On August 5th the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hosted a virtual meeting, inviting stakeholders such as drivers, carriers, safety advocates, and more to discuss how to make commercial driving safer and better.
Whether you missed the eight-webinar event or want a refresher of what you saw, the FMCSA has posted links to the webinar recordings on their website. Just enter your name and email address for the one you want to see, and watch. Additionally, here is a summary of the key talking points.
Hours-of-Service Revisions on Track
There have been attempts to halt or slow down the changes to the HOS regulations (such as those in Congress), but according to FMCSA Deputy Administrator Jim Mullen, everything is proceeding as expected.
“Four petitions have been filed, but there is no effort to abate or hold off on the Sept. 29 date. As of right now, we are on track for that,” Mullen said.
The changes to the regulations offer the driver more flexibility as to when to be driving, when to not be driving but still be on duty, and when to be off duty altogether. For example, truckers will soon be able to spend seven hours in a berth instead of eight, provided his second daily break is extended by whatever amount of the extra hour he did not spend before.
More and more states are legalizing recreational marijuana use, but Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, reiterated that the whole plant has no place behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler.
“Urinalysis has reached its limits, and with opioid and marijuana use on the rise, hair testing must be finalized by the Departments of Health and Human Services and Transportation if we’re to keep people driving trucks and cars safe on our nation’s highways,” Spear said. “Furthermore, populating the test data in the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse and fixing the CSA score card are both common-sense catalysts for safety.”
Currently, the FMCSA uses urinalysis for its testing. Tests currently implemented by some motor carriers have shown that hair testing provides a wider testing window, sometimes finding traces of drugs taken a full month before the extraction, but the data are unclear that tracking drug use that far back has any impact on current driving ability.
Spear also stated that the nation needs better infrastructure to help truckers travel better.
“Truckers currently lose $74.5 billion sitting idle in traffic each year. That equates to 425,000 drivers sitting idle for an entire year, emitting 67 million tons of CO2.”
Besides being annoying, outdated infrastructure can be flat-out dangerous. If a bridge crumbles with a heavy-duty truck on it, anything below is done for.
Less pressing examples are outdated pieces of infrastructure that destroy property instead of life. The Norfolk Southern-Gregson Street Overpass in North Carolina, for example, received the nickname “the Can Opener” for the damage it did to tall trucks.
Originally built in 1940, this bridge has since been raised by eight inches, which allows smaller trucks to pass unscathed and reduces the scraping of the taller trucks.
Spear advocates for more federal involvement in the investment of infrastructure, saying that states do not have the necessary means to fundraise the investment.
There are approximately five hours of content to watch (or listen) if you would like to learn more about the current state of the trucking industry. There are representatives from many different companies, associations, and organizations. For those who prefer to get the gist of key topics, we hope that this summary has proven to be useful to you.