Federal Update
FMCSA’s agenda includes several critical rulemakings
HOS, EOBRs, intermodal chassis, entry-level driver training

By Jami Jones
senior editor


A handful of potential regulations that could have huge impacts on the trucking industry continue to snake their way through the regulatory process. The following is a rundown of significant rulemakings, where they stand in the process, and when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans to move forward on them.

Hours of service

Status: Awaiting final rule
Target date: December 2008

Since 2003, the industry has been regulated by two different versions of the hours-of-service rules. Lawsuits challenged both versions of the regulations.

Following the most recent legal wrangling, truckers potentially faced another new HOS regulation, thanks to a July 2007 ruling that eliminated the 34-hour restart and 11-hour driving limit. In that decision, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit tossed the provisions based on procedures followed by the FMCSA and not on the merit of the challenged provisions.

Rather than scrap the 11th hour of driving and the 34-hour restart, the agency issued an interim final rule that kept both provisions intact.

The comment period on the interim final rule ended in March. FMCSA officials plan to issue a final rule in December 2008.


Status: Awaiting final rule
Target date: December 2008

The rulemaking mandating the use of the so-called black boxes in trucks has been in the works since 2004.

The second step in the process toward an actual regulation was completed in 2007 when the agency issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in January 2007. Its comment period ended in April 2007.

At that stage in the regulatory process, the agency proposed a two-pronged regulation regarding EOBRs. In the proposed reg, if FMCSA officials determine – based on HOS records reviewed during each of two compliance reviews conducted within a two-year period – that a motor carrier had a 10 percent or greater violation rate, the carrier would be required to use EOBRs for two years.

All of the trucks owned by and leased to the motor carrier would be required to have EOBRs installed.

In addition to mandating the use of EOBRs for motor carriers with patterns of noncompliance, the proposed regulation offered incentives for motor carriers that voluntarily use EOBRs.

As with any proposed reg working its way through the process, little information is available as to what changes, if any, the agency will make before presenting the final rule. For now, the industry will have to wait until December to see what FMCSA decides to do.

Intermodal chassis

Status: Awaiting final rule
Target date: October 2008

One of the big victories for truckers in the current Highway Bill was the inclusion of language that requires the FMCSA to draft a rule that holds the owners of intermodal equipment responsible for the condition of that equipment.

The FMCSA kicked off the rulemaking process for the new regulations in late 2006 with a notice of proposed rulemaking. Officials with FMCSA have said they want the new regs to:

  • Require a U.S. DOT number on each chassis;
  • Establish a systematic inspection, maintenance and repair program, complete with documentation requirements; and
  • Require the chassis’ owner to respond to any complaints from truckers.

In addition to adding these regulations for intermodal chassis, FMCSA officials want to tighten up and clarify existing rules, which would include proposing a separate application process and safety oversight program for motor carriers based outside the U.S.

The comment period on this proposed reg closed in May 2007. The agency has a target date of Oct. 30, 2008, for unveiling the final rule.

However, the agency missed its own target date of June 16 for submitting the final regulation to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation to be signed off on before proceeding through the process.

driver training

Status: Proposed reg complete
Target date: None set

After years of waiting on a rule that actually requires some behind-the-wheel training time for would-be truckers, FMCSA published a notice of proposed rulemaking on Dec. 26, 2007. The agency proposed requiring 44 hours of behind-the-wheel training in addition to 76 hours of classroom time before potential truckers could test for and receive their Class A CDL.

The proposed reg not only requires students to actually spend some time behind the wheel, but also requires them to do it at an accredited school with qualified instructors.

The truck driving schools will have to be accredited by an agency recognized by the Department of Education or by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This requirement would also apply to schools operated by trucking companies.

The comment period closed in May 2008 on the proposed reg.

The agency is now in the process of sifting through the public comments. The next step could be anything from a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking to a final rule. FMCSA officials have not published a target date for the next step in the process.

Commercial learner’s permits

Status: Proposed reg complete
Target date: None set

Illegal immigrants, drivers with bad records, and others who try to capitalize on loopholes in the commercial driver’s license permit regulations won’t be getting away with it much longer if FMCSA officials follow through with a proposal to tighten up the driver’s license testing and commercial learner’s permits regulation.

The agency proposed a new rule on April 9 that seeks to close up loopholes and address shortcomings in the current process.

In addition to setting new minimum standards in the permit process, the proposed rulemaking seeks to revise the CDL knowledge and skills testing.

The comment period on the proposed reg closed in July. As with the driver training rule, the agency is sorting through the comments and hasn’t announced what the next step toward a final regulation will be or when it will happen. LL