Called an early Christmas present for the trucking industry by its skeptics, the proposed budget for the Department of Transportation contains major rule changes. Skeptics of the proposal include partisans in the federal government and some safety groups. Besides the rules changes, the budget would appropriate over $500 million to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, charged with overseeing the safety of the trucking industry.
Interestingly, the proposed rule changes impact the safety agenda of the FMCSA more than anything else. We have written on this blog about that agenda, and about the increased scrutiny that particular agency has come under. Now it seems that the congressional scrutiny is being changed to congressional law.
Key Rules Changed
If the budget is passed, there are several rules changes that would have a big effect on the trucking industry. Those rules changes are:
- 2013’s restart changes would continue to be suspended. In 2013 the FMCSA finalized a year 2011 rule that required drivers to restart their work for hour limit purposes to contain two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. By suspending the rule drivers could take any 34-hour period to restart their times, and restart more than once a week if needed. The new rule only allowed one restart in a 168-hour period. Under the proposed budget the new rule would continue to be suspended until the FMCSA conducts a thorough study of its effects.
- Pup trailers often doubled and tripled behind a tractor are currently limited to 28 feet. But the proposed budget would increase the allowed size to 33 feet. This change comes after a major news story was written by the New York Times on the lobbying efforts that were made to institute and stop the changes. Of course the trucking industry lobbied to increase the trailer length so more cargo can be hauled, while the rail industry lobbied to stop the change as it threatened how much cargo would be shipped on the rails.
- Any increase in the current insurance minimums by the FMCSA would be blocked. At a recent congressional hearing, FMCSA officials reported that they may issue a rule increasing the insurance minimums from the current level of $750,000 to $1 million or more. The FMCSA report indicated the increasing costs of catastrophic accidents justified an insurance bump, but in the proposed budget Congress would not allow it.
We Can Help Navigate Your Company Through Big Changes
This is further evidence of just how fluid trucking industry rules and regulations can be. The constant changes in rules, court decisions, and statutes can cause a lot of frustration to trucking companies they try and understand it. When that happens to you, contact us so we can help you apply the law to your company as it continues to change. At Anderson and Yamada, P.C. our practice is dedicated to truckers and trucking companies. We know the ins and outs of the industry, its rules, regulations, and laws. We can navigate your company through an legal hurdle you may be facing.