Preemployment DACH Query Now Satisfies Investigation Requirement for Prospective Drivers’ Drug and Alcohol Violations.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced that as of January 6, 2023, a pre-employment query of the agency’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse satisfies the requirement to investigate a prospective driver’s previous drug and alcohol program violations, as set forth in 49 CFR 391.23(e)(4) and 382.413(b).

Employers of CDL drivers are required to conduct background investigations before hiring a driver. This process includes determining if the driver has violated the drug and alcohol regulations of any Department of Transportation (DOT) mode within the past three years (see 49 CFR 391.23(e)(1)-(3) and 382.413(a)).

As of January 6, 2023, three years of violation data is now stored in the Clearinghouse database. This means that prospective employers must conduct a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse, as set forth in § 382.701(a), to comply with the inquiry requirement in §§ 382.413(b) and 391.23(e)(4), as it pertains to FMCSA-regulated employers. Inquiries not conducted under § 382.701(a) will not satisfy these inquiry requirements.

The FMCSA also notes that its annual query requirements have not changed.

Employers of CDL drivers must conduct a query in the Clearinghouse at least once a year for each CDL driver they employ (see § 382.701(b)). This annual query requirement applies on a rolling 12-month basis, which means that if you conducted your last annual queries in December 2021, it is time to conduct the next round of annual queries.

Employers must obtain general consent from CDL drivers they employ before conducting limited queries in the Clearinghouse to view these drivers’ information (companies can download a sample limited query consent form).

IRS Issues Guidance on Incremental Cost for Commercial Clean Vehicle Credit.  The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service have issued Notice 2023-9 regarding the commercial clean vehicle credit for commercial vehicles purchased and placed in service, during the taxable year.

The guidance says that the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service have reviewed the incremental cost for all street vehicles in calendar year 2023. The analysis shows that the incremental cost of all street vehicles (other than in the case of compact car PHEVs) that have a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 14,000 pounds will be greater than $7,500 in calendar year 2023.

Accordingly, the incremental cost will not limit the available credit amount for street vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 14,000 pounds and are placed in service in calendar year 2023.

Section 45W of the Internal Revenue Code as created in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provides a tax credit for the purchase or lease of new commercial electric-powered vehicles placed into service after December 31, 2022, and before January 1, 2033.  The amount of the § 45W credit is the lesser of: (1) 15 percent of the taxpayer’s basis in the vehicle (30 percent in the case of a vehicle not powered by a gasoline or diesel internal combustion engine), or (2) the incremental cost of the vehicle.  Under § 45W(b)(4), the credit is limited to $7,500 in the case of a vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 14,000 pounds, and $40,000 for all other vehicles.

For compact car plug-in electric hybrids for which the incremental cost was calculated to be less than $7,500, the Treasury Department and the IRS will accept for vehicles placed in service during calendar year 2023 a taxpayer’s use, in calculating the credit amount, of the incremental cost published by the Department of Energy.

DOT, EPA Adjust Penalty Amounts for Inflation.  As required by federal law, all of the operating administrations of the U.S. Department of Transportation have increased their civil penalty amounts for regulatory violations beginning January 6, 2023 based on inflation rates.  For violations that occur on or after that date, the penalties will increase by 7.745%.

The FMCSA’s new maximum penalty for recordkeeping violations is $14,960, and for CDL violations the maximum is $6,755.  The penalty for an employer knowingly allowing a driver to violate an out-of-service order is $37,400.

The maximum penalty for violating the Hazardous Materials Regulations is now $96,624.  A violation of the HMR that results in death, serious illness, severe injury, or substantial property destruction has a maximum penalty of $209,249.

Similarly, the Environmental Protection agency has announced a 7.745% increase in its maximum civil penalties effective January 6, 2023.

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