IN THE LEAD
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the post times for a series of regulations that will affect the way long-haul-trucking firms run their businesses. This week we take a look at some of the leading measures in the gate.
ALONG THE BACKSTRETCH
The FMCSA will formally publish proposed changes to hours-of-service (HOS) regulations in the Federal Register on June 7. The FMCSA has not changed the HOS rules since 2003. As the trucking industry is now actively complying with electronic logging device (ELD) rules, Federal Motor Carrier Safety officials recognize areas of the current existing hours-of-service regulations that need adjustment. The comment period for the final proposed rulemaking will end on July 26, with changes going into effect at a later date. We’ll be trackside as these rules come spinning out of the turn.
AS THEY HEAD FOR HOME
The FMCSA announced that its Drug and Alcohol Data Clearinghouse will become operational on January 6, 2020. All FMCSA-regulated employers must be ready to comply with the Clearinghouse requirements on that date. The FMCSA Clearinghouse is an electronic database that will contain information about commercial motor vehicle drivers’ drug and alcohol program violations. Employers and their service agents can log on to the FMCSA Clearinghouse site to become familiar with its functionality. Clearinghouse registration is valid for five years, unless cancelled or revoked. Once operational, employers will be required to query the Clearinghouse annually for each driver they currently employ and state driver licensing agencies will be required to query the Clearinghouse whenever a commercial driver’s license is issued, renewed, transferred, or upgraded.
BACK IN THE PADDOCK
Lastly, Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act (TLAAS). The bipartisan measure maintains that HOS and ELD requirements are inapplicable until after livestock haulers travel more than 300-air miles from their source. The bill would exempt loading and unloading times from the HOS calculation of driving time and would extend the HOS on-duty time maximum hour requirement from 11 hours to a minimum of 15 hours and a maximum of 18 hours of on-duty time. This bill was turned away last year, so we’ll see if it crosses the finish line in the 116th running of the U.S. Congress.
Statehouse Windows Closing Soon
A NEW YORK TRIFECTA
Lawmakers in New York are advancing legislation on behalf of seasonal and farm-workers to reverse an 80-year-old law that excludes approximately 80,000 to 100,000 seasonal farm workers from the protections afforded to other workers in the Empire State. The measure would grant collective bargaining rights, create an 8-hour work day, and permit at least one full day off each week. Workers also would obtain legal rights to unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation benefits. Presently, the bill has 32 co-sponsors in the Senate, the minimum number needed for a measure to pass. It has been approved several times in the State Assembly and Democratic Governor Cuomo says he’ll sign the bill if it passes both houses.
AND A MICHIGAN QUINELLA
Republican lawmakers and Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer are at odds over long-running efforts to cut automobile insurance rates by reining in medical benefits in auto liability claims. Michigan’s average personal automobile insurance premium is 83% higher than the national average, with residents in Detroit paying more than $5,000 annually, surpassing any other U.S. city. Michigan is one of twelve “no-fault” states where drivers must buy personal injury protection (PIP), but the only one to require unlimited coverage for victims of a collision. The Republican-led legislature in Lansing has, for the first time, passed PIP reform bills out of both chambers. Lawmakers are still resolving differences between the measures, but the legislature is poised to send an auto insurance overhaul to Governor Whitmer’s desk, who is indicating a veto. We’re in for quite a finish.
Making Our Way Around North America
Canada will roll out its ELD mandate in June of this year, with full implementation set for 2020. The Canadian version of the ELD mandate “consciously differs from its U.S. counterpart” because the Canadian rule will require owners and operators to secure third party validation and certification of the ELD device. In related truck safety news, and in the wake of last year’s Humboldt Broncos tragedy, new trucking regulations have been implemented in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. Yesterday, safety advocates seeking more strident, uniform training and licensing requirements for the Canadian commercial trucking industry delivered a petition carrying more than 7000 signatures to the House of Commons in support of a new national standard.
The Pennsylvania House Labor and Industry Committee Chairman introduced House Bill 1234, which would allow those affected by exposure to toxic substances to file for workers’ compensation after the state’s 300-week deadline. Supporters of the measure suggest that symptoms of such exposure often manifest years later and the state workers’ compensation system is the appropriate venue to adjudicate such claims. In 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in Tooey vs. AK Steel that workers who are past the 300-week threshold for comp could file a civil lawsuit against their employers.
Bipartisan lawmakers in Connecticut introduced a new legislative framework to permit police, firefighters, and parole officers to seek workers’ compensation benefits for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after exposure to certain work related events. The negotiated agreement, which advocates hailed as a national model, limits eligibility for benefits to those personnel who have experienced at least one of six specific traumatic events including, witnessing the death of a minor. Lawmakers are seeking to enact the measure before the state’s 2019 legislative session closes on June 5th.
AND THEY’RE OFF
This Saturday marks the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in racing’s Triple Crown. Despite one of the race’s largest fields at Pimlico, neither the declared winner, nor the horse that crossed the finish line first at the Kentucky Derby will race. In fact, representatives of the Derby-disqualified Maximum Security have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the inquiry that followed the Run for the Roses earlier this month. There will be no Triple Crown winner this year. We’ll have to wait until next year, but for now, you can bet we’ll be racing back to your inbox next week.