FMCSA launches streamlined URS process

On Dec. 17, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced they have launched a new, simplified online registration process for truckers, brokers and equipment providers. The system, which went active Dec. 12, is the first phase of the Unified Registration System (URS) that combines multiple reporting forms into a single “smart form” that streamlines the registration and renewal process, improves efficiency, reduces errors and strengthens safety for the motoring public.

From Transport Topics

“URS combines various forms that carriers, freight forwarders and brokers currently use to register and update their information with the agency into a single, online registration application,” FMCSA said. Only the initial registration by new applicants will be done using the URS online application. FMCSA estimates URS ultimately will reduce costs to industry by approximately $9 million in time saved and fees incurred over a 10-year period. “When fully implemented in 2016, URS will enable FMCSA to more readily identify unfit carriers and detect unsafe truck and bus companies seeking to evade agency enforcement actions, including civil penalties, by attempting to regain USDOT registration by registering as a purported different, unrelated business entity,” the agency said.

Additional information on the URS can be found at the FMCSA’s website.

 

FMCSA lowers random drug testing level to 25%

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced it will lower the random drug testing rate for controlled substances from the current 50 percent to 25 percent for the upcoming calendar year, effective Jan. 1, 2016. FMCSA conducts a random survey to ensure compliance with the set testing rates, known as the Management Information System (MIS) or MIS survey.

According to federal regulations, when the data received in the MIS for two consecutive calendar years indicate the positive rate for controlled substances is less than one percent, the FMCSA Administrator has the discretion to lower the minimum annual testing rate. While the MIS survey resulted in a positive rate of less than one percent for the 2011 and 2012 testing years, the acting administrator chose to maintain the 50 percent rate for another year. The 2013 testing year also showed a positive rate of less than one percent, so after three years, the acting administrator approved a lower testing rate.

If at any time the positive rate for controlled substances exceeds one percent, the testing rate will revert back to 50 percent. A copy of the announcement is available at the FMCSA website.

Note this does not change anything regarding the need for carriers to comply with the federal drug and alcohol testing regulation, nor will it change anything regarding MTAC’s drug and alcohol program administered by partner Gregory & Howe. Members participating in the drug and alcohol testing consortium will continue to be notified by Gregory & Howe when their drivers have been selected for a test. The only potential impact is that there is a possibility a company’s drivers will have a lesser chance of being selected for a random test.

MTAC president visits Gregory & Howe

This week, MTAC President Joe Sculley visited the office of Gregory & Howe, the company that administers MTAC’s highly successful drug and alcohol testing program. Through MTAC’s partnership with Gregory & Howe, the drug and alcohol testing program has grown to become one of the largest consortiums in the state.

The need for a good drug and alcohol testing program is so vital to the transportation industry that MTAC maintains an open-enrollment policy. Hundreds of companies in Connecticut and beyond trust MTAC and Gregory & Howe to help them achieve compliance with federal regulations regarding drug and alcohol testing.

Federal regulations state that Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders must be randomly tested throughout the year. In addition to random testing, CDL operators are also subject to pre-employment testing, post-accident testing, reasonable suspicion testing, return to duty testing, and follow-up testing as a consequence of testing positive in an earlier test.

These regulations can be difficult for individual companies to comply with, especially smaller businesses. However, getting involved with this program greatly simplifies compliance for participants. Members simply sign up once with MTAC, and then work directly with Gregory & Howe from everything to adding/dropping drivers from the pool, to having the actual testing conducted. Members interested in joining the program can complete this enrollment form to get started.

Hours of Service Provision

Congress is set to pass an omnibus spending bill that would fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2016. The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) portion of the bill contains a provision regarding one aspect of the 34 hour restart provision in the Hours of Service (HOS) regulation. The specific provision is one in which FMCSA had mandated that the 34 hour restart must contain two consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods.

Congress temporarily suspended that requirement last year, meaning that the restart could be used during any 34 hour period. The language in this omnibus bill requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to demonstrate a statistically significant improvement in “all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity, and work schedules…” before the1 a.m. to 5 a.m. requirement is reinstated.

This is important because FMCSA specifically cited driver health as the justification for rewriting the rule and including that provision. This language would effectively permanently suspend the consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. and 168 hour/week restart provisions.

The language states that the provision is suspended until FMCSA “establishes that commercial motor vehicle drivers who operated under the restart provisions in effect between July 1, 2013, and the day before the date of enactment of such Public Law demonstrated statistically significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity, and work schedules, in comparison to commercial motor vehicle drivers who operated under the restart provisions in effect on June 30, 2013.”

Once the spending bill is passed by both the U.S. House and Senate, it will be sent to President Obama who is expected to sign it into law.

BestPass

MTAC members can save with BestPass

Through MTAC’s agreement with BestPass, members can save time and money on tolls in surrounding states. MTAC members can get a discount on service fees, and, because of our bulk purchasing power, save as much as 20 percent on tolls by using the service.

BestPassMembers should consider using BestPass in order to take advantage of using one transponder that allows for quick toll payment (including additional/volume discounts) on major thoroughfares such as: the New York State Thruway, Pennsylvania Turnpike, New Jersey Turnpike, NYC Bridges & Tunnels, and the Maryland Transportation Authority highways, bridges & tunnels, among others.

Additionally, getting involved in this program will allow for simple, consolidated account management. Invoices will be an inclusive monthly statement of all toll fees, normalized to the calendar month, which will ask for a single, simple payment for all toll usage.

