The trucking industry is regulated by an increasing number of government and industry agencies. The goals of these laws and regulations seek to ensure safety, fairness of competition, and meet other priorities. Thus, remaining compliant means taking a moment at the start of each year to check and determine what changes are in store.
At the top of the list for most drivers is the issue of safety on the roads. Although they represent a minority of professional drivers, those who drive while impaired are a threat to everyone on the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations’ Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse serves to flag those drivers and keep them off the road.
This initiative came into existence in 2020 when it was determined that some commercial drivers used loopholes to stay in their cabs after a violation. As of the first of the year, thousands of owner-operators and fleet owners have not registered with the digital database. Those who fail to do so have until January 6, 2021 to avoid facing noncompliance issues. The penalties in place provide for civil and criminal charges, with up to $2,500 in fines per offense.
The regulation requires all commercial trucking fleets and owner-operators to run limited queries with the Clearinghouse for all drivers with a CDL license. A more comprehensive query is required for new drivers hired in 2020. The capabilities of the database allow enforcement officers to verify compliance instantly during any roadside stops.
Both the limited and full queries provide employers with information detailing drug and alcohol program violations on a driver’s record in the Clearinghouse. Drivers must provide electronic consent for the search before any detailed violation information is released in the full query process.
A separate regulatory safety issue for drivers is compliance with new CDL medical card processes. The new changes will take effect on June 22, 2021. As of that date, medical examiners will submit physicals directly to FMSCA through their respective portal account with the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME). Non-exempt CDL drivers no longer need a medical card. Also, drivers will no longer have to provide carriers with temporary proof of medical qualification.
Electronic Logging Devices
The move from paper logs has been underway in the United States for nearly a decade. The initial ELD Mandate went into effect in April of 2018. Canada, though it has been slow to react, has now mandated June of 2021 as the rollout date for full implementation. This will directly impact all American carriers operating in Canada.
The current complication is that the Transport Canada agency (Canada’s federal regulator of transportation) has only named one certification body for processing the standards and test procedures. This may provide challenges to those seeking to submit devices for certification prior to the June deadline.
The ELD implementation has brought a new focus on the HOS issue and violations are now cited covering a wider range of reporting issues. The scrutiny provided by ELD makes it important for drivers to update their awareness of the updated FMCSA Safety Measurement System (SMS) and how they affect driver CSA scores. The HOS variances due to COVID also are changing for many carriers.
In reaction to the spread of the COVID pandemic, FMCSA issued multiple waivers and exemptions for several requirements in the record-keeping regulations. These exemptions have been or are in the process of being reviewed and rescinded. Carriers and owner-operators must document any emergency declarations or waivers under which they did and do operate.
The start of the New Year is a good time to review policies and procedures to stay compliant with changes. Stay tuned to RoadScholar.com for more updates.