September 15 – Safety & Compliance

FMCSA Publishes Pilot Program to Allow Pause in Driver Duty Window.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published a notice of pilot program to allow temporary regulatory relief from the agency’s hours-of-service requirement that all driving by drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles be completed within 14 hours after coming on duty. 85 Fed. Reg. 55061 (September 3, 2020).

During the pilot program, known as the Split Duty Period Pilot Program, participating CMV drivers would have the option to pause their 14-hour on-duty period (also called a driving window) with one off-duty period of no less than 30 minutes and no more than 3 hours. Participation would be limited to a certain number of commercial driver’s license holders who meet the criteria specified for participation.

This pilot program seeks to gather statistically reliable evidence whether decisions concerning the timing of such flexibility can be aligned with employers’, shippers’, and receivers’ scheduling preferences to optimize productivity while ensuring safety performance at a level equivalent to or greater than what would be achieved absent the regulatory relief.

The agency intends to sample approximately 200-400 CMV drivers over a period of up to 3 years.  The FMCSA says that allowing drivers to split a duty period might permit them to avoid congestion and reduce the incentive to exceed speed limits in order to complete runs within the 14-hour duty window.

Comments must be received on or before November 2, 2020. The implementation date of the pilot program would be announced in subsequent Federal Register notices.

FMCSA Seeks Comments on Under-21 Commercial Driver Pilot Program.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has released a notice of pilot program to allow drivers aged 18, 19, and 20 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce.  85 Fed. Reg. 55928 (September 10, 2020).

The agency proposes a pilot program to allow drivers to participate if they fall within either of two categories: (1) 18 to 20-year-old commercial driver’s license holders who operate CMVs in interstate commerce while taking part in a 120-hour probationary period and a subsequent 280-hour probationary period under an apprenticeship program established by an employer; or (2) 19 and 20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for a minimum of one year and 25,000 miles. The study group drivers would not be allowed to operate vehicles hauling passengers or hazardous materials or special configuration vehicles.

The 120-hour probationary period would include 120 hours of on-duty time, with at least 80 hours of driving time in a CMV. In order to complete the 120-hour probationary period, the employer must make sure the younger driver is competent in each of the following areas: Interstate, city traffic, rural 2-lane, and evening driving; safety awareness; speed and space management; lane control; mirror scanning; right and left turns; and logging and complying with rules relating to hours of service.

The 280- hour probationary period would include 280 hours of on-duty time, with at least 160 hours of driving time in a CMV. In order to complete the 280-hour probationary period, an employer must ensure that the younger driver is competent in each of the following areas: Backing and maneuvering in close quarters; pre-trip inspections; fueling procedures; weighing loads, weight distribution, and sliding tandems; coupling and uncoupling procedures; and trip planning, truck routes, map reading, navigation, and permits.

Currently, 49 states and the District of Columbia already allow 18 to 20-year-old CDL holders to operate CMVs in intrastate commerce—meaning under-21 drivers may currently drive within state borders, such as from Houston to El Paso or from Miami to Tallahassee.

FMCSA is seeking approximately 200 drivers aged 18, 19 and 20 to participate in the pilot program.  When these drivers turn 21, they will have to be replaced by additional younger drivers.  Carriers would be required to complete an application for participation in the pilot program and submit monthly data on study group and/or control group driver activity.

DHHS Proposes Guidelines for Testing Hair Specimens for Drugs.  The Department of Health and Human Services has proposed scientific and technical guidelines for the inclusion of hair specimens in the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs, which would include commercial motor vehicle drivers.  85 Fed. Reg. 56108 (September 10, 2020).

The guidelines will allow federal executive branch agencies, including the Department of Transportation, to collect and test a hair specimen as part of their drug testing programs with the limitation that hair specimens be used for pre-employment and random testing only.

These proposed guidelines would establish standards and technical requirements for hair collection and collection materials, initial hair drug test analytes and methods, confirmatory hair drug test analytes and methods, processes for review by an MRO, standards for certification of laboratories engaged in hair drug testing.  They would require collection of a urine specimen in addition to the hair specimen, either simultaneously (i.e., at the same collection event) or when directed by the Medical Review Officer after review and verification of laboratory-reported results for the hair specimen. This alternate specimen would be tested and reported in place of a donor’s positive hair specimen only in certain circumstances.

Results of CVSA Check.  The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance reported that during Operation Safe Driving Week, which took place July 12-18, law enforcement personnel observed 66,421 drivers engaging in unsafe driver behaviors on roadways and issued 71,343 warnings and citations.

Operation Safe Driving Week is a driver-focused safety initiative aimed at curbing dangerous driver behaviors through interactions with law enforcement.  During the week, 3,681 enforcement officers from 55 Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions interacted with 29,921 commercial motor vehicle drivers and 36,500 passenger vehicle drivers.

Commercial motor vehicle drivers were issued 10,736 warnings and citations for traffic enforcement violations, and passenger vehicle drivers received 17,329 citations and 14,792 warnings for traffic enforcement violations.

The top five traffic enforcement citations given to commercial motor vehicle drivers were:

  1. Speeding/violation of basic speed law/driving too fast for the conditions – 2,339
  2. Failure to use seat belt while operating commercial motor vehicle – 1,003
  3. Failure to obey traffic control device – 617
  4. Using a hand-held phone/texting – 269
  5. Improper lane change – 122



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