What Trucking Regulations Could Change in 2021?

On January 13th, James Jaillet from CCJ wrote a good summary of the new regulations that might be heading our way in 2021. Every carrier big or small keeps up with health, safety, and other compliance changes.  But taking a look ahead at what could be coming, allows the trucking industry to be prepared. And there may be some big (but mostly positive) changes to trucking regulations in 2021.

The trucking industry enjoyed extra attention and focus, during the years of the Trump administration. Advocacy groups like the American Trucking Associations, the Trucking Industry Defense Association, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) were busy bringing big issues to D.C. Among the most important issues were HOS (hours of service) restrictions, and the shortage of safe parking for long-haulers.

Here are the top five possible regulatory changes that may impact the American trucking industry in 2021.

1. Driver Classification Laws

Owner-operators in California, and trucking associations were up in arms over a legislative change.  The A.B. 5 law was written to stop independent owner-operators from ‘working’ for trucking carriers.  For decades, many carriers have opted to contract owner-operators and provide leased contracts. 

The California Trucking Association (CTA) filed a case against the A.B. 5 legislation.  In the current writing, the law would make it illegal for any motor carrier to contract drivers.  Whether individual owner-operators, or fleets.  This would impact not only the trucking industry, but also businesses like school bus transportation, taxi services, UBER (which may have been the target) and more.

The result of the threat of the impending A.B. 5 law meant that many carriers stopped using owner-operators as independent contractors.  At a time when there is already a shortage of logistics providers and truck drivers, the hope is that the A.B. 5 law is amended to exclude drayage.   Or shipping goods FOB California is going to be the least favorable option for commercial businesses.

2. Changes to Minimum Insurance Liability Coverage

Congress began to talk about increasing the minimum amount of liability insurance for truckers, back in 2018.  Representatives Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Illinois) and Representative Matt Cartwright (D-Pennsylvania) drafted the H.B. 3781 law (the Insurance Act). 

The law would dramatically increase the amount of liability insurance that owner-operators and carriers would need to carry.  That’s bad news.  But worse, it would make the minimum liability insurance tied to the inflation rate and increasing medical care costs. That means the new regulations would make liability coverage would go up, and up.  And potentially drive many owner-operators out of the market.

How much of an increase are lawmakers talking about?  The current minimum insurance liability required is $750,000.  Under the new H.B. 3781, it would be $4.8 million dollars.  Or about 6.5 times higher than today’s healthcare costs.  The fallout from H.B. 3781 could include some truck drivers who are denied coverage and forced to retire as a result.

3. Mandatory Implementation of Speed Limiters on Heavy Trucks

The Truck Safety Coalition has supported the addition of mandatory speed limiters on heavy commercial trucks.  The heavy vehicle speed limiter will make it impossible for a truck to travel faster than 65 miles per hour. Law makers have been talking about doing this for more than ten years, and it seems like they are finally ready to pass the laws.

Carriers and independent owner-operators will have to install aftermarket speed limiters on all trucks if the S. 2033 legislation passes the Senate in 2021.  Truck manufacturers will also have to add speed limiters as a standard piece of equipment, on all new trucks sold in the United States.

Senator Isakson and Senator Coons introduced S. 2033 in response to truck safety trends.  In the past five years there has been an increase in heavy truck collisions and catastrophic loss cases.  Some settlements in the millions of dollars.  As such, reducing the speed potential of a heavy truck is supposed to reduce the risk of accidents. 

4. Regulations to Make Sleep Apnea Screening Mandatory for Truckers

One of the problems with sleep apnea? If you sleep by yourself, chances are you may not even know you have it.  We know that long-haul truckers frequently sleep in their cabs.  Sleep apnea restricts the quality of sleep, which can lead to sleep deprivation and drowsiness.  It can create a safety hazard for truckers and everyone else on the highways.

Screening truckers does not mean that a CDL would lose their license if they had sleep apnea. So far, from the details of the proposed regulations and screening, the purpose would be to identify the health problem. And then a trucker could get a C-PAP machine to make sure that when they rest, they are getting the proper amount of oxygen. That would make truckers with sleep apnea more alert, and safe on the highway.

5. Regulations for Carriers to Drug Test by Hair Follicle

In every profession, there is the concern that employees may be using illicit substances.  But unlike other jobs, truckers are responsible for safely driving up to 85,000 pounds down a highway. They need to be attentive, alert, and sober for their own safety, and public safety.

The trucking industry is more than a business; it’s a family.  And we know that if a trucker sees another CDL that is intoxicated, he or she will do something about it.  If a trucker is suspected of drug or alcohol use while operating a vehicle, they are sent home.  However, sometimes it is hard to tell or even confirm if drugs or alcohol are a factor.

Not many companies carry field drug testing kits.  Or have a full-time nurse that can administer a blood draw.  But one of the easiest drug tests to complete is a hair follicle test. Its is accurate and not painful to administer. And it can provide one more level of assurance for carriers.

The continued problem with truck driver shortage weighs heavy on law makers.  For instance, right now, carriers are responsible for deploying the Covid-19 vaccination.  No one wants to slow down the trucking industry, as we provide a vital and essential service.  But some changes could be positive and help reduce catastrophic loss to collisions and protect freight (and truckers) better.  And that’s a good thing.

Featured Image: Phaisarn Wong | Deposit Photos

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