On March 13, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an emergency declaration that provides some commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers an immediate waiver from the agency’s hours-ofservice (HOS) regulations.
The waiver applies to CMV drivers who are providing “direct assistance” in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes efforts to meet immediate needs for:
- Medical supplies and equipment, personnel and patients;
- Supplies and equipment needed for community safety (includes masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants);
- Equipment and supplies to set up and manage temporary housing, quarantine and isolation facilities; and
- Food for emergency restocking of stores.
The FMCSA’s emergency declaration will remain in effect until April 12, 2020, or until the national state of emergency ends, whichever comes sooner.
Still in Force
The FMCSA has also clarified that this temporary waiver does not apply to the controlled substances and alcohol use and testing requirements (49 CFR Part 382), the commercial driver's license requirements (49 CFR Part 383), the financial responsibility (insurance) requirements (49 CFR Part 387), the hazardous material regulations (49 CFR Parts 100-180), applicable size and weight requirements, or any other portion of the regulations not specifically exempted under 49 CFR § 390.23.
On Dec. 27, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that the minimum annual percentage rate for random drug testing for commercial motor vehicle drivers will be doubled this year. The current testing rate of 25% of the average number of driver positions will therefore be increased to 50%.
This increase comes as a result of data from 2018, in which the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey showed that positive results for controlled substances had increased to 1%. The administration is required to increase testing when data from a calendar year shows a positive test rate of 1% or more.
The 50% rate was previously used by the FMCSA until 2016. At the start of that year, after drivers showed a positive test rate of less than 1% in three consecutive years, that number was reduced to 25%. That trend continued in the years that followed, with the 2016 positive test rate estimated at approximately 0.7% while 2017 results showed only a slight increase to 0.8%. However, with the rise in positive results shown in the 2018 data, the administration is returning to the previous rate.
It is estimated that there are approximately 3.2 million commercial driver’s license holders currently operating within interstate commerce and another 1 million who work in intrastate commerce. With the new testing rate of 50%, that means that approximately 2.1 million random tests for controlled substances will be administered in 2020 as opposed to approximately 1.05 million last year.
What Carriers Should Plan For
Each year, the FMCSA randomly selects motor carriers to submit their test results. It is the responsibility of selected carriers to ensure the completeness, accuracy and timeliness of the data.
With over 1 million additional tests for controlled substances needing to be conducted, the FMCSA has advised carriers that they should be prepared to budget both expenses and time related to the increase. It is estimated that the higher test rate will result in increased costs totaling between $50 million and $70 million for the trucking industry. Carriers should not only be prepared for the increased administrative costs, but also to take twice as much time to notify drivers and conduct testing-related labor.
The new testing rate officially went into effect Jan. 1. Meanwhile, the minimum annual percentage rate for random alcohol testing for 2020 will remain unchanged at 10%.
For more information and to see the administration’s Federal Register notice, click here.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) will conduct its International Roadcheck from May 5-7, 2020. The International Roadcheck is an annual, three-day enforcement initiative that emphasizes the importance of commercial motor vehicle and driver safety through the use of a blitz of high-visibility roadside inspections throughout North America.
This year’s International Roadcheck is being conducted earlier in the year than in the past with the hope that weather conditions will be more favorable for inspections in many jurisdictions.
During the three days, CVSA-certified inspectors will conduct the North American Standard Level I Inspection, which includes 37 steps in two primary categories: driver operating requirements and vehicle mechanical fitness. Commercial drivers and vehicles transporting hazardous materials or dangerous goods may be subject to additional steps.
Each year, the CVSA places particular emphasis on a specific category of inspections, such as last year’s focus on steering and suspension systems. This year’s focus is on driver requirements.
As part of each inspection, inspectors will check and verify drivers’ documentation, identify the motor carrier, examine the driver’s license or commercial driver’s license, check records of duty status and review periodic inspection reports. Inspectors may also check drivers’ medical examiner certificates, medical variance documents, skill performance evaluation certificates and daily vehicle inspection reports. Other driver-related steps of inspections include seat belt usage, illness, fatigue, and drug or alcohol possession or impairment.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, over 3.35 million inspections were conducted in 2019, resulting in 944,794 driver violations and 195,545 out-of-service violations.
