Over the past few years, truck drivers and fleet managers have encountered several regulatory changes in the industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) of the Department of Transportation (DOT) does its best to ensure maximum road safety and smooth operations for all stakeholders. Still, keeping up with the laws and policies can be challenging.
Most of the FMCSA regulations that were meant to ease up COVID-related hurdles are under review. Meanwhile, new regulations are emerging, some of which have been in the pipeline for years. Today, we’ll provide you with an update about the DOT rules for truck drivers to help you and your team stay compliant.
What Are the New Truck Laws for 2023?
The latest FMCSA rules and DOT regulations for truck drivers include the following:
1. COVID Hours-of-Service Waiver
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FMCSA temporarily suspended some hours-of-service regulations for truckers transporting emergency supplies. The FMCSA ended the exemption on October 15, 2022, but issued a three-month waiver extension until the end of February 2023. Holders of a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) could use that time to take a skills test for a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
2. Virtual SAP
On April 4, 2020, the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance (ODAPC) authorized Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP) to conduct remote evaluations and assessments for employees who violate the DOT drug and alcohol regulations. The policy was meant to last until December 31, 2022. On December 20, 2022, the FMCSA extended the policy’s life span to January 1, 2023.
3. Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouses
On January 6, 2020, the FMCSA launched the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. This online database stores information about CDL driver drug and alcohol testing violations. Keeping the information centralized lets the FMCSA and employers identify drivers with DOT drug and alcohol violations. They can then ensure these drivers receive the necessary evaluation and treatment before operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) on public roads.
Previously, employers conducted electronic queries and contacted drivers’ previous employers to find violations and resolutions. As of January 6, 2023, prospective employers must use the Clearinghouse for pre-employment queries.
What Regulations Are Under Consideration in 2023?
1. Automated Driving Systems
The Department of Transportation has registered a significant plan for safely integrating automated driving systems (ADS) in CMVs. The plan covers inspection, operation, repair and maintenance regulations. It prioritizes safety and security, innovation, regulatory consistency and recognizing the differences between ADS and human operators.
2. Speed Limiters
The FMCSA filed an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) in 2022, proposing to equip CMVs with a gross weight of over 26,000 pounds with electronic engine control units to manage speed limits. The proposed rulemaking publication date is June 30, 2023.
Independent drivers have opposed the proposal, indicating that slower trucks may result in road rage from other road users, particularly passenger vehicles. They also highlighted that slow-moving traffic could be unsafe for highways. On the other hand, the FMCSA suggests that the move is necessary to reduce accidents and accident-related fatalities on roads. In the meantime, some fleet managers have already imposed speed limits for their trucks.
3. Electronic Identification
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has proposed that all interstate CMVs, buses and trucks should have devices to transmit their identity electronically. This transmission would allow commercial vehicle inspectors to know the identity of all trucks within their vicinity through one-way wireless communication. The FMCSA has issued an ANPRM on unique identification devices (UIDs) to seek public comments and test proposals.
FMCSA is undertaking an operational test of Level VIII Electronic Inspections to enhance current monitoring and enforcement for motor carrier and driver safety compliance. This procedure will help the agency gather the relevant information for drafting the actual rulemaking proposal.
Electronic screening programs would enable roadside enforcement agencies to target high-risk operators by providing them with the vehicle’s safety records. Proponents say these programs would save fuel consumption and time. However, critics have cited cost, cybersecurity and privacy as major concerns for implementing the regulation.
4. Entry-Level Driver Training Program Review
Entry-level driver training (ELDT) standardizes and enhances activity for new truck drivers. However, state offices and personnel face challenges dealing with the increased demand for commercial driver’s licensing.
The FSCMA’s Training Provider Registry incorporates self-certifications by third-party providers. The FMCSA plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the ELDT and third-party examiner rules.
5. Rear Underride Guards
Trucks have had rear underride guards for a long time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) aims to strengthen the existing standards and research side underride guards for single-unit trucks. The agency has also published an ANPRM to gather public comments.
6. Hair and Oral Fluids Testing
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has adopted standards for oral fluids testing, but DOT has yet to finalize them. According to DOT’s notice of proposed rulemaking, oral fluid specimen testing will provide a more reliable, less intrusive and more economical alternative to urine drug tests. SAMHSA has also proposed adding hair testing, which many trucking companies already use.
7. Automatic Emergency Braking
The NHTSA, jointly with FMCSA, has proposed requirements and standards for heavy-duty trucks’ automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems. Some truck models already use AEB systems, and the NHTSA believes they represent the next big thing in vehicle safety technology. They believe these systems could save lives and reduce the common occurrence of minor and moderate rear-end collisions.
8. Emergency Relief Limitation
The FMCSA plans to limit the amount and scope of the regulatory relief granted through emergency declarations. Although beneficial, the agency seeks to tailor the law to fit specific circumstances more appropriately. For example, while presidential emergency declarations will trigger a 30-day exemption, regional emergency declarations would apply for only five days. These changes would limit the scope and duration of existing automatic relief and mitigate any safety impact.
The FMCSA and DOT rules are constantly evolving, and for good reasons. Besides promoting road safety, the regulatory changes seek to streamline operations for all stakeholders. However, keeping up with these laws and policies can be as challenging as running a marathon. That’s why major corporations leverage training programs to help meet their compliance goals.
Hazmat School offers the best digital solutions for your ongoing learning and certification. Our focus is to help companies and employees stay compliant in the most convenient and efficient way. Check out our courses now, or contact us with all your questions!