Fit or Unfit? FMCSA keying in on problems with 'Conditional' safety rating limbo

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Updated Apr 6, 2023

With an FMCSA regulatory update session just concluded March 30 at the Mid-America Trucking Show, one thing that stood out was that the agency didn't mention a plan to advance a rulemaking around its safety rating system for motor carriers across the size spectrum. FMCSA Associate Administrator Larry Minor, however, speaking to the specialized carriers' Specialized Transportation Symposium just a month ago, revealed potential to begin a rulemaking process to possibly change the system as early as this year.

Should the three-tiered Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory, and Conditional rating system remain? Minor asked SCRA attendees, characterizing the fundamental early question any move toward a change would ask. Or: Should a two-tiered, "Fit or Unfit" system be adopted?

[Related: Safety ratings: FMCSA on the verge of reconsidering current system]

That’s what some small fleets and associated advocates have been calling for for years, as so very many have sat in that Conditional limbo -- some even for decades -- after an adverse review, despite efforts to improve. It's only gotten increasingly difficult to then get FMCSA out to any carrier's site to do the only thing that can result in a Satisfactory rating in today’s system. That's a fully comprehensive on-site audit, generally, though there have been limited exceptions to that rule, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

howes logoOverdrive Radio sponsor Howes wants to hear from you. If you've used Howes' fuel treatments, lubricants or other products through the years, send me an an email or leave a voicemail with your story on the podcast message line. Leave your name and address and we'll get a prize pack with Howes' Diesel Defender treatment and Multipurpose penetrating oil to your doorstep: 615-852-8530.In today's edition of Overdrive Radio, hear more from Larry Minor in his talk at the symposium early this month to specialized carrier attendees. As it concerns FMCSA's failure to mention the safety rating issue here at MATS, ongoing through Saturday, April 1, maybe regulators believe owner-operators really could care less about ratings and how they’re conducted. I think they’re well off the mark, if that's the case.

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While few one-truck owners with authority might be likely never to be rated, the same business issues that arise for small carriers from a Conditional rating -- difficulty doing business with many brokers, to name one -- hits them equally.

The smallest of small carriers, too, likely holds less individual capability to get the feds back out to their place of business for a follow-up audit to potentially move them back to the Satisfactory category, given the trend to a majority of ratings the last couple of years being Conditional. Take a listen:

Also in the podcast: 
Hear from Minor on the DOT’s National Roadway Safety Strategy and FMCSA’s place within it, about how the Entry Level Driver Training program is going, about getting that program more effectively interoperable with state licensing agencies, about the late-fall ELD regs questions asked, about the notion of a Unique Electronic ID for every truck (asked for by CVSA) and FMCSA's pursuit of a potential regs framework for autonomous vehicles (comment period recently concluded). And speed limiters, of course, and changes to Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse reporting requirements of states.

Drop in for a bit of fun, too, with Rob Howes, executive vice president and chief testing officer of the company that bears his name, Overdrive Radio sponsor Howes. A bit more lengthy talk over interesting results of a Howes company survey we’ll visit in a later podcast, but Rob filled us in for this one on just what’s happening for the company here at MATS, likewise plans for the next Howes Hall of Fame announcement.

Hear Overdrive Radio's interview with owner-operator Angelique Temple, the last member inducted, in the December 9, 2022 edition: 

Transcript

Speaker 1: Larry Minor is the associate administrator for policy at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Larry Minor: We're planning to put out that ANPRM possibly this year, and that'll give y'all a good chance to weigh in on what direction you think we ought to consider going to improve our safety fitness determination process and whether we should maintain the three tier system of satisfactory, conditional, and unsatisfactory, or revise it to just a two tier system where you're either fit or unfit to operate commercial motor vehicles.

Todd Dills: Fit or unfit. That's what many small fleets in particular have been calling for, for years, and so very many have sat in that conditional limbo, some even for decades after an adverse review, and despite efforts to improve and difficulty getting FMCSA out to their site to do the only thing that can result in a satisfactory rating in today's system, that's a fully comprehensive on-site audit generally, though there have been limited exceptions to that rule, particularly during the pandemic. We're going hear more from Larry Minor, from his talk at the Specialized Transportation Symposium earlier this month to specialized carrier attendees.

