With several significant pieces of legislation and regulation in the transportation sector moving forward in Washington, we take a closer look at some of the leading fleet management and infrastructure measures making headway this week.
HEAD OUT ON THE HIGHWAY
The United States Senate moved on a $287 billion transportation package, which is the first federal transportation bill to acknowledge climate change. The bill earned unanimous committee support. Supporters inside the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Work lauded the bill, citing a pressing “need for resilient infrastructure, alternative fuel corridors, and serious efforts to reduce congestion.” Proponents of the bill’s alternative fuel measures say, “[s]omething needs to be done to make sure that we’re not rebuilding the same pieces of infrastructure every five, 10 years when we have a major weather event,” including coastal communities like the Gulf Coast, or interior states that experience river flooding. Detractors of the bill, like Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) of Iowa, a major producer of ethanol, objected to a provision to promote electric charging stations. Despite its early momentum, there are miles to go on this haul.
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduced a novel school bus safety measure that would add fire suppression systems, “firewalls,” and enhanced driver oversight for school buses. The bill resurrects a previous call for three-point seatbelts, automatic emergency braking, electronic stability controls, event data recorders, passenger detection systems, and sleep apnea studies. The bill seeks to amend federal code to require no less than 30 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction for school bus drivers. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended the installation of fire suppression systems in all new and existing school buses. However, the House measure, would only apply to new school buses.
Starting Feb. 10, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will require all entry-level drivers to complete the prescribed program of theory and behind-the-wheel training. The new entry-level driver training rules are based on recommendations that were made by a special advisory group. Despite this progress, the FMCSA announced last month that it intends to delay a new Training Provider Registry until February 2022. According to the agency, the delay will provide additional time to complete the development of the electronic interface that will receive and store entry-level driver training certification information from registered training providers.
And finally this week, the U.S. Department of Transportation will overhaul its handling of carrier safety metrics through U.S. DOT’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program. The FMCSA announced plans to strike some types of crashes from carriers’ scores if those crashes are deemed “nonpreventable” for the truck operator or carrier. The agency will seek a 60-day comment period on the rule. We’ll keep pace with these changes.
Hospitality Industry Risks
PROTECTING VULNERABLE WORKERS
New legislation in New Jersey, effective on January 1, 2020, will mandate that “larger” hotels protect workers from sexual violence, assault, and other acts of harassment and violence. This bill will require hotels to equip hotel employees, at no cost to the employees, with panic buttons to protect themselves from inappropriate conduct by guests when hotel employees are servicing guest rooms by themselves. A “panic button” is a portable emergency contact device which an employee can quickly and easily activate to summon immediate on-scene assistance from a security officer, manager or supervisor, or other appropriate hotel staff member.
FROM SEATTLE TO MIAMI
Earlier this spring, Washington State enacted legislation requiring applicable hotel, motel, and qualifying retail establishments to provide a panic button to each janitor, security guard, hotel/motel housekeeper, or room service attendant who spends a majority of his or her working hours alongside two or fewer coworkers. Miami Beach also passed an ordinance designed to protect these workers by requiring employers to provide “panic buttons,” which took effect on August 1, 2019. Based on the progress of city, local, and state measure across to county, we expect to see a further proliferation of laws concerning personal protective devices for at risk employees in the hospitality sector.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The Utah Supreme Court unanimously invalidated a process that claimants in Utah must follow before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. For the past decade, the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) administered a process called, “a pre-litigation hearing,” to determine whether a malpractice claim had enough merit to proceed to civil court. Declaring the process unconstitutional, the Utah Supreme Court held that DOPL’s executive branch “exercised a core judicial function” that resulted in the final disposition of claims without judicial review. In related news, two nationally regarded research papers were released last month, each pointing to the significance of diagnostic errors the leading source of medical malpractice in the United States today.
White House officials announced that, beginning this fall, federal employees can be prescribed only an initial 7-day supply of prescription painkillers following surgery. Currently, a federal worker insured through Federal Employees Health Benefits Program FEHBP can receive up to a 30-day prescription after a surgical procedure. Under the new rules, patients would be able to get up to three 7-day refills, if needed.
Staying with the opioid crisis, the state of Arizona filed a lawsuit directly with the United States Supreme Court this week seeking damages against a leading opioid manufacturer. The Constitution gives the Supreme Court “original jurisdiction” to hear disputes “in which a state shall be party.” Although rare, when it accepts a state’s case, the Supreme Court acts like a trial court by appointing a special master to hear evidence and issue recommendations. These cases are usually reserved for disputes between two states over issues like water rights or border disputes. In 2016, the justices turned down a request from Nebraska and Oklahoma to file a claim for costs and damages related to Colorado’s legalization of marijuana.
You rang? This week, Colorado became the third state, after New York and Illinois, to allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any condition for which they would prescribe an opioid. In two other states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, patients diagnosed with opioid use disorder may be advised to use medical marijuana instead of opioids. In most states where medical marijuana is legal, it can be accessed for general pain relief. But now in Colorado, post-operative patients, or patients with acute pain, can potentially use medical marijuana instead of opioids.
TAKE THE “WORLD” IN A LOVE EMBRACE
Leaders from across the industry and around the country will meet next week in Orlando at the 74th annual Workers' Compensation Educational Conference presented by The Workers' Compensation Institute. If you are going to be in Orlando, please connect with us! Congratulations to the newly appointed Board of Advisors for WCI, including GB’s own Vilma Palma-Blackmon. We are thrilled to be part of the events next week, including a number of educational sessions. By the way if you see us in Orlando leading up to WCI, no, I did not get sunscreen in my eyes. And, no, it’s not sweat from my brow, pollen from the gardening, or dust from sweeping the villas. It’s just the awe-inspiring reaction to the Give Kids the World service day and gala.