DOT to add four opioids for transportation worker drug testing

From Transport Topics

The U.S. Department of Transportation plans on Jan. 1 to begin testing truck drivers and other “safety-sensitive” transportation employees for the semi-synthetic opioids hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone, the agency announced Nov. 9.

“Inclusion of these four semi-synthetic opioids is intended to help address the nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse,” the announcement said. “Also, adding these four drugs, which are already tested for in many transportation employers’ non-DOT testing programs because of their widespread use and potentially impairing effect, will allow the DOT to detect a broader range of drugs being used illegally. Transportation industries are not immune to this trend and the safety issues it raises.”

The DOT said it is adding the drug panel to urine testing not only for consistency with the Department of Health and Human Services mandatory guidelines but “as a response to a national problem that can affect transportation safety.”

The agency also said it also is adding methylenedioxyamphetamine as an initial test analyte, but removing the drug as a confirmatory test analyte.

“This final rule clarifies certain existing drug-testing program provisions and definitions, makes technical amendments and removes the requirement for employers and consortium/third-party administrators to submit blind specimens,” the DOT announcement said.

See the full story from Transport Topics online.

Note from MTAC: MTAC’s vendor partner Fleet Screen administers our DOT-compliant drug and alcohol testing consortium. They are already prepared to handle these new requirements. Contact the MTAC office if you need information about how to enroll in our drug and alcohol testing consortium which is administered by Fleet Screen.

ATRI recommends federal fuel tax increase

From Transport Topics

The American Transportation Research Institute has determined that a federal fuel tax increase is the best option for achieving a large-scale infrastructure program.

ATRI released its “Framework for Infrastructure Funding” on Nov. 8. The research found that other methods of generating revenue, such as mileage-based user fees and increased tolling systems, will fall short of the funds needed to invest in transportation.

Repairing infrastructure was one of the pillars on which President Donald Trump built his campaign. The specifics of his $1 trillion infrastructure plan have yet to be revealed.

In addition to creating new federal funds, a federal fuel tax increase will also galvanize states to produce matching funds, ATRI found. ATRI’s study indicates that every state would experience significant employment gains with a 10-cent or 20-cent federal fuel tax increase. The report says a 20-cent fuel tax increase would yield nearly 500,000 new jobs, and states would bring in between $15 billion and $30 billion annually.

“Maybe the most important and unexpected benefit of a federal fuel tax increase is the hundreds of thousands of new, high-paying construction jobs that will be produced,” said Dennis Dellinger, president of Cargo Transporters. “We often assume that the only reason to raise the fuel tax is to lay more asphalt and concrete. Forgotten in the mix is that tax revenues can simultaneously produce good roads and good jobs.”

The federal fuel tax has not been increased in over 20 years. ATRI’s research cautions against the “do-nothing” approach because it can lead to significant costs for people who use the road. For example, although the trucking industry contributes $18 billion in federal user fees every year, increased congestion on the nation’s highways costs the industry more than $63 billion annually. ATRI’s report suggests that e-commerce will stagnate as freight deliveries fall short of consumer demands.

Read the full story on Transport Topics.

Private financing tool rejected in House tax bill

From Transport Topics

Tax breaks designed to help the private sector finance infrastructure projects were not included in a Republican tax overhaul bill President Donald Trump would consider by the end of the year.

The Republican-led tax-writing Ways and Means Committee shot down Nov. 8 a push by a Democrat that would have ensured that tax breaks for private activity bonds remain in the massive legislation.

The amendment Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) offered during the bill’s markup hearing was rejected along party lines three days into the bill’s consideration. Ways and Means kicked off its markup Nov. 6. The legislation is expected to reach the House floor by the week of Nov. 13.

Senate leaders indicated they would proceed with their version after House passage.

Private activity bonds are key for financing public-private partnerships. Private firms and nonprofit groups access the bonds to proceed with municipal projects. The tax bill managed by Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) would do away with the exemption for private activity bonds.

Worker’s compensation rates to drop 14%

From Hartford Business Journal.

Worker’s compensation insurance rates will be 14 percent lower starting Jan. 1, the Connecticut Insurance Department announced.

It will be the fourth consecutive year of falling premiums, following drops of 11 percent, 3.9 percent and 6.3 percent in 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively.

“The continued decrease is a result of the reduction in the number of workplace injuries and claims filed,” Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade said in a statement. “Additionally, the average medical cost per claim has moderated in recent years.”

CID approved the 2018 rates following a rate filing from the National Council on Compensation Insurance and an actuarial review.

See the full story from Hartford Business Journal online.

