FMCSA Proposes New Rule to Increase Service Hours Flexibility for Drivers

In August, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a long-awaited proposal for changes to hours of service rules that would help add more flexibility for truck drivers on the road.

These hours of service rules, first adopted in 1937, specify the permitted operating hours of commercial truck drivers and have gone through multiple revisions. The newer mandate requiring electronic logging of hours that took effect in December 2017 featured some of the shortcomings in how these rules are applied in the everyday driving habits of truckers.

The FMCSA, through an advanced notice period of proposed rulemaking, asked for comments from the public on how to help add flexibility in realistic ways to the industry. Based on those responses, the regulatory body came up with a new rule to increase service hours flexibility.

What to Know

The FMCSA came up with five components to the rule change, helping to keep safety in the spotlight. Trucking companies can face claims from truck drivers if they feel overworked, leading to accidents or injuries on the road. Commercial trucking companies can take out commercial truck insurance plans to make sure they are covered in the event of a professional claim, especially with something like workers’ compensation insurance.

And while protecting against claims is a must for trucking companies, it’s good to know what changes were made to the hours of service. They include the following:

  • Changing the 30-minute break requirement to require a break after eight hours of uninterrupted driving time, not on-duty time, and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty/not driving status, rather than off-duty status. If a driver has to take a break to add fuel to their truck or use the restroom or grab a quick bite, that can count as their required break.
  • Allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off-duty into two period. This can include one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of not less than two consecutive hours, either off-duty or in the sleeper berth. This would allow for a 7/3 or 8/2 split. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.
  • Allow one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but no more than three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour on-duty window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift. This would alot drivers to take up to a three-hour break to bypass rush hour, without affecting their on-duty time.
  • Modify the adverse driving conditions exception, adding two hours to the maximum window during which driving is allowed. The current rule allows for that extra time but it still has to be within the maximum 14-hour workday. The proposal would allow that workday to be lengthened to as much as 16 hours in instances where things like extreme weather or major traffic congestion become a factor.
  • Change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by extending the drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and lengthening the distance limit within which the driver may operate the wheel from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

The FMCSA expressed, through a press release, that the proposed rule wouldn’t increase driving time and instead would continue to prevent trucking professionals from driving more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute change in duty status. What’s more, the FMCSA says the proposed changes are estimated to provide $274 million in savings for the economy in the United States as well as American consumers.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes.

Intentional Pairing: An Operations Change That Could Lead to Lowered Trucking Costs

Trucking companies have been operating with drop-and-hook operations for some time hoping to maximize efficiency. But while many trucking companies stick with this method, there’s little focus when it comes to matching tractors. In a new report from the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), it’s pointed out that a change in operations to allow for more intentional pairing as it’s known could lower overall trucking costs and have more room for needful assets such as hiring and truck insurance.

But while it’s projected to help with efficiency and cut costs, some leaders in the industry argue against pairing, saying that while it’s a good idea, it’s not really feasible. Even with a net improvement of five to 10 percent, as stated by the NACFE, the case to change things up may not be compelling enough.

Studying The Road

In the study, titled “The Feasibility of Intentional Pairing,” the NACFE portrays pairing as a dream for engineers, allowing for the design of an integrated tractor-trailer combination to be operated in a cost-cutting way. The report, which spans 86 pages, outlines everything needed to change for a complete overhaul of how things get done on the road through pairing. Through a survey of 50 fleets, including big names in the industry like Werner, UPS, and PepsiCo, NACFE found that the majority of fleets operate in drop-and-hook with the focus on keeping the trailer in motion as much as possible.

The benefits of pairing would be on a sliding scale according to the NACFE’s findings. Fleet annual net MPGs would improve and intentionally pairing by model type would provide the best opportunity for gains on the road.

The ability to pull this kind of move off is still questionable as many variables are involved and would require a whole new way to go about moving freight around. From time to pricing to asset location, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to an issue.

According to the NACFE, a growing number of GPS tracking systems and more data does present a new opportunity for a more efficient asset optimization in certain applications of freight, such as shipping beverages around. These commodities already operate in a certain manner as fleets pair weight-reduced tractors with weight-reduced trailers to maximize payload.

Altogether, NACFE, concluded that intentional pairing, while a great idea, and something to look forward to in the future, is not a full-fledged reality at this point. But the new technology does offer up opportunities through asset tracking and asset management. With data available around these entities, including driver information, tractor characteristics, asset status, locads, weather, and routes, better operational decisions can be made.

By combining this with the vehicle data, it could allow fleets to match trucks to certain shipping situations. Lightweight tractors could be paired up with lightweight trailers in order to maximize payload potential, even if it’s resulted in a shorter lifespan for those assets. Tractors with down-sped transmissions could be used for routes where technology can best be of benefit.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes.

FMCSA Update: California Yields to Preemption Determination

Following the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s determination in December of last year that federal law preempts California’s meal and rest break rules, many trucking companies are trying to determine how this is going to affect them with the California courts.  Los Angeles Superior Court became the first state court in California to apply the determination to armored truck driver claims for meal and break rules in the state; decided in favor of the Federal Rules.

Let’s take a closer look at what the preemption determination is and how trucking companies should proceed.

How to Proceed with This Ruling

 The recent court orders are good news for trucking businesses with drivers subject to federal rules, but these companies should still be concerned about the state objectives on enforcing the meal and break rules. Trucking companies can still be hit with claims from drivers, and their opportunistic attorneys when it comes to rest and meal breaks. Having a knowledgeable commercial truck insurance broker to consult with is an added avenue of defense.

Preemption Determination

The FMCSA decided in December of 2018 that federal transportation law preempts (takes priority over) California’s meal and rest break rules when a driver is subject to federal hours-of-service requirements. Essentially, what this means is that California’s laws were looked at as incompatible with the federal regulations, which is causing a burden on interstate commerce.

