March was another busy month for regulatory and FMCSA-related happenings. Here are a few of the major updates.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced that it is officially accepting Mexico’s standard for annual commercial vehicle inspections for Mexican motor carriers operating in the United States.
In Mexico, there’s a specific annual inspection that motor carriers must pass to be legal. This is called Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM), which just means Official Mexican Standard. As of March 16th, as long as Mexico-domiciled carriers have a copy of their NOM inspection report and a sticker decal affixed to their vehicle, the U.S. agrees to honor it and pass the vehicle in its own annual inspection.
This might seem like Mexican carriers are getting off the hook, but truthfully this eliminates the possibility of them relying on their own employees to conduct their inspections, or going to commercial garages instead of getting inspections from a legitimate government source. From now on, they must have their official inspections done by the Mexican government.
The safety fitness determinations for motor carriers have been in the pipeline for some time, and it looks like that’s still going to be the case for now.
On January 21, the FMCSA published a proposed ruling that would establish a methodology for determining if a carrier is safe to operate a commercial motor vehicle. This includes the carrier’s performance in conjunction with the fixed failure threshold, investigation results, and on-road safety data. Essentially, instead of being judged as satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory, carriers would either be stamped as fit or unfit. Those found to be unfit would need to improve in the noted categories or cease operations.
Since there was controversy even before the official proposal was published, the FMCSA has granted an extended period of time to hear public comments on issues and improvements. The approval of extension of the comment period comes in the wake of petitions by several trucking associations against the proposed rule, due to the accusation that it would violate the somewhat-lengthy rulemaking process established by the FAST Act.
On March 4, the FMCSA proposed a new rule aimed at entry-level CDL applicants.
Under the suggested rule, those applying for a Class A CDL (for operating a tractor-trailer vehicle over 26,000 pounds) would be required to log a minimum of thirty hours of behind-the-wheel training from an FMCSA-certified instructional program. Applicants pursuing a Class B CDL (needed to operate a heavy straight truck, bus, or motor coach) would be required to log a minimum of fifteen hours of certified training, with seven of those being practice range training.
If an entry-level driver training rule sounds familiar, it’s because a similar initiative has been in the works for years, even as far back as 2012. It was controversial when it was first revealed and is still a bit muddy. Those opposing the idea fear that putting a minimum number of behind-the-wheel training hours into regulations might falsely convey that a driver is competent and ready to operate a large vehicle on public roadways simply because they have that experience. In other words, they believe it implies that just because an applicant has driven thirty hours during their instruction period, they are safely able to drive on their own.
The proposed rule is now under a thirty day public comment period and many trucking associations are expected to speak to it. To read it, click here.
We’ll keep you updated if any changes to these items occur as they move through the FMCSA’s pipeline.
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