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Truck regulations hot topic at industry gathering

MINNEAPOLIS. “This is my last MAP-21 slide, I promise,” Annette Sandberg, CEO of TransSafe Consulting and former administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said during her presentation at the XRS Corporation annual user conference (XUE) being held here this week. The quip about the Federal Highway Administration’s Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21stCentury Act or MAP-21, which contains 30 some separate programs, drew a laugh from the packed meeting room where conference attendees were taking fast notes as Sandberg clicked through the long list of new and pending regulatory activity, from sleep apnea guidance to electronic driver logs.

Some of the most important items on Sandberg’s list:

Sleep apnea: There may be “guidance” issued on dealing with sleep apnea, according to Sandberg, but guidance is not the same as a rule, she cautioned. “They expect you to follow guidance, [and if you don’t, you may be issued a citation,] she said, “but saying that you were following guidelines won’t necessarily protect you in court.”

Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs): Recent changes to DVIR requirements exempt drivers from having to retain pre-trip vehicle inspection reports if the driver finds no problems, but beware, said Sandberg. If an inspection uncovers maintenance issues, the driver and fleet can be cited for CSA violations and two DVIR citations and you’re out.

Electronic Driver Logs (ELDs): Perhaps the longest running rulemaking process in industry history, the ELD mandate continues to stagger along, according to Sandberg, who noted that she expects to see “additional delays” that may push publication of a final rule out to late 2014 or even 2015. The current delay is still due to the challenge over harassment brought by OOIDA (the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association) she said, and the organization is expected to challenge the rule again should it move forward.

Sandberg, however, encouraged fleets to join those who have already moved to electronic logs rather than wait for a final rule to be issued. It will be much tougher to make the change if you wait until the last minute, she noted.

There has been a big increase in the number of hours of service (HOS) audits, Sandberg added. FMCSA uses GPS data to audit logs. Logbook violations can mean an instant downgrading of a fleet’s safety rating.  On the cautionary side, she advised carriers to be sure that the devices they deploy will truly be compliant with the regulation. “I have seen devices offered as compliant, but they are not in anyway,” she noted. The agency has requested information to help identify vendors “capable of certification, as a supplier of compliant systems,” which should be a help to fleets.

Roll Stability: A final rule requiring roll stability systems is expected in March 2014.

Size and Weight: Another truck size and weight study is expected to be presented to Congress by November 2014, but don’t expect any action, Sandberg said.

Higher bonds: A measure requiring brokers and freight forwarders to post higher bonds is expected by October 1, 2013.   

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