Latest Industry News Brief

PMTA
July 2020

ATA Truck Tonnage Index Plunged 12.2% in April Index 11.3% below April 2019

 Arlington, VA…  American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index contracted 12.2% in April after increasing 0.4% in March. In April, the index equaled 104.9 (2015=100) compared with 119.5 in March.

“April’s monthly decline was the largest in 26 years when there was a labor strike in April 1994,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “Considering that April factory output and retail sales plummeted, the large drop in truck freight is not surprising. However, not all fleets saw large declines in April. Those hauling food for grocery stores and those involved in the on-line retail supply chain outperformed most other fleets. Some fleets witnessed very large declines in freight last month.”  

March’s gain was revised down to 0.4% from the 1.2% increase reported in our April 21 press release.

“These historic declines show just how much trucking was impacted by our national response to the COVID-19 pandemic” Costello said. “As the nation starts taking small steps toward reopening, we should see some modest improvements in the freight market, but the size of April’s decline gives us an idea of how long the road back may be.”

Compared with April 2019, the SA index contracted 11.3%, the largest year-over-year decline since early 2009. This drop was preceded by a 3.5% year-over-year gain in March. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2019, tonnage is down 1.3%.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 104.6 in April, 12.8% below the March level (120). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 71.4% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 11.49 billion tons of freight in 2018. Motor carriers collected $796.7 billion, or 80.3% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 5th day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.

 

Council of Transportation Ministers Focus on PPE Guiding Principles and Practices for Transportation Workers

 TORONTO… The Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety from all provinces and territories agreed to work collaboratively to restart the economy and support transportation systems and supply chains across Canada, with particular emphasis on essential transportation workers.

 At their semi-annual meeting held virtually on June 2, 2020, the ministers specifically announced guiding principles for the use of masks and gloves, and other safety protocols for transportation employees and passengers. These guiding principles – which are not to be considered obligations, nor standards – establish a collaborative way forward to support the safe operation of the transportation system, and help mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID‐19.   

“Frontline workers across the transportation sector deserve our unwavering support. In the face of unprecedented challenges, they continue to keep people and goods moving in this country. Pilots, air crews, air traffic controllers, port workers, mariners, train crews, truck drivers, and so many others are so very critical for getting supplies to people who need them, and sustaining the Canadian economy,” said the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau. “We are committed to keeping Canada’s transportation workers, and those who rely on our multi-modal transportation system, safe and healthy.”

Added Greg Ottenbreit, Saskatchewan Minister of Highways and Infrastructure: “Canadians pull together when faced with extraordinary challenges. I am inspired by the outstanding cooperation and commitment to safety from the Council of Ministers.” 

In addition, the Ministers noted the important efforts of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) in advancing the Practices for the Use of Masks, Face Coverings and Gloves for Transportation Workers and Passengers in the Road Transportation System.  The purpose of this document is to distinguish the different types of masks, face coverings, and other personal protective equipment (PPE), and establish practices with respect to their use as it pertains to drivers, passengers, support workers and all those involved in the following key areas of the road transportation system.  

 “CTA would like to thank the Government of Canada, Council of Minister Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety and CCMTA for this best practices document, which provides our membership guidance on the use of PPE,” said CTA president Stephen Laskowski. “CTA will continue to work with federal and provincial officials to ensure the safety and security of the supply chain.”

 

CTA to Feds: Make CEWS Scalable; Consider Focused Relief for Compliant Truckers

 Toronto… The Canadian Trucking Alliance wrote Prime Minister Trudeau and several high-ranking cabinet ministers urging them to consider amending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to be more inclusive of certain struggling businesses as well as other targeted relief measures to support trucking industry.  

“The trucking industry has received unprecedented support during the COVID-19 crisis, but it also faces unique and rapidly escalating challenges which require tailored solutions to protect the stability of the supply chain as we eventually move towards an economic recovery period,” wrote CTA president Stephen Laskowski in a letter to the PM, as well as ministers Morneau, Garneau, Freeland, and Tassi.  

CTA applauded a recent government announcement that participation criteria for the CEWS would be reviewed and asked that the program be scalable to make it easier for fleets to get approved. A recent survey of CTA members showed that nearly 50 percent of trucking companies do not qualify for the CEWS either fully, or in part. In fact, many fleets are falling just below the threshold of ‘30-percent’ decrease in revenue required to receive up to 75 percent in wage subsidies for eligible employees. 

CTA suggested that rather than drawing a hardline threshold, perhaps the subsidy can be scaled to the level of the actual revenue decrease experienced.  

“While there will always be a natural level of fluctuation in revenues for most companies, healthy companies should be able to manage these ups and downs. Nonetheless, these are truly exceptional times and there are companies that fall just below current thresholds for full participation in the CEWS but are still experiencing great decreases in revenue and profitability than what could be considered normal fluctuations,” CTA’s letter states.    

