Regulatory rulemaking revs up

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been in high gear in recent weeks. The Agency has several pending regulations which are currently open for public comment and which could dramatically impact the truckload segment of the trucking industry.

One of these proposals is a pilot program to allow drivers under 21 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce, building upon FMCSA’s current Under 21 Military Pilot Program to extend participation to all drivers with a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) aged 18-20. The Agency is asking for input regarding the training and experience components, requirements for participation, technology requirements, insurance, and research and data factors that should be considered when creating this expanded pilot. The comment period for this proposal was recently extended to August 14.

FMCSA has also issued two notices regarding CDL testing. First, FMCSA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on “Third Party Commercial Driver's License Testers” would allow states to permit a third party skills test examiner to administer the CDL skills test to applicants to whom the examiner has also provided skills training. States would have the option to allow this practice, but it would not be required. CDL sills testing delays have presented an ongoing obstacle for our industry and result in $1.5 billion in annual economic losses for the U.S. economy. FMCSA believes this regulation could help alleviate some of those delays. Commenters must submit their responses by September 9.

Second, FMCSA is proposing to allow driver applicants to take the CDL general and specialized knowledge tests in a state other than their home state. States could choose whether to offer these tests to out-of-state applicants, but they would be required to accept the test results from a resident who took the tests in a different state. Again, because of the drag on the U.S. economy posed by the lack of qualified truck drivers, this NPRM seeks to streamline the CDL testing process. Comments are due on this NPRM by September 27.

Switching gears, the Agency is considering how it should update regulations to reflect the rapidly changing world of autonomous vehicles and advanced driving systems (ADS) equipped CMVs. In its public notice, FMCSA asked for input on topics including the definition of “driver,” CDL endorsements, whether human operators’ hours of service and medical qualifications should be altered, safe driving, inspections and maintenance, data privacy, and cybersecurity. The comment period for this proposal has been extended to August 28.

Finally, we are excited to see that FMCSA is requesting comments from the public regarding detention time. In its notice, titled “Request for Information Concerning Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Detention Times During Loading and Unloading,” FMCSA asks for data regarding delay times and the technology available today to record loading, unloading, and detention. The Agency also asks what actions by FMCSA, within its statutory authority, would help reduce these wait times. TCA believes that carriers currently utilizing the data generated through electronic logging devices and telematics services would be able to provide substantive comments to FMCSA. These comments are due on September 9.

TCA will be filing comments in response to all of these notices from FMCSA, and we strongly encourage our members and all truckload carriers to submit comments and make your voice heard on these important regulations for our industry. We must take advantage of opportunities like these to shape the direction FMCSA decides to take moving forward.