We're hearing more from FMCSA here at MATS too in Louisville, Kentucky, but interestingly, their regulatory update session yesterday at the show didn't bring up the same intention to address the safety rating regime. I guess they think owner-operators really couldn’t care less about ratings and how they're conducted. I think I can assure them they're off the mark there. While few are likely to ever be rated, the same business issues that arise for small carriers from the conditional rating, difficulty doing business, to name one, hits them equally, with perhaps even less ability to get the feds out to their place of business for that follow-up audit to potentially move them to back to the satisfactory category.

I'm Todd Dills, your host as usual for this edition of Overdrive Radio for Friday, March 31. Time for creation of the stories and podcasts and everything that we do here at Overdrive has been short. Pretty typical of MATS, it's so big we all spend most of our time gathering, doing interviews, witnessing the various comings and goings. There's so much that doesn't ever see the light of day on our website until much later. Given that, I'd edited much of Minor's presentation from the early March symposium ahead of time to be able to bring this one to you today.

But it's not all month-old regs content here. We'll drop in for a bit of fun too with Rob Howes, Executive Vice President and Chief Testing Office of the company that bears his last name, Overdrive Radio's sponsor Howes, of course. A bit more lengthy talk over interesting results about Howes' company survey we'll visit in a later podcast, but Rob filled us in for this one and just what's happening for the company there at MATS, likewise plans for the next Howes' Hall of Fame announcement. You can hear my interview with owner-operator Angelique Temple, the last member inducted into the hall of fame, in the December 9th 2022 edition. Find it on overdriveonline.com/overdrive-radio. As for that possible safety rating change, here's what Larry Minor had to say about it in full at the Specialized Carrier Symposium.

Larry Minor: And the safety fitness determination. Safety and fitness, that's where me made the distinction between satisfactory, conditional, and unsatisfactory. Note that this is separate from the recent notice that we saw for Safety Measurement System, and that's the CSA program and the alerts for the high-risk carriers, and those SMS scores. This is separate. This is actually getting at the regulatory provision and how we actually determine ratings for carriers. So we're planning to put out that AEPR possibly this year, and that'll give y'all a good chance to weigh in on what direction you think we ought to consider going to improve our safety fitness determination process and whether we should maintain the three tier system of satisfactory, conditional, and unsatisfactory, or revise it to just a two tier system where you're either fit or unfit to operate commercial motor vehicles. So we invite you to comment on that advanced notice of proposed rulemaking published later this year.

Todd Dills: I do imagine that would be somewhat welcome news for many here, depending on the specifics of course. The fact is that the majority of ratings now for two years straight the FMCSA's issued have been conditional. Satisfactory ratings are few and far between, and changes to what's required to issue a satisfactory rating would likely be in the conversation around this rule-making. Time will tell. We hear from Minor also about the DOT's National Roadway Safety Strategy and FMCSA's place within it about how the entry level driver training program is going, about getting that program more effectively interoperable with state licensing agencies, about the late fall ELD regs questions asked, about the notion of universal electronic IDs for every truck out there asked for by CVSA, and speed limiters, of course. There's another change upcoming with regard to the Drug & Alcohol positive test results Clearinghouse too that will require state agencies to downgrade drivers' CDLs if they're found in prohibitive status with the test popping there.

Larry Minor: If you have someone who's got an issue with drug abuse or alcohol misuse, we will catch up to those individuals and take action so that if the state driver license institutes have to query our Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse and if they see a CDL holder is listed in the query status as tested positive for drugs or alcohol issues, but they have not completed the return to duty process, downgrade that commercial driver's license so that any law enforcement official stops them, they'll see that this person isn't supposed to be behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle.

Todd Dills: After the break, more of what that could look like, and here's a message from Overdrive Radio's sponsor, Howes.

