Your Trucking Safety Update From Washington

There have been a lot of big moves in Washington D.C. yet again where the trucking industry is concerned. It seems every year, as we reach the end of the year, a flurry of activity changes the game for trucking operators, and this year is no exception. December has been a big month, with the latest news being the FMCSA’s decision to grant the ATA’s petition to intervene in state rest break rules.

Rest Break Update

The new guidance stems from a late-September push by ATA lobbyists to have the DOT pre-empt meal and rest break rules that California had recently put into effect. The trucking advocacy group argued that the new patchwork set of rules would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce by  sowing confusion among motor carriers who operate across state lines.

In a statement on the matter, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear stated that the ruling by the DOT was “a victory for highway safety.” He went on to state that the pre-emption would “unburden businesses throughout the supply chain and keep the prices Americans pay for food, clothing, and countless other items affordable and accessible.”

The main thrust of the argument is that it will be easier for truck drivers to follow a single set of rules, whether they are operating in California or in Oregon. Still, others argue that this will allow trucking companies who are fighting to keep up with record demand to take advantage of their truck drivers, especially where they are classified as independent contractors.

Movement on Jason’s Law

Meanwhile, the Federal Highway Administration is conducting a second Jason’s Law survey asking for feedback regarding the availability of safe truck parking spots for commercial motor vehicle operators. This particular study will also include feedback requests for trucking operations managers and truck stop owners and operators.

Jason’s Law was signed by President Barack Obama in July of 2012 and is named for New York-based truck driver Jason Rivenburg, who was killed in 2009 during a robbery after he parked his big rig at an abandoned South Carolina gas station. The FHWA has cited the lack of available truck parking as a national safety concern.

The safety concern stems from the potential for fatigued truck drivers to either drive when they are too tired to be behind the wheel or to look for parking situations that might be unsafe. The new survey is designed to update the industry on progress made since the initial survey report, which was completed in August of 2015. The mandate comes as a result of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.

With the new survey, the FHWA aims to update the inventory of truck parking and identify improvements that need to be made since the 2015 survey. They will also highlight what improvements have been made, so that interested parties know where to go. They will also be looking at state-specific truck travel to determine where truck parking demand has increased since the prior survey.

In a new development, the agency will also be evaluating the different types of technologies being developed and used to monitor truck parking availability. With many states and private parties instituting truck parking information systems, the agency hopes to put a comprehensive list together that transportation companies can quickly access for solutions.

Finally, the agency will compile truck parking plans, state studies, and other projects, both governmental and private and by metropolitan planning organizations to see what works and what does not. Hopefully, efforts like these will prevent future issues like what happened to create the need for Jason’s Law in the first place.