Overall, the trucking sector is being hit hard by the economic impact of COVID-19. While it is being relied on to operate and deliver the essential products and food Canadians need to overcome the pandemic, many have been severely strained by a collapsed freight market; a precipitous drop in cash-flow; deferred or non-payment by customers; and rising empty miles (when trucks are travelling, but not generating any payload – usually on the backhaul – to cover the costs of operation).   

CTA’s recent Business Conditions Report highlights many of these challenges and finds that more than one in three carriers have significant concerns about whether they can continue operations under the current state of the industry.  

“CTA has conducted extensive economic modelling in our sector and there is virtually no scenario in which most trucking companies will not be forced to operate on a negative cashflow basis through this pandemic and for months to come. This is true even for companies that are able to access the CEWS at the full benefit,” Laskowski wrote.  

To complement a potentially improved CEWS, CTA has been advocating since the beginning of the crisis for a three-month payroll deferral program, which would be similar to the current GST remittance deferral already announced by the federal government. In essence, the program would serve as a zero-interest load for companies and would let them keep a greater share of their cash on hand. 

The Alliance also stresses that the hard-working women and men who are driving the trucks that are keeping the country’s shelves stocked need to be looked after. CTA is joined by other industry groups in callingfor an increase to the meal allowance for truck drivers who are seeing their meal costs soar and dining options limited while on the road. 

“While CTA understands that government has difficult decisions to make and likely cannot satisfy all employers in every sector, we do believe there are simple ways the government can ensure the right companies get the help they need,” the letter concludes. “Stabilizing the Canadian transportation industry and supply chain needs to continue to be a priority, and we ask that you work with CTA to find ways to assist our nation’s most important freight mode.”

Meanwhile, CTA also continues to work through channels to ensure the government puts conditions to block Driver Inc. companies – whose operations are designed around tax avoidance and non-compliance – from receiving public money through government relief programs.      

CVSA Supports the Motor Carrier Safety Grant Relief Act of 2020

  Greenbelt, MD… On May 13, 2020, in response to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) advocacy efforts, Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), John Thune (R-SD), Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced S. 3729, the Motor Carrier Safety Grant Relief Act of 2020. 

The bill extends the periods of performance for the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) formula funding, High Priority Grant and Commercial Driver’s License Program Implementation Grant for funding awarded in fiscal 2019 and 2020, giving states additional time to spend grant funding from those years. Additionally, the legislation would give the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) the authority to reallocate any unspent grant funds at the end of the period of performance for fiscal 2019 and 2020, keeping critical safety funds within MCSAP. 

The bill was approved by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on May 20, 2020, and will likely need to be included in a larger COVID-19 relief package to pass the full Senate. If passed, the bill would provide much needed relief to the state agencies responsible for enforcing commercial motor vehicle safety regulations. 

CVSA has been advocating for relief for these commercial motor vehicle safety programs to provide states and territories with needed flexibility as a result of the ongoing impacts of COVID-19. The Alliance applaudsSenators Wicker, Cantwell, Thune, Fischer and Duckworth, as well as the Commerce Committee, for their support of this legislation and urges passage by the full Senate.

“Many jurisdictions experienced a temporary reduction in commercial motor vehicle safety enforcement activities due to health safety concerns and reallocated resources and personnel in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CVSA President Sgt. John Samis of the Delaware State Police. “As the states and territories begin to resume their usual inspection and enforcement priorities, they must have funding to continue the important work of removing unsafe drivers, vehicles and motor carriers from our roadways. On behalf of CVSA and its committed law enforcement membership, I’d like to thank the senators for their leadership in working together to introduce this crucial legislation.”

MCSAP provides financial assistance to help states and territories reduce the number and severity of crashes and hazardous material incidents involving commercial motor vehicles. The High Priority Grant program provides financial assistance to carry out high-priority activities and projects that augment motor carrier safety activities, advance technological capabilities and promote the deployment of intelligent transportation system applications for commercial motor vehicle operations. And the Commercial Driver's License Program Implementation Grant provides financial assistance to states to achieve compliance with the requirements of 49 CFR Parts 383 and 384 by ensuring only qualified drivers are eligible to receive and retain a commercial driver’s license. 

 

Oregon DMV Appointment Requests Top 100,000

 SALEM, OR… On June 2, DMV started accepting requests for in-person appointments at its offices. As of June 11, we have received 98,361 requests and scheduled 26,325 appointments for Oregonians. By Friday afternoon, the figure easily surpassed 100,000 requests.

Another 40,000 customers have received at least one phone call attempt by a DMV appointment scheduler.

“The number of requests is high after nearly three months of pent-up demand,” DMV Administrator Tom McClellan said. “Yesterday we processed as many requests as we received for the day, which is a great sign that we’ve ramped up appropriately. We will continue adding offices and appointment slots, and increase our capacity to set appointments in the days ahead,” McClellan said.