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Todd Dills: Find it at Howes, H-O-W-E-S, howesproducts.com.

At MATS this year in the north wing booth of the company unfortunately you won't find the virtual realty immersive simulator I got to try out last year there, putting users inside the virtual Howe’s hall of fame, and there's a reason for that, one entirely outside of Howes' control unfortunately. Here's Rob Howes describing that reason.

Rob Howes: Yeah, unfortunately we weren't able to bring that this year. Microsoft discontinued the application that it was based on, and they only gave two-ish months' notice before they completely took it down, so we weren't able to rebuild anything in time for the show. So here we are, planning the whole show out and then suddenly surprise.

Todd Dills: So basically the architecture online of the Howes' Hall of Fame is the same, but you couldn't do the same kind of thing you wanted to do here?

Rob Howes: So the VR platform was different than the website platform. So there were the same virtual space, but done in different ways, and it was called Altspace by Microsoft is the base platform that was used to do the Hall of Fame for virtual reality, and that's what they got rid of. I don't know if we're going to redo it or not. I mean, it's a big expense either way, but we're going to look at it and see. If we do it, we'll do it with an actual game engine, and that way, the program will be ours, nobody can take it down.

Todd Dills: The hazards of relying on fickle third-parties.

Rob Howes: Correct.

Todd Dills: And jokes aside, what you will find in the booth is there's chance to spin a wheel for a bottle of variety of Howes' products, among other prizes. Really good folks all around. It's a great team there, for sure. Rob Howes also updated progress on the Howes Hall of Fame. Here he is talking about the process of selection of the next member, whether person, place or thing.

Rob Howes: We're doing a new process this time where we're involving all of our customers and followers to participate. We're doing some polling. So it's going to be an interesting Hall of Fame inductee. So as you know, we don't just induct people, we also induct places, things. So I don't want to give away too much, but come around July-ish timeframe, another event, we'll be announcing the next inductee, and it'll be basically chosen by all of the people following the Hall of Fame currently.

Todd Dills: Okay, so you’ve gotten a bunch of nominations [inaudible 00:09:29] from your customer base and audience, and then you've already put out kind of a whole survey for people to make a choice, or are you going to?

Rob Howes: There's been some... Again, I don't want to give away too much. So there's been some secretive polling that we've been doing and it'll develop into more as we get closer, and it's kind of fun.

Todd Dills: It's something that people should keep an eye out for?

Rob Howes: It's something people should keep an eye out, yeah. We like to have fun with it. The Hall of Fame is a serious thing as well, but as a company, we don't take ourselves too seriously, and Angelique Temple was an amazing inductee, all of our inductees are amazing, and the fact that the community can get together and recommend some of these people is a wonderful thing, and I want to add to that to jump on our site, put your own nominees in there. We're constantly looking for new nominees for new inductees, always open. You can at any time.

We want to look at all aspects of the industry, and have some fun with it too. So there's some some cool stuff coming.

Todd Dills: Is it a July timeframe? Are you going to do that at the Walcott Trucker Jamboree?

Rob Howes: Yeah, you got me. That's a good show, and we like doing some of the announcements at an event where we can talk to drivers and participants.

Todd Dills: Stay tuned, and tune in next week for more of my talk with Howes about the survey they conducted and more about the current fuel quality situation all around the nation. Now, on to FMCSA's Larry Minor and the regulatory update talk he gave at the Specialized Transportation Symposium.

Larry Minor: Back here at the SC&RA meeting to tell you about all the wonderful things that FMCSA is working on, and I want to start off first with highlighting our National Roadway Safety Strategy. One of the first things that the Secretary of Transportation did back in 2021 was to really focus our spotlight on the highway safety crisis that we're facing as a nation, where the number of fatalities has been increasing year after year for the past 10 years, and we definitely need to focus the spotlight on that and see what can we be able to do about it, especially working with our stakeholders to work together state agencies with industry, what can we do to turn those numbers around and get it in the right direction. So we did roll out the National Roadway Safety Strategy in 2021, and we just celebrated the first year anniversary of the National Roadway Safety Strategy, and you can visit our website to see more about that.

