As I wrote on Friday, it was an adventurous year for regulatory proposals and/or the hint or threat of such, if not the implementation of particularly new requirements, aside perhaps from No. 16 in the line-up of most-read stories this year on the blog, in which longtime California-based independents Tom and Karen Moore hung up their trucking hats after facing down California’s Truck & Bus Rule requiring powertrain upgrades or retrofits with DPF filters.
At the beginning of the year, the rule newly applied to 2005-06 model year engines in fleets of all sizes from all locales, and Jan. 1 likewise marked the beginning of compliance requirements for fleets of just 1-3 trucks with not only the rules for ’05-’06 engines but most older trucks as well. Heading into the beginning of the year, many operators hoped for — and speculated about — the potential for another small-fleet extension. It wasn’t in the cards, and though CARB did ultimately adopt some narrow alternatives for compliance, it took the all year long to do it and owner-operators like the Moores were forced into very tough choices. California-based Martin and Alice Jez saw the regs split their family for a time, as Martin moved the business to Michigan given his tractor was no longer in compliance.
The story played out over the course of the year with no shortage of contentious debate and ongoing protest of the regs to hard recognition of the realities of court-case delays and the rules’ increasingly entrenched nature.
Early in the year, too, FMCSA surprised a lot of people with the announcement of intentions to move quickly toward a boost in required liability insurance minimums for carriers, an exploration of the costs of which later in the year ranked No. 17 on the list.
The move stemmed in part from Congressional focus on the idea, a bill introduced prior to FMCSA’s announcement that would have boosted the current $750,000 minimum liability level to more than $4 million.
Throughout the year, supporters of such moves found a friend in the mainstream media, with several high-profile, high-severity accidents involving big trucks resulting in no shortage of fear-mongering in the performative cable TV, local and national radio news around the nation. In the wake of the crash that tragically killed comedian James McNair and injured former SNL star Tracy Morgan, National Public Radio raised “the old spectre of ‘tired truckers’ to head up their report” on the restart rollback amendment being considered over the summer, as I wrote at the time. “The cynics among readers see the Walmart accident as the death knell for restart reform, given the obfuscation it’s getting in the press, following [former FMCSA Administrator Anne] Ferro’s lead.” The story about mainstream obfuscation around the restart change ranked No. 16 on the list, and I’ve written more about the No. 1 story in two recent posts, the latter of them unofficially getting this year in review going full speed ahead last Friday.
Also ranking high among the various regulatory discussions were several items pertaining to the enforcement of those regulations, highest among them an item emphasizing that, well, when it comes to state police’s focus on compliance with equipment and operational regs, be thankful you’re in America.
No. 2: “Think you’ve got inspection frustration?”, in which it was suggested truckers could thank their lucky stars they’re not in Argentina, where a driver was arrested after he took out his frustration with inspection waits by taking on a food inspector as cargo and driving him several miles shut up in his reefer before police were able to apprehend him.
No. 5: “GAO’s CSA report fallout: More small carrier inspections on the way” — while some suggested that the Government Accountability Office’s early-year report on the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program made a good argument for FMCSA and state enforcement partners to go out and ask for more money for small-carrier inspections, it’s already a policy at the federal level to utilize the Inspection Selection System to prioritize such carriers for inspection. Speaking of that GAO report, as our CSA’s Fallout series of reports followed throughout the year, highlighting the variability in enforcement in states around the nation, trucking organizations and a large part of the enforcement community were busy uniting to call for carrier CSA scores to be removed from public view as FMCSA attempts to salvage what many view as a broken system.
No. 10: “Video: Driver questions trooper’s on-highway safety, gets clean inspection,” in which a driver turned his dashcam on an Illinois State Trooper (don’t try this at home?) after being pulled over and threatened with an “unlawful use of horn” citation for the trucker’s use of said horn to call out the trooper for excessive speed, as well as alleged distration. With the dashcam running, ultimately the trooper saw things the trucker’s way.