Federal Update
No excuses
FMCSA takes OOIDA comments to heart and puts responsibility of intermodal chassis on the companies

By Jami Jones
senior editor


Picking through a pile of unusable intermodal chassis may very well become a thing of the past because of a new regulation released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The “Requirements for Intermodal Equipment Providers and for Motor Carriers and Drivers Operating Intermodal Equipment” final rule was published in the Federal Register in mid-December.

During the rulemaking process, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association detailed how chassis providers do not maintain the equipment, forcing truckers to either wait for several hours on repairs or make the repairs themselves.

“Drivers that primarily haul intermodal loads are generally paid based upon the number of trips they make,” OOIDA officials wrote in comments submitted during the rulemaking process.

“(Intermodal equipment providers) know that any significant interruption in a driver’s ability to earn a living is a potent weapon to cunningly coerce drivers into behavior counter to the (point of the proposed regulation).”

Apparently, OOIDA’s comments struck a nerve, and the FMCSA beefed up the final rule.

The new regulation requires a pre-trip inspection by drivers using intermodal equipment. And, at the end of the day, the driver will have to fill out an inspection report on all of the equipment operated during the day, noting anything wrong with the equipment to the intermodal equipment provider.

Before that equipment – which will have to carry a U.S. DOT number – can be offered for use on the road again, any damage, defect, etc., noted on the end-of-the-day report is to be certified as repaired on the original report.

The new reg also mandates that intermodal equipment providers keep those reports for three months.

“This is a good start toward putting an end to the coercion at the ports that leads to unsafe equipment on the highways,” said Rick Craig, OOIDA director of regulatory affairs.

Much of the new regulation requires the intermodal equipment providers to develop “systems” for routinely inspecting the equipment; accepting, addressing and storing the driver reports; repairing equipment, etc.

However, the regulation does not mandate what those systems are, and it will be up to the intermodal equipment provider to comply with the regs.

Intermodal equipment providers will also now face “roadability review” safety audits conducted by either an FMCSA employee, or a state or local government employee funded by the federal government.

The reviews will be an on-site examination of the intermodal equipment provider’s compliance with the regs.

“Issuing the new regulation isn’t even half the battle,” Craig said. “Now, it’s up to FMCSA to step up to the plate and actually enforce this regulation and put equipment providers on notice that unsafe equipment will not be tolerated and sanctions will be handed down for non-compliance,” he added.

The regulation is set up for a rollout of compliance dates. The actual reg will go into effect six months after it’s published in the Federal Register. Intermodal equipment providers will have a year to get all of the mandated systems into place and two years to have all of the equipment marked, once the reg goes into effect. LL