You'll learn more about the highway safety problems that we're facing, see the data that we've been looking at, you can learn about the Safe System Approach that we're using at the DOT to kind of get everyone focused on highway safety problem, and you can see how our work at the DOT is really zeroing in on the roadway safety problem that we're facing. And just to give you an idea of the data that we were looking at that really shocked us, you'll see that from that 10 year period, from 2011 to 2020, more than 350,000 roadway fatalities, and it doesn't usually get a lot of attention because it's one or two fatalities at a time and spread all over the nation, so it doesn't really resonate with people. But when you step back and you look at that national data, year after year over a 10-year period, those numbers are quite alarming. More than 350,000 fatalities over a 10-year period. We've made it clear that we want to drive that number down as quickly as possible, with our ultimate goal being zero roadway fatalities.

Some of you probably remember a number of years ago we focused on the terminology, that we stopped referring to all these incidents as accidents, and we started calling them crashes, and we call them crashes because we believe that each one of these incidents is avoidable. So we look at 350,000, we think that that should have been zero. These are things that just didn't have to happen, and when you look at the layers of complexity to all the things that lead to that crash, there are things that could have been done to prevent it. So that's why we call them crashes, and we're looking at these fatalities and realize something's got to change. And just focusing on the large truck piece of that, you can see how those numbers have been going up. So that's why we're definitely committed to getting out to talking to the industry groups, and working with the state agencies to make sure that we've worked with that heavy truck piece to turn that number around because that's the part that FMCSA is responsible for.

And the Safe System Approach that I mentioned earlier, we're looking at safer people. What are the things we need to do with the drivers and the roadway users when they're out there, the pedestrians, cyclists, the truck drivers, the car drivers? What are the things we need to do to influence driver behavior when they're behind the wheel when they're out there on the roadway, be it the folks that drink and drive, folks that are driving under the influence of drugs, folks that are speeding, what are the driver behavior things that we need to focus on to turn that around? Safer vehicles. What are some the technologies that we can consider, as far as requirement for commercial motor vehicles and other motor vehicles to help reduce the likelihood of a crash, whether that's automatic emergency braking or other technologies. Looking at safer speeds. How do we get roadway users to slow down a bit and obey the posted speed limits?

And also doing a deeper dive in those posted speed limits. What are the analyses that go into setting the speed limits so that when motorists are using the roadway, they are confident that the speed limit sign that they're looking at, that is the perfect speed that people should be driving, and they shouldn't go 10, 20, 30 miles over that posted speed limit. So looking at safer speeds. Safer roads. What are some of the infrastructure things that we need to consider as far as our roadways? Do we need bicycle lanes when we're in the cities? What are some of the infrastructure things that we need to consider to improve roadway safety?

Post-crash care. Now, that's a very important issue when you get to some of the rural areas in the country because it's not the actual crash that may have killed someone, the actual impact at the moment, it was the delay of getting the first responders out there and then getting the person transported back to an emergency center. So in those rural areas, you may have some incredible time gaps there between the crash happening, and getting the first responder out there to the scene to get the person transported for some primary care. So we're looking at that.

So that's our Safe System Approach and the different areas that we're focusing our work on at DOT, and also the areas that we're working with our state partners and industry and other associations to try to focus on how we can get those numbers down. And a couple of the action items that we have listed for FMCSA in that National Roadway Safety Strategy CDL holders' traffic violations. So if you have a CDL holder, and they commit an offense in a state other than where they live, making sure the state that cited them for those things and what conviction took place, transmit that information back to the state of domicile so that the state driver licensing agency that issued that CDL will receive the information and take the appropriate driver licensing actions against that person.

So transmitting that information electronically rather than mailing it or faxing it, and then having paper sit in the back of the office, that the same driver licensing agency get that information on to the driving record as soon as possible so if we have someone that has a track record of just really unsafe driving behaviors, get the information onto their driving record and take action against that CDL holder. So get the unsafe CDL holders to correct their behaviors and get off the road until they get their act together. So that's something that's going to take effect in 2024 because we allow the states three years from the time that we issued a rule, and we're looking forward to that.

