comments with the agency stating that its plan “makes no reference to urgent and pending proposals for substantive reforms in the registration process related to vetting of registrants for safety fitness and for fraud prevention.” Among other things, we noted that FMCSA already plans two regulatory proceedings that involve the vetting of motor carriers and brokers – steps toward safety assurance and fraud prevention that should be part of any new application process.

Our comments are available at https://www.regulations.gov/document/FMCSA-2024-0109-0003.

Stakeholders in the trucking industry should consider signing up for the virtual public meeting on May 29 and weighing in on the formal comments due June 18, at least as part of our consolidated response. Those interested in participating in advocacy for addressing both fraud and safety fitness in conjunction with new application vetting and auditing procedures should contact us at asectt@gmail.com.

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