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Transportation Regulatory Update

Capitol Building

Congress leaves Washington during the month of August and this provides a great opportunity to review the transportation regulatory agenda. Here is a brief update on a few hot topics:

Hours of Service

The new Hours of Service (HOS) rules are finally settled! The changes to the 34 hour restart went into effect July 1 and a subsequent court ruling largely upheld these changes. It appears that we have as much stability and certainty on this issue as we have had for the last 10 years. It has been very hard to determine if any changes in the marketplace have been the direct result of changes in HOS rules or other market influences. For a summary of the rule changes please click here.

Electronic Logging Devices (Formerly known as Electronic On Board Recorders, EOBRs)

A rule mandating the use of ELDs for all carriers was sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in early August. This is the last step before the proposed rule can be published in the Federal Register. This rule was a part of the MAP-21 highway bill signed into law last year. If you remember, FMCSA was close to issuing a final rule on this last year, then was sent back to the drawing board because they failed to consider the impact of ELDs on potential driver harassment. Every previous proposal on ELDs has included a three year implementation so small carriers can save for the cost of the technology. If this pattern follows, it does not appear that this will create any sudden new requirement in the mid-term. The reality is that as this rule continues to be delayed, new equipment and more carriers continue to adopt ELDs for a variety of reasons.

CSA Safety Fitness Determination

Many people are unaware that the roadside data collected regarding motor carrier safety rules violations (called the BASIC data) is not directly linked to a carrier’s safety rating. FMCSA needs to conduct a rulemaking to link the two directly and make the safety rating data-based instead of audit- based. The latest update on that rulemaking is that the draft rule will not be issued until spring of 2014. In the interim, FMCSA indicated they will make changes this fall to the presentation of the BASIC data to further clarify that it is not linked directly to the safety rating. As truck accident lawsuits continue to cast wide nets, those who hire trucking companies want certainty that if the truck they hire is authorized to operate by FMCSA, then they should not have to second guess the agency’s decision that a carrier is safe to operate.

Increase in Broker Bond

On Oct 1, 2013 the broker bond will increase to $75,000 from $10,000. In addition, motor carriers will also be required to have a broker’s license and broker’s bond in order to arrange freight on other motor carriers (there are a handful of exceptions). Eventually, transportation providers will need to declare in some written form (not necessarily the BOL) to their customer which authority the load is moving under. But FMCSA must complete a rulemaking to revise the Uniform Registration System for motor carriers, brokers, and freight forwarders. That rulemaking will not be completed until sometime in 2014.

Heavy Truck Speed Limiters

There is a rule working through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that would limit the maximum speed for heavy trucks. While no speed has been published, it is probably safe to assume it is somewhere between 65-70 MPH. This has gotten very little attention since it is moving through NHTSA and not FMCSA. The details of the proposed rule are scheduled to be released in the second half of 2013.

Federal Funding for Infrastructure

The MAP-21 highway bill signed into law last year was only a two-year bill. Its funding levels and authority will run out in September 2014. The next transportation bill is already being discussed. The big question that seems to have no answer is: how does Congress pay for more roads, bridges, and other vital infrastructure? Most industry groups related to the commercial transportation of freight favor an appropriate increase in the diesel tax, but those tied to passenger cars are reluctant to increase the price of gas for the average consumer. Other ideas that have been kicked around are tolls, vehicle miles traveled taxes, and an infrastructure bank. Each of those are more challenging to account for in current commercial freight pricing practices and structures than an increase in the diesel tax.

Staffing at Southern Border Crossings

Customs and Border Patrol announced partner cities for their reimbursable services program. Each city will be able to work with CBP to essentially create unique clearance processes and fees that vary by entry point. For those who import product through the Southern border, this will be worth monitoring as each city tries to create the best combination of wait times, fees, and flexibility for importers in order to be the import port of choice for different industries.

What’s next?

Comment below with any questions and stay tuned for when Congress resumes in September.