Truckers are the backbone of the U.S. economy. According to 2021 statistics from the American Trucking Associations, this could not be clearer. An estimated 10.23 billion tons of freight were moved by trucks in 2020, representing 72.5% of the total domestic load volume. Commercial trucks make up 14.4% of all registered vehicles. Furthermore, trucking and shipping-related services employed 7.65 million people in 2020, including an estimated 3.36 million truck drivers.
These numbers continue to grow as demands increase with continued growth and recovery. But all this growth and potential is governed by several trucking regulations and laws that drivers must comply with and manage. Knowing the current rules and the new federal trucking regulations coming down the line makes it easier for trucking companies to manage routes, maximize loads, stay profitable and competitive, and overcome supply chain bottlenecks and obstacles.
Which Agencies Regulate the Trucking Industry?
According to IBIS World, nearly 600,000 long-distance trucking businesses were operational in 2022, an estimated 5.5% growth for the year. Illinois (68,216 businesses), California (51,001), and Texas (50,941) are the states with the most jong-distance freight trucking businesses in the U.S. The Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) coordinate and collaborate to issue semi-truck rules and regulations and transportation guidelines to keep truckers and the general public safe on the roads.
Those three agencies can propose new rules for trucking companies at any time; therefore, drivers, shipping companies, and trucking service providers must stay updated on the latest national guidelines as well as state-mandated trucker regulations.
Department of Transportation (DOT)
Established in 1966 by congressional order, the DOT is a federal department that works to monitor and control numerous administrations and regulatory bodies. Each has to do with transportation and trucking on U.S. roadways. New DOT regulations aimed at keeping drivers safe may come directly or through related branches and administration.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
The FMCSA came into existence in 2000 specifically to regulate the trucking industry. This administration focuses on reducing accidents, injuries, and fatalities among large motor vehicles, trucks, buses, and transportation modes. FMCSA’s best-known programs are the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations and drug-testing laws.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Established as part of the Highway Safety Act of 1970, the NHTSA focuses more broadly on transportation safety, including passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The administration also oversees regulations involving transportation issues such as fuel efficiency and roadway maintenance, though it primarily focuses on vehicle safety.
These three agencies help to monitor trends and statistics related to transportation and roadway operations. They create and update laws and regulations and work to ensure everyone on the road stays as safe as possible. As highlighted by TruckInfo.net, it is estimated there are over 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S. Of that, one in nine are independent, a majority of which are owner-operators. Furthermore, 97% of the estimated 1.2 million trucking and transportation companies in the U.S. operate 20 or fewer trucks, while 90% operate six or fewer. With this many trucks and drivers to manage and oversee, the DOT, FMCSA, and NHTSA have their work cut out for them.
Changes Leading Up to 2022
Keeping up with all the new DOT regulations, FMCSA guidelines, and NHTSA laws can be challenging, especially when dealing with ongoing supply chain trucking issues. Drivers and transportation companies must keep up with the latest updates and rulings, and the past few years have been particularly busy in that regard. Here are some updates that have come down in the years leading up to 2022.
Truck Driver Licensing Regulation Requirements
These necessary regulations have been undergoing gradual changes for several years. The FMCSA announced back in 2017 plans to make the standards for getting a truck driver’s license more uniform and balanced. The differentiating guidelines and requirements from state to state raised concerns about limiting drivers from performing long-haul routes across state lines. Current plans aim to make it easier for drivers to maintain licensing that can carry them from coast to coast.
Driver School Training Regulations and Standard Unification
The most significant change to driver training and education came from the new Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) guidelines that will take effect in the coming years. This rule sets requirements for training new drivers at a federal level rather than a state level. It sets educational standards for drivers and instructors and maintains national scores and grading criteria to ensure successful completion of classroom and practical driver training.
The 2021 Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act
This bill has gained a great deal of attention and ongoing debate. It aims to systemize the requirement of speed limiters for commercial trucks weighing over 26,000 pounds. The bill seeks to lock the maximum speeds these commercial trucks can travel to 65 miles per hour. The act would order that speed-limiting devices be installed and utilized whenever the vehicles are in motion. The concern is over slowing down supply chains while ultimately aiming to keep roadways safer during peak driver season congestion.
Electronic Logging Device Use and Recording
The FMCSA established original rulings and guidelines concerning using electronic logging devices (ELD). The mandate works to minimize highway accidents involving commercial vehicles by monitoring vehicle use and operations while on the road. An FMCSA-compliant ELD is required in all commercial vehicles to track operations and provide digital records instead of outdated manual recording and tracking. It ensures repairs and maintenance, as well as driver safety, remains front and center.