In the past 24 hours, DMV received 11,678 new appointment requests through its online form resulting in 30,690 customers awaiting an initial call back. The average wait time is 4-5 days for the initial contact by DMV, and the calls are made in the order that request forms are received.

DMV opened 38 offices with priority services accessible by appointment on June 3. The currently open offices are available for appointments for only these services:

* Driver license, permit and ID card issuances

* Driver knowledge tests

* Disabled parking permits

* Farm endorsements

* VIN inspections

Many services, such as vehicle titles and registration, are only available via mail or at www.OregonDMV.com.

Grace Period

A law enforcement grace period on expired licenses and vehicle registration is in effect at least through October 1. The grace period is intended to allow Oregon residents to continue driving while they are waiting for an appointment, or allow some people to choose to not go to DMV while we’re working through the backlog due to COVID-19 restrictions. Law enforcement can verify the status of a driver or vehicle electronically during a traffic stop.

More information

Check DMV2U.Oregon.gov to see what DMV services can be done online.

See a short video on how to use the DMV appointment request form here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szQk5vWbNBw

See how DMV is preparing offices for appointments here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDQuAlQ-oxU

See daily updates on DMV appointment setting progress here: https://www.oregon.gov/odot/DMV/Pages/News/factsstats.aspx

 

NDOT Summer Freeway Service Patrol Vehicle Safety Driving Tips

 CARSON CITY, NV… After providing roadway assistance for more than 16,000 incidents on Las Vegas-area freeways during the first five months of this year, the Nevada Department of Transportation’s (NDOT) Freeway Service Patrol is offering tips to prepare vehicles for summer driving. 

 NDOT Freeway Service Patrol vehicles patrol fixed freeway routes, helping keep freeways clear by assisting motorists to remove stalled vehicles, as well as providing basic first aid, extinguishing minor vehicle fires, providing traffic control and safety at incident scenes and more. National statistics show that for every minute a freeway lane is blocked, the resulting traffic congestion takes four minutes to clear, and the chance of secondary crashes rises. By helping to quickly and safely clear roadside incidents, the Freeway Service Patrol helps keep freeways safe and clear. 

 As weather warms, Freeway Service Patrol operators respond to an increase in disabled vehicles on the side of the freeway, often because drivers do not take proper steps to prepare vehicles for changing weather. This is particularly true when many vehicles have been driven less over recent months as Nevadans stayed home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 Warm Weather Driving Tips: 

 •  Check tire pressure and tread. Colder winter temperature can reduce tire pressure, potentially leading to increased wear and poor handling. As warmer weather arrives, make sure your vehicle tires are properly inflated to manufacturer recommendations, which can also enhance fuel efficiency. 

•  Check vehicle lights, including headlights, brake lights, back-up lights, tail-lights, parking lights and turn signals. 

•  Check windshield wipers. Be ready for summer showers by checking and replacing wiper blades if needed. 

•  Check vehicle brakes, filters, oil and all other fluid levels, hoses and belts. 

•  Check vehicle battery and cables. 

•  Check vehicle air conditioning. 

•  Pack an extra bottle of drinking water. It can provide hydration and can be used for cooling down an overheated engine, washing hands after any urgent roadside vehicle repairs and more. 

•  Be familiar with your vehicle’s spare tire and tire repair accessories. Some new vehicles no longer come with a spare tire as standard equipment. 

•  Share the road. Warmer weather brings more motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians to Nevada roads. Everyone should watch for each other and share the road. 

•  Slow down during rains. Infrequent summer rains can produce exceptionally slippery roads due to oil and other leaked fluids on roadway surfaces mixing with rainwater. 

 For more than 15 years, NDOT has provided the Freeway Service Patrol in Las Vegas and Reno to enhance freeway safety and help quickly clear incident scenes. Each Freeway Service Patrol operator is a certified automotive technician and receives emergency vehicle operator, fire protection, CPR, hazardous materials, traffic flagging, and First Aid certifications. The service is provided by Quality Towing, a division of United Road Towing professional road services provider, and is sponsored by State Farm. 

 While the patrol is not available by phone, Freeway Service Patrol route information is available by visiting nevadadot.com and selecting “Travel Info.”

Online Survey Reveals Challenges for Professional Drivers During COVID-19

 Brentwood, TN… A new online survey from Professional Driver Agency (PDA) is shedding light on many of the issues and challenges that America’s professional truck drivers are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The survey of over 1,600 professional drivers reveals that while drivers feel safe overall driving during COVID-19, they are concerned for their personal health and bringing home the virus to family/friends.

 The survey reveals that while a wide majority of America’s professional drivers are considered ‘essential,’ the global pandemic is creating new personal and economic challenges for them. The personal challenge is evident in the survey results showing 72% of drivers said they were most concerned about bringing home the virus to family and friends. 

 “For us, this was really the key takeaway from the survey,” said Scott Dismuke, director of operations at PDA.  “While risking personal exposure to COVID-19, this is an overwhelming majority of drivers that are even more concerned about coming home and exposing family and friends.” 

