Driver Safety Regs Remain On A Roll

Highway driver regulations have evolved from the advent of the Interstate Commerce Act signed by President Roosevelt on August 8, 1935, to today’s wireless


Highway driver regulations have evolved from the advent of the Interstate Commerce Act signed by President Roosevelt on August 8, 1935, to today’s wireless transmission of driver and truck compliance data to a state trooper’s highway patrol car computer. Signing the ICA of 1935, President Roosevelt could not have seen how far regulatory control would go in just 75 years when he authorized, among other things, the ICC Section on Motor Carrier Safety Û the bureaucratic progenitor of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Although vehicle operator licenses were required by most states following the 1935 ICA, President Eisenhower signed the belated National Driver Register Act into law on July 14, 1960. Subsequently, the Department of Transportation, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, was established when President Johnson signed the Department of Transportation Enabling Act on October 16, 1966, in part to regulate commercial driver licensing, equipment requirements, and hours-of-service restrictions. In 1997, drug and alcohol testing requirements were added to motor carriers’ regulatory obligations.

Department of Transportation – Federal Motor Safety Carrier Safety Regulations (DOT FMCSR) have become increasingly restrictive as additional regulations are passed, even during Republican administrations. With proliferating regulations, the agencies attain a mammoth size that creates a self-supporting inertia. Following is a list of new regulations signed into law just during the past year.

10/1/2007 Technical Amendments to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations 365, 381, 382, 383, 384, 385, 386, 387, 388, 389, 390, 391, 392, 393, 395, 397
8/24/2007 Fees for Unified Carrier Registration Plan and Agreement 367
7/5/2007 Amendments to Implement Certain Provisions of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) 350, 375, 383, 384, 385, 386, 390, 395
6/11/2007 Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; Lamps and Reflective Devices 393
3/6/2007 Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation: Surge Brake Requirements 393

Where companies shall be regulated is as unpredictable as (1) the public mood is fickle; and, (2) the agency is tireless in generating additional rules. A list follows of proposed requirements, serving to justify the expanding regulatory development field.

4/13/2007 Requirements for Intermodal Equipment Providers and Motor Carriers and Drivers Operating Intermodal Equipment; Reopening of Comment Period
Notice of public listening sessions; reopening of comment period
385, 386, 390, 392, 393, 396
2/28/2007 Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) for Documenting Hours of Service; Listening Session
Notice of public listening session
350, 385, 395, 396
2/8/2007 Brokers of Household Goods Transportation by Motor Vehicle
Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM); request for comments
371, 375, 386, 387
1/18/2007 Electronic On-Board Recorders for Hours-of-Service Compliance
Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM); request for comments
350, 385, 395, 396
12/21/2006 New Entrant Safety Assurance Process
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM); request for comments
365, 385
12/21/2006 Requirements for Intermodal Equipment Providers and Motor Carriers and Drivers Operating Intermodal Equipment
Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM); request for comments
385, 386
12/21/2006 New Entrant Safety Assurance Process
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM); request for comments
387, 390
12/15/2006 Minimum Levels of Financial Responsibility for Motor Carriers; Petitions for Rulemaking
Advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM); request for comments

Perhaps, the proposal of greatest potential impact on concrete producers owning delivery vehicles, i.e., motor carriers in DOT jargon, relates to mandatory, electronic, on-board recorders (EOBR) for hours-of-service compliance. Motor carriers that have demonstrated a history of serious noncompliance with hours-of-service (HOS) rules would be subject to mandatory EOBR installation, according to the proposed electronic hours-of-service recording requirement. If, on the basis of HOS records examined during each of two compliance reviews conducted within a two-year period, FMCSA determined that a motor carrier has a 10 percent or greater violation rate (pattern violation) for any regulation in proposed Appendix C to Part 385, the agency would issue the carrier an EOBR remedial directive. Accordingly, the motor carrier would be required to install EOBRs in all its CMVs, regardless of their date of manufacture, and use the devices for HOS recordkeeping for a period of two years.

Of particular interest with respect to this regulation is a follow-up study regarding the Development and Evaluation of Alternative Concepts for Wireless Roadside Truck and Bus Safety Inspections. It proposes that the EOBR would simply radio HOS records to a DOT regulatory official, such as a weigh station computer or state trooper’s roadside vehicle, for review and evaluation of citation issuance.