The vehicle portion of inspections includes checks on critical vehicle components, including:
- Brake systems
- Cargo securement Coupling devices Fuel systems
- Lighting devices
- Steering mechanisms Tires
- Driver’s seats
- Driveline/driveshaft components Exhaust systems
- Van and open-top trailer bodies Rims and hubs
- Windshield wipers
The International Roadcheck is the largest enforcement initiative on commercial motor vehicles and drivers in the world. During the 72-hour time period, approximately 17 trucks and buses are inspected every minute. You can read the CVSA’s official press release about this year’s International Roadcheck by navigating to their website.
The mandate for installing and using electronic logging devices (ELDs) in commercial vehicles became a reality on December 16, 2015. Unless your company is currently using automated on-board recording devices (AOBRD), it is important to begin or finalize the process soon. This is meant to be a summary of information contained in the rule. Be sure to review the rule and seek any legal advice from counsel. This material contains suggestions, and companies should find an approach that fits their unique operations best. Read below to learn more about the Final Rule.
The Final Rule requires that most drivers required to complete paper logs must begin to use an ELD by December 18, 2017. There are a few exceptions, and we address those below.
- Drivers who are exempt from the hours-of-service (HOS) rules, such as government drivers and drivers of utility service vehicles
- Short haul drivers (100 and 150 air-mile radius drivers) using the timecard exception and not required to complete a log for more than 8 days during any 30-day period
- In-state-only (intrastate) drivers who are exempted by their state
- Drivers operating in a “driveaway-towaway” operation in which the vehicle being driven is part of the shipment being delivered
- Drivers of vehicles that were manufactured before model year 2000 since these vehicles were not required to have electronic control modules (ECMs) to which an ELD can connect
- Drivers who are using a compliant AOBRD by December 18, 2017, will not be required to use an ELD until December 16, 2019
Exceptions apply to very few operations, and it is best to be sure before claiming an exception.
While the requirement for electronic logging seems to be a long way away, it is not. The requirement will not impact the hours-of-service limits and therefore the hours a driver has available to drive, but it will make a huge difference for many carriers. Having drivers use an accurate technology-based time recording device, rather than pencil and paper, will lead to many carriers needing to make adjustments or outright changes to how they operate. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: change takes time. The more planning and time you put into a change, the less stressful the change will be. On the other hand, the longer you delay the change, the more stressful the change will be. Since most drivers will have to use ELDs, providing a less stressful learning environment will greatly improve their learning curve and acceptance. Leading with training of operations personnel is the key to a successful transition.
Some carriers may try to implement quickly, skipping steps such as developing the “wants and needs” list, approaching several providers, checking out the different devices and systems available, vetting potential vendors, and making a final selection based on a competitive process. If there is not enough time to make the selection correctly, there is a chance that the company may end up with a system that does not match the company’s needs.
As the deadline approaches, vendors will be pressured to deliver devices. The problem is that due to the pressure, some vendors may not have the hours available to provide sufficient guidance while the customer is going through the transition. Currently, part of the training process involves having carrier personnel receive additional training to serve as super-users, mentors, and/or in-house trainers. These individuals develop a working relationship with the vendor; the relationship allows for the quick and free flow of questions and information. Unfortunately, it takes time to develop a super-user and for the super-user to develop a relationship with the vendor. There is also a risk that as customers wait, the vendors will not be able to service the flood of requests coming in due to supply and physical staffing constraints.
Another risk of delaying the transition is that the transition cannot be done smoothly. This could be due to speeding through some of the steps, skipping steps, or not having enough time to complete a step. Speeding through the transition may give the idea that you are not serious about it. If your drivers don’t see this as a serious change, what will they think? Could some come away with the opinion that this is “just a passing phase”?
To avoid poor communication and all of the other risks and problems discussed, it is important that carriers who have not begun the process of transitioning get started soon. Even small carriers, who can get through some of the steps more quickly, will require time to make the transition successful. Due to the risks and consequences involved, the last thing any carrier needs is to be hurried through the process.
When it comes to losses, a motor carrier that operates in a reactive mode is putting itself in a bad position. It is like closing the barn door after the horses get out. The damage is done, and the only hope is to minimize the loss. A better approach is to get ahead of a loss by taking steps to prevent it from happening in the first place. For this reason, successful motor carriers invest the time to evaluate their operations and identify the risks that could potentially force them to close their doors.
