Trucking Regulations: What Freight Management Parties Need to Know

Trucking regulations for affecting freight transportation.

The trucking industry is dynamic, complex, and ever-evolving. Running a successful fleet or owner-operator business requires understanding various trucking regulations and new trucking laws.

Staying on top of the following trucking regulation changes is essential for maintaining compliance and keeping trucks on the road. As TMS solutions advance, following new trucking regulations will be easier. How?

The answer lies within process standardization, ensuring all companies follow their given policies to maintain compliance. And such compliance comes down to each company understanding what’s expected of their operations and what’s necessary to maintain legal compliance with all statutes and laws.

Shippers, too, need to understand a few things about the Department of Transportation trucking regulations, new federal trucking regulations to watch, and employment regulations for fleet managers and owners. Freight shippers can use this information to better inform operations and avoid risks, keeping everything standardized through an efficient operating procedure.

Trucking Regulations to Watch

Speed Limiters
The Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act, initially introduced in 2019, is named after an Atlanta college student who died after colliding with a truck in 2002. It aims to minimize the impact of large truck crashes by instating a requirement for speed limiters on trucks over 26,000 pounds. Maximum speed: 65 mph.
The act has been controversial. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the safety group Road Safe America recently supported updated regulations that include concessions for trucks utilizing adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking systems.

Though reintroduced in May 2021 with bipartisan support, the bill has not moved into the House for further debate. It has the potential to become a new federal regulation for truck drivers and should be monitored closely.

ELDs and Waivers
The FMSCA mandated in December 2017 that most major motor carriers must use electronic logging devices (ELDs) rather than paper logs. These devices sync with a vehicle’s engine to automatically record driving time, preventing drivers from falsifying HOS.
Nearly four years later (In November 2021), the FMCSA announced one of the trucking regulation changes guaranteed for 2022. Any ELDs relying on 3G cellular connectivity will no longer comply with trucking regulations, as mobile service providers are rapidly shutting down 3G networks and upgrading to more advanced 5G.

Nearly four years later (In November 2021), the FMCSA announced one of the trucking regulation changes guaranteed for 2022. Any ELDs relying on 3G cellular connectivity will no longer comply with trucking regulations, as mobile service providers are rapidly shutting down 3G networks and upgrading to more advanced 5G.

All major mobile service providers announced dates for completing 3G shutdowns in 2022, although they may shut down some areas sooner. Drivers and fleets should plan to upgrade any 3G-reliant ELDs immediately to avoid malfunctions and FMCSA non-compliance.

Truck Emissions Evaluation

With shifting prioritization of climate policies and the EPA’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, there is ongoing pressure to reduce carbon emissions in heavy-duty trucking.

The first ruling from the EPA regarding truck emissions was expected in 2022 and will apply to heavy-duty vehicles starting in the model year 2027.

Additionally, conversations within the DOT and FMCSA indicate there may soon be new federal trucking regulations similar to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) mandate. Among these, several rules focus on improved fuel efficiency and zero-emissions technology. Some new restrictions may apply to vehicles already in service or require retro-fitting equipment and should be followed closely by all drivers and fleets.

Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) & Protection for Independent Contractors
California lawmakers passed AB5 in 2020, making significant changes to the classification of workers in a company. The measure effectively makes all workers employees. For a worker to classify as an independent contractor, the hiring company must show that:

A. The worker is free from control and direction in the performance of services.

B. The worker is performing work outside the usual course of business of the hiring company.

C. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business.

Condition B is the most significant obstacle to trucking companies traditionally relying on independent contractors. It will be challenging to show that contracted truck drivers are performing work outside of the usual course of company business.

Further, the rise of courier services throughout the pandemic will be directly affected by changes to how independent operators work. And as pressure mounts, shippers need to reduce the burden on such workers. Using technology, such as a freight courier claims portal, can reduce the burden and keep couriers happy.

Additionally, due to these challenges, there are currently two outstanding lawsuits by the California Trucking Association (CTA) and Cal Cartage. The U.S. District Court in California issued an injunction blocking AB5 from being applied to the trucking sector. This order will stand until a permanent decision. Legal activity should be closely watched. It could set a precedent for other states considering new trucking laws.
Truck Parking

Lack of adequate truck parking is a significant issue across the U.S., made worse by many closed due to the pandemic. Adding to the problem:

  • Cities like Philadelphia and Minneapolis issue city-wide bans on trucks parking on city streets.
  • Ongoing lack of parking near ports, where drivers clear backlogs of container freight in major hubs like Los Angeles and Long Beach.
With strict HOS regulations and fewer legal parking spaces for their rigs, many truck drivers struggle to stay within legal hours and follow break requirements.

