The trucking industry remains a favorite target for politicians and regulators. Whether the justification is highway safety or environmental issues, state and federal governments continue to develop new and more comprehensive laws and regulations. We monitor these developments here at Road Scholar Transport and provide the following as a recap of major items in place or expected in 2023.
Safety, Workplace, and Environment
The first two years of the current administration saw a significant push for new legislation in many areas affecting the trucking industry. While the fact that Republicans now control the House will slow the momentum of such efforts, the federal regulatory bodies are expected to continue to impose new rules based on the recently passed and previous laws. Several states are also actively pursuing new controls for various aspects of the trucking industry.
A recent discussion in FleetOwner reviewed several of the more significant regulations that will impact truckers in 2023. This includes the possible indirect effect on truckers from the expected National Farm Bill. Renewed every five years, this legislation generally includes directives on how agricultural commodities are shipped. Those truckers and firms involved with such products will want to monitor the negotiations that will shape the 19th Farm Bill that will be passed this year.
All career truckers have been paying attention to the increasingly active role of the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. Established just three years ago by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the FCSMA reports that it has now registered a total of more than 425,000 employers (of which 227,000 are owner-operators) and more than 3 million drivers.
Thus far, the Clearinghouse reports it has been queried 4.5 million times and has, as a result, initiated 172,000 violations. While the massive program experienced numerous challenges while getting underway, it is now considered fully operational and is expanding its role. Two areas getting attention are the new approach to hair testing and the free queries of testing history during new-hiring processes. An additional step is expected with automatic updates to those employers of any failed drug tests by prospective new drivers during a one-year look-back period.
The widespread use of hair testing has been delayed by what the FMSCA called a technicality over its authority. However, that issue is expected to be resolved this year by the Department of Health and Human Services. If clarification is provided, expect to see the use of hair testing as, initially, a voluntary alternative to urine testing. This is an area that remains controversial and finds the major fleet owners at odds with groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
Heavy-Duty Engine Rules
The role of the Environmental Protection Agency is now being felt with the expected final rule for emissions from the engines that drive large trucks. If the proposed rule goes into effect by the anticipated date of 2027, expect truck prices to increase by a minimum of $42,000 each to achieve compliance. That is the current projection to lower NOx emissions, and the controls and costs will increase each year after that, seeking ongoing elimination of pollutants.
A more positive development is the provision of up to $40,000 in tax credits for purchases of commercial vehicles fueled by diesel and gas alternatives. Fleets can, under the Commercial Clean Vehicle Credit provision, take as many of these credits as they desire by purchasing replacement vehicles.
Quick math showing an additional $42,000 in costs for diesel and $40,000 in savings for alternatives shows an $82,000 plus push towards electrical vehicles.
Workplace Standards and Rules
Ongoing focus on how independent drivers are classified as workers continues to create contention and concern. The Department of Labor is reviewing the independent contractor rules, and California is just one state passing or considering laws affecting owner-operator and independent status. This issue will garner a great deal of discussion and consideration in 2023.
Other top-level considerations include the mandated use of speed limiters, the more aggressive use of electronic IDs, and various impacts of the recent Infrastructure Bill. It appears 2023 will be a pivotal year for truckers when it comes to the regulatory landscape.
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