The wireless on-board sensors also could alert the driver as well as DOT regulators regarding brake system performance, tire pressure monitoring, and maintenance systems. (Such a monitoring system already is provided in newer model cars.) When the driver passes a state trooper, then, an instant message identifying any violations of HOS, equipment service scheduling, equipment performance, or even load weight would be transmitted.

One study confirmed the ability of tractor-trailers to use a satellite monitoring-based mobile communications tracking system. Thus, only a small step would be necessary to initiate the electronic transmission of citations directly to drivers or motor carriers for any FMCSR infraction. How likely is this to happen?

Currently available are vehicle speed governors (for automatic speed control) that have been in effect for some time. Additionally, an ignition switch failure system could be applied to hours-of-service violations, as well as equipment malfunctions including low tire pressure, brake monitoring, and tire pressure balance for weight restrictions. While the technology for these controls is available, it has not been implemented to date.

Mandatory use of electronic regulatory controls for issuance of citations is unlikely. The catch in spite of obvious efficiencies involves extensive employment opportunities for state police, weigh station personnel, agency staff personnel, and federal officials Û perhaps, the primary reason speed governors have never been required. More likely is wireless transmission of compliance data to the state trooper or weigh-station computer for site issuance of citations. Thus, electronic issuance of citations probably would not be necessary.

By definition, Sunshine Act Meetings are convened to open regulatory planning issues to discussion. A description of the upcoming November meeting follows:

Sunshine Act Meetings; Unified Carrier Registration Plan Board of Directors ÷

Matters to be Considered: The Unified Carrier Registration Plan Board of Directors (the Board) will continue its work in developing and implementing the Unified Carrier Registration Plan and Agreement and, to that end, may consider matters properly before the Board.

For Further Information, Contact: Mr. Avelino Gutierrez, Chair, Unified Carrier Registration Board of Directors at (505) 827-4565.

A review of FMCSA studies and planning documents suggests a new regulatory target: Driver Distraction. This category relates to cell phone and CB radio usage, radio volume, reading, eating, talking to the person in the adjacent seat, and other nondriving activities. One FMCSA report, citing several studies, concluded: The most frequent subcategory for the Distraction Contributing Factor was talking/listening on cell phone (21.7 percent), followed by passenger in adjacent seat (13 percent), and dialing hand-held phone (8.7 percent).

The flow of language suggests that FMCSA may first try to regulate cell phone usage by requiring a hands-free cell phone system. Doubtful is the formulation of a Hands-free Cell-Phone law, however, since Driver Distractions encompass a broader regulatory arena.

Potentially subject to regulation also is the aggressive driver. In an October 2007 Health and Safety article, Associate Editor Deidre Bello reports that lawmakers nationwide are working to enact stricter penalties and/or redefine behaviors associated with aggressive driving. Studies have examined differences among aggressive drivers associated with age group and gender. Additionally, precipitating incidents and other factors leading to aggressive driving have been identified.

Expanding regulation is evident as well for tractor and trailer safety equipment. Upgraded safety provisions encompass brakes, markings, identification numbering, inspections, lights, and other equipment. Similarly, traffic regulations continue to grow, as most states double fines for moving violations in construction zones, even though construction zones may not be occupied for more than 40 hours during any 168-hour week.

Regulatory provisions for electronic monitoring of vehicles, drivers, and loads via wireless data transmission would seem inevitable within the near future. Likewise, driver distraction risks identified by FMCSA undoubtedly will soon be targeted. Cell phone usage, regulated initially with a mandatory hands-free cell phone rule, may open the door to other restrictions on driver distractions. Opportunities for regulation do not escape the careful scrutiny of our regulating agencies.


Through a new alliance, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Milwaukee, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will provide construction workers and equipment owners and operators information and training resources aimed at fostering safer work environments. The alliance will target rough terrain forklifts with a focus on potential operating hazards including ground conditions, machine mobility, overloading and their use in lifting personnel. RT forklifts were chosen because they are found on nearly all types of sites. Alliance-developed materials will be made available in Spanish.