 Of the drivers concerned about exposing their family to COVID-19, 42% said they were staying out on the road longer instead of taking home time.

 “A significant number of drivers are foregoing home time,” said Dismuke.  “These men and women already sacrifice time with loved ones and are now sacrificing even more during the pandemic.”

Over 60% of drivers stated they feel safe driving during the COVID-19 pandemic, but nearly 45% said they were concerned about their personal health.

 “It’s important to note that while drivers feel safe driving during these uncertain times, a significant number of drivers are still concerned about their personal health,” said Dismuke.  “Personal exposure to COVID-19 is a concern for drivers at every stop they make.  Almost the same number of the drivers surveyed said they were concerned about going into COVID-19 hotspots to deliver goods.”

 When asked what could be done differently to make drivers feel safer on the road, nearly 54% of drivers wanted more access to personal protective equipment (PPE). Additionally, half of the drivers felt they needed safer accessibility to food/drink on the road.

 As a result, when drivers were asked about what concerns them the most from a job-related standpoint, 49% of respondents said that access to amenities (food, showers, parking) on the road was one of their biggest concerns. 

 “I think the results of this survey convey what we already knew about America’s professional truck drivers - they are risking their health to keep our economy moving and supply chains open during this pandemic,” said Dismuke.  “These men and women, along with our first responders and health care professionals, have been heroic in their efforts by keeping grocery stores stocked and other vital products moving over the last couple of months.”

 Carriers or others interested in gaining insight into truck drivers’ concerns and opinions regarding operating during COVID-19 can download the full report of the survey results at https://joinpdateam.com/data-download

 

 

OOIDA Optimistic By Release Of House Highway Bill Proposal Features Much For Truckers To Like, But Some Areas Will Need Work

 Washington, DC…  Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) today released his much-anticipated highway bill proposal, starting the House’s long process of developing its version of the next surface transportation reauthorization.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports provisions in the bill including increased funding for highway construction, $250 million for truck parking projects, provisions that will help limit excessive detention time and predatory lease-to-own schemes, new restrictions on tolling, and further analysis of questionable H-1B Visa use within the trucking industry.

OOIDA says that truckers will also like what didn’t find its way into the bill, including speed limiter and side underride guard mandates, an increase in minimum insurance requirements or truck size and weight limits, and the lowering of minimum age requirements for interstate drivers.

“Our efforts to shape trucking policies in this proposal have been largely successful,” explained Todd Spencer, President and CEO of OOIDA. “We’ve worked very closely with the Chairman to ensure this bill addresses some of the top priorities of truckers, while making certain it doesn’t include several policies that would hurt small trucking businesses. I think there’s a lot to like about this bill if you’re an OOIDA member, but some aspects will need to be improved.”

Specifically, the Association has concerns about provisions that would return CSA scores to public view before the system has been perfected, further legitimize oral fluids testing, and delay implementation of FMCSA’s hours-of-service final rule.

The Association emphasizes that while the initial bill text released by Chairman DeFazio is promising in several areas, it’s important to remember the bill could change drastically as it moves through the legislative process. OOIDA is prepared to protect the meaningful provisions already included in the bill, work to improve some problematic elements, and aggressively oppose the addition of any harmful amendments that might be offered when it is considered by the Committee later this month.

“We’re still very early in the development of this bill, but all things considered, we’re in pretty good shape especially compared to previous reauthorization proposals,” continued Spencer. “We’ll continue to work closely with Chairman DeFazio and members of the Committee to make this the best bill possible for truckers. We’ll also fight to make sure any poison pills – like a speed limiter mandate or increase to minimum insurance requirements – don’t find their way into this bill during Committee consideration or on the House floor.”

With the bill text now available to the public, OOIDA will be calling on its members to provide more feedback about its contents.

“Tell us what you like, what you don’t like and where the bill needs to be improved,” Spencer continued.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the largest national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The Association currently has more than 160,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the greater Kansas City, Mo. area.

PA Turnpike Announces Additional Travel Restrictions At Allegheny Tunnel - Eight Months Of Overnight Lane Restrictions Needed For Lighting Replacement Project Starting June 15

 The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission advises motorists to be prepared for possible overnight delays beginning June 15 as single-lane patterns and two-way traffic go into effect for the next eight months at the Allegheny Tunnel located at milepost 122 in Somerset County. 

 Crews will be putting a crossover pattern in place to divert traffic into one tunnel resulting in bi-directional traffic Monday through Thursday beginning at 8 p.m. each night in June. The eastbound tunnel will be closed first, which means bi-directional traffic traveling in the westbound tunnel.

This overnight work is part of a two-year project needed to replace all lighting in both tunnels. The traffic restrictions needed as a result of this project should end in January of 2021 depending on the weather conditions. This lighting project is in addition to the daytime maintenance work that is occurring inside the Allegheny Tunnel which will be completed June 25.