The ATA has been a vocal proponent of regulations to address the parking issue. In March 2021, the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act was introduced. The bill proposes $755 million in funding over five years to address truck parking and includes grant programs to states, public agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, and private sector partnerships.

Truck parking is an issue of particular interest to fleet managers and their drivers. On average, many spend 56 minutes per day (a tenth of their total working hours) locating parking. The shortage of safe, legal parking impacts the fleet financially and impacts driver satisfaction.

Employment Regulations Fleets Need to Know

With all the uncertainty of the market at play, freight management parties need to know the trucking regulations affecting the employment of drivers and professionals throughout the industry.
Immigration & Authorized Workers
Immigration is a nationally debated issue, with many proposed policy changes each year. However, in terms of employment, the standards have not changed in decades in terms of employment. The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires all U.S. employers to complete an I-9 to verify citizenship or legal authorization for employment upon hiring a new employee. The federal government uses the E-Verify system to monitor and enforce federal immigration laws. Fleet managers should be familiar with the processes to ensure ongoing compliance.

Additionally, fleets should remain aware of any pandemic-related updates to immigration processes and hiring practices. This information is available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Meal & Rest Breaks
Current FMCSA regulations for truck drivers who work more than eight hours must take at least one 30-minute break during the first eight hours. Drivers have flexibility on when to take the break and whether it is off-duty or in the sleeper berth.

California law requires more breaks, more often, but with less flexibility. Drivers must have a 30-minute meal break for every five hours they work, plus an additional 10-minute rest break for every four hours of work. A 2021 Ninth Circuit court ruling declared that FMCSA rules preempted any state laws around breaks, so for now, California cannot enforce its stricter break schedule. It is unclear if the state will appeal to the Supreme Court on the matter, so this is another issue to watch closely.

Ban the Box & Disclosure of Criminal Convictions

“Ban the box,” or the Fair Chance Act, refers to the box on applications requiring job applications to disclose prior criminal convictions. The law technically prohibits employers from requesting or considering conviction history until a conditional job offer. The move is intended to push background checks later into the hiring process so employers consider a candidate’s qualifications before their criminal history. Currently, 15 states have laws that expand ban-the-box laws to private employers. Still, even in states without these laws, inquiring about criminal history and denying employment violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

Fleet managers should remember that background checks for reckless driving and drug and alcohol violations are still mandatory. They should be considered separately from other criminal convictions.

Minimum Wages
One of the hottest topics in employment law is minimum wage. There are currently 440 minimum wage bills that have been proposed or enacted since 2020. Changes to minimum wage can happen at the city, state, or federal level. Employers should be paying close attention to conversations on all fronts to prepare for new legislation.
Within trucking, this is most likely to impact fleets that employ local or short-haul drivers on an hourly pay schedule. Most regulations require long-haul drivers on per-mile schedules to make minimum wages as well.
With so much in the transportation and trucking industries contested on a federal level, drivers and fleet managers need to stay up-to-date on policies and regulations.
Hourly Versus Per-Mile Pay for Drivers

Figuring out the best way to approach payments has been a long-standing issue in trucking.

Under U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the industry appears ready to embrace a change to its payment structures. According to Business Insider, “Only about one-fifth of drivers at U.S. ports operate as hourly employees, while most are independent contractors paid per load or per mile — meaning they often receive the same pay regardless of how long they wait outside ports or warehouses.”

Still, figuring out how to approach a possible change in pay structure will come down to changing the trucking regulations behind payment. Yes, carriers have long been able to set the standards and operate how they see fit. But there’s a more considerable risk on the horizon.

As the industry recovers, fears of a 2019-like shift in the market exist. In such markets, capacity seems to vanish as drivers look to get paid for wasted time. In other words, delays in loading, excess dwell time, reconsignments, and poor routing will fall under the microscope.
More governments may begin implementing new trucking regulations to keep more drivers in the industry in response to both political and economic pressures. Therefore, hourly wages for drivers may become the rule rather than the exception.