CDL holders with drug and alcohol violations. That's another important area that we're focusing on in the National Roadway Safety Strategy, so that if you have someone that's got an issue with drug abuse or alcohol misuse, that we catch up with those individuals and take action so the different the state crime or licensing agencies have to query our Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, and if they see a CDL holder is listed in the query status as tested positive for drugs or alcohol issues, but they have not completed the return to duty process, downgrade that commercial driver's license so that any law enforcement official stops them, they'll see that this person isn't supposed to be behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle because they got something on their record from the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. So those are two of the highlight areas that we focus on in our National Roadway Safety Strategy.

And just to give you an idea of how important it is to get the drug and alcohol issue, these are some of the numbers from the first three years of our Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. Now keep in mind that we've had drug and alcohol testing regulations for more than 20 years, so that all the CDL holders should have been aware of that and should have been aware of the importance of not letting themselves get caught for drug violations or alcohol misuse. In the three years that we've stood up that clearinghouse, we've caught more than 166,000 commercial driver's license holders that have one or more violations in our clearinghouse. That's a staggering number. We always knew that the number will be greater than zero once we launched a clearinghouse, but we never thought that we'd get to 166,000 commercial driver's license holders that still didn't realize the importance of not allowing themselves to get caught using drugs or alcohol misuse.

And out of that 166,000, more than 120,000 of them are listed in the prohibited status. That means they got caught and they still have not completed the department's return to duty process to resume their careers. More than 120,000 CDL holders are sidelined because they haven't completed the process. More than 91,000 hadn't even started the return to duty process. They haven't had the conversation with the substance abuse professional. So they're not even trying, they're just out. And then we've only got 45,000 out of that 166,000 that have completed the process to get back to work. So those are some shocking numbers that have caught our attention and drive home the importance of working with the state driver licensing agencies to catch up with those 120,000, and make sure that we downgrading their commercial driver's license, make it clear message that they are not supposed to be out there behind the wheel of a commercial motor vehicle.

And one of the things that's really alarming that each of these drivers fail to realize that once your name goes into that clearinghouse, you'll be visible to all employers that query the clearinghouse for five years from the time they complete return to the process. So that means for five years, you've got a black mark by your name that you've tested positively so that when employers query that clearinghouse, they will see it for five years from the time you've complete the return to duty process. And for the drivers that don't complete the return to duty process, it's just going to sit there forever and ever and ever, so that any employee that queries, they will see that you got a problem that popped up in our clearinghouse. So that's why we're really focusing on drugs and alcohol because the numbers are just quite alarming.

And we actually have a public-facing tracking dashboard, so any of you can visit the Department of Transportation National Roadway Safety Strategy's website, and you can see all the action items, so all the agencies at DOT that are working on roadway safety. So that's FMCSA's action items, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's action items, the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, all the agencies that have some responsibility for roadway safety, we've got a dashboard so you can see our action items and see how we're doing as far as implementing those action items. So I invite you to visit our National Roadway Safety Strategy website to learn more about the program.

And the next topic I wanted to talk about is entry level driver training. We've now passed the one-year mark since we implemented the entry level driver training program requirements, and this is one of the programs that we're really excited about because with this rulemaking, we didn't do our DC special where a bunch of experts in Washington make up something, put a rule on the books and then they just go out there and enforce it. This is one that we developed with a negotiated rulemaking process where we had a series of meetings with stakeholders representing different segments of the industry, and we sat down in hotel conference rooms and we figured out what would a reasonable, thoughtful, meaningful rule look like on entry level driver training. So this is a benefit of a negotiated Rulemaking where we didn't just think on our own, but we reached out to the experts out there in the industry to sit down and figure out what should the regulatory requirements look like to implement the statutory mandate that we do entry level driver training.

