Turn Signals – Issue #49

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is previewing how its proposed changes to CSA methodology affect each motor carrier. The significant changes are (1) lowering the Vehicle Maintenance Basic Alert threshold to 75 from 80, (2) increasing the Basic Alert thresholds for Controlled Substances/Alcohol, Hazmat Compliance, and Driver Fitness from 80 to 90, and (3) segmenting carriers with hazmat inspections into two groups, one for companies with 50% or more of their inspections involving cargo tanks vehicles and the other group having less than 50%. Also, a trucker would not have a Crash Indicator score until it had three recordable accidents in the previous 24 months, and a carrier with no highway inspections in the last 12 months would not have any CSA scores. To see its proposed scoring, a carrier would need its USDOT PIN number and log into this website. The agency is taking public comments until December 3rd, but it cannot actually implement any of these changes until it completes a Congress-ordered study on the CSA methodology.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled carriers can require drivers to be tested for sleep apnea. The tribunal said such programs do not violate the Americans with Disability Act when they are “legitimate and non-discriminatory”. It agreed the trucking company’s requirements were “consistent with business necessity”. Barring the Supreme Court agreeing to an appeal, the ruling is expected to be the law of the land until FMCSA formalizes a rule making on sleep apnea, which could be years away.

The vast majority of comments so far submitted to the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on truck speed limiters are adamantly against the proposal. Trucks with gross weight ratings over 26,000 pounds and built beginning in September 2020 would be governed at a not-yet-specified top speed, likely between 60 and 68 mph. Angry truck drivers believe, among many reasons, that differing speeds between trucks and other vehicles is a safety disaster. The higher the speed limit the more other motorists will misjudge their closing speed with a slower truck ahead. Even the American Trucking Associations, a major supporter of speed limiters, now states the proposal is flawed unless it includes lowering speed limits nationwide to truck speeds.

How compliant is your company’s random drug and alcohol testing? Many motor carriers fail doing the required number of tests, now set at 25% of the year’s average driver count for drugs and 10% for alcohol. Sometimes it is ignorance of the rules, but often companies slip up when the testing supervisor leaves the carrier. The program gets forgotten or suspended until the error is caught. The problem is when a compliance auditor arrives, it doesn’t matter if it’s being done correctly now – Was it done correctly in the last calendar year, which is what they examine? Failing to have minimum numbers of both drug and alcohol random tests will by itself give the audit a Conditional safety rating.

Did you know….. The American Trucking Associations predicts a 27% increase in truck freight from 2016 to 2017. Including rail, water, and pipeline, all freight will go up 35%.

Turn Signals is published by Nicholas Wingerter (210.863.9759) and TRUCK SAFETY.
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