On 1/18/18, the comment period ended for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposed regulatory guidance regarding driving commercial motor vehicles (CMV) for personal use while off-duty. The guidance affects those drivers who are required to record their hours of service (HOS) while operating a CMV. A driver may record time operating a CMV for personal use only when the driver is relieved from duty and all responsibility for performing work. Personal use may include traveling from a driver’s permanent residence or temporary lodging to restaurants and then back to the residence or lodging. Personal use may also include commuting from the last on-duty location to the driver’s residence or lodging and returning to that last on-duty location the following day. However, driving for personal use outside the HOS would not include moving the CMV to improve the next day’s operational readiness or at the instruction of a motor carrier, such as driving closer to the next loading or unloading point; continued travel after unloading (e.g., traveling back to the home terminal, lodging, or permanent residence); or traveling with an empty trailer to pick up a new load.

On 12/29/17, President Trump designated January 2018 as a month dedicated to combating human trafficking. In keeping with this directive, President Trump signed the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act on 1/3/18. This Act requires the DOT to appoint an official to coordinate human trafficking prevention efforts; establish an advisory committee on human trafficking; and expand the scope of the FMCSA’s Outreach and Education Program to include human trafficking prevention. Further, on 1/8/18, President Trump signed the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act, which requires the DOT to issue a lifetime disqualification without reinstatement to those truck drivers who are convicted of using a CMV in the commission of felony human trafficking.

Beginning 1/1/2018, the Department of Transportation (DOT) began including tests for semi-synthetic opioids hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone in urine drug screens for truck drivers and “safety-sensitive” transportation employees. The DOT mandate comes as the nationwide opioid epidemic continues to garner attention. The list of drugs tested by the DOT is determined by the department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which added the semi-synthetic opioids to the list of list of drugs approved for testing in May 2015.

On 12/15/17, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate became fully implemented, and the FMCSA reports that the agency and local law enforcement are prepared to enforce the rule. However, violations between 12/18/17 and 4/1/18 will not count against a carrier’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) score, and CMVs will not be placed out-of-service for ELD violations until after 4/1/18. A number of limited exceptions have been granted with many more still under review by the FMCSA. Current exemptions apply to the United Parcel Service (UPS), which already uses a portable ELD module; a 90-day exemption to Old Dominion Freight Lines, Inc. and other carriers due to issues integrating PeopleNet’s ELD software (a grandfathered program); a 5-year exemption from the ELD rule for rented CMVs for rentals of up to 8 days; a 90-day exemption for rented CMVs for rental periods less than 30-days; a 5-year exemption for the Motion Picture Association of America for transportation to/from a production site; grandfathered Automated On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRD); and a 90-day waiver for those transporting agriculture commodities as defined by the FMCSA, including livestock.

On 11/27/17, the FMCSA announced its intention to seek approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to study the safety effects of excessive truck driver work commutes (those exceeding 150 minutes). The FMCSA seeks approval to send out a 20-minute, email/web-based survey to a random sample of 12,000 drivers. The study was mandated by the 2015 FAST Act and will supplement the FMCSA’s research on driver fatigue. On 10/26/17, the FMCSA closed the comment period on the National Tank Truck Carriers’ request for a 5-year exemption from the 30-minute rest break rule. The current rule requires drivers of property carrying CMVs to take a rest break of at least 30 minutes if 8 hours have passed since the end of the last 30-minute off-duty or sleeper-berth period. The exemption would allow tanker drivers to use the 30 minutes attending the load while the vehicle is parked. Currently, tanker drivers are required to attend to the parked tanker because they carry hazardous materials. The exemption request remains pending with the FMCSA without a clear decision deadline.

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Allen Smith

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Austin Walsh

The information published in Hedrick Gardner Alerts is general in nature and not intended to take the place of legal advice on any particular matter. © 2018 Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo LLP