Hours of Service changes

A change in federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulations was announced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Many MTAC members have been waiting for these changes, as they impact business and scheduling. In the next few weeks, we will be covering these changes, in segments, as to better understand how they could impact operations. The changes are widely seen as beneficial to the trucking industry. Keep in mind that these changes are for both CDL and NON- CDL vehicles. We all should be aware that some guidance/educational items from FMCSA may be forthcoming to explain the changes.

Importantly, there is no change regarding the maximum number of hours that drivers may operate a CMV. Under regular conditions, a driver still may not operate a CMV after 11 hours of driving, AND they may not operate a CMV after the 14th hour of being “on duty.” They may not operate a CMV more than 60 hours in 7 days, or 70 hours in 8 days of being on duty. “On duty” has a broad definition in the regulations. A very simplistic explanation is that if the driver is working, no matter what they are doing, they are “on duty.”

FMCSA has announced four (4) major changes that will take effect on September 29, 2020. In today’s newsletter we will examine changes to the 30-minute rest break (within 8 hours of coming on duty) requirement.

See the “Compliance Question of the Week” at the end of the newsletter for an overview of changes to the 30-minute rest break requirement.

Recommendations for professional drivers entering areas of social unrest

From American Trucking Associations (ATA).

The American Trucking Associations, ATA Safety Management Council (SMC) and the ATA Transportation Security Council (TSC) provides the following recommendations for professional drivers and motor carriers operating in areas of protest and social unrest.

The ongoing protests across our nation has put the trucking industry and professional drivers on the frontline once again. Remaining safe and secure is the number one priority and taking proper precautions when operating in these areas can protect drivers.

While it is impossible to plan for each situation, there are key safety and security measures professional drivers can take when operating in areas with potential unrest. Below is a list of recommended practices to help professional drivers remain safe and secure:

  • Immediately report any emergency situation to local law enforcement by calling 911.
  • Avoid areas of unrest. Exercise caution when in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.
  • Plan for road closures. If your route brings you through an area that has seen protests, check the local news, with your dispatcher, or the safety department to make sure interstates and roads along the route are open and the area you are delivering to is safe.
  • Contact the delivery location for current and timely situations and conditions. Traffic conditions are constantly changing.
  • Remain in regular communication with your dispatcher to provide travel updates.
  • Plan ahead, try to make deliveries in areas of unrest during the day, at night park in well-lit, safe areas.
  • Assess every situation prior to exiting the cab of your truck. If danger or exposure to large gatherings in the form of protest exist, abort delivery operations.
  • Conduct thorough pre-trip inspections before departing domiciled locations; eliminate maintenance breakdowns from the equation.
  • Always keep doors locked and windows closed. Remove keys from unattended vehicles and ensure trailer locking and latching mechanisms are functioning properly.
  • If you encounter a gathering, stop your vehicle and do not drive through. Avoid any interaction and do not provoke the group.
  • If available, utilize your in-cab camera in an unsafe situation to document your surroundings.

Maintain continuous contact with your dispatcher and safety department for specific operating procedures and follow company policy.

Senate passes bill to fix PPP loan program, sends to Trump for signature

From MSN.

The Republican-controlled Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that seeks to fix the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides direct relief to small businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., asked for a unanimous consent vote Wednesday evening and received no objection hours after Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., objected to its passage because he wanted assurances of changes to be made in the program later.

The bill now awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

The bill, called the Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act, would ease restrictions on the popular program, known as PPP. It comes after the program was scrutinized for providing aid to unintended recipients, such as large publicly traded companies, and many businesses around the country complained that they either could not tap into loans or did not receive adequate funds to keep their businesses afloat and their employees on the payroll.

Last week, the Democratic-controlled House passed the bipartisan bill, which would change how businesses could use loan money while still having their loans forgiven. The vote was nearly unanimous, at 417-1.

Under the bill, businesses would have more time to use their loan money beyond the initial eight-week timeline — which some local businesses that are prohibited from opening their doors have said did not work for them — and still qualify for loan forgiveness. It would also expand how much of the money would have to be spent on payroll costs.

The bill would also eliminate restrictions limiting non-payroll expenses to 25 percent of the loan and the loan’s terms to two years. It would also extend the deadline to rehire employees to align with the expiration of enhanced unemployment insurance, which was created through the CARES Act and in some cases is higher than the median wage in 44 states.

Many businesses have reported an inability to rehire employees because they are making more on unemployment than they made working.

See the complete article from MSN online.

ATRI: Participate in annual operational costs data collection

The American Transportation Research Institute today issued a call for motor carriers to participate in ATRI’s annual update to its Operational Costs of Trucking report.

Now in its 12th year, ATRI’s annual Operational Costs of Trucking collects cost information derived directly from trucking fleets and owner-operators and is among the most requested ATRI research studies. ATRI’s annual analysis is used as a key benchmarking tool by motor carriers of all sizes. Public sector agencies also utilize ATRI’s real-world data analysis to make better-informed transportation planning and infrastructure investment decisions.

Among the for-hire fleet metrics being requested by ATRI are driver pay, fuel costs, insurance premiums and lease or purchase payments. Carriers and owner-operators are asked to provide full-year 2019 cost per mile and/or cost per hour data using the easy-to-use online data entry form.

For-hire motor carriers are encouraged to provide operational cost data to ATRI by Friday, August 21, 2020. ATRI’s data collection form, which protects all confidential information, is available for download. Participating motor carriers will receive an advance copy of the full report.

