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FMCSA Considering Rule Changes to Make Trucking Safer

FMCSA Considering Rule Changes to Make Trucking Safer Next year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) plans to propose new rules that affect automatic electronic braking systems (AEBs), electronic logging devices (ELDs), and roadside inspections. It will seek public comment about amending regulations to require every truck operating in interstate commerce to carry an electronic device that would transmit a unique identification number. These regulations would assist law enforcement in targeting their efforts at high-risk operators. This proposed rule could potentially help improve the effectiveness of roadside inspections.

The FMCSA also plans on seeking public comment about the use of available safety data – including inspection data – to determine carrier fitness to operate. The agency also plans to search for possible changes to the current three-tier safety fitness rating structure. The current rating structure contains ratings of satisfactory, conditional, and unsatisfactory.

Formal notices are scheduled to be issued between March and June of next year. One of the planned proposed rules includes potential changes to the ELD rule that went into effect in stages from 2016 to 2019. A summary of the proposal states, multiple organizations admitted to learning lessons that will be used to streamline and improve the clarity of the regulatory text and ELD specifications.

What is the current ELD rule?

The ELD rule is a regulation that requires commercial drivers to use electronic logging devices to help prepare hours of service (HOS) and records of duty status (RODS). Under the ELD rule, commercial drivers are expected to maintain specific ELD performance and design standards, including carrying specific supporting documents to keep. The ELD rule also requires ELDs to be certified and registered with FMCSA. It is the commercial driver’s responsibility to ensure that their device is registered.

What are the exemptions to the ELD rule?

While the ELD rule covers drivers from various industries, there are some exemptions under the rule for commercial truck drivers transporting agricultural stock. Covered farm vehicles are exempt from the hours of service and CDL regulations if the vehicle is transporting over 26,000 pounds and operating within a 150-mile air radius of a farm. These types of farm vehicles are always exempt, regardless of how far they travel.

During the planting and harvesting stages in each state, exemptions are also applied. Commercial truck drivers who also transport bees or livestock for interstate commerce are also exempt from taking the required 30-minute break where there are animals are being transported.

What was a primary concern about the new rules by small business owners?

The FMCSA is also seeking additional information about what changes are warranted. Organizations such as state enforcement personnel and ELD vendors have raised concerns about the technical modifications that could improve the usability of ELDs. Per Freightwaves, one of the primary concerns raised by small business owners concerning the rule was “whether requiring ELD equipment in trucks, which are meant to improve compliance with hours of service rules, would lead to driver harassment by fleet owners.” A 2019 survey conducted by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association found:

that a common theme among drivers on the effects of ELDs was “feeling rushed to take breaks when they do not need them and forced to drive when they would rather take a break” since the rule went into effect.

“Others felt harassed by the device itself, stating that they are unable to make even the smallest of mistakes,” according to the survey. “Conversely, a few members experienced less harassment, stating that carriers and shippers were no longer pressuring them to make unrealistic delivery schedules and that they were better equipped to document hours sitting in detention.”

What are automatic emergency braking systems (AEBs)?

Automatic emergency braking systems (AEBs) are semiautomatic brake systems that are designed to prevent collisions or reduce their consequences. Under an AEB, a radar signal at the front of the commercial truck constantly measures whether the commercial truck has sufficient space. Once the distance limit is exceeded, the system issues a warning signal. If the driver fails to respond to the signal, the system takes over.

The commercial truck begins to slow down as much as possible to avoid a traffic accident or reduce the impact. While the system is beneficial in maintaining adequate space between the commercial truck and another motorist, it is important for truck drivers not to rely on the system to maintain adequate space for them. Drivers must be able to estimate a safe driving distance at all times on the road.

How does the agency plan on handling the rulemaking process concerning AEBs?

The FMCSA also plans on seeking information and comment on the maintenance and operation of AEBs. The proposed rule will support an affiliated rule that will be proposed next year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require AEB equipment performance on heavy trucks.

According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the agency is planning date of April 2022 for the proposed AEB rule, and the FMCSA would issue the advance notice shortly after. In March, the

Will these proposed changes make roads safer?

We certainly hope so. Devices like ELDs are critical parts of truck accident claims, because they offer us a look into the driver’s behavior – and often provide crucial evidence of negligence and/or poor policy. For example, an ELD can tell us how long a driver was on the road, whether or not he/she tried to hit the brakes before a collision, and even whether a record was altered. What the FMCSA is proposing would allow for better record keeping when it comes to dangerous or negligence drivers. Its new proposed rules for AEBs would also promote safety, because in the event of a true emergency, there would be a secondary tool – the AEB system – there to help avert a crisis.

Truck accidents can be particularly devastating. Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law help injured victims and their families obtain legal justice inside and outside of the courtroom. To learn how our hard-hitting personal injury attorneys can give you high-quality legal representation, contact us today by calling 423-756-7923, or by completing our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We help clients in Cleveland, Chattanooga, and North Georgia.