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A Guide to The Trucking Industry Regulations for Truckers & Fleets to Know

Triumph Business Capital

February 10, 2022

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog is for educational purposes only. Please refer to the appropriate state and federal websites for more information.

The trucking industry is dynamic, complex, and ever-evolving. Running a successful fleet or owner-operator business requires a deep understanding of various trucking regulations and new trucking laws. Staying on top of trucking regulation changes is essential for maintaining compliance and keeping trucks on the road. 

This article presents Department of Transportation trucking regulations, new federal trucking regulations to watch in 2022, and employment regulations for fleet managers and owners.

Basic Trucking Regulations You Need to Know

Commercial Drivers License (CDL) Qualifications

Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDLs) are issued by state licensing agencies and have varying requirements by state, but Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has several criteria that apply federally. In order to qualify for a CDL applicants must:

  • be at least 18 years old, or at least 21 to drive across state lines or carry hazardous materials
  • have a minimum of one to two years of driving experience
  • have no active suspensions
  • have a valid medical examiner’s certificate

Additionally, beginning February 7, 2022, the FMCSA will require Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) for all entry-level operators of commercial motor vehicles, prior to state-administered CDL exams. This includes those seeking a Class A or Class B CDL, those seeking an upgrade to their CDL (such as Class B holders seeking a Class A CDL), or any additional endorsements (hazardous, passenger, or school bus). This new federal trucking regulation is intended to establish baseline knowledge across state programs and standardize nationwide training protocols. 

Drug & Alcohol Testing

All CDL drivers operating commercial motor vehicles on public roadways must be Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol tested, including part-time drivers and owner-operators. Pre-employment and post-accident testing is mandatory, and all drivers are subject to additional random drug testing when they are on-duty, or immediately before or after. 

Fleet owners and employers of CDL drivers are mandated to follow DOT and FMCSA regulations regarding drug and alcohol testing rates. The 2021 rates were 50% for drug testing and 10% for alcohol testing. For a company employing 100 CDL drivers this would amount to a minimum of 50 drug tests and 10 alcohol tests in the calendar year to stay compliant. Additionally, all fleet employers and drivers are required to utilize the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a secure, online database of CDL holders’ drug and alcohol violations. 

More resources on drug and alcohol testing can be found on the  FMCSA website.

Hours of Service (HOS)

FMCSA hours of service (HOS) regulations are intended to keep drivers and the public safe by reducing driver fatigue, limiting the number of consecutive hours CDL drivers can work, and mandating breaks and off-duty hours. In June 2020, the FMCSA revised several provisions to extend HOS and provide drivers with greater flexibility:

  • Short-haul exception: expands work shifts to 14 hours and expands the exception to 150 air miles.
  • Adverse driving conditions exception: extends driving through adverse conditions by up to two hours.
  • Thirty-minute break requirement: requires drivers to take a 30-minute break after driving for more than eight hours (was previously required after eight hours on-duty) and allows on-duty/not-driving period to qualify as a break.
  • Sleeper berth provision: drivers may spend at least seven hours in the berth and at least two outside the berth to fulfill their 10-hour minimum of time off duty.

While there was some concern that with the new administration in 2021 the FMCSA would repeal some of these provisions and adopt a more conservative approach to driver safety, it is unlikely to happen in the immediate future considering the current state of transportation backlogs and driver shortages.

Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance of Equipment

FMCSA regulations require every motor carrier to systematically inspect, repair, and maintain all of their vehicles. This includes daily post-trip driver inspections of basic equipment (tires, lights, brakes, trailer connections) and in-depth periodic inspections within the last 12 months. Documentation of all inspections must be kept within the truck for review by the DOT upon request. Any defects must be noted, and any that could impact the safe operation of the truck must be repaired before the truck can be used in operation. Non-compliance with trucking laws regarding safety can result in hefty fines and cause significant issues should the defective truck be involved in an accident.

Regulations to Watch in 2022

Speed Limiters

The Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act was initially introduced in 2019 and is named after an Atlanta college student who was killed after colliding with a truck in 2002. It aims to minimize the impact of large truck crashes by instating a requirement for speed limiters on trucks over 26,000 pounds, restricting their maximum speed to 65 mph. The act has been highly controversial, with both the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the safety group Road Safe America recently backing updated regulations that include concessions for trucks that are utilizing adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking systems. 

The bill was reintroduced in May 2021 with bipartisan support, but as of now has not moved into the House for further debate. It has the potential to become a new federal regulation for truck drivers in 2022 and should be monitored closely. 

ELDs and Waivers

Electronic logging devices (ELDs) were mandated by the FMCSA in December 2017 for the majority of motor carriers, as a replacement for paper logs. These devices sync with a vehicle’s engine to automatically record driving time, preventing drivers from falsifying HOS and, in theory, minimizing highway accidents. 

In November 2021, the FMCSA announced one of the trucking regulation changes that is guaranteed for 2022. This regulation dictates that any ELDs relying on 3G cellular connectivity will no longer be in compliance, as mobile carriers are rapidly shutting down 3G networks and upgrading to more advanced 5G. All major carriers have announced dates for completing 3G shutdowns in 2022, although they may shut down some areas sooner. Drivers and fleets should plan to upgrade any 3G-reliant ELDs immediately, in order to avoid malfunctions and FMCSA non-compliance. 