One high-risk exposure that all motor carriers face is “critical crashes.” These are rear-end, run under, loss of control, and lane change crashes. When a driver is involved in one of these types of crashes, the results can be catastrophic. To minimize risk, motor carriers can be proactive by targeting the hazards that increase the likelihood of a critical crash. Hazards can include identifying drivers with violations for excessive speeding, distracted driving, following too closely, and so on.
By acting proactively, senior management can spearhead efforts to prevent the losses associated with risky behaviors. Proactive steps include:
Planning - Gather the management team and discuss how a critical crash could negatively impact the department. With their buy-in, set goals and begin preparations to get the entire company involved in a targeted campaign.
Communication - Everyone plays a role in preventing losses, not only drivers. Communicate the urgency and necessity for a critical crash campaign throughout the company and share how performance will be measured and goals achieved. Use ELDs, email, and the free printed materials provided by Great West to get the word out on a regular basis and report the company’s progress.
Training - A valuable resource to aid your training efforts is the Learning Library. The library is free to all Great West insureds and contains over 150 online safety videos. Our most popular product is Value-Driven™ Driving, which specifically targets the four critical crashes. Incorporating this training into new employee orientation, safety meetings, and ongoing awareness efforts is ideal.
This list is not all-inclusive but is a good starting point. Get creative and tackle the problem from every angle, not only the driver’s. The risk of a catastrophic loss due to a critical crash is one that will never go away, but a motor carrier can reduce the likelihood of an occurrence if it is proactively trying to prevent such losses.
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The deadline to equip trucks with electronic logging devices (ELDs) is December 18, 2017. With this date looming, motor carriers should be well into the implementation process. If not, it is highly recommended to begin this process immediately. ELD vendors are warning procrastinating motor carriers that supplies could be slim as the deadline nears and motor carriers should allow at least six months for purchasing the equipment, installation, training, and post-production support.
The first consideration is what type of device fits the motor carrier’s operations. For some, a straight and simple logging-only piece of technology to replace hand-written paper logs might be the solution. For others, there might be other bells and whistles that can enhance its operations, such as GPS tracking and engine monitoring. Tracking a truck’s location and its cargo is a significant value-added service motor carriers can provide its customers and can improve dispatching efficiency. Likewise, capturing data on driver shifting, speed, hard brakes, etc. is a great tool for driver coaching.
Next, consider the type of device, such as a cell phone, tablet, or laptop that best suits the fleet’s needs. This is where training factors into the decision. Consider how tech-savvy the drivers and mechanics are and how much training will be needed to get them up to speed on the equipment. Choosing a vendor that offers training as part of the purchase price is something to investigate. Another equipment issue to consider is deciding on a cell phone or satellite-based system. Keep in mind that cell phone coverage could be lost in certain areas of the country, so research how this is best managed.
And lastly, understand the various costs per unit associated with these devices. There will be expenses for purchasing or leasing, installation, access fees, system time charges, and ongoing support to name a few. When comparing products, be cautious about making a selection based on what is least expensive but rather which offers the greatest value.
Please keep in mind this is not an all-inclusive list of things to consider when purchasing ELDs. For additional questions, the FMCSA has a “Frequently Asked Questions” webpage set up to help in this area. Likewise, try asking each vendor for references who would be willing to discuss their experience with the product and vendor. You can also try contacting nearby motor carriers who have implemented ELDs and pick their brain for answers. Your Great West Safety Representative and agent are also available to answer your questions.
© Copyright Great West Casualty Company 2017. The material in this publication is the property of Great West Casualty Company unless otherwise noted and may not be reproduced without its written consent by any person other than a current insured of Great West Casualty Company for business purposes. Insured should attribute use as follows: “Used with permission by Great West Casualty Company.”
This material is intended to be a broad overview of the subject matter and is provided for informational purposes only. Great West Casualty Company does not provide legal advice to its insureds, nor does it advise insureds on employment-related issues. Therefore, the subject matter is not intended to serve as legal or employment advice for any issue(s) that may arise in the operations of its insureds. Legal advice should always be sought from the insured’s legal counsel. Great West Casualty Company shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, action, or inaction alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the information contained herein.