3 U.S. regulatory updates you need to know about

by Heather Ness

NEENAH, WIIn the motor carrier world, there’s a lot happening in the United States these days. If you’ve been operating into the United States, by now you must’ve learned to roll with the punches.

A few recent rule changes in the United States have raised some questions about applicability to, and impacts on, Canada-based motor carriers that operate south of the 49th. (And in Alaska, of course.)

Here’s a quick run-down of those recent changes and what you need to know if you’re going to head south.

Hours-of-service restart rules suspended

The hours-of-service story just keeps getting better and more interesting as the years go on, doesn’t it? In mid-December 2014, President Obama signed the FY 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill into law.

The bill immediately prohibited the enforcement of the 34-hour restart restrictions as currently written in Section 395.3 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. As you may recall, these provisions required a 34-hour restart to include two consecutive 1:00 a.m.-to-5:00 a.m. periods and at least 168 hours between the beginning of a restart period and a subsequent restart period. As a result of the law, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was required to revert back to the pre-July 2013 provisions.

The new enforcement protocol will remain in effect until Sept. 30, 2015, or until the FMCSA completes a study involving the use of real drivers in real working environments.
About a week after the bill was signed into law, the FMCSA published a notice in the Federal Register officially announcing suspension of enforcement of Section 395.3(c) and (d) as of 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 16, 2014. The FMCSA will not be changing the actual regulation, however.

What does this mean for you? For starters, your life may have just gotten a little easier. If your drivers had been trying to comply with Canada’s cycle-1 36-hour restart and the U.S. restart rules, their logs, recaps, and available hours calculations might have been somewhat complicated. With those two “extra” U.S.-specific requirements now out of the picture, a 36-hour cycle-1 restart meets both Canada and U.S. regulations and all is well… at least until Sept. 30, 2015, that is.

No-defect driver vehicle inspection report eliminated

On Dec. 18, 2014, the FMCSA eliminated the requirement for drivers to fill out a vehicle trip inspection report if the commercial vehicle has no defects. The newly revised rule only applies to property-carrying vehicle inspections; if a driver operates a passenger-carrying vehicle, he or she must still complete a trip inspection report, defects or no defects.

When your property-carrying drivers are in the United States and their vehicle inspection finds no defects, technically they do not need to fill out a trip inspection report.

However, this is not recommended practice for obvious reasons. The first reason is that the provinces have not backed down on their requirement to carry a no-defects inspection report. When traveling back to Canada, your driver will be required to present, upon request, a written trip inspection report and inspection schedule. The second reason is that regular trip inspection reports are, of course, best practice and help to minimize the risk of operating unsafe vehicles.

The advice here is to continue what your drivers have always been doing – conducting a trip inspection and completing an inspection report.

USDOT number deactivations

This one is clear and simple; update your motor carrier information on file with the FMCSA (your MCS-150) at least every two years according to the schedule in Section 390.19, or you will face deactivation of your USDOT number.

can’t stress this one enough.

The FMCSA has been notifying carriers that their MCS-150 is out of date and if an update is not completed, the USDOT number will be deactivated. The thing is, if you haven’t updated your MCS-150 in some time and have moved company locations, you may not have received the notification.

As a reminder, the last number of your USDOT number dictates in which month you must complete your update. For example, 1 = January, 2 = February, and so on. The second-to-last number of your USDOT number, whether even or odd, dictates whether you update in an even-numbered year or an odd-numbered year.

You should update your MCS-150 whenever information about your company changes. But you must always update in your scheduled month and year, even if you just updated your information a month earlier. Again, always complete an update in your scheduled month and year.

You can complete the update yourself, for free, by visiting http://tinyurl.com/FMCSAupdateportal. Note that you will need your PIN, which is available almost immediately via e-mail if you do not yet have one.

Wait, there’s more.

As if we didn’t have our hands full with the items mentioned above, here’s some more things to consider. The calendar year 2015 is slated, so far, to bring us the electronic logging device final rulemaking, changes to the motor carrier report (MCS-150 will become the MCSA-1 in October), a potential Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a final rule prohibiting driver coercion, and a heavy vehicle speed limiter proposal, just to name a few.

2014 proved to be an interesting year and it looks like 2015 will follow suit. Stay tuned.

Heather Ness is the editor of Transport Operations, at J.J.Keller & Associates. Contact her at transporteditors@jjkeller.com.

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