Another Texas small fleet shut down | New EPA regs in development

Updated Feb 20, 2022

Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022:

FMCSA shuts down another Texas-based carrier

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has effectively shut down New Caney, Texas-based 4 Life Transport for numerous safety violations.

On Feb. 7, a driver operating for 4 Life Transport crashed in Utah and was killed. The driver and the truck he was driving, FMCSA said, were previously associated with Adversity Transport, a Houston-based carrier that was shut down by FMCSA in January.

An FMCSA review of 4 Life Transport, initiated the day its connection to Adversity Transport was discovered, found the carrier was “egregiously noncompliant” with multiple safety regulations, including: Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing (49 CFR Part 382); Commercial Driver’s License Standards (49 CFR Part 383); Driver Qualification (49 CFR Part 391); Driving of Commercial Motor Vehicles (49 CFR Part 392); Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operations (49 CFR Part 393); Hours of Service of Drivers (49 CFR Part 395); and vehicle Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance (49 CFR Part 396).

According to FMCSA, 4 Life Transport’s vehicle out-of-service rate is 100%, compared to a national average of 21%, and its driver out-of-service rate is 67%, compared to a national average of 6%. 

“4 Life Transport fails to ensure its vehicles are safe, and multiple roadside inspections revealed vehicle maintenance problems including unsafe tires,” the agency said. “The company also fails to ensure its drivers are qualified and drive safely – for example, its drivers have been cited for speeding and driving with a suspended license – and it fails to ensure its drivers comply with hours of service limits and recording requirements.”

Attempts to reach 4 Life Transport went unanswered Wednesday.

Failing to comply with the Federal imminent hazard order may result in civil penalties of up to $28,142 for each violation. 4 Life Transport may also be assessed civil penalties of not less than $11,256 for providing transportation in interstate commerce without operating authority registration, and up to $15,876 for operating a CMV in interstate commerce without USDOT Number registration. Knowing and/or willful violations may result in criminal penalties, the agency added.

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[Related: FMCSA's safety ratings trend negative: A majority issued in 2021 were Conditional]

EPA works to develop next phase of truck emissions regulations

The next phase of federal truck emissions regulations developed by the Environmental Protection Agency will focus largely on nitrogen emissions as opposed to the focus on carbon emissions of previous rulemakings.

EPA’s "Cleaner Trucks Initiative" was announced in November 2018, and a proposed rulemaking is expected to be published this year. While not confirmed by the EPA, a New York Times article published Tuesday suggests that the new regulations will be similar to NOx rules established in California by the state’s Heavy-Duty Omnibus Regulation.

New requirements are expected to apply to truck makers, as per usual for EPA emissions regulations, yet recent mainstream reporting in some ways implied that, by following California’s model for emissions regulations, certain in-use diesels might be affected. Asked directly whether this was the case, EPA did not answer the question. 

“EPA is working on a proposed rule to reduce pollution from heavy-duty vehicles and engines,” an EPA spokesperson offered in a statement to Overdrive Wednesday. “These standards are currently subject to interagency review, and we don’t have any updates to share on timing.”

[Related: Emissions system, while improved, still causing issues for some owners]

New vehicles, vehicle components included in ongoing COVID emergency declaration

In an update to its Frequently Asked Questions related to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency declaration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration clarified that the transportation of new automobiles and components, parts and supplies necessary for new vehicle production are included in the waiver.

The emergency declaration, which has been in effect throughout the pandemic, exempts carriers and truck drivers providing direct relief for the pandemic from 49 CFR Part 395.3, which covers maximum driving time. As of September last year, about a third of owner-operators reported some then-current use of the waiver.  

Specific commodities listed in the declaration that can use the waiver are:

  • Livestock and livestock feed;
  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
  • Vaccines, constituent products, and medical supplies and equipment including ancillary supplies/kits for the administration of vaccines, related to the prevention of COVID-19;
  • Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants;
  • Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores;
  • Gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and ethyl alcohol; and
  • Supplies to assist individuals impacted by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., building materials for individuals displaced or otherwise impacted as a result of the emergency).

Automobiles and parts for the production of new vehicles are included in the final item listed above, FMCSA said in its updated FAQ. The agency noted, however, that “justification for use of the relief provided by the extension of Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 is the responsibility of motor carriers and drivers operating under the emergency declaration.”

The FAQ also clarifies that fuel additives are covered under the exemption, as well as some loads with emergency items mixed with other unrelated materials. Further clarification is available in the FAQ.

The existing waiver, which was most recently extended Nov. 29, is set to expire Feb. 28 unless it is extended again.

[Related: Poking at the hours of service: Independent data-collection effort around COVID HOS waiver under way]

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