FMCSA set to roll out new safety proposals

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Recently, a number of trucking industry experts and professionals attended the annual XUE Conference in Minneapolis to learn about new developments in the current state of the industry. One of the hottest topics at the conference was the federal Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, also referred to as MAP-21. The Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in early 2012, funds a variety of programs designed to improve safety on our nation's highways through 2014. Many of these programs, likely to be administered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, are designed to address the root causes of issues that lead to serious truck accidents.

While the FMCSA's efforts are likely to be applauded by most drivers, the trucking industry is concerned that some programs may cause them trouble down the line. At the XUE Conference, several issues emerged as possible trouble points.

First, some experts expect the FMCSA to address the problem of sleep apnea among commercial truck drivers. Fatigue is a factor in many truck accidents and it is natural to expect either guidance or an official rule from the FMCSA sometime soon.

Second, the FMCSA is expected to continue its efforts to require truck drivers and trucking companies to use Electronic Driver Logs. The FMCSA is currently engaged in formulating final rules regarding the use of EDLs, but the process may take some time. In fact, the FMCSA is currently facing a lawsuit brought by the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association over the implementation of the rule.

Third, despite industry efforts to prevent it, new hours of service requirements went into effect this summer. Some experts have pointed out that the FMCSA has stepped up enforcement of these rules and that some companies are seeing an increase in the number of HOS compliance audits. This is likely to continue as a MAP-21 initiative.

Finally, 2014 may see the FMCSA take on two difficult subjects. One is whether to mandate the use of electronic roll stability systems in all commercial trucks. The other is whether to increase the maximum weight allowed for large commercial trucks travelling on our nation's highways. This will require, however, that the FMCSA embark on a safety study regarding truck weight.

Overall, the trucking industry is likely to see many changes over the next few years. Although many trucking professionals may be hesitant to adopt some of the changes, they could significantly improve highway safety.