What the Highway Bill Means for Your Fleet

1/13/16

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President Obama has signed a five year highway bill that has the potential to greatly affect commercial fleets. The first and most talked about policy provision was associated with changes in the CSA program’s visibility to the public and revisions to the system so that it more accurately reflects the safety performance of scored fleets.  

Here’s a review of the bill and other provisions that may affect your business:

CSA Reform – The bill requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to engage the National Research Council to conduct a study of the CSA program. They are required to analyze a number of common criticisms that include methodology of scoring, inclusion of all reportable crashes, and ranking heterogeneous populations in single pools. The study of these and other issues will look to determine how accurately the program identifies high risk commercial motor fleets.  

Beyond Compliance – The bill directs the FMCSA to establish a program as part of CSA that will give motor fleets that utilize fleet safety best practices some credit that can improve their BASIC scores. These may include advanced vehicle technologies such as adaptive cruise control and telematics, utilization of extensive driver scorecards, and/or adoption of additional safe driver training that meet FMCSA criteria. 

Crash Accountability – The bill instructs the DOT to task the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee to review the treatment of non-preventable crashes by CSA. The goal is to create a process that allows commercial motor fleets and drivers to request a determination on accidents that may be non-preventable and have this information either removed or reclassified within the Crash BASIC.  

Hair Testing – The bill contains a provision allowing commercial motor fleets to use hair testing as an alternative to urine testing for pre-employment substance abuse testing and for random testing if the individual was subject to hair testing for pre-employment testing. Because this is a huge change from present acceptable procedures, it will not be implemented immediately. The Department of Health and Human Services will issue scientific and technical guidelines for hair testing within the next year.

Commercial Driver Pilot Program – The bill directs the DOT to establish a pilot program to study the feasibility, benefits, and safety impact of younger individuals to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce. The program would study the safety effects of allowing people between 18 and 21 to operate a CMV in interstate commerce on a limited basis. Initially it will be up to the states to determine if they are willing to participate in this program. 

Regulatory Reform – The FMCSA will need to consider a variety of improved and more representative data sources prior to enacting rules for commercial motor fleets. A major complaint associate with recent rules from the FMCSA was that they were not well conceived and that the underlying data behind them was spurious at best. In some cases the argument has been made that the rules have been counterproductive to fleet safety.  This provision underscores the importance of participating in notice and comment rulemaking when possible. The bill also requires the FMCSA to attempt to incorporate guidance into regulations so that they are easier to interpret.

HUB Transportation advisors stay current on emerging issues including regulations, contractual issues and driver retention programs to help you manage your business more efficiently. If you are looking for commercial truck insurance or need a solid safety management plan contact an advisor today.

Steven Bojan, Vice President -  HUB International's Fleet Risk Services, advises on fleet safety, driver and management best practices and regulatory compliance.