SAN ANTONIO. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) still expects to issue two notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) this year, one requiring speed limiters for vehicles with GVWs over 26,000 lbs. and another establishing insurance standards for trucking companies, with a possible rulemaking effort regarding obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) planned for either later this year or in early 2015.

Those three regulatory initiatives are the “nearest term” efforts in a broader plan by the agency to address a host of issues, explained Jack Van Steenburg, FMCSA’s assistant administrator and chief safety officer, here at the 2014 Zonar Systems user conference.

Those issues include changes to the Unified Registration System (URS) motor carrier database and safety fitness determination (SFD) process used in the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program to entry level driver training and new entrant proficiency rules, he added.

“All of this is really not about compliance; it’s about saving lives,” Steenburg noted. “It’s also about concentrating on three guiding principles: raising the safety bar for new industry entrants; requiring high safety standards for the industry; and removing high risk carriers and drivers from the road.”

In terms of the most imminent FMCSA rulemaking efforts, he emphasized that the speed limiter rule is a joint effort with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Steenburg said FMCSA signed off on that rule a month ago – a rule FMCSA will be in charge of enforcing – and now awaits NHTSA’s final adjustments to it.

The rulemaking regarding insurance standards – which FMCSA calls “financial responsibility” – is being undertaken because the trucking industry’s current insurance requirement regulations date back to 1985 and are in need of updating, he explained.

In terms of changes to the URS, Steenburg noted that the agency is in the midst of developing a “base screening algorithm” that will help it automatically background-check carrier applicants, as well as reduce the currently-required 16 application forms down into one.

In particular, the agency wants carriers to update their USR standing every two years so it can more readily “deactivate” DOT numbers if they are not current, he said.

Steenburg pointed out that FMCSA wants to change the SFD process within CSA so roadside inspection data can be used along with direct investigative results to calculate a carriers’ SFD. “Currently, the SFD is only tied to onsite investigations we can conduct,” he explained.

Crafting entry level driver training and new entrant proficiency rules are proving both simple and complicated in Steenburg’s view. On the one hand, industry participants and safety advocates all agree new standards for each are needed, he said. Yet on the other there are different opinions as to what exactly should be mandated – in the entry level driver’s case, for example, exactly how many hours of in-classroom and behind-the-wheel training should be required.

Finally, Steenburg said a renewed focus on seat-belt usage among truck occupants needs to occur – to the point where technology may need to be involved.

“Some 697 truck occupants – primarily drivers – were killed in large truck crashes [in 2012]. In 34% of those fatalities, the driver wasn’t wearing a seat belt while in a further 20%, it wasn’t reported whether they wore a seat belt or not – leading me to believe they weren’t,” he emphasized. “That’s why I think in at least 50% of those deaths the occupant wasn’t wearing a seat belt. So maybe it’s time we start thinking about interlock systems, so drivers can’t start their vehicles without wearing a seat belt.”