And this program covers all the people who are trying to get their commercial driver's license, Class A or Class B CDL for the first time, or people trying to upgrade from the Class B to Class A, and folks trying to get the passenger or the hazmat or the school bus endorsement. So all those folks have to go through the new entry level driver training program requirements, and with the rules, we set the minimum standards for the curriculum that's being used by the CDL training providers, we cover the minimum qualifications for the instructors, both the classroom or theory instructors and the behind the wheel instructors, and we also cover the facilities to make sure that they've got the appropriate training facilities and the appropriate vehicles for doing commercial driver's license training, and we also cover the state licensing environment so that if the training provider is operating in a jurisdiction that has requirements for CDL trainers, then they have to self-certify that they also meet the applicable state requirements for entry level driver training.

So it's a very robust program that will work out with the industry and state licensing agencies and others, and so far things seem to be going well, so that as of February 7th 2022, we've had that [inaudible 00:24:43], and what's going to happen is that once the students finish the training from a training provider that's on our registry, that training provider will upload the information to FMCSA electronically, and then the same driver licensing agency will verify that in our IT system prior to administering the CDL skill assessment. So it's been working for us very well, there has been no problems with it so far, so it hasn't caused any delays in folks trying to get their CDLs because of the electronic transmission of the training certificates to FMCSA and the states accessing it electronically.

And we have a user-friendly website that we have set up so that anyone that's thinking about trying to get their CDL, they can go to our website to try to locate a CDL training provider that's on our registry to verify that whatever school or training provider that they're going to, make sure that that person or that entity is listed in our training provider registry. And we've got my search engine there, so they can locate them by zip code and see who's out there, and they can make the distinction between the training institutions or organizations that are part of a trucking operation that only trains people that are going to be working with a truck operation, versus the training providers that are just out there training anyone who's trying to get a CDL. So they can do the search appropriately to see what's available in their area.

And just to give you an idea of the numbers so far, that we've got more than 25,000 training locations out there, and it's a breakdown for the in-person training providers that are doing the classroom and the behind the wheel, and we also have the flexibility in this program for online training to cover the classroom or theory part of it. So for the smaller training providers, if you're running a small business and you're just training one or two bucks a year, you can focus on the behind the wheel part of the training and let the student take the online part to cover a lot in the classroom or theory discussion. So those are some of the numbers for the first full year of operation of our entry level driver training program.

And now the part that you've all been waiting for, what's FMCSA planning to do to you in the next year or two. The advance notice of proposed rulemaking concerning electronic logging devices. So we had the requirement in place for a couple of years now mandating the use of electronic logging devices for those drivers that are required to prepare records of duty status, and we put out an advance notice to those folks asking a series of questions primarily about the technical specifications for electronic logging devices, because now that we've got that experience under our belt, we've heard from some of the ELD manufacturers and some of the fleets about some of the technical complexities that they discovered with the systems. So this is a notice where we're asking a series of questions about tweaks and adjustments to the technical specifications for electronic logging devices.

Todd Dills: And not only that, of course. As regular readers will remember from that information collection request last year, FMCSA also flagged that they were considering whether the pre-2000 engine exemption to the ELD mandate should apply to newer gliders with remand older engines, as it does today or not. Larry Minor glossed over that here, of course, though, questions about the technical specifications, as he put it, does I suppose cover the questions specifically related to newer gliders, having to do with whether the control modules in those units can handle ELD's data requirements. Next in the round, another advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that most owner operators are not too happy about, and in some views, pretty well redundant with the in place ELD mandate in some ways.

Larry Minor: The electronic identification of commercial motor vehicles. This is a response to a petition for rulemaking that we received from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. So this is an APRM for asking questions. We didn't actually propose requiring electronic IDs, we're just talking about one of the petitions that we received and we're asking a series of questions, giving all of you a chance to think about the issue and give us your thoughts on whether we should or should not require electronic ID on all commercial motor vehicles. And this is one that probably doesn't concern too many of you, but this one where we dive into intro guides about the definition of brokers so that those of you who do rely on brokers sometimes to do your business, that we're digging deep into the broker issue and how we find brokers, and how we get into the difference between the broker and dispatch service. So that's one that we would have for public comment.