Motorists should stay alert when approaching and entering the tunnel. Drivers are urged to slow down and keep an adequate distance from the vehicle you are following; remain in your lane and do not pass in the tunnel.

If you experience car trouble and cannot safely exit the tunnel, stay in your car, put on your hazard lights and wait for assistance. Tunnel personnel will monitor closed-circuit cameras and send help for disabled vehicles.

 No work will take place over the July 4th holiday. All restrictions will be lifted in anticipation of higher traffic volumes. After the holiday, crews will work a Monday through Friday schedule which will begin at approximately 8 p.m. each night.

 To report an accident or other emergency on the PA Turnpike, dial *11 via mobile phone. To learn more about PA Turnpike conditions, use one of these resources:

ON THE TURNPIKE

* 511PA Smartphone App: Real-time, hands-free PA traffic advisories.

* Waze Smartphone App: Real-time alerts from other drivers.

* Digital Message Signs: More than 100 boards along the Turnpike.

ON THE WEB

* Turnpike Travel Conditions Map: Live, interactive map.

BY PHONE

* 511: Dial from any PA roadway for local travel information.

* 800-331-3414: PA Turnpike Customer Assistance (weekdays, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.).

Oregon Grace Period Extended For Expired Licenses Through At Least Oct. 1

 SALEM, OR… The Oregon law enforcement citation moratorium for expired driver licenses, permits, ID cards, and vehicle registration has been extended through Oct. 1.

Read the memo here.

The grace period is intended to allow Oregon residents to continue driving while they are waiting for an appointment and DMV works through the backlog due to COVID-19 restrictions. Law enforcement can verify the status of a driver or vehicle electronically during a traffic stop.

Thirty-eight DMV offices started conducting in-person services on June 3. Services currently offered by appointment include:

* Driver license, permit and ID card issuance

* Driver knowledge tests

* Disabled parking permits

* Farm endorsements

* VIN inspections

At this time, drive tests are available only through DMV-authorized class C or CDL skills testing businesses. With a few limited exceptions, all other DMV services such as vehicle titles and registration are available online or by mail.

How to request an appointment

DMV is accepting appointment requests online through the agency’s website and not by phone. To see if your service is available by appointment and request an appointment, go to www.OregonDMV.com.

Check DMV2U.Oregon.gov to see what DMV services can be done online.

PA Turnpike Commission Converts to Operate All-Electronic Tolling System Permanently

 The PA Turnpike Commission announced that the cashless, All-Electronic Tolling (AET) system instituted March 16 to minimize the spread of COVID-19 will become permanent, a decision that will result in the layoff of approximately 500 employees, primarily toll collectors and fare-collection personnel. 

There will be no return to cash collections on our system. Customers will move through the lanes at posted speeds without stopping. Their tolls will be assessed via E-ZPass, or a PA Turnpike TOLL BY PLATE invoice will be sent in the mail. 

The personnel action was approved unanimously by Turnpike Commissioners at the bimonthly public meeting. The decision to operate AET permanently was driven by three factors: the impact that the pandemic has had on the Commission’s traffic and revenue; the health and safety of customers and employees; and operational challenges.

“Ceasing cash collections in March to protect employees and customers was the right decision,” CEO Mark Compton explained. “But we did not know then how severe the impact would be. With the associated dangers, we cannot risk returning to cash collections. AET continues to be the best choice for our customers and this organization’s future.” 

Compton noted that the Commission continues to take measures to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including: 

* Cutting capital spending by 25%

* Reducing operating expenses

* Instituting a hiring freeze

* Offering a voluntary-retirement program

* Delaying its July transit payment to the commonwealth

“This is a painful day for all of us at the Commission,” Compton said. “I want to thank these men and women for their dedication and hard work over the years. I assure them we will continue to assist them during this transition.”

Three-Month Waiver in Response to the Economic Consequences of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency – To Relieve Employers of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Subject to 49 CFR Part 382 from Certain Pre-Employment Testing Requirements

Waiver - Preemployment testing - FINAL - June 5.pdf

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Grant of waiver.

SUMMARY: FMCSA grants a three-month waiver from certain pre-employment testing requirements applicable to employers of drivers subject to 49 CFR part 382. This action responds to the President’s Executive Order No. 13924, Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery, issued on May 19, 2020, related to the economic consequences of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency. 

DATES: This waiver is effective June 5, 2020, and ends on September 30, 2020.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Mr. David J. Yessen, Chief of the Compliance Division, Office of Enforcement and Compliance, 202-366-1812, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590-0001.

Legal Basis
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) (Pub. L. 105-178, 112 Stat. 107, June 9, 1998) provides the Secretary of Transportation (the Secretary) authority to grant waivers from any of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations issued under Chapter 313 of Title 49 of the United States Code or 49 U.S.C. § 31136, to a person(s) seeking regulatory relief (49 U.S.C. §§ 31136(e), 31315(a)). The Secretary must make a determination that the waiver is in the public interest and that it is likely to achieve a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained in the absence of the waiver. Individual waivers may be granted for a specific unique event for a period up to three months. TEA-21 authorizes the Secretary to grant waivers without requesting public comment, and without providing public notice.

