Truck Drivers Should Be Aware of These Regulatory Changes

January 15, 2020 Truck Accident Blog

2020 Regulatory Changes That Affect the Trucking Industry

With the arrival of the new year, it is important for truck drivers to be aware of regulatory changes that will affect how they operate in 2020. There were several changes in 2019, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s amendment to its hours of service requirements; it removed provisions for two specific time frames in a 34-hour restart and limited restart use to once per 168 hours. These are some of the important 2020 new trucking regulations that drivers should become familiar with.

Electronic Logging Devices

In 2019, electronic logging devices became mandatory around the middle of December. Although the mandate officially went into effect two years prior to that, 2019 was the expiration of the exemption that came with the regulation. The trucking industry is still dealing with the transition of switching to these. Truck drivers have some compliance issues to learn about, and companies that employ them must also take steps to ensure that their operational plans are running smoothly.

Any trucking companies or contractors that have not switched from AOBRDs should not get on the road again until they have compliant ELDs. There are no allowable exemptions beyond the December 2019 deadline, and anyone who is still using an outdated system is subject to applicable penalties. For companies that are still having difficulty helping fleet drivers with the transition, some industry authority figures suggest face-to-face training. Several drivers are still experiencing technical malfunctions with ELDs, and that’s an issue that’s expected to have some impact on operations in 2020.

Regulatory Changes to Overtime Rules

In September 2019, the Department of Labor issued a new final rule about overtime pay that applies to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Although this rule is not specifically targeted at truck drivers, it does affect anyone who is considered broker or carrier staff. According to estimates, the new overtime law will affect about 1.3 million working people in the United States. For those who are in the trucking industry, this new rule will likely have some impact on working hours or how they are calculated. Some companies have already switched salaried workers in the industry to an hourly system that they must use to manually clock their hours. Also, the new change comes with a modification to commissions. Now, only 10% of quarterly commissions and bonuses can be included in a worker’s salary.

Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Regulatory Changes

regulatory changes

The start of January came with the new FMCSA clearinghouse database rules. Now, employers will have access to a database with information about alcohol and drug violations of CDL drivers. In the past, it was easy for some drivers who had drug offenses to simply find work in a different state. This new change means that drivers who were terminated for such offenses in other states will not have such an easy time covering up their records. It is unclear whether the FMCSA will opt for hair follicle testing instead of urine tests for standard testing. With urine tests, only recent drug use is detectable. However, hair follicle tests show use within a span of several months. If the agency does make the switch, there may be a larger number of drivers who are added to the database.

To be in compliance, independent owner-operators must participate in a third-party program that administers drug testing. An independent operator must register as an entity, outline annual testing procedure plans and uphold those plans. The chosen testing agency must upload any concerning information to the database. Leased owner-operators must create an account with the clearinghouse, and an account is also required to switch fleets. Companies with small fleets must perform full queries on new and existing drivers annually. They must register with the database, purchase queries and specify how they will collect information. They can use in-house staff or contracted parties. By now, employers are supposed to have notified all drivers that positive tests will be submitted to the database, and they must have also notified drivers that refusals for drug testing will be reported.

Independent Contractors in California

Many people who work as independent contractors or freelancers have heard that California voted to limit their work. Assembly Bill 5 will become effective in January 2020 and could lead to disruptions for people who work as truck drivers in California. However, truckers are hopeful that it will not cause problems for them. On the eve of the new year, a judge issued a restraining order on the new bill. The order will temporarily prevent the bill’s provisions from affecting motor carriers. A hearing is scheduled for the middle of January 2020 to determine whether the restraining order will end or become an injunction. This restraining order was in response to a lawsuit that was filed by the California Trucking Association in November.

If the temporary restraint ends, it will mostly affect those who are contractors under owner-operators. To be considered independent contractors under the new law, people must not be controlled by employers. Independent contractors are also defined as people who perform work away from an employer’s usual course of business. Additionally, the bill specifies that any affected employers must be involved in a trade that is independently established.

Although the current issue is limited to California, there are similar legislation proposals that could hurt gig workers and independent contractors in several states. New Jersey is among those states, which means that independent contractor truckers in New Jersey should stay current with any developments. Since the proposed laws are similar to the recent bill that was passed in California, following what happens if the injunction is not granted is a good way for truckers and companies to determine what to prepare for or expect.

What the Regulatory Changes Mean for Motorists

Safety organization leaders are hopeful that some of the recent legislative changes will not contribute to more accidents. However, it is always important for motorists to be aware of changes and their potential impact. For example, new equipment can confuse or distract truck drivers. If they are driving different hours, they may be sleepy. If they are trying to hurry because of adjusted deadlines, they may speed. Car drivers should follow safety precautions and be prepared for large trucks and semis to swerve or make unexpected movements. One of the most important safety tips to remember is to always maintain a safe distance from a big truck on the road. Since accidents can still happen, it is important to know what to do afterward. After seeking medical treatment, call an attorney who is familiar with trucking law and personal injury claims.

At RAM Law, we help victims of truck accidents get compensation to cover their past, current and future financial and medical needs. Our attorneys have a deep understanding of state and federal trucking law. Please contact one of our New Jersey truck injury attorneys for a free consultation at (732) 247-3600. We also welcome prospective clients to stop by one of our locations. We have offices at 111 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick and 21 North Bridge Street in Somerville.

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