Basic Trucking Regulations You Need to Know

Any strategy for compliance with trucking regulations sounds simple, but it is a far-reaching business aspect. Shippers and logistics service providers (LSPs) must thoroughly understand basic trucking regulations and their implications.
Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Qualifications

Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDLs) are issued by state licensing agencies and have varying requirements by state. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has several criteria that apply nationally. To qualify for a CDL, applicants must:

  • Be at least 18 years old to drive intrastate (within the state).
  • Be at least 21 years old to drive across state lines or carry hazardous materials.
  • Have a minimum of one to two years of driving experience.
  • Have no active suspensions.
  • Have a valid medical examiner’s certificate.

Additionally, as of February 7, 2022, the FMCSA requires Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) for all entry-level operators of commercial motor vehicles before they take state-administered CDL exams. This includes those seeking a Class A or Class B CDL, those seeking an upgrade to their CDL (such as Class B holders seeking a Class A CDL), or any additional endorsements (hazardous, passenger, or school bus). This new federal trucking regulation establishes baseline knowledge across state programs and standardizes nationwide training protocols.

Drug & Alcohol Testing
All CDL drivers operating commercial motor vehicles on public roadways, including part-time drivers and owner-operators, must be Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol tested. Pre-employment and post-accident testing is mandatory. All drivers are subject to additional random drug testing when they are on duty or immediately before or after.

Fleet owners and employers of CDL drivers must follow DOT and FMCSA regulations regarding drug and alcohol testing rates. The 2021 rates were 50% for drug testing and 10% for alcohol testing. For a company employing 100 CDL drivers, this would amount to a minimum of 50 drug tests and 10 alcohol tests in the calendar year to stay compliant. Additionally, all fleet employers and drivers must utilize the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a secure, online database of CDL holders’ drug and alcohol violations.

Hours of Service (HOS)

FMCSA hours of service (HOS) regulations help keep drivers and the public safe by reducing driver fatigue, limiting the number of consecutive hours CDL drivers can work, and mandating breaks and off-duty hours. In June 2020, the FMCSA revised several provisions to extend HOS and provide drivers with greater flexibility:

  • Short-haul exception – expands work shifts to 14 hours and expands the exception to 150 air miles.
  • Adverse driving conditions exception – extends driving through adverse conditions by up to two hours.
  • Thirty-minute break requirement – requires drivers to take a 30-minute break after driving for more than eight hours (was previously required after eight hours on-duty) and allows on-duty/not-driving period to qualify as a break.
  • Sleeper berth provision – drivers may spend at least seven hours in the berth and at least two outside the berth to fulfill their 10-hour minimum of time off duty.
Although there was some concern that with a new administration in 2021, the FMCSA would repeal some provisions, it is unlikely to happen in the immediate future. The current state of transportation backlogs and driver shortages may inhibit changes to the approach on driver hours of service.

The continued state of disruption due to additional COVID-19 variants might also affect HOS trucking regulations. In 2020, many states suspended certain HOS rules. While many have since reversed course, the risk of an additional suspension of the requirements could still occur. It’s all subject to the supply and demand of transportation and finding enough trucking capacity to maintain throughput.

Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance of Equipment
FMCSA regulations require every motor carrier to systematically inspect, repair, and maintain their vehicles. This includes daily post-trip driver inspections of basic equipment (tires, lights, brakes, trailer connections) and in-depth periodic inspections within the previous 12 months.
Documentation of all inspections must be kept within the truck for review by the DOT upon request. Any defects must be noted, and any that could impact the safe operation of the truck must be repaired before the truck can resume operations.
Non-compliance with trucking laws regarding safety can result in hefty fines and cause significant issues should the defective truck be involved in an accident.

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Shippers Need a Technology-Rich Solution to Stay in Compliance With Trucking Regulations

While rates fluctuate week over week, there’s still massive uncertainty. With costs of operating increasing, new regulations affecting the industry, and a cautiously optimistic outlook on the market, freight management parties have plenty to do.

They must stay vigilant and use technology to work smarter, not harder. Using the MercuryGate platform comes in handy, reducing risk and helping everyone stay in the know, avoiding problems, and ensuring a standardized process across the network. Staying aligned with market-specific regulations falls to each company, but using a platform like MercuryGate enables process standardization. This standardization is critical to staying compliant with company-specific policies, enabling compliance with the changing face of trucking regulations.

Request a MercuryGate demo today to see how this happens.

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