Truck drivers in the United States face some of the most precarious safety concerns of any profession. Like most drivers, they are constantly on the lookout for evolving rules and regulations they must comply with on the road. One of the main differences between daily commuters and long-haul truck drivers, however, is that trucks must know and obey these laws as part of their means of earning a living.
Another difference is that in addition to the standard “rules of the road” most drivers face, the truck driving industry must also comply with rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency under the purview of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
This article summarizes some of the most important changes to trucking regulations passed by FMCSA in 2019.
Electronic Logging Devices Required by Year-End
In late 2017 the FMCSA began requiring most commercial vehicles to install electronic logging devices (ELDs) on their vehicles. While most rigs were equipped with the older Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs), FMCSA excluded AOBRDs from that requirement at the time. However, FMCSA has finally provided a date by which all “grandfathered” AOBRDs must transitioned to a mandate-required ELD: December 16, 2019.
Hours of Service Reform
Related to logging devices, truckers have stated their issues with Hours of Service (HOS) requirements. In August 2018 the FMCSA requested opinions from truck drivers specifically regarding these requirements in relation to split sleeper berths and rest breaks. In response to driver opinions, there are two rules being presented to the U.S. House of Representatives: HR 5417 (REST Act) and HR 6178 (HOURS Act).
The REST Act proposes that truck drivers would be allowed a rest break up to three hours, a 14-hour clock pause, and would eliminate the 30-minute break requirement. The HOURS Act proposes four different requirements: ag exemption, short-haul alignment, a decrease in supporting documents, and omitting the advanced noticed for the split sleeper berth.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
The FMCSA Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse will go into effect on January 6, 2020, and within 60 days the FMCSA administrator must submit a status report to Congress on the Clearinghouse status. Under the new rule, employers will be required to examine the clearinghouse for any drug or alcohol violations before proceeding with a pre-employment screening and annual confirmation.
However, before DOT can change the rule, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must develop guidelines regarding hair follicle testing. Currently, only urine testing is approved which can identify drug use within the past days or weeks. Conversely, hair testing can identify drug use within the past 2-3 months.
Sleep Apnea and Speed Limiter Updates
Sleep apnea is one of the largest safety concerns for truck drivers across the country. In March 2016 the FMCSA and Federal Railroad Administration proposed a rule that would include a higher degree of sleep apnea testing.
In August 2017, FMCSA and FRA decided against moving forward with this proposed regulation after significant industry push-back. As of April 2019, the regulation has been put on hold, but according to federal regulators, it is not completely dead.
Similarly, proposed rules regarding speed limiters for commercial trucks faced industry pushback in August 2016. The rule required that all commercial trucks have speed limiter devices installed. Discussed speeds ranged from 60 to 68 mph. This rule, although not dead, has also been placed on hold as of April 2019.