The trucking industry is constantly changing with the growing needs of the economy and marketplace. Safety is another factor playing a role in regulating drivers, as the goal is to minimize trucker accidents while increasing load capacity. In order to ensure drivers can arrive safely and on time every time with freight loads, state and federal agencies are looking to make changes to regulations this 2018. Find out which regulations will be running in full steam this year, and which ones have been tabled until a later date. Use this information to maintain proper compliance for your carrier operations and fleets of drivers.
This year is the first year that the electronic logging requirement has been in effect. The official compliance date was December 18, 2017, but some truck drivers were given a bit of leniency regarding compliance. Companies involved in agriculture, such as cattle haulers and truckers hauling commodities, received a 90-day extension, according to Hoosier Ag Today, in order to comply with the ELD requirement.
In addition, according to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, April 1, 2018 was the last day the Department of Transportation inspectors will not determine that vehicles are out-of-service due to noncompliance. The agency stated that this was to minimize the disruption of freight hauling due to out-of-service criteria involving the use of ELDs.
Otherwise, all other truck drivers including owner-operators and company drivers are required to use electronic logging devices that meet Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration standards from the start of the new year. By having an ELD that meets FMCSA standards in place, truckers can rest assured they will be in compliance during roadside and weigh station inspections.
Hair Sampling for Drug Tests
Along with the ELD mandate, the FAST Act, passed in 2015, has stipulated that DOT drug and alcohol testing will use hair sampling. This would require all truck drivers to receive DOT testing for commercial driver’s license applications and renewals to use hair testing. It would also include any random DOT drug tests, as well as annual physical exam drug testing. This type of drug testing is far more accurate as it provides a history of the drug and alcohol use of the individual dating back for months. As it stands now, urine testing offers an extremely short life for testing, often at days or months for some substances like cocaine and alcohol.
Hair sampling would ensure that drivers are sober during certain periods of time. This would help DOT inspectors, insurance companies, and law enforcement officers determine if a driver was under the influence during times when they were operating a truck. It would greatly minimize the risk of truck driver accidents and fatalities due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving.
This mandate was expected to start in 2017, but the FMCSA has delayed enforcement. Part of the issue is the limited capability of the Department of Health and Human Services to provide hair sampling on site. The DHHS was given one year to establish guidelines, but that deadline has came and went. At the end of 2016, prior to compliance in 2017, several trucking companies pushed for the regulation to be in compliance through a petition to the FMCSA. In April of 2017 Congress went to bat for trucking companies to request that FMCSA require hair sampling as soon as the DHHS meets the necessary testing guidelines.
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Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse
Will this year finally be the year that these guidelines are established? If so, the FCMSA is setting up a CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, which is a database where all drug and alcohol testing records will be maintaining. Along with the use of hair sampling, the Clearinghouse will ensure drivers who fail drug and alcohol testing will not be allowed to slip through the cracks. The FMCSA reported the establishment of the Clearinghouse in February 2017. While the database has not went into effect, it could possibly be that in 2018 this will be provided along with hair sampling for more accurate testing.
Carrier Safety Fitness Determination
If you were a truck driver prior to 2017, then you have experience with the CSA scorecard for drivers and carriers. The Compliance, Safety, Accountability system is a program by the FMCSA that provides a letter grade for trucking companies and truck drivers. This grade is based on several safety indicators including hours of service compliance, crash involvement, dangerous driving violations, and vehicle maintenance. It also includes drug and alcohol testing violations, as well as driver fitness that covers medical qualifications and having proper driver documentation.
The CSA scorecard is used by shippers and insurance agencies to determine rates and whether or not to work with a company. There has been issues with the system, mainly due to the systematic way the scorecard works. Carriers and drivers are given a single letter grade without any ability of explaining any outlying circumstances resulting in the grade. For companies that have a few dings on their scorecard this leads to loss of profit and productivity. In some instances carriers have even been denied trucking insurance coverage because of their CSA score.
As a result of such issues, the FMCSA was working toward creating a Carrier Safety Fitness Determination that would classify a carrier as fit or unfit. The National Academy of Sciences even did a study supporting the CSFD changes. Yet while the data is available to show that changes need to be made, overhauling this massive database and system will take time and money. Will this happen in 2018? The FMCSA released the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that involves updating the system in January 2016. It has been two years as of 2018 and it is about time that the FMCSA take the proper action.
Wrapping It Up
As 2018 continues, one thing is for certain. Changes are coming to the trucking industry via the compliance of regulations. Keep your eyes and ears open to see if these noted changes will be part of that process.
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