Applying the FMCSA’s Rules

In May of this year, a district court in California ruled on the issue and dismissed a claim made for truck drivers meal and rest breaks. The court made it known that it doesn’t have the authority to enforce the regulations around meal and rest breaks. Following that ruling, the Los Angeles Superior Court, as mentioned above, made its decision surrounding armored truck drivers’ meal and rest break claims, determining that federal rules governing the hours of service for both long- and short-haul drivers preempt (take priority over) the state rules in California.

The court ruled that it was “obligated to recognize the supremacy of federal law under the United States Constitution and the oath of judicial office”. The court also determined that it has no choice “but to respect and enforce the FMCSA Administration’s preemption determination without trying to second-guess its legal or policy correctness.”

This issue will be continually evolving. Keep an eye out for future blogs with updates on this ruling.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes.

Update: The NLRB Returns to its Independent Contractor Standard

On January 25, the National Labor Relations Board returned to its long-standing independent-contractor standard, which reaffirms the Board’s adherence to the traditional common-law test. The main rollout from this is that the Board described clearly the significance that entrepreneurial opportunity has in its determination of independent-contractor status.

The Obama-era standard decided whether workers are employees protected by federal labor law or independent contractors who are not, which in turn gave a boost to companies that prefer to use contract labor. This has the opportunity to disrupt everything from how companies hire workers to get their jobs done to how independent contractors look into commercial truck insurance. Read on to get more information on this ruling.

Independent Workforce

The legal test for employment status properly accounts for workers’ entrepreneurial opportunity for economic gain. This was limited severely back in 2014 due to a ruling that involved FedEx Corp. Members from the NLRB, appointed by the new administration in the White House, pointed this out in their case to return to the old standard.

Many freight companies, for instance, use independent contractors in part to avoid the expense and legal liability that comes with hiring full-time, permanent employees on their payroll. The ruling gives implications for a range of businesses, including ride-hailing companies (think Uber and Lyft), which rely on drivers who are independent contractors and not official employees of the company itself.

According to the U.S. Labor Department, nearly 7 percent of the American workforce counts as independent contractors (around 10.6 million workers), a number that is projected to rise in the coming years as the gig economy grows.

While the ruling has been debated for a number of years, this overturn was sparked by a case regarding a shuttle-van accident at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport which ended in injuries caused by the driver. This prompted the NLRB to change its legal standard for employment status, stating that the franchisees aren’t employees under the National Labor Relations Act and therefore fall outside of the coverage that law provides.

Only employees are covered by the NLRB, which provides the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.

Entrepreneurial Opportunity

The NLRB set forth a legal outline that blends an analysis under the common law with an examination of what entrepreneurial opportunity is. The ruling from the NLRB uses a common-law test drawn from the 1958 version of the Restatement of Agency; this was a legal treatise that states 10 non-exhaustive factors to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee. Those factors that are outlined include the level of control a business exercises over a worker as well as the method of payment and the amount of autonomy they are allowed in their role.

The board states that it can “evaluate the common-law factors through the prism of entrepreneurial opportunity when the specific factual circumstances of the case make such an evaluation appropriate.”

During the Obama-era ruling, the board at that time changed the traditional test for independent contractors by underplaying the importance of entrepreneurial opportunity. It also highlighted workers’ economic dependency on companies, but this was overruled in 2017 when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit pointed out the importance of considering entrepreneurial opportunity.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates and coverage changes.

Trucking News: What’s the Status on Owner-Operators in California?

Currently there are competing bills in California state legislature that are aiming to address an April 2018 ruling by the state’s Supreme Court that has threatened the traditional owner-operator model within the state. The bills are pointing to trucking groups wanting to upend years of law used to decide if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.

Independent contractors make up a large portion of the transportation industry workforce in California. These independent contractors are mostly truck driver owner-operators and the major concern has to do with benefits truck drivers feel they are owed as well as being determined full-on employees.

The Ruling

On April 30 of 2018, the class action lawsuit produced an “ABC test,” or an assessment designed to strictly outline who can be classified as a contractor within the state. This will not only effect truck drivers, but virtually all who work in the growing gig economy (think delivery drivers, ride-sharing employees, etc.). The new standardized testing determines that a worker is an employee under the wage orders unless the hiring company establishes all three of these factors:

  • The worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work
  • The worker executes work outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business
  • The worker is engaged in an independently established trade of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity

Essentially, the test assumes almost all workers are employees and eligible for the wide protections of California wage laws including overtime pay, meal breaks and minimum wage.

Another benefit workers are vying for are insurance options. From dental to medical, independent contractors are looking for the right coverage, especially given the dangerous nature of the trucking business. And while this is something that is still being volleyed back and forth by the court system in California, trucking companies can invest in commercial truck insurance to provide their own protection.

Having commercial truck insurance will help provide trucking companies with the protection needed to financially safeguarded against injuries drivers sustain on the job.

Gaining Opposition

The Western States Trucking Association has been looking at the idea of legality of the entire trucking industry in the state. The association pushed for a lawsuit filed earlier this past year against California over potential enforcement of the new ruling.

Western States has argued that the ruling violates federal law governing interstate transportation. The group is hoping for a long-term solution to the issue, to push the state legislature to act and correct the court’s decision to require testing.

The California Chamber of Commerce is also working to limit the effect of the ruling, especially since some of its members include trucking companies. The chamber has put together rallies at the state capital in Sacramento supporting workers’ right to choose to operate as independent contractors. Some motor carriers are considering changes to their operations after the ruling as well by turning over hiring to a brokerage firm for example.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates and coverage changes.