The FMCSA, NHTSA, and DOT rules and regulations for truck drivers are constantly changing and adapting to current trends and needs. This flexibility and fluid nature of new federal trucking regulations necessitate drivers to know the updated state and national laws. These changes have been happening for years and will continue to alter the trucking industry in 2023 and beyond.
2023 New Trucking Regulations that May come to Pass
The year ahead offers many opportunities for truckers to improve themselves and enjoy added job and quality of life benefits. In 2023 and the years ahead, the following department of transportation trucking regulations will either become official or move that much closer to being official. These are just some of the new trucking laws gaining attention as 2023 looms closer.
The Strengthening Supply Chains Through Truck Driver Incentives Act
This incentives act is an example of changes coming down the line that focuses on improving truckers’ lives and working conditions. It poses a refundable tax credit of up to $7,500 for truck drivers holding a valid Class A CDL and logging at least 1,900 hours on the road during the year. This tax credit would last for two years (2022 and 2023) to incentivize current drivers to maintain high utilization. It will also work to issue a new refundable tax credit of up to $10,000 for new drivers enrolled in a registered trucking training or apprenticeship. This tax credit also would last for two years. There is also a resolution to allow drivers who do not hit the 1,900 miles driven annually to receive partial credits for the truck driving miles they log.
Changing Truck Emission Standards
With a renewed push toward clean energy, there is speculation that the DOT might adopt more all-encompassing regulations regarding emissions, fuel consumption, and other sustainability talking points. There is serious talk that the DOT might take a cue from California’s mandate, which calls for zero emissions by 2045. That would address a significant concern within the trucking industry and demonstrate the concern and initiative many consumers want to see in the companies they do business with. However, this could add initial expenses and obstacles for current and new drivers to deal with as they work. While there is no confirmation on when or if such a ruling will come to pass soon, it would be prudent for drivers to watch for changing emission standards in 2023 and beyond.
NHTSA Automatic Emergency Braking Systems
One of the biggest causes of accidents and injuries on the road among truckers and other drivers is failure to come to a safe stop quickly enough. The issue has gained a lot of attention over the years and is a primary reason for the speed limit laws going into effect. The automatic emergency braking rules seek to build on that with safety in mind. Congress has prioritized research into collision avoidance technology for heavy trucks, and automatic emergency braking may well be the first technology that moves forward. It’s unclear when these systems might become mandatory, but it’s worth paying attention to and keeping in mind.
Considerations For Improving Trucker Parking Access
Lack of safe, adequate, and accessible truck parking has been a concern among truckers for many years, and as public rest stops closed due to COVID-19, the issues only become more focused and severe. The American Trucking Association (ATA) has been a vocal proponent of regulations to address the parking issue, and the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act was introduced for this purpose. Truck parking is an issue that continues today, especially since demand remains high and drivers are continually on the road supporting the country’s reopening. The shortage of safe, legal parking impacts drivers financially and affects driver satisfaction, performance, and safety, making it an ongoing concern for highway traffic administrations.
The one thing that always stays the same within the trucking and transportation industry is that everything changes. Knowing what might be coming down the line can help drivers adapt more efficiently while also taking advantage of rulings designed to help them prepare for laws that might impact their daily operations.
A Comprehensive View of Trucking Regulations
Looking beyond the anticipated changes in the year ahead, several trucking regulations and laws remain in place with little to no modifications. These foundational rulings form the basic structure of the trucking industry and offer a comprehensive overview of the dos and don’ts for truck drivers today, whether they are driving box trucks, moving dry van freight, or using reefer trucks.
- DOT registration requirement. Commercial trucks that travel major roads and highways must be registered with the DOT. In general, you need a DOT number if you are involved in interstate driving a vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Most drivers must update their DOT registration every two years. It’s a reasonably straightforward process, yet more than half of the drivers fail to complete their applications correctly. This results in delays and additional expenses.
- Trucking Hours of Service (HOS). Knowing what limits are in place as a driver will make it easier to plan routes, schedule loads, and determine when, where, and how long you can be on the road. Breaking the law and getting caught will always cost more than missing a load or losing a customer by refusing to cut corners.
- Rest breaks and off time. The DOT requires that drivers take mandatory rest breaks during working hours and long-haul trucking trips. This ensures that they are well-rested before the beginning of their next shift and avoid dangerous driving conditions such as falling asleep at the wheel. Regulations can vary depending on the type of truck and load, driver qualifications, location, and other factors.
