I admit, I have not kept my blog as current as I should have. Nevertheless, here is what is new at the FMCSA.
1) They are just about to name a deadline for installing the electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs or â€˜black boxesâ€™) in your trucks. The date will be November 30, 2017, give or take a few days. It is possible that date could be delayed, however, I think that would be a good benchmark to mark on your calendar. Installing the EOBRs, training your drivers, working out the bugs, is not something which can be done in a week. So donâ€™t wait until November 29, 2017 to start buying the EOBRs. In case you think this will somehow be halted, or stopped by someone; it wonâ€™t. Itâ€™s the law; it would take an extraordinary event to happen to stop this from happening at this point. Itâ€™s going to happen.
2) The CSA scores are probably going to be removed from the Internet. The CSA system has come to be roundly hated by just about everyone, except the drones at FMCSA. A source at FMCSA indicated to me that even the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has now quietly come out against the CSA scores. CVSA is a lobbying group representing the various State Polices, Highway Patrols, and other State groups who get Federal tax dollars. Apparently, these agencies have wearied of the incessant DataQ challenges they are getting to their inspections. The highway reauthorization act working its way through Congress currently has language in it which would strip the CSA scores from the Internet. FMCSA, almost certainly, will still use these scores internally to determine who it will audit. However, they will not be as readily available to brokers, insurance companies, and the public.
3) FMCSA has completed its study of the crash-reducing benefits of the 1am â€“ 5am and 168 hour provisions of their 70 hour rule. To refresh your memory, late last year, the Congress forced FMCSA to suspend their new 70 hour rule reset provisions, pending a study of those provisions. That study is now finished. I suspect in the next few months, FMCSA will report that the 1am â€“ 5am, and 168 hour provisions will save countless lives, cure cancer, and make you taller and better looking. At that point, frankly, I am not sure what happens next. These provisions are also roundly hated by the industry, so at that point the ball will probably go back into the Congressâ€™ court.
4) FMCSA continues its enforcement rampage unabated. This is the most vicious, aggressive DOT I have ever seen in my 25 years of experience. Donâ€™t take my word for it, look at the statistics. These are taken from FMCSAâ€™s website. In FY 2013, FMCSA issued a fine at the conclusion of an audit 28.74% of the time. In FY 2015, that number has climbed to 33.65%.
Furthermore, not only are they assessing penalties more frequently, when they assess them, they are higher. According to FMCSAâ€™s website, in FY 2013, they settled fines totaling $27,881,994. In FY 2015, through June, 2015, FMCSA has already settled fines totaling $33,751,234. Thatâ€™s just through June. If you extrapolate that out for the entire fiscal year of 2015, it will be around $45,000,000, which is roughly a 66% increase in fines, in just two years! The rules have not significantly changed. FMCSA simply believes the way to reduce crashes is to pound the regulated industry with increasingly draconian audits and penalties. Frankly, I find it obscene, especially considering they are not achieving huge accident reductions, but then FMCSA did not ask for my opinion.
If you have been served a Notice of Claim by the FMCSA, by all means, email or call me! Very often, FMCSAâ€™s ridiculous fines can be reduced significantly if you fight them, and you know what youâ€™re doing. I know what Iâ€™m doing. At a minimum, I can review the Notice of Claim for free, and give you some options. Usually I can help you, and my charges are more than made up in the dollars I save you off the fine. Occasionally, I canâ€™t help you. If I canâ€™t, I will tell you that, and why. I hate doing work for customers which provides no value, so I avoid that as much as I can.
Eric Arnold is a Former Enforcement Manager with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and a leading expert on USDOT compliance for small businesses. Do you have a question for Eric Arnold? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.