Visit the BestPass website and contact MTAC if you have questions.

MTAC visits Coastal Carriers

This week, MTAC President Joe Sculley visited MTAC Vice Chairman John Pruchnicki’s business, Coastal Carriers of Connecticut. Coastal Carriers has built a reputation for safe and reliable transportation services to the petroleum industry. They are a 24/7/365 carrier that efficiently responds to all scheduled and emergency deliveries. Their state of the art dispatch technology assures efficiency and cost savings for customers. Their professional and knowledgeable staff is always available to respond to the needs of customers.

With three terminals strategically located in Ansonia, Conn., Bloomfield, Conn., and Newburgh, N.Y. they are able to efficiently serve customers throughout the region. They are dedicated to professionalism and quality service achieved through their commitment to safety, reliability, efficiency, and personalized service.

FMCSA releases Electronic Logging Device rule

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has released its long-awaited final rule required Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). The four main elements of the ELD Final Rule include:

  • Requiring commercial truck and bus drivers who currently use paper log books to maintain hours-of-service records to adopt ELDs within two years. It is anticipated that approximately three million drivers will be impacted.
  • Strictly prohibiting commercial driver harassment. The final rule provides both procedural and technical provisions designed to protect commercial truck and bus drivers from harassment resulting from information generated by ELDs. (A separate FMCSA rulemaking further safeguards commercial drivers from being coerced to violate federal safety regulations and provides the agency with the authority to take enforcement actions not only against motor carriers, but also against shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries.)
  • Setting technology specifications detailing performance and design requirements for ELDs so that manufacturers are able to produce compliant devices and systems – and purchasers are enabled to make informed decisions.
  • Establishing new hours-of-service supporting document (shipping documents, fuel purchase receipts, etc.) requirements that will result in additional paperwork reductions. In most cases, a motor carrier would not be required to retain supporting documents verifying on-duty driving time

You can read more about the final rule at the FMCSA website.

Certified medical examination forms

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is expected to delay the implementation date for use of new Medical Examiners Report and Medical Certificate. The agency had been targeting a date of Dec. 22, 2015 for use of the new forms, at which point use of the current forms would not have been allowed, and use of new forms would have been required. However, the new forms had not been made available by FMCSA until very recently.

FMCSA is expected to state that the new forms may NOT be used until the new compliance deadline (TBD). The new deadline for use of the new forms is expected to be sometime in February or March, 2016. This means current forms will have to be used longer than expected. MTAC has the current forms in stock, and will also have the new forms available as the new deadline approaches.

MTAC will keeps its members posted on the status of required use of the new forms.

Connecticut Resources

Lockbox for Connecticut transportation funds

Governor Malloy called the Connecticut legislature to a special session on Tuesday, Dec. 8 for “deficit mitigation” purposes. As part of the special session, the legislature also considered a measure to institute a Constitutional amendment to put a “lockbox” on funds going into the state’s Special Transportation Fund. The text of the proposed Constitutional amendment did not specify what revenue sources would be protected by the lockbox, meaning that legislators would have to specify those revenue sources at a later time.

The measure passed the Senate unanimously, but in the House it only garnered 100 votes, not the 114 needed to have it pass by a 3/4 supermajority, which would have put it on the ballot for voters to approve in 2016. The measure can be brought up again in 2017, and if passed by a simple majority, would be on the ballot for voters to approve in 2018. It is also possible that a very similar version could be considered in the 2016 session, so that it could make the 2016 ballot for the public to vote on the amendment, if it receives the 3/4 supermajority.

Many legislators have raised concerns about the strength of the “lockbox.” Since the language which would have created the Constitutional amendment did not specify the revenue sources to be protected, that could have left the door open for tax revenue that is traditionally sent to the Special Transportation Fund to be diverted, as has happened in the past.

MTAC believes that since all revenues to the Special Transportation Fund are motor vehicle user fees (specifically, the motor fuels taxes, the oil companies tax, motor vehicle receipts, licenses/permits/fees, DMV sales) the text of the Constitutional amendment should explicitly protect them. Additionally, the Constitutional amendment should protect the portion of the sales tax that is currently going to the STF, and any federal highway funds that are received by the state. MTAC will continue to push for a strong protection of transportation funds.

ATA: Three factors contribute to looming driver shortage

Driver demographics, industry growth, and strict carrier policies and governmental regulations are contributing to a projected shortage of 175,000 commercial drivers by 2024, according to a study released by the American Transportation Associations (ATA).

Presently, over-the-road truck drivers are overwhelmingly male (94 percent) and older than the average worker, with a median age of 49, compared to the median age of 42 for all U.S. workers. Those workers are poised to retire as demand for shipping continues to increase.

Hiring larger numbers of new, qualified drivers seems to be the best strategy for stemming this coming shortfall, and the ATA has several suggestions:

  • Increase driver pay
  • Increase at-home time
  • Lower the minimum driving age from 21 to 18
  • Improve the public image of truck driving as a career
  • Recruit military veterans

In service of that last tactic, the industry has pledged to hire 100,000 veterans over the next two years, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently pledged $2.3 million in grants to assist in the training of veterans.

This article presented by Marty Shea, Senior Vice President and Director of Sales for Sinclair Risk & Financial Management.

Note: Many MTAC members are eligible for very competitive rates for property/casualty insurance through Sinclair. MTAC members who enroll in the group plan will be eligible to receive a share of potential dividends. Contact Marty at MShea@srfm.com or by calling (203) 284-3208