PHMSA preempts NYC fuel hauling law

From National Tank Truck Carriers.

On July 6, 2017, the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a notice in the Federal Register preempting New York City’s hazardous material truck permit and inspection programs as well as the fees related to those inspections and permits. Unless New York City files a petition for reconsideration or challenges the decision in court, effective July 26, 2017 the Fire Department’s (FDNY) hazardous materials truck inspection and permitting program will be preempted.

This decision also opens the door for challenges to other programs in other jurisdictions. Finally, the notice stated that claims regarding state and local regulations for loading/unloading and decal display were raised too late in the process, but could be raised in a future challenge if the FDNY attempts to modify their program to fit the decision instead of abolishing it.

State to spend more on big highway projects

From the Hartford Courant:

The elimination of some federal aid for transit funding means Connecticut will be spending more on highways and less on trains and buses, according to a draft of a transportation department four-year plan.

The plan also shows the state Department of Transportation intends to start several big-ticket highway and bridge projects between now and 2021, including repairs to about a dozen sections of the Mixmaster interchange in Waterbury, overhaul of the I-95 bridge between New London and Groton and a redesign of Route 9 in Middletown to do away with traffic lights.

On the mass transit side, no new systems are in the works, but more than $1 billion is planned for upgrading Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven Line tracks, installing costly crash-prevention systems on Metro-North trains, and replacing part of the CT Transit bus fleet.

Those are among 280 major transportation jobs listed in the draft of a four-year Statewide Transportation Improvement Program. The DOT recently released the plan and will hear public comments during July 11 forums at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. at DOT headquarters in Newington.

The plan appears to sharply shift funding away from transit and toward highways.

See the full story from the Hartford Courant online.

MTAC drug and alcohol testing program

MTAC has recently received questions from members regarding its drug and alcohol testing consortium. In response to frequently asked questions, this is a friendly reminder that the third-party administrator for MTAC’s program is our vendor partner Fleet Screen. By participating in MTAC’s FMCSA-compliant drug and alcohol testing consortium run by Fleet Screen, members will save money, comply with federal regulations, and will have their administrative burdens greatly reduced.

MTAC is not affiliated with any other vendor for drug and alcohol testing. Any further questions can be directed to MTAC staff or Fleet Screen.

If you are not currently enrolled in the drug and alcohol testing consortium run by Fleet Screen but would like to be, complete this attached setup form and remit it to Laurie Biggs and Shelley Sullivan. Contact the MTAC office if you have questions about enrollment charges or any other aspect of participating in the consortium.

Summer truck toll discount implemented by MTA

From Trucking Association of New York.

Beginning on July 10 and lasting through September 1, trucks crossing various Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) structures in NYC will receive a 50 percent discount on their tolls if they cross between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.

The discount is being offered in an effort to relieve anticipated increases in congestion due to emergency rail repair by Amtrak at Penn Station. The repairs will create major disruptions to NYC’s transit system, likely encouraging some transit riders to get back in their cars, and come at a time when the subway system has declined to such a state of disrepair that Gov. Andrew Cuomo felt the need to declare a State of Emergency to facilitate their repair. The governor also pledged $1 billion for improvements and moved to make it easier for the MTA to purchase new equipment.

The MTA discount for trucks is intended to encourage more travel by commercial vehicles during off-peak hours. TANY has had recent discussions with the MTA regarding the discount. While we understand and appreciate their intent, we have informed them that unless a driver is able to make a delivery during the off-peak hours, or has a legal place to park, simply providing a discount will not change the time they cross into New York City.

Court denies review of arbitration opinion unfavorable for transportation providers

From the Scopelitis firm.

The Scopelitis Firm has long cautioned transportation providers about the risks in seeking to enforce mandatory arbitration provisions against owner-operators under the Federal Arbitration Act. Such efforts might prompt a defense based on the exemption from the FAA for “contracts of employment” with transportation workers, which some courts have extended to cover even independent contractors. The First Circuit Court of Appeals recently did just that in a case called Olveira v. New Prime, holding that owner-operators work under “contracts of employment” regardless of whether they are independent contractors. New Prime sought full-court review of this opinion (and was supported in that effort by the American Trucking Associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), but that request was denied on Tuesday. Review by the U.S. Supreme Court may be sought, but it is unclear whether the Court would agree to hear the case, or if so how it might rule.

New Prime and decisions like it underscore the need for transportation providers to look closely at state law as an alternative means of compelling arbitration of disputes with owner-operators. Lease agreements that are found to be exempt under the FAA may nonetheless be enforced under state arbitration law. While those laws will vary by jurisdiction and so require careful study, they can provide an independent mechanism by which a court could send a dispute to arbitration, rendering moot any question as to whether the FAA applies.

Scopelitis attorneys regularly counsel transportation providers on the risks involved in seeking to compel arbitration against owner-operators under the FAA and the possibility of gaining enforcement of such agreements under state law. If you have any questions along these lines, please contact Greg Feary, Braden Core, Ryan Wright, or Brandon Wiseman.

FMCSA to use new approach on safety scores

From Transport Topics.

The top attorney for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said the agency is moving forward with plans in support of recommendations by a panel of elite academics for a new approach to measuring motor carrier safety scores.

“We at FMCSA have been waiting for this study for 18 months,” Randi Hutchinson, chief counsel for FMCSA, told Transport Topics in a June 29 interview. “We accept it. That’s what we’re moving toward.”