Note from MTAC: Worker’s compensation insurance is available to qualified businesses through our partners at Sinclair Risk & Financial Management and Acadia Insurance. MTAC’s “Safety Group” that is run in conjunction with Sinclair and Acadia pays dividends directly back to qualified Safety Group participants. Contact MTAC if you are interested in the Safety Group and need more information.

Does my company need ELDs?

You will need to haveElectronic Logging Devices (ELDs) unless your operations are covered by an exemption. Here are the only exemptions from the ELD regulation:

ELD Rule Exceptions

The following are not required to use ELDs (but carriers may choose to use ELDs even if they are not required):

  1. Drivers who use paper logs no more than eight days during any 30-day period.
  2. Driveaway-towaway drivers (where the vehicle driven is the commodity, i.e. empty vehicle for sale, lease, or repair, provided the vehicle is part of the shipment) or the vehicle being transported is a motor home or a recreation vehicle trailer (at least one set of wheels of the vehicle being transported must be on the surface while being transported)
  3. Drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000 as determined by VIN/Vehicle Registration and or by the year of manufacture for the engine by VIN if manufactured prior to model year 2000.

Some MTAC member operations may be covered under the first option, if they comply with what is known as the “short haul” exemption from RODS. This exemption is also known as the 100/150 air-mile radius exemption.

The 100 air-mile radius driver exemption from RODS applies to drivers operating a motor vehicle requiring them to have a commercial driver license (CDL) who stay within 100 air miles of their normal work reporting location and are released from work within 12 consecutive hours. The carrier must also maintain true and accurate time records showing time beginning duty, time released from duty and total hours for the day for a period of six months.

Property carrying drivers must also have at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty separating each 12 hours on duty. If all conditions are met, records of duty status (driver logs) are not required. If any of the requirements are not met, i.e. the driver is not released from duty within 12 consecutive hours from their normal work reporting location, the 100 air-mile radius is exceeded, the driver does not have at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty separating each 12 hours on duty or the carrier does not maintain a true and accurate time record showing time beginning duty, time the driver is released from duty and total hours on duty that day for a period of six months, a record of duty status (driver log) must be completed.

If a record of duty status (driver log) must be completed more than eight times in any 30-day window, an ELD will be required.

The 150 air-mile radius driver exemption applies to drivers of motor vehicles not requiring them to have a commercial driver license (CDL). For these individuals to be covered under this exemption, they must stay within a 150 air-mile radius from their normal work reporting location, the driver must not drive after the 14th hour after coming on duty on five days of any period of seven consecutive days and after the 16th hour after coming on duty on two days of any period of seven consecutive days.

The carrier must also maintain true and accurate time records showing time beginning duty, time released from duty and total hours for the day for a period of six months. If all conditions are met, no records of duty status (driver logs) are required. If any of the requirements are not met, i.e. the driver drives after the 14th hour after coming on duty on five days of any period of seven consecutive days or drives after the 16th hour on two days of any period of seven consecutive days, the 150 air-mile radius is exceeded, or the carrier does not maintain a true and accurate time record showing time beginning duty, time ending duty and total hours for that day for a period of six months, a record of duty status (driver log) must be completed.

If a record of duty status (driver log) must be completed more than eight times in any 30-day window, an ELD will be required.

This is a reminder that the ELD regulation DOES NOT CHANGE the existing Hours of Service rules but how HOS are recorded.

MTAC supports ConnDOT grant application

MTAC is supporting a Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) application for a INFRA grant which will partially fund the Charter Oak Bridge project. The Charter Oak Bridge project will relieve congestion at one of CT’s worst freight bottlenecks by doing several things. It will widen I-91 NB from Interchange 27 to Interchange 29; replace and relocate the I-91 NB Exit Ramp at Interchange 29 with major diverge; and widen Route 15 NB from the Charter Oak Bridge to the Silver Lane Underpass.

Federal INFRA grants fund critical freight and highway projects all across the country, and the grant process is very competitive. Connecticut has seven of the top 100 freight bottlenecks in the country, and the Charter Oak Bridge is one of them. Accordingly, this project is worthy of a federal grant which will ease congestion and benefit interstate commerce.

MTAC President Joe Sculley wrote to USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao urging her to award a INFRA grant for the Charter Oak Bridge project. He wrote, “On a daily basis, there is a back-up of trucks and cars on Interstate 91 Northbound waiting to get on the Charter Oak Bridge. The Charter Oak Bridge (which carries Route 15) directly connects I-91 to another major interstate, I-84. We commend CONNDOT for moving affirmatively on a viable and reasonable proposal to provide additional capacity by widening a section of Interstate 91, replacing the one-lane ramp to the Charter Oak Bridge with a two-lane major diverge, and making other improvements on the bridge. There is no doubt this will ease congestion so freight can move more efficiently.”