Visit the FMCSA website for the full announcement, including estimated 3G shutdown dates by mobile carrier. 

Truck Emissions Evaluation

With shifting prioritization of climate policies and the EPA’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, there is ongoing pressure to reduce carbon emissions in the heavy-duty trucking sector. The first ruling from the EPA regarding truck emissions is expected in 2022, and will apply to heavy-duty vehicles starting in model year 2027.

Additionally, conversations within the DOT and FMCSA indicate there may soon be new federal trucking regulations similar to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) mandate, which includes several regulations for improved fuel efficiency and zero-emissions technology. As these may apply to vehicles already in service or require retro-fitting equipment, these should be followed closely by all drivers and fleets.

Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) & Protection for Independent Contractors

AB5 was passed by the state of California in 2020, and made significant changes to the classification of workers in a company, by assuming that all workers are employees. In order for a worker to be classified as an independent contractor, the hiring company must show that the worker meets the following conditions:

  1. The worker is free from control and direction in the performance of services; and
  2. The worker is performing work outside the usual course of business of the hiring company; and
  3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business. 

Condition B is the largest obstacle to trucking companies who have traditionally relied on independent contractors, as it will be very difficult to show that contracted truck drivers are performing work outside of the usual course of company business. Due to these challenges, there are currently two outstanding lawsuits by the California Trucking Association (CTA) and Cal Cartage, and the U.S. District Court in California has issued an injunction blocking AB5 from being applied to the trucking sector. This order will stand until a permanent decision can be made, but should be watched closely as it could set a precedent for other states considering new trucking laws. 

Truck Parking

Lack of adequate truck parking is a major issue across the U.S., made worse as many public rest stops were shut down due to COVID-19. Further adding to the problem are cities like Philadelphia and Minneapolis issuing city-wide bans of trucks parking on city streets, and ongoing lack of parking near ports, as drivers attempt to clear backlogs of container freight in major hubs like Los Angeles and Long Beach. With strict HOS regulations in place, many drivers struggle to stay within legal hours and follow break requirements without legal spaces to park their trucks.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has been a vocal proponent of regulations to address the parking issue, and in March 2021 the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act was introduced for this purpose. The bill would dedicate $755 million in funding over five years to address truck parking, and includes grant programs to states, public agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, and private sector partnerships. 

Truck parking is an issue that should be of particular interest to drivers, who are reported to spend an average 56 minutes per day (a tenth of their total working hours) locating parking, as well as fleet managers who employ these drivers. The shortage of safe, legal parking impacts the fleet financially, but also impacts driver satisfaction. 

Employment Regulations Fleets Need to Know

Immigration & Authorized Workers

Immigration has long been a nationally debated issue, with many proposed policy changes each year. In terms of employment, however, the standards have not changed in decades. The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires all U.S. employers to complete an I-9 to verify citizenship or legal authorization for employment upon hiring a new employee. The federal government uses the E-Verify system to monitor and enforce federal immigration laws, so fleet managers should be familiar with the processes to ensure ongoing compliance. 

Additionally, fleets should remain aware of any potential updates to immigration processes and hiring practices that occur in response to COVID-19, which can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Meal & Rest Breaks

Current FMCSA regulations for truck drivers rule that drivers who work more than eight hours must take at least one 30-minute break during the first eight hours, with flexibility on when to take the break and whether it is off-duty or in the sleeper berth. California has a law that requires more breaks, more often, and with less flexibility. Drivers must have a 30-minute meal break for every five hours they work, plus an additional 10-minute rest break for every four hours of work. A 2021 Ninth Circuit court ruling declared that FMCSA rules preempted any state laws around breaks, so for now California cannot enforce their stricter break schedule. It is unclear if the state will appeal to the Supreme Court on the matter, so this is another issue to watch closely. 

Ban the Box & Disclosure of Criminal Convictions

“Ban the box,” or the Fair Chance Act, refers to the box on applications requiring job applications to disclose prior criminal convictions. The law technically prohibits employers from requesting or considering conviction history until a conditional offer has been made, and is intended to push background checks later into the hiring process so that employers consider candidates’ qualifications before their criminal history. Currently, 15 states have passed laws that expand ban the box laws to private employers, but even in states without these laws, the practice of inquiring about criminal history and denying employment is in violation of federal antidiscrimination laws. 

Fleet managers should keep in mind that background checks for reckless driving and drug and alcohol violations are still mandatory and should be considered separately from other criminal convictions.

Minimum Wages

No doubt one of the hottest topics in employment law is minimum wage – there are currently 440 minimum wage bills that have been either proposed or enacted since 2020. Changes to minimum wage can happen on the city, state, or federal level and employers should be paying close attention to conversations on all fronts in order to prepare for new legislation. Within trucking, this is most likely to impact fleets who employ local or short-haul drivers on an hourly pay schedule, although most regulations require long-haul drivers on per-mile schedules to make minimum wages as well. 

With so much in the transportation and trucking industries being contested on a federal level it is important for drivers and fleet managers to stay up-to-date on policies and regulations. Check back often for the latest in industry news and updates! And if you are a fleet manager or owner operator looking to expand your business, check out Triumph Business Capital’s solutions for fleets and truckers.