Hutchinson, recently named to the chief counsel post, said the agency is “taking the recommendations to heart” and the agency “intends to immediately start working on them. We have 120 days to prepare an action plan that we will then present to Congress and to the office of the inspector general.”

The study, fashioned by a 12-member panel of academics chosen by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, concluded that FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program’s controversial Safety Measurement System to identify motor carriers at high risk for future crashes is “conceptually sound” but several features need improvement.

While the panel’s report was complimentary of the agency for many of its ideas and efforts, it recommended that over the next two years, regulators develop a more “statistically principled approach” based on an “item response theory” — that is, a more detailed data-oriented approach that digs deeper and measures the performance of individual trucks and buses, not just at the motor carrier level.

You can review the study online See the full story from Transport Topics online.

FMCSA safety campaign – Share the Road Safely

From Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continues its efforts to raise public awareness so that all drivers know how to operate safely around large trucks and buses through a newly formed partnership under the Our Roads, Our Safety campaign.

“FMCSA is pleased to work with a group of partners that are dedicated to safety and share our agency’s goal of reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses on the road,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Daphne Jefferson. “This important partnership amplifies the message that all drivers on the roadway must work together to ensure that everyone arrives safely at their destinations.”

The American Bus Association, AAA and the American Trucking Associations have joined with FMCSA to amplify the Our Roads, Our Safety effort to educate all pedestrians, bicyclists, passenger vehicle drivers and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers on how to better share our roadways and improve safety for all.

There are several simple actions passenger vehicle drivers should take while sharing the road with large trucks and buses:

  • Stay out of the “No Zones” or blind spots at the front, back and sides of the vehicle
  • Make sure they can see the driver in the mirror before safely passing
  • Don’t cut in close while merging in front of a CMV
  • Stay back a safe distance to avoid being in the blind spot
  • Anticipate wide turns and consider larger vehicles may require extra turning room
  • Stay focused on the road and avoid distractions
  • Lastly, be patient driving around large trucks and buses

For more information, go to www.sharetheroadsafely.gov

Safety scoring system “Conceptually Sound,” but needs improvement, report says

From Transport Topics:

The federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability program’s controversial Safety Measurement System to identify motor carriers at high risk for future crashes is “conceptually sound” but several features need improvement, according to a new congressionally mandated report by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

“SMS is structured in a reasonable way, and its method of identifying motor carriers for alert status is defensible,” the study, made public June 27, concluded. “However, much of what is now done is ad hoc and based on subject-matter expertise that has not been sufficiently empirically validated.”

The 132-page study was conducted over the past 15 months by a 12-member elite panel of academics, several who specialize in statistics and transportation safety policy. It was funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and mandated by the FAST Act of 2015.

The approximate cost of the study is just under $1 million, said an academies spokeswoman.

The academies’ panel was charged with analyzing the ability of FMCSA’s SMS to discriminate between low- and high-risk carriers, assess the public usage of SMS, review the data and methodology used to calculate the measures and provide advice on additional data collection and safety assessment methodologies.

In March, FMCSA withdrew a January 2016 proposed motor carrier safety fitness rule saying it was awaiting the results of the study.

While the panel’s report was complimentary of the agency for many of its ideas and efforts, it recommended that over the next two years regulators develop a more “statistically principled approach” based on an “item response theory” — that is, a more detailed data-oriented approach that digs deeper and measures the performance of individual trucks and buses, not just at the motor carrier level.

See the full story from Transport Topics online.

House advances bills to help veterans access CDLs

From Transport Topics:

Legislation aimed at making it easier for veterans to access commercial driver licenses was passed by the U.S. House on June 26.

The Active Duty Voluntary Acquisition of Necessary Credentials for Employment, or ADVANCE, Act would improve access for military service members and reservists to the training and testing standards needed for commercial driver licenses under the 2015 FAST Act highway law.

“Today’s votes demonstrate the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s commitment to putting forward common-sense, good-government legislation for the nation,” committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said shortly after the bill’s passage.

“The legislation passed today will help current and former service members to more easily obtain commercial driver licenses,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the committee’s ranking member.

Sponsored by Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), the bill was advanced by the committee last month. A related provision in the FAST Act applied only to certain veterans.

“This is a common-sense measure that will help our brave men and women find work here,” Aguilar said May 24.

Industry executives have sought to incorporate the skills of military personnel when they step away from active duty. American Trucking Associations endorses Aguilar’s legislation.

See the full story from Transport Topics online.

State budget still uncertain with no votes planned amid fiscal gridlock

From the Hartford Courant.

With the state legislature postponing a vote on the new two-year budget amid fiscal gridlock, the chances increased sharply Tuesday that the state’s finances will be run by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy through an executive order when the new fiscal year starts Saturday.

At the same time, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, the highest-ranking senator, called for a vote on Malloy’s “mini-budget” that would keep the state running on a short-term basis as lawmakers continue battling over the two-year budget.

On a chaotic day of fast-changing developments, both Looney and Malloy called upon House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz to reconsider his position and allow a vote on the mini-budget in order to avoid even deeper spending cuts for hospitals, municipalities and social services.

Insiders said the House Democratic majority did not have the votes to pass any budget due to disagreements on the merits and vacations of members who are out of town.

“I believe my members are less than likely to hop on planes, leave their families at vacation places all over this country and other countries to come in and do a temporary fix,” Aresimowicz told reporters. “I believe my members would do exactly that if we have a budget that moves the state of Connecticut forward … but not for a temporary fix.”

See the full story from the Hartford Courant online.