What You Need to Know about Current Trucking Regulations

By Haley Bass | 10/24/2017

Trucking is a highly regulated industry, with laws and guidelines from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) enacted to keep truck drivers and others on the road safe. There continue to be new rules and updates to improve safety measures and driving conditions, and it’s essential for industry employers to stay up-to-date with current regulations.

With a new administration taking office this year, the status of some DOT regulations has been uncertain. In the past few months, we’ve started to get some answers. Here are where four regulations currently stand.

Electronic Logging Device Mandate

Current status: full steam ahead – enforced December 18, 2017

Although a state representative proposed a delay earlier this year, the House voted to maintain the current enforcement date of December 18, 2017.

What does the electronic logging device rule change?

The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate requires truck drivers to track their hours of service (HOS) with an ELD registered with the FMCSA. An ELD is a tool that synchronizes with the truck’s engine to automatically (and more accurately) record driving time for the driver’s HOS recording. The intention of the mandate is to create a safer work environment for truck drivers and to make it easier to track, manage, and share records of duty status.

Phase two of the ELD rule, the two-year period between the initial compliance date and the full compliance date, starts December 18, 2017. During this phase, carriers and drivers can use either automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) installed before December 18, 2017, or self-certified ELDs registered with the FMCSA. When full compliance (phase three) begins December 16, 2019, drivers and carriers can only use self-certified ELDs registered with the FMCSA.

34-Hour Restart Rule

Current status: 2013 provisions are permanently suspended

What would the restart rule have changed?

The intention of the 34-hour restart is to help drivers comply with federal HOS regulations, and to reduce driver fatigue. With the rule, drivers can take a 34-hour off-duty period to restart their workweek hours to zero. The restart is voluntary and does not need to be spent at home.

There have been many discussions and changes surrounding the 34-hour restart, including provisions in 2013 that required the restart to include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., and only allowed it to be used once every 168 hours. There was controversy about these restrictions, and many believed they had no impact on a driver’s safety. The 2013 provisions were suspended while the FMCSA and Virginia Tech University completed a study on the rules’ safety impact.

The study found no significant difference between the safety of drivers who followed the provisions versus those who followed the previous rule. Based on these findings, the restrictions were permanently suspended. With the restrictions removed, the current 34-hour restart rule allows drivers to use their restart at any time.

Speed Limiter Mandate

Current status: no plans to move forward

The speed limiter mandate, which was proposed in September 2016, was recently demoted from the active rulemaking list to a long-term agenda item, meaning it’s on the backburner for the DOT calendar.

What would the speed limiter rule have changed?

The mandate proposed that vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds should be required to have speed limiters, but the FMCSA hasn’t yet suggested what the top speed on these limiters might be. During the public comment period for the proposed rule, most participants argued against speed limiters.

There is no current plan to move forward with the speed limiter mandate.

Sleep Apnea Screening Rule

Current status: withdrawn

The proposed rule on sleep apnea screening guidelines has been withdrawn from rulemaking.

What would the sleep apnea screening rule have changed?

If this rule had been enacted, it would have established specific guidelines for medical examiners to follow when testing truck drivers during the medical certification process. Currently, when and who to screen for obstructive sleep apnea is up to an individual examiner’s judgement.

The FMCSA withdrew the rule after determining there wasn’t enough information available to support moving forward. FMCSA representatives ask medical examiners to continue using 2016 sleep apnea recommendations.

Concentra can help trucking employers maintain compliance with DOT regulations, from completing DOT physicals to helping develop written drug and alcohol policies. Talk to a Concentra work health expert if you need help with compliance or any other employee health needs.