The Administrator of FMCSA has been delegated authority under 49 CFR 1.87(e) and (f) to carry out the functions vested in the Secretary by 49 U.S.C. chapter 313, relating to commercial motor vehicle operators, and 49 U.S.C. chapter 311, subchapter I and III, relating to commercial motor vehicle programs and safety regulations.

Background
On May 19, 2020, the President issued Executive Order No. 13924 setting forth “the policy of the United States to combat the economic consequences of COVID-19 with the same vigor and resourcefulness with which the fight against COVID-19 itself has been waged.” Among other things, the Executive Order directed executive branch agencies to “address this economic emergency by … waiving [] or providing exemptions from regulations and other requirements that may inhibit economic recovery consistent with applicable law and with protection of the public health and safety ….” This waiver responds to the unique circumstances of certain pre-employment testing requirements arising from the economic emergency identified in the President’s Executive Order, as further described below. 

Various measures employed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing, and stay-at-home and business closure orders issued by State and local governments, have significantly decreased demand for motor carrier services, particularly from passenger carriers. In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, many employers have imposed layoffs, furloughs, or otherwise temporarily removed employees from performing safety-sensitive functions, as defined in 49 CFR 382.107, resulting in their removal from the random pool for controlled substances and alcohol testing for a period greater than 30 days. As employers begin calling these drivers back to work, they will incur the cost of conducting pre-employment controlled substances testing before using these drivers to perform safety-sensitive functions, as required by 49 CFR 382.301. The administrative and cost burdens of pre-employment testing for furloughed drivers outside the random testing pool for more than 30 days falls on motor carrier employers at the very time they are attempting to return to expanded levels of operation. The Agency finds that temporary regulatory relief from this burden will aid in the economic recovery of motor carriers impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency, without negatively impacting safety. FMCSA also concludes that this waiver will aid in the Nation’s overall economic recovery by enabling the efficient resumption of the transportation of people and cargo throughout the United States.

FMCSA’s Determination and Regulatory Provisions Waived
Consistent with the statutory requirements for waivers, FMCSA has determined that it is in the public interest to issue a waiver, until September 30, 2020, limited in scope and circumstances, that is likely to achieve a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained in the absence of the waiver.

Currently, pursuant to 49 CFR 382.301(a), prior to the first time a driver performs safety-sensitive functions for an employer, the driver must undergo pre-employment testing for controlled substances and the employer must receive a verified negative controlled substances test result for that driver from a medical review officer or a consortium/third party administrator.  This requirement also applies each time a driver returns to work after a furlough, lay-off, or other period of unemployment when the driver does not continue to be subject to random controlled substances testing in accordance with 49 CFR 382.305. 

Section 382.301(b) provides an exception allowing an employer to forgo administration of a pre-employment test if the driver has participated in a controlled substances testing program that meets the requirements of 49 CFR part 382 within the previous 30 days; and, if while participating in that program, the driver either: (i) was tested for controlled substances within the past 6 months or (ii) participated in the random controlled substances testing program for the previous 12 months. In addition, under the exception, the employer would be required to ensure that no prior employer of the driver has records of a violation of 49 CFR part 382 or the controlled substances use rule of another DOT agency within the previous six months.

As employers begin to recall drivers who were furloughed, laid off, or otherwise not working for the company for more than 30 days, the cost and logistical barriers of testing a large influx of drivers in a short timeframe are significant, at a time when the commercial trucking and motorcoach industry is facing unprecedented economic challenges. This problem is further compounded by the reduced availability of controlled substances testing resources due to continued facility closures or other testing impediments caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

This waiver would extend, from 30 days to 90 days, the period under which drivers would qualify for the pre-employment testing exception under 49 CFR 382.301(b). This relief would allow employers to forego pre-employment testing for drivers who have participated in a controlled substances testing program that meets the requirements of 49 CFR part 382 within the previous 90 days of hire or rehire. Allowing employers to forego pre-employment testing for drivers who were in a testing program within the previous 90 days will provide relief from the administrative burdens and costs associated with administering tests and allow them to return drivers to the workforce in a more efficient manner, thus promoting job creation and economic growth.

Public Interest
FMCSA finds that the granting of this waiver is in the public interest because it will facilitate the efficient return of furloughed commercial motor vehicle drivers to the workforce, allowing them to resume critical transportation functions performed by passenger and property motor carriers. In addition, this waiver will reduce the regulatory burden on employers and furloughed drivers subject to the pre-employment testing requirement.

