By Mark Montague, DAT Solutions
A slew of regulatory issues that will affect freight transportation is currently working its way through the system in Washington. Here are five proposed rules you should know about — and why you should care.
1. URS and MC Numbers
As part of the new Unified Registration System (URS), the Federal Motor Carrier Administration plans to no longer use MC, FF, or MX numbers and will instead identify carriers, brokers, and freight forwarders solely by their USDOT number.
Implementation of the URS was scheduled for October 23 but FMCSA delayed it, promising to announce a new deadline soon.
2. Driver Coercion
A new rule would prohibit brokers, shippers, receivers, or carriers from coercing truck drivers into violating hours-of-service rules or other regulations. Drivers would report coercion to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or FMCSA. Violations would be punishable by fines of up to $11,000 per offense.
FMCSA expects to publish the final rule on October 29.
The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), which represents load brokers, opposes this rule because it assumes an employer-employee relationship between the broker and driver, under certain conditions. The inclusion of OSHA as an enforcement agency implies that drivers who complain of coercion may be treated as whistleblowers.
3. Carrier Safety Fitness Determination
FMCSA plans to implement a new methodology to determine when a motor carrier is fit or unfit to operate. The safety fitness determination (SFD) would rely on CSA BASIC scores, investigations, inspections, or a combination of those elements.
Currently, FMCSA inspects around 12,000 of the more than 500,000 active carriers per year. This new system has the potential to cover more carriers, and to provide a single score that indicates whether FMCSA considers the carrier’s operation to be safe and legal.
A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was scheduled for
release on September 30, but that has not yet occurred.
4. National Carrier Hiring Standard
This would require all freight brokers or shippers to ensure that each carrier they hire is properly registered with FMCSA, holds minimum insurance coverage, and does not have an "unsatisfactory" safety rating.
TIA has been working to get this standard inserted into the next long-term highway funding bill. The extension of the current highway bill will expire on October 29, but Congress may pass another short-term extension without including any new measures before December.
Brokers would benefit from a national standard because it would help to eliminate guesswork on carrier selection. For example, if a carrier is deemed safe by FMCSA, the broker may be relieved of legal liability if that carrier is involved in a serious accident.
5. Electronic Logging Devices
All carriers will be required to deploy electronic logging devices (ELDs) in their trucks, in place of paper logs, to track drivers’ hours of service. Although many large carriers have already implemented ELDs successfully, some pundits estimate that the devices could reduce carrier productivity — at least initially.
The final rulemaking will be published October 30, and all carriers must comply within two years.
Mark Montague is manager, industry rates, for DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT® network of load boards. As a mathematician and statistician, he has applied his expertise to logistics, rates, and routing for more than 30 years, and was instrumental in developing DAT’s RateView truckload rates and analysis product. Mark is based in Portland, Ore. For information visit www.dat.com.