Highway protests impact commercial trucking

Yesterday, a truck owned by a MTAC member company, which was carrying hazardous material, was caught in the middle of a protest on a highway in Connecticut. Protesters began climbing on the truck, including on top of the tank trailer, where some protesters were reportedly smoking cigarettes. MTAC received several questions from members about how they should respond if they are ever caught in this dangerous situation, so MTAC reached out to state law enforcement officials.

MTAC talked with leaders from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP), and the DMV Commercial Vehicle Safety Division (CVSD) to seek guidance on this issue. The message to MTAC members if they are caught in the middle of a dangerous highway protest while transporting hazardous material is to call 911, identify their location, and be prepared to immediately tell first responders/law enforcement what they are transporting. This information will be key to helping law enforcement protect the safety of the driver, and everyone in the vicinity of the truck transporting hazardous materials.

Let MTAC know if you have any questions, and stay safe.

Act now to address medical certifications expired during COVID-19

As a result of COVID-19, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a nationwide emergency declaration which waived parts of the federal motor carrier safety regulations, such as Hours of Service, if the operation was in direct response to the pandemic.

One of the things FMCSA also did (in conjunction with state driver’s license agencies) through this emergency declaration was decide to not penalize CDL holders who had their medical card expire during the pandemic. This only applied if drivers had a valid medical certification as of February 29, 2020, and it expired on or after March 1, 2020. See an announcement from FMCSA on medical cards here.

MTAC members should be aware that when the emergency declaration expires on June 30, the flexibility regarding expired medical cards will end. Accordingly, effective July 1, 2020, all CDL drivers must have a valid, up-to-date medical card! Do not wait, schedule appointments with Certified Medical Examiners now.

Members can use this FMCSA website to search for Certified Medical Examiners in Connecticut who are qualified to perform the physical examinations.

Additionally, once the driver has obtained medical certification, the medical cards (short form) must be submitted to Connecticut DMV using this website.

PPP forgiveness guidance issued as Congress mulls changes

From Journal of Accountancy.

Treasury and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) released new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) guidance Friday night that provided some clarity on several loan forgiveness questions but didn’t address the two parts of PPP that arguably have generated the most concerns among the millions of small businesses and other entities that have received funding.

Two new interim final rules issued late Friday build upon the loan forgiveness application and instructions released May 15 but they don’t make changes to either the eight-week period during which PPP funds must be spent to qualify for forgiveness or the rule requiring PPP borrowers to spend at least 75% of the funds on payroll costs to qualify for full loan forgiveness.

Those two issues are the focus of multiple bills being considered in Congress.

See the complete article from Journal of Accountancy online.

House, Senate lawmakers propose essential workers fund

From Transport Topics.

Legislation that would compensate essential workers who became ill or died from COVID-19 while performing their services was recently introduced by Senate Democrats.

The Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act would establish a fund for those who qualify, such as certain individuals who were required to provide products or services deemed essential during the pandemic.

A summary detailing the bill’s provisions indicated that funds would be appropriated for five years, as needed, to assist with medical costs, loss of employment or business, and burial costs.

Also a website would be set up to facilitate with the application process.

See the complete article from Transport Topics online.

Free food for truck drivers on Friday in Wallingford

The Motor Transport Association of Connecticut (MTAC) and one of their members will host a fourth event in which a member company will buy meals for commercial truck drivers from food truck operators at a Connecticut highway rest area.

Coastal Carriers of Connecticut will buy meals for truck drivers on Friday, May 29 from Chris and Roy’s food truck at the Wallingford rest area on I-91 Southbound from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Other food trucks which may be present at the rest area will be eligible to participate in this event as well. Drivers from MTAC member companies who may be in the area during their work day are encouraged to stop by for a meal during this event.

John Pruchnicki, who is a member of MTAC’s Board of Directors, and a past Chairman of the Board, is a co-owner of Coastal Carriers of Connecticut.

“I appreciate Coastal Carriers volunteering to host another food truck event where they will buy meals for commercial truck drivers,” said MTAC President Joe Sculley. “They, like our previous food truck event sponsors, want to show appreciation for truck drivers who have been working on the front lines in direct response to the pandemic.”

This Friday’s food truck event in Wallingford will follow other successful food truck events held by MTAC and their members. Whelen Engineering sponsored an event on May 6 in North Stonington; Berkshire Energy Depot sponsored an event on May 15 in Wallingford; Nutmeg International Trucks and Allegiance Truck Group sponsored an event on May 20 in Southington.

NCCI new class code for furloughed employees

From MTAC partner Bouvier Insurance.

As a result of COVID-19, many businesses have been forced to furlough employees. In some cases, businesses are continuing to pay furloughed employees despite the fact that they are not performing any work duties. The rating bureau for Workers Compensation Insurance, NCCI, has filed a rule change to report payroll differently.

If your insurance carrier has implemented this ruling, payments for paid furloughed employees will be excluded from premium calculations at the time of audit. If your carrier is implementing this ruling, in order to take advantage of this benefit, follow the steps below:

  • It is imperative you keep separate, accurate and verifiable records
  • Track the amount of payroll for paid furloughed employees separately
  • Report payroll for paid furloughed employees under classification 0012

Very important: If paid furlough employee payroll is not tracked and reported separately, these payments will be assigned to the classification code for the work normally performed by the employee.

To see if your carrier is applying this ruling or if you have any questions, please contact us for further review. We are here to help.

Click here to see the filing from NCCI.

Note from MTAC: Bouvier has stated that they are happy to discuss this information with any MTAC members who have questions, even if they are not currently a member of the MTAC/Bouvier/Acadia safety group program. For questions, contact Lindsey Irvin, VP of National Accounts for Bouvier at (860) 232-4491 Ext 148.