- Unified Carrier Registration (UCR). This ruling focuses on carriers or owner-operators and states that they must register and pay an annual fee to operate across state lines. The state of driver residency or the location of the company’s home office sets the registration fee amount.
- Driver qualification considerations. Many states require annually updated verification of driver qualifications to ensure drivers remain fit to be behind the wheel of a big-rig or similar vehicle. Depending on the state, these qualifications often include basics such as a minimum age for the driver, a valid commercial driver’s license, insurance coverage or an appropriate amount, proof of a completed road test, and drug testing. Some areas have additional requirements, so it is best to check with local DOT officials to review the necessary verifications.
- A Blanket of Coverage. BOC3. A BOC3 regulation specifies a processing agent who can speak and act on a driver’s behalf and handle legal documents or proceedings on their behalf. Drivers can choose a processing agent in each state in which they work or operate. However, most drivers choose a blanket agent who can represent the driver in all states should some issue arise while working and driving their trucks.
- Drug and Alcohol Consortium. To comply with the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing requirements, drivers have the option to join a DOT random drug testing consortium program. This program makes it easier to access drug testing services, stay on schedule with required testing, and maintain records of testing results. Whether a driver partners with a program or does testing independently, they must submit proof of compliance to the DOT every 12 months.
- Heavy-duty Greenhouse Gas and Fuel Efficiency Standards. With the ongoing focus on sustainability and demand for cleaner, greener energy, the trucking industry is adapting to make positive changes in fuel consumption and efficiency. New fuel efficiency standards took effect in 2021. These will phase in over time and continue to expand on regulations and requirements into 2022, 2023, and beyond concerning transportation management services.
- Idling Laws and Limitations. Many local municipalities limit the time semis and commercial trucks can sit idling while not actively being driven. Some towns charge drivers for idling their engines longer than a few minutes, and the fines can be astronomical. This is bad when drivers sleep in their cabs in extremely hot or cold climates. While there has been some progress in addressing these issues, line haul shippers should plan routes to avoid these high-fine areas as much as possible or to plan rest periods outside these hot spots.
- Driver Fitness Assessments. The FMCSA requires all interstate commercial drivers to be at least 21 years old and to pass a physical exam every two years. Major health concerns such as an above-normal chance of a stroke or heart attack, worry over Alzheimer’s, or another mentally or physically debilitating disease will render a driver unfit to drive. Drivers must have at least 20/40 vision with or without corrective lenses and have a clear and easy 70-degree field of sight at all times.
- Harassment Reporting and Protection. With the rise of the MeToo movement and growing concerns over workplace safety and harassment among female drivers, regulations are in place to protect them. More amendments are forthcoming, and it is becoming easier for female drivers to report harassment or assault and find assistance when needed. More regulations and deeper insights are expected in the coming years as well.
- Minimum Wage, Hourly Pay, and Per Mile Pay. The final primary regulation that impacts drivers is the ongoing debate over current driver pay rates and working conditions. Discussions over paying drivers by the hour or by the mile continue. Currently, pay, work hours, and time on the road remain at the driver’s discretion and the companies they work with, provided those terms align with all DOT, FMCSA, and NHTSA rulings and guidelines.
The AMX Impact and Difference: Clear Impact on Driver Training and Hiring
According to Free Freight Search, “In general, truck drivers are expected to drive between 285 and 430 miles per day, or 2,000 and 3,000 miles a week (in accordance with the restriction of 70-hour maximum over eight days in the U.S.) These numbers alone prove that trucking is so much more than a career; it’s a lifestyle.” Making the most of this career and lifestyle choice means working with the best of the best.
Keep up with the latest semi-truck rules and regulations with insights from industry experts at AMX Trucking. Knowing the current laws and the new federal trucking regulations coming down the line makes it easier for trucking companies to manage routes, maximize loads, and stay profitable and competitive. Among industry leaders, AMX continually leads the way in quality training with logistics outsourcing transportation and training support.
AMX training provides drivers with the education, training, and experience needed to be successful in the transportation industry. They also work to actively track and monitor all regulations and changes to current laws that get handed down through the various departments. They are committed to ensuring their drivers and any driver AMX works with maintains the highest level of compliance possible.
Keeping track of regulations and laws and knowing what trucking and semi truck rules and regulations have changed is easier with industry experts on your side. Contact AMX today to get started.