View the letter sent from Joe Sculley to Secretary Chao.

Change to divisible loads permits in Connecticut

Connecticut DOT has announced that the limits of the Divisible Load Truck permits for Interstate 95 (trucks up to 76,500lbs) are now reduced to reflect all the bridge rehabilitation and widening over the last 10 to 15 years or more. This corridor is better able to handle these loads and this change in the limits reflect this. The previous restriction for these trucks extended from the NY Line to Exit 42, West Haven. The new restriction will now only be from the New York State Line to Exit 18 in Westport.

The revised list has been posted on the DOT Oversize Overweight website and will be included as an attachment on any new Monthly or Annual Divisible Load permits issued from the Oversize/Overweight Permit Unit. Any user that was sent the previous attachment is only bound by the latest version, which is located on the Oversize/Overweight website.

View a list of updated restrictions.

Start of split sleeper berth pilot program behind schedule

From Transport Topics.

Federal trucking regulators have been angling for a flexible sleeper berth pilot program since 2010, but a request for public comment posted in the Federal Register in late October showed that plans for the program are behind schedule.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website said the pilot was supposed to begin in July 2017.

But with yet another round of public comments, due by Nov. 27, it’s more likely that the pilot would start sometime next spring or summer, said Sean Garney, director of safety policy for American Trucking Associations.

ATA has been pressing the agency for the pilot project since 2013.

Development of the pilot program already so far is expected to cost $2.6 million, according to the FMCSA website.

The agency declined comment for this story.

The pilot seeks to produce statistically reliable evidence on the question of whether split sleeper berth time affects driver safety performance and fatigue levels. The hope is that the pilot will confirm what the majority of sleep studies already have shown: Well-timed split sleep has either a positive or no effect on subsequent neurobehavioral performance.

Currently, drivers who use sleeper berths must divide their non-duty time with one eight-hour period and another two-hour period.

See full story from Transport Topics online.

MTAC Dump Truck Christmas Party Dec. 7

The 63rd Annual Dump Truck Association Christmas Party will be held for members and their guests at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 7 at Maneeley’s in South Windsor. The Christmas Party committee has planned a holiday feast with all the trimmings. The price is $50 per person – including tax and tip – and guests are welcome. A cash bar will be available.

Purchasing your tickets in advance is required. No tickets will be sold at the door. You can purchase tickets from any committee member, by completing the online form below (preferred), or calling the MTAC office at (860) 520-4455. Tickets must be purchased no later than Nov. 30. Tables may be reserved in advance for groups of 10.

Help spread the cheer by donating quality items including small hand tools, electronic gadgets for our holiday raffle. Hats and T-shirts are also welcome, but nothing beats a new drill!

Special thanks to the Christmas Party Committee including: Chairman John Vasel III, Alan Baumert, William Mitchell, Dustin Mitchell, Chris Russo, Philip DeSiato, Dennis Botticello, Domenic Moffo, Hal Pierce, Mike Covensky and Herb Holden.

Maneeley’s is located at 65 Rye Street in South Windsor. (Map)

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Maneely’s in South Windsor


Trump’s economic adviser floats idea of gas tax hike for infrastructure

From Transport Topics.

President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser raised the possibility of increasing the federal gasoline tax next year to help pay for the administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, U.S. Representative Tom Reed said.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn brought up the fuel tax as a way to help fund promised upgrades to U.S. roads, bridges and other public works during a meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers dubbed the Problem Solvers Caucus on Wednesday, said Reed, a New York Republican who is co-chairman of the caucus.

There have been proposals over the years to raise the gas tax, which hasn’t been increased since 1993, but they have faced stiff opposition from congressional Republicans and others loath to raise taxes.

As recently as May 1, after Trump floated the idea in an interview with Bloomberg News, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady seemed cold to the idea. Asked then if he’d rule it out, he said, “In my view, yes, but we’re going to have that discussion.”

On Oct. 25, Brady was no more enthusiastic. “Hm. I’m going to stay focused on tax reform right now,” he said.

Revenue from the federal per-gallon taxes of 18.4 cents on gasoline and 24.4 cents on diesel has declined as inflation robbed them of their purchasing power and the average fuel economy of a passenger vehicle increased by 12%, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Business and transportation groups have called for increasing the federal gas tax to help sustain the federal Highway Trust Fund that provides money to states for projects.

Representative Mike Simpson, a Republican from Idaho, said he would support an increase.

“It’s a user fee,” Simpson said. “We’ve got to convince people that the money goes to roads and bridges and not all the other bull.”

See full story from Transport Topics online.