Rule changes that affect big business can take a long time to become a reality. The trucking industry is no exception. Lawmakers focused on safety have tried for years to enact legislation that makes trucks and truck drivers safer, but the trucking industry is a powerful force and often manages to successfully resist such changes. However, in 2017, there will finally be a few changes that could make the roads safer for the average commuter or road tripper.
Important Changes in 2017
When a truck is determined to be at fault in a crash, there are several possible causes. Sometimes crashes are caused by truck equipment failure or maintenance issues, but more often, they're caused by driver error. In an effort to reduce incidents of driver error, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires certain minimum qualifications to be a commercial truck driver and limits how many hours a trucker may drive in a given period of time.
In 2017, the following specific regulations will have some changes:
Effective on February 6, 2017, the new driver training Final Rule establishes comprehensive national minimum training standards for entry-level commercial truck and bus operators seeking to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This rule applies to first-time CDL applicants as well as current CDL holders seeking an upgrade, and requires them to complete a course of instruction provided by an entity that meets the qualification standards set forth in the Final Rule.
Hours of Service.
One portion of the Hours of Service rules introduced in 2013 was rescinded shortly after by Congress, pending the results of a study of its effectiveness. This section required 34-hour restarts to include two stretches between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., and the restart could be used only once in a seven day period. This study is expected to be finalized this year and, if it demonstrates that the 34-hour restart rule does decrease driver fatigue, the rule will be immediately reenacted.
Electronic Logging Device.
Two years after passage of the mandate, use of electronic logging devices (ELD) will be required of all drivers beginning on December 16, 2017. While drivers are mandated to log their driving and rest hours since the first hours of service laws were passed in 1938, manually logging hours made it easy for drivers to falsify records and drive beyond the legal limit. ELDs are much harder to fake and the hope is they'll force drivers to obey hours of service laws and not drive while fatigued.
Why Change Is So Slow
The passage of FMCSA regulations is a long process. A great deal of research and negotiation goes into the proposal of a new rule, which is then presented and followed by a period of public commentary.
Once approved, a minimum of three years is required for any rule to allow the industry time to make the required changes. The above new rules have all nearly completed this process.
A rule requiring drivers to undergo screening for sleep apnea is also making its way through the process, as is a proposal to require all trucks to install speed limiters. First proposed in 2006, public commentary on the proposal closed in December of 2016. It's unlikely any change would take effect before 2020, but if it does make it through, the rule would require all trucks weighing more than 26,000 pounds to be equipped with a speed limiter that would prevent the truck from traveling faster than 65 miles per hour. This is a controversial proposal and its future is uncertain.
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