Even as more information trickles out about several Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rulemakings that have been in the works, what’s not been as visible on trucking’s radar screen are further changes planned by the agency to its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) safety-compliance program.

According to the Omnitracs executives who presented a “mid-year regulatory update” via a webinar yesterday, fleets should be aware of the expected modifications to CSA along with the near-term progress on various FMCSA rulemakings.

Those include rules that will mandate electronic driver logs (EDLs) and establish a federal clearinghouse for information on truck driver drug- and alcohol-use violations as well as one that will modify requirements for DOT-certified medical examiners and another that would affect truck drivers with sleep apnea.

“The FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee   [MCSAC] will be making recommendations to change CSA [pertaining to] some key issues,” advised Dave Kraft, Omnitracs’ director of industry affairs, during the webinar. “Viewed from an enforcement standpoint, CSA seem to be working well, but FMCSA [has stated it intends to] make changes to CSA” as warranted to improve its results.

According to Kraft, the preliminary recommendations by the MCSAC will focus on several areas:

·         Data quality. The agency has identified issues with violations data and the rating-calculating methodology (via peer groups) that is used(and is also concerned about “regional disparities”

·         Accident Accountability. FMCSA wants a better definition of what a “preventable” accident is as well as the establishment of accident-analysis and reporting standards

·         Public Access to Safety Measurement System (SMS). The agency wants to address how safety ratings that come in “above the threshold” are often assumed to be of “high risk”

“FMCSA takes data-quality issues very seriously,” Kraft observed. “So, now that the issues described here have been identified by MCSAC, the committee will issue recommendations to address them [that FMCSA will consider enacting.

“A rulemaking on the Safety Fitness Determination [process] is expected,” he continued. This would entail “a new automated process for safety ratings. A proposed rule on this is expected out by early next year.”

Kraft also said the agency is “expected to improve public access to the SMS by putting in place an improved website, which is now being developed. And he noted that FMCSA is engaged in a “long-term effort” to more exactly define “accident accountability” and has research planned to address how to change what is required for accident analysis and reporting under CSA.

The proposed rule for an EDL mandate “seems to be on track and we expect notice of it to come out in mid-November,” advised Kraft. “And, realistically, we expect this rulemaking process to perhaps push out the issuance of a final rule on EDLs to early 2015 or later.”

As for a timeframe on compliance with the EDL mandate. He said that the MAP-21 legislation requires it to become effective two years after issuance of the final rule. In other words, EDLs won’t likely be required until 2017—or later.

Indeed, the EDL mandate has been on a tortuous route to date. “As a result of the original final [EDL] rule being vacated [by court order], the rule proposed in January 2012 was basically delayed as FMCSA searched for ways to overcome the harassment ruling that the court determined,” David Heller, director of safety & policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA). told FleetOwner

“As a result,” he explained, “the agency is [now] planning on publishing a “Supplemental” Notice [of Proposed Rulemaking] this fall to gather further information for an industry wide mandate.”

The devices that will meet an EDL rule will reflect the realities of trucking today. Suppliers have indicated that will mean everything from onboard computer systems to specially enabled smartphones will be programmed for the mandated requirements.

Kraft expects a proposed rule to establish a federal clearinghouse for information on truck driver drug- and alcohol-use violations will come out in a “month or two.”

This rule “would give carriers a [legal] outlet to publish positive drug/alcohol results of drivers [as a means to prevent them from being hired to drive elsewhere],” according to TCA’s Heller.“The measure would add teeth to trucking's existing zero-tolerance efforts to remove drugged and/or drunk truck drivers from behind the wheel,” he added.

Kraft advised that a rule affecting  DOT-certified medical examiners will take effect next year. This rule is expected to “raise the knowledge bar” for physicians who perform DOT medical exams of drivers, according to Dave Osiecki, sr. vp of policy & regulatory affairs for the American Trucking Assns. “The issue is some doctors will drop out of the program rather than deal with the hassle of this new rule.”

The likely upshot will be the supply of medical examiners will go down-- even as the demand for their service will stay flat or rise. That suggests the direct costs of driver medical exams will go up and that drivers may have to find a physician further away from them.

As for sleep apnea, back inDecember 2011, two advisory panels to FMCSA — the Medical Review Board and the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee — told FMCSA that it should issue a “guidance” to DOT-certified medical examiners that truck drivers with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher hould be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

When it came out, this guidance was viewed by observers as the first step toward FMCSA issuing a sleep-apnea reg. The guidance reportedly would include the immediate disqualification if certain conditions exist. Those would include falling asleep while driving or having a crash caused by fatigue. However, the guidance suggests drivers could be issued a 60-day conditional card during evaluation and treatment for sleep apnea.