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FMCSA, NHTSA set dates for major rulemakings

Federal regulators have announced when the trucking industry can expect to see several highly anticipated rulemakings, including proposals on autonomous driving systems, broker financial responsibility and greenhouse gas standards.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to integrate onto the nation’s roadways trucks that are equipped with automated driving systems (ADS) is scheduled for Nov. 23, according to a final draft of the latest “Significant Rulemaking Report” published by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday.

“The proposed changes to the CMV [commercial motor vehicle] operations, inspection, repair, and maintenance regulations prioritize safety and security, promote innovation, foster a consistent regulatory approach to ADS-equipped CMVs, and recognize the difference between human operators and ADS,” the abstract states.

On Dec. 15, FMCSA plans to issue an NPRM on broker and freight forwarder financial responsibility that would potentially clamp down on illegal broker practices. The agency considered issuing a rulemaking in June 2020 when allegations of broker fraud were on the rise, but nothing was formally proposed.

During an advanced notice comment period in 2018, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association emphasized that the most important aspect of the rulemaking was a statutory requirement that FMCSA suspend a broker’s registration if the broker’s available financial security falls below the currently required $75,000.

OOIDA provided FMCSA with examples of brokers who allegedly stole trucking services “in an aggregate value that far [exceeded] the amount of the bond.”

Also scheduled for later in the year, on Sept. 30, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to issue a proposed rule that “addresses coordination between NHTSA and the Environmental Protection Agency related to fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for medium and heavy-duty engines and vehicles.”

That regulation and plans announced by EPA this week to propose rules addressing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from trucks are being closely watched by OEMs that are adjusting future cost estimates to comply with federal zero-emission policy goals.

DOT’s latest rulemaking report also updates a previously reported FMCSA schedule on an advanced rulemaking regarding carrier safety fitness procedures (originally scheduled for March, now pushed back to May 24), and NHTSA’s proposed rulemaking on automatic emergency braking for heavy trucks, now scheduled for April 30.

DOT listed other significant rulemakings being considered by regulators but with a “next action undetermined” notation. Those include:

Watch: FMCSA’s Hutcheson discusses driver, safety priorities for 2022

Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters — Joint NHTSA and FMCSA rulemaking responding to petitions from American Trucking Associations and Roadsafe America to require the installation of speed-limiting devices on heavy vehicles.

Mexico-Domiciled Motor Carriers — Rulemaking to change FMCSA regulations to govern applications by Mexican carriers to operate beyond municipalities and commercial zones at the United States-Mexico border. A separate but related rule would implement a safety monitoring system and compliance initiative to evaluate safety fitness of all Mexico-domiciled carriers within 18 months after receiving a provisional Certificate of Registration or provisional authority to operate in the United States. 

Application for Employment — FMCSA is considering changes to the requirement to have prospective drivers complete an employment application. The agency will also seek comment on ways the requirement for an employment application could be changed to reduce associated paperwork burdens for drivers and motor carriers, including eliminating the requirement altogether.

Hours of Service, Ag Commodities — An interim final rule that clarifies the definition of the terms “any agricultural commodity,” “livestock,” and “non-processed food,” as the terms are used in the definition of “agricultural commodity” for the purposes of the agency’s HOS regulations, including the exemption from the short-haul (150 air miles) and 30-minute rest break requirements.

Extension of Face Mask Rule — FMCSA requires for-hire and private carriers to comply with emergency orders, directives or standards to protect public health and safety issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Transportation Security Administration, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to the extent the orders, directives or standards are applicable. 

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.