Todd Dills: Keep tuned for more reporting from MATS on that issue, I think. There was an FMCSA session around two brokerage related proposals just this morning at Mid-America.

Larry Minor: Automatic emergency braking. I mentioned our Safe System Approach, looking at safer vehicles, one of the things that we'll be following up on as a result of the Highway Authorization Bill that was passed a couple of years ago is mandating automatic emergency braking on newly manufactured commercial motor vehicles. So that's a technology that in the event that whatever reason the driver fails to apply the brakes, then we have the technology that would apply the brakes automatically, or if the driver is not applying the brakes hard enough, here's the technology that will increase the braking force to make sure that the collision is avoided.

So this is going to be a joint rulemaking with FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration so that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is to regulate the truck manufacturers to require that they do it, and [inaudible 00:30:33] details about the performance specifications for the automatic emergency braking system. Then the FMCSA release would be to require that the fleets to maintain the automatic emergency braking on those new manufactured commercial motor vehicles. So that's one that hopefully we published in the next couple of months or so, and I invite all of you to look at that proposal to see whether you have concerns about what would be required from the manufacturers and how this could potentially impact cost of any new trucks that you purchase, and the requirements that we'd have for the fleets to maintain the automatic braking systems in vehicles. So that'll be another great opportunity for you to participate in rulemaking process.

And another one that will be coming up pretty soon is a follow-up to our supplemental advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, automated driving systems. We've heard about that for several years now, about this concept of having smart trucks that could presumably drive themselves down the highway and not necessarily rely on a CDL holder to drive the vehicle. So we put out an advance notice of proposed rulemaking under the previous administration, and asked a bunch of questions and got some responses, and with the leadership direction of the new administration and followed up with some additional questions and laid out some additional concepts that we want all of you to comment on. So we strongly encourage you to participate in this rulemaking process to see what safety guardrails we need to consider if indeed the technology sector is successful in producing automated vehicles that can run on the roadway without a driver behind the wheel.

Getting at some of the requirements make sure that the carriers are prepared with a safety program to operate these vehicles properly, making sure that the carriers are prepared to do any inspection of repair and maintenance of these automated vehicles, to make sure that the IT system is running these vehicles and all the sensors and other devices on the vehicles, make sure all those things are properly maintained, and if indeed we want to take the driver from behind the wheel and have this computer driving down the roadway, make sure that it's having a safe and responsible manner. So it's a complicated thing. We don't have any predictions on how fast the technology sector is going to succeed in producing these level four and level five vehicles that can operate without a human being behind the wheel, but we think that we need to move forward with this rulemaking to at least lay out our expectation of the safety guardrails that need to be in place if indeed you take the driver from behind the wheel.

Todd Dills: The comment period Larry Minor referred to around these automated systems has since closed on March 20th. OOIDA President, Todd Spencer, and the Association's official comments noted the original request for comment the agency launched on the subject as far back as 2019. As he put it, many of the questions initially proposed remain hypothetical in nature, he said. Quote, "OOIDA still questions why the agency has chosen to focus on regulations that may or may not be necessary, depending how the technology performs." Spencer went on to further question whether the agency might be putting the cart before the horse when it comes to a regulatory framework for AVs, nonetheless underscoring that decisions made today have a significant impact on the deployment of automated vehicle technologies, advanced driving system equipped trucks, and ultimately, quote, "On the livelihood of professional truck drivers and the economy at large." FMCSA's Larry Minor went on to note exemption requests put in by some AV testing companies that would add hours flexibilities for drivers associated with operating trucks with these systems.

Larry Minor: In the interest of full disclosure, we do receive a couple of applications for exemptions so far. The first of which that we denied a couple of years ago concerned some flexibility under hours of service. So if indeed you have automated vehicle, and it's kind of a team operation and the human being is there, you may stop taking responsibility for driving for some segment of the trip to let the automated system presumably drive itself. Should we provide additional flexibility under the hours of service so that that particular individual that's in the carrier truck have additional hours of service based on the level of control and the time that the computer is operating the vehicle. We denied that request because we just didn't think it made sense for us, and we recently received requests for exemption concerning emergency warning devices.