Safety Equivalency 
Due to the limited scope of this waiver and the ample precautions that remain in place, FMCSA has determined that the waiver is likely to achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to the level of safety that would be obtained absent the waiver. The waiver of a particular regulation should not be looked at in isolation but rather as part of the whole of all regulations governing the safety of drivers. Waiver determinations are made holistically, taking all relevant factors into account. See International Bhd of Teamsters v. DOT, 724 F.3d 206 (D.C. Cir. 2013). For example, in these circumstances, it is important to note that this waiver does not alter any of the remaining controlled substances and alcohol use and testing requirements for a driver performing safety-sensitive functions, and that motor carrier employers subject to the waiver have access, in real time, to driver-specific drug and alcohol violation information through the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse).

Section 382.301(b) sets forth the following conditions a driver must meet to be excepted from pre-employment testing: 

(1) The driver has participated in a controlled substances testing program that meets the requirements of this part within the previous 30 days; and
(2) While participating in that program, either:
(i) Was tested for controlled substances within the past 6 months (from the date of application with the employer), or
(ii) Participated in the random controlled substances testing program for the previous 12 months (from the date of application with the employer); and
(3) The employer ensures that no prior employer of the driver of whom the employer has knowledge has records of a violation of [part 382] or the controlled substances use rule of another DOT agency within the previous six months.
FMCSA finds that extending the period for which drivers would qualify for the pre-employment testing exception under 49 CFR 382.301(b)(1), from 30 to 90 days, will not negatively impact safety. The existing requirement that an employer relying on the § 382.301(b) exception must verify that the driver participated in the controlled substances testing specified in § 382.301(b)(2)(i) and (ii) and had no recorded violations of another DOT agency’s controlled substances use regulations within the previous 6 months remains in effect. Moreover, employers must conduct a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse for returning drivers, as required by § 382.701(a). The Clearinghouse, which became operational on January 6, 2020, enables employers to identify drivers, including furloughed drivers, who have committed an FMCSA controlled substances and alcohol testing program violation that renders them ineligible to perform safety-sensitive functions. Such drivers are prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions until completing the return-to-duty process, as set forth in 49 CFR part 40, subpart O. The Clearinghouse provides employers with a useful new tool for identifying drivers’ drug and alcohol program violations that did not exist at the time the Agency enacted the 30-day limit for the exception in § 382.301(b). Further, employers must continue to complete a background investigation on returning or prospective drivers’ controlled substances and alcohol testing history with all DOT-regulated employers that employed the driver within the previous 3 years, in accordance with 49 CFR §§ 40.25, 382.413, and 391.23. 

FMCSA believes that the current regulatory framework, as well as the additional measures listed below under Terms, Conditions, and Restrictions of the Waiver, taken collectively, provide the assurance needed to meet the legal standard that granting the waiver is likely to achieve an “equivalent level of safety.” Therefore, FMCSA has determined that extending from 30 to 90 days the period for which drivers would qualify for the pre-employment testing exception under 49 CFR 382.301(b) during the period of the waiver is likely to achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained in the absence of the waiver.

Unique Circumstances
The COVID-19 public health emergency has led to unprecedented impacts to the Nation’s economy. Various measures employed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing, and stay-at-home and business closure orders issued by State and local governments, have significantly decreased demand for motor carrier services, particularly from passenger carriers. In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, many employers have imposed layoffs, furloughs, or otherwise temporarily removed employees from performing safety-sensitive functions. FMCSA finds that the circumstances surrounding this waiver are unique due to the urgent need to remove regulatory barriers to allow the efficient resumption of motor carrier operations.

For the reasons noted, FMCSA grants a three-month waiver as provided above, subject to the terms, conditions, and restrictions below.

Terms, Conditions, and Restrictions of the Waiver
This waiver covers employers of drivers subject to the requirements of 49 CFR part 382 for the period beginning at 12:01 a.m. (ET) on June 5, 2020, and continuing through 11:59 p.m. on September 30, 2020.

(1)    Employers must verify that the driver participated in the controlled substances testing specified in § 382.301(b)(2)(i) and (ii) and had no recorded violations of another DOT agency’s controlled substances use regulations within the previous 6 months; 
(2)    Employers must comply with the Clearinghouse pre-employment query requirement set forth in 49 CFR 382.701(a);
(3)    Employers must not allow a driver to perform any safety-sensitive function if the results of a Clearinghouse pre-employment query demonstrate that the driver is prohibited from doing so, in accordance with 49 CFR 382.701(d); 
(4)    Employers must complete the investigations and inquiries required by 49 CFR §§ 40.25, 382.413, and 391.23; 
(5)    Accident Notification. Each employer must notify FMCSA within 5 business days of an accident (as defined in 49 CFR 390.5), involving any driver operating under the terms of this waiver. See 49 CFR 390.15(b) (requiring maintenance of accident registry). Notification shall be by email to [email protected] The notification must specify that the driver was operating under the terms of this waiver and must include the following information:

i.    Date of the accident;
ii.    City or town, and State in which the accident occurred, or closest to the accident scene;
iii.    Driver's name and license number;
iv.    Vehicle number and State license number;
v.    Number of individuals suffering physical injury;
vi.    Number of fatalities;
vii.    The police-reported cause of the accident (if available at time of the report); and
viii.    Whether the driver was cited for violation of any traffic laws, or motor carrier safety regulations; and 

(6)    FMCSA reserves the right to revoke this waiver due to drivers’ involvement in accidents or employers’ failure to comply with the terms of this waiver.

