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Carriers: What You Should Know Now

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April 5, 2023

Many of the trends emerging or intensifying in the transportation and logistics sector in 2023 are driven more than ever by the need to obtain, analyze, and manage a wide array of data efficiently and effectively. Many carrier operations and government policies had already begun laying the groundwork, but the destabilization of the global supply chain during the pandemic forced all stakeholders to re-think and re-prioritize the “what, how, and why?” of every link in that chain - the disruption highlighted weaknesses, strengths, and the relative effectiveness of every solution. 

As reflected in many start-of-the-year reports across the transportation sector, there is an acknowledgement of the weaknesses highlighted by the extremity of 2020 and a fresh determination to make good use of the lessons learned from the experience as we continue the long recovery into this new year. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has played an integral role by working to improve the safety of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) on the nation's highways. The agency maintains and enforces related rules and regulations, conducts inspections, licenses hazmat carriers, conducts studies, issues advisory notices, and provides educational resources to assist in the safe movement of commercial motor vehicles. 

Although CHEMTREC was created by manufacturers within the chemical industry to assist emergency response personnel with chemical incidents while in transit, the first “responder” that we usually hear from is the carrier’s personnel. Helping carriers shoulder the increasing demands on their capacity and time, in the end, supports organizations up and down the supply chain. CHEMTREC, through our Carrier Information Network and other services geared to support carrier operations, is here to help provide you with ways to obtain and manage data so your business can be as nimble and responsive to change as possible in these challenging times. 

To that end, let’s discuss the areas that have gained some traction or garnered more attention recently.

  1. Upcoming Rulemaking

    FMCSA has been increasingly busy responding to ideas and demands for greater efficiencies and tighter, or more supportive, regulations to help the sector recover while also improving safety.

    • Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Downgrades for Drug & Alcohol Violations: 
      • FMCSA published a final rule prohibiting State Driver’s Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) from issuing a CDL to individuals prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions due to drug and alcohol violations, as reported to the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (DACH).
      • The final rule also requires SDLAs to remove CDL privileges from licenses of individuals prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions.
      • States must achieve substantial compliance as soon as possible, but no later than November 18, 2024.
      • Read more about the final rule here.
    • Safe Integration of Automated Driving Systems: Automated Driving System (ADS)-Equipped Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs)
      • Supplementary Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM). The initial SANPRM related to ADS-equipped CMVs was published in May 2019. It generally focused on basic questions around ADS-equipped CMVs that required a human to be always behind the wheel as well as how having a human behind the wheel would affect a host of existing related workforce issues and current rulings. 
      • To further advance their investigation into the safety risks of ADS-equipped CMVs, FMCSA published another SANPRM on February 1, 2023, seeking comments on ADS-equipped CMVs that do not require a human to be always behind the wheel.
      • The lack of consistent, direct, physical human intervention creates new challenges to current regulatory, enforcement, and fleet management practices.
      • The deadline for commentary was on March 20, 2023.
      • Read more about it here.
    • Heavy Vehicle Automatic Emergency Braking; AEB Test Devices, NHTSA - RIN 2127-AM36; FMCSA - RIN 2126-AC49
      • FMSCA and the National Highway Transportation Safety Board (NHTSB) issued a joint Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in January 2023.
      • This NPRM seeks to adopt a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) to require automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems on heavy vehicles, i.e., vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds).
      • This notice also proposes to amend FMVSS No. 136 to require nearly all heavy vehicles to have an electronic stability control system that meets the equipment requirements, general system operational capability requirements, and malfunction detection requirements of FMVSS No. 136.
  2. Technology Makes a Difference

    • Electronic Recordkeeping
      • If the documents can be produced when required in compliance with FMCSA regulations, they may be stored electronically only:
        • If there is no risk of losing or altering data.
        • If the information can be presented immediately or within the time frame specified.
        • PHMSA Request for Information
      • May be required to produce paper copies of electronically stored records.
      • Scanned or other “image capture” records, including a verifiable signature, fulfills the requirements of § 390.31 and the original paper documents may be destroyed per § 390.31(c).
      • Electronic documentation uploaded at the request of an authorized safety official is governed by Records Management Policies and Laws.
        • Includes use and destruction of federal records.
        • Record retention varies depending on investigation type, investigation outcome, enforcement action, etc.
    • Keep the Load on the Road and Save a Life
      • U.S. DOT’s mission to bring the number of fatalities and serious injuries down to zero has prompted FMSCA to re-examine how they identify carriers that pose a greater safety risk than other similar carriers, how they make that information available, and how all carriers can be educated so they better understand how to avoid those unsafe behaviors.
      • FMSCA has proposed a number of changes to their Safety Measurement System (SMS) and updated the SMS website using that proposed methodology. FMSCA has made the re-vamped database available to carriers so they can see how their information might change if the new methodology is approved.
      • FMSCA has updated the SMS website with results from February 24, 2023.
        • FMSCA strongly encourages all relevant stakeholders to participate in the preview of the updated SMS website and to submit any comments to the public docket. 
        • Comments are due by May 16th, 2023.
        • Public Q&A webinars were held on March 7, March 14, and March 15.
  3. Fraud Awareness 

    • U.S. DOT Number and Identity Theft
      • FMSCA’s Special Investigation Unit has been stepping up their efforts to raise awareness about fraudulent activities that could negatively affect carriers. One of the areas that has attracted growing attention is identity theft; not of an individual, but of a carrier’s organization.
      • Paul Bomgardner, Chief of the Hazardous Materials Division in FMSCA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance, described this growing trend at the COHMED conference in January 2023:
        • The rogue company steals the victim’s U.S. DOT number because they cannot obtain one of their own due to bad business practices and shoddy fleet maintenance.
        • The result is that the victim, who was originally in good standing with FMSCA, now has a sudden uptick in inspections and violations for trucks that do not belong to their company.
        • The number of violations can cause their insurance to be raised to unsustainable levels or revoked altogether.
        • This in turn will have further downstream effects on the supply chain by lowering the number of available carriers in good standing – brokers and shippers would be obligated to reject any carrier with a large number of safety violations on their record.
        • Worst of all, it would undermine and invalidate the FMSCA database/scoring system – it would be difficult to rely on a system that cannot accurately identify negligent and possibly dangerous carriers.
        • Bomgardner stressed the importance of checking the resources that the U.S. DOT and FMSCA have made available, such as the SAFER database or even the re-vamped SMS website.
        • If you find that your company is the victim of identity theft, FMSCA has also provided information on their website on what steps you can take to move toward a resolution.

If you haven’t joined our carrier information network or think you may already have an account on file, give us a call or send us a message

Need help figuring out how to lighten your workload or streamline your operations? Let us know - we may already have a solution or can work with you to find one! 

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