You currently have a part that is a commercial motor vehicle is disabled on the side of the road, the driver has a responsibility of getting out there, putting out the warning trials. Well, if you take the driver out of the seat, how might they accomplish compliance that's required that you have warning devices? Because if indeed a vehicle does break down and you don't have the human being, how would you alert the other motorists on the roadway that the vehicle just broke down? So we do have an application for exemption from two of the manufacturers that are working in the automated driving systems because they've come up with some technological solutions that they think might work as far as warning systems that will be around a disabled automated vehicle that doesn't have human behind the wheel.

So it looks like the technology sector is continuing to work on this and they're continuing to plan to go forward, so the agency is trying to do the rulemaking to put those guardrails in place, and in the meantime, we will be looking at those applications for exemptions. And as with all the application for exemption, there will be a federal retro notice that comes out where you would all have a chance to look at the application and offer your comments as to whether you believe we should or should not grant that exemption application. And something that's not controversial at all.

Todd Dills: Understated sarcasm, everyone. Understated sarcasm. And what's that non-controversial topic? Well, maybe you guessed it.

Larry Minor: Speed limiters. Now, this is one where we received the petition for rulemaking back in 2006, maybe 2007, and the department has been grappling with this issue for a number of years, and back in the latter part of 2016, we did publish a notice of proposal that... It was jointly issued notice of proposed rulemaking where the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would have the responsibility of proposing a speed limiter requirement of the manufacturers of the commercial motor vehicles that have been responsible for and the FMCSA part of the equation would have been to require that the fleets maintain the speed limiting technology or system that's on that commercial motor vehicle, and then there was a long period where there's a silence out of the US DOT. Didn't indicate whether we're going forward or not with the rulemaking, so we did put up.

We got new terminology for these things that we'd never published before, an advance supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking indicating that it is our plan to try to go forward with a new carrier-based notice of proposed rulemaking where we would presumably require the motor carriers operating the personal vehicles to go in, have the ECU on those commercial vehicles set at a speed to be determined through the rulemaking process. So we are indeed planning to move forward with the rulemaking proposal on speed limiters for commercial motor vehicles, and rather than the manufacturer-based approach that we put out there in the latter part of 2016, we're looking at a carrier-based approach now. So things are happening with speed limiters, and we have a team cranking out that supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking as I speak so that hopefully later this year, we will see that supplemental of proposed rulemaking.

Todd Dills: Or hopefully not, in the views of many readers here I know. And I assure you that sentiment was also on offer at the meeting of these specialized carriers where Larry Minor would speak.

Larry Minor: And you also see our essence of what we believe the safety benefits would be for that speed limiter rulemaking, and all the investments for putting a dollar amount on those safety benefits that say how many lives will be saved, and you'll have a chance to weight in as to do you think it's actually feasible to do more with the proposal, what's it going to cost you, how's it going to impact your fleet operations. So this will be your time to participate in the rulemaking process and give us your feedback on the speed limiter issue. Just as a throwaway, as I pointed out, we started this discussion debate back in 2006, and here we are a number of years later still talking about it. So it's one of those issues that just won't go away, and looking forward to getting your feedback as we conduct that supplemental of proposed rulemaking.

Todd Dills: That's a wrap for today's podcast. Like I said earlier, be on the lookout in the coming days for reports from FMCSA's listening session around the broker regs and more. Stay tuned next week for more from my talk with Rob Howes about a big customer network survey they put together examining why different people use their treatment products. Among interesting findings, how many do in fact treat their fuel all year round. Do you? If so or if not, why? Answer that for me on our podcast message line at 615-852-8530. Leave your name and mailing information, and I'll send you a bottle Diesel Defender and Howes Multipurpose alcohol-free penetrating oil. That's 615-852-8530. Otherwise, look forward to more from MATS here in the coming weeks.

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