Truckers Push FMCSA To End Evasion Of Broker Transparency Regs

 Washington DC… The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has long pushed for greater transparency and better enforcement of existing regulations.  Today, OOIDA filed a petition with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration urging immediate action on key issues to improve broker transparency. 

Small-business truckers who have helped keep the nation safe, healthy and supplied through the COVID-19 pandemic are now struggling and worried that their businesses will not survive. One long-time problem that has been exacerbated by the current crisis is the evasion of federal transparency regulations by unscrupulous brokers. 

“Brokers have been deliberately skirting federal transparency regulations for decades,” said Todd Spencer, President and CEO of OOIDA.  “We certainly don’t think exempting yourself from federal regulations is legal, but this is precisely what is happening. It has to stop.”    

Brokers are third-party entities that contract with truckers to haul freight for shippers, commonly known as broker-carrier agreements. Federal regulations require brokers to maintain detailed records of their transactions with motor carriers. Motor carriers have the right to view this information, which includes how much a shipper is paying a broker and how much the broker is then paying the motor carrier. 

OOIDA’s petition explains that brokers often find ways of circumventing federal regulations (49 CFR §371.3) that require them to keep records of transactions and make them available to carriers upon request.

OOIDA petitioned FMCSA to strengthen the regulations in 49 CFR §371.3 by doing the following:

1.         Require brokers to automatically provide an electronic copy of each transaction record within 48 hours after the contractual service has been completed.

2.         Explicitly prohibit brokers from including any provision in their contracts that requires a carrier to waive their rights to access the transaction records as required by 49 CFR §371.3.

“We realize some brokers might not like the regulations, but that doesn’t give them the right to blatantly skirt them without any recourse,” said Spencer. “Brokers must no longer be given a free pass to avoid compliance with federal transparency requirements and those who continue to evade the regulations must be held accountable. That is what our petition is trying to accomplish.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the largest national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The Association currently has more than 160,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the greater Kansas City, Mo. area.

Trucking Workforce Lauded in Congressional Hearing on COVID-19 Response

 Arlington, VA… Randy Guillot, chairman of the American Trucking Associations and president of Triple G Express and Southeastern Motor Freight out of Jefferson, Louisiana, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, in which he highlighted the trucking industry’s essential role serving on the frontlines during the COVID-19 crisis.

From his opening remarks:    “The COVID-19 pandemic thrust America’s trucking industry to the forefront of our national consciousness. As most activity across the country ground to a halt, America’s 3.5 million professional truck drivers kept moving. These heroes continue serving on the frontlines to ensure everyone has the goods they need to get through these challenging times.

“Truckers are the difference between a fully-stocked grocery store and one lined with empty shelves. They’re why doctors and nurses have PPE to protect themselves. They’re how test kits get to hot-spots for local officials to use to fight the virus’ spread.”

In his testimony, Guillot emphasized why protecting the industry’s workforce has been critical to mitigating the crisis and detailed how ATA and partners have taken proactive measures to provide safeguards for frontline workers. ATA spearheaded a nationwide effort to distribute 1,100 gallons of hand sanitizer along major freight corridors where truck drivers can replenish their personal supplies at no cost. ATA also procured more than 150,000 face coverings at cost for member fleets and worked with the U.S. Department of Transportation in distributing an additional 1.5 million protective masks to frontline truckers across the country.

Guillot also pressed the committee to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill this year, telling lawmakers that investing in our roads and bridges is paramount to ensuring the safety and well-being of America’s 3.5 million professional truck drivers.

“Finally, I’d be remiss if I did not note Chairman DeFazio’s introduction of a comprehensive infrastructure bill last week. Let me be clear: the single most important action this Congress can take right now to support our workforce—and to provide for their safety—is to invest in our infrastructure.

“Roads and bridges are not Democrat or Republican. We all drive on them. For the 7.7 million Americans in trucking doing their jobs day and night, moving our economy, we ask members of this committee to do theirs—and pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill this year that meets the urgent needs of our economy, our industry and the motoring public.”

 

Updated ODAPC Guidance – DOT Statement of Enforcement Discretion for Substance Abuse Professionals and Service Agents

 On June 17, 2020, the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance updated its Statement of Enforcement Discretion for Substance Abuse Professionals and Service Agents guidance document.  The guidance is now effective until September 30, 2020. 

 To view the updated guidance, visit https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/Statement_of_Enforcement_Discretion_SAPs_and_Service_Agents