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New FMCSA Safety Changes: What Drivers and Carriers Need To Know in 2024 

Kim Diggs

May 15, 2024

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, also known as the FMCSA, is a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation that regulates commercial motor vehicles and drivers of these commercial vehicles.  

In 2023, the FMCSA instituted several new changes that impacted the trucking industry, including requirements surrounding automating braking systems, drug and alcohol clearinghouse queries, safety fitness, and electronic logging devices (ELDs).   

Additionally, in 2024, it plans to implement several new changes concerning safety measurement system updates, speed limiters, the drug and alcohol clearinghouse, and competency and skills testing.  

These FMCSA safety changes — and all FMCSA regulations — are designed to reduce crashes, fatalities, and injuries that involve large commercial motor vehicles. Safety regulations can help protect both truckers and the general public as goods are transported across the country. 

Of course, the recent FMCSA safety changes do have an outsized impact on both truckers and trucking companies, affecting operations and operating costs. 

Read on to learn more about the 2023 FMCSA safety changes, 2024 new safety changes by the FMCSA, and how both may impact owner-operators, carriers and company drivers.  

Who Is Impacted by New FMCSA Safety Regulations? 

The FMCSA’s safety regulations apply to anyone involved with a business using commercial motor vehicles. This includes trucking companies, bus companies, passenger carriers, commercial drivers, dispatchers, trainers, fleet managers, supervisors, mechanics, auto insurers and other folks working within or with the transportation industry. Any business or individual who transports goods or passengers for the purposes of interstate commerce is subject to the FMCSA’s regulations. The rules apply regardless of whether the vehicle(s) is leased, rented or owned and when the vehicle is loaded or empty.  

You must follow the FMCSA’s established safety rules if: 

  • A commercial vehicle’s weight rating or gross combination weight rating is 10,001 pounds or more.  
  • You are transporting hazardous materials. 
  • A commercial vehicle is designed to carry between nine and 15 passengers for a fee. 
  • A commercial vehicle is designed to transport 15 or more passengers. 

Recent FMCSA Safety Changes 

With a number of new FMCSA safety changes being implemented and proposed over the last one to two years, it’s important to stay on top of what those changes are as a trucker or carrier owner. Check out our summary below of the 2023 FMCSA safety changes, as well as the new safety changes the FMCSA is suggesting in 2024. 

2023 Safety Changes 

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) 

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) systems are safety tools that use algorithms and sensors to detect potential collisions with other vehicles and objects. When the system identifies a collision risk, it automatically applies the brakes to prevent or lessen potential impact. The FMCSA’s new rule establishes performance standards and requirements for AEB systems. Its AEB system rules encompass proper inspection, calibration and documentation of the systems. 

Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse 

The agency’s 2023 safety changes also impact the drug and alcohol clearinghouse in the transportation industry. Starting on January 6 of 2023, the FMCSA became the only source through which employers can fulfill the regulatory requirement of identifying truck drivers with drug or alcohol charges. Prior to this, employers could request an applicant’s drug testing history from previous employers or consult the Clearinghouse database independently. 

Safety Fitness Determination Plans 

The previous three-level rating system of “Satisfactory, Conditional or Unsatisfactory” was replaced by a Safety Fitness Determination rule from 2016. This new rule applies to any commercial carrier that is federally regulated that has received any unfit determinations. The rule requires the carrier to improve its operations or shutter its doors.  

Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) 

In 2017, the FMCSA began requiring drivers to use ELDs to track compliance with hours of service rules. The 2023 safety rule required older ELD models to be upgraded to models that use 4G or 5G networks. The new rule also requires older commercial motor vehicles to use ELDs. The FMCSA required all motor carriers to meet these latest specifications by December 16, 2023. 

New Safety and Proposed Changes by FMCSA in 2024 

Safety Measurement System Updates 

For the last 14 years, the FMCSA has used a Safety Measurement System (SMS) to identify carriers that require safety interventions. After analyzing how the SMS could be improved to better identify high-risk carriers, the agency proposed to reorganize and update its safety categories and improve intervention thresholds. The FMCSA is proposing to simplify violation severity weights, consolidate violations, and use proportionate calculations in its SMS. Additionally, the new SMS rules focus more on recent violations and update the SMS’ utilization factor. 

Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Return to Duty Process 

Beginning November 18, 2024, drivers with a “prohibited” status, which indicates drug or alcohol violations, will lose their existing commercial driving privileges and/or approval for a Commercial Learners Permit. In order to return to duty and return to good standing, prohibited drivers must meet with a DOT-qualified substance abuse professional and complete their recommended treatment plan. In addition, drivers must pass a return to duty test and pass six unannounced follow-up tests during their first year back driving. 

Speed Limiters 

Another proposed FMCSA rule would require all commercial vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more to be equipped with a device that limits the top speed of the vehicle. The proposed rule’s maximum speed limit has not yet been disclosed. A recent FreightWaves article reports that the speed limiter rule’s publication has been delayed. Stay tuned to industry publications and the FMCSA’s website for updates. Though not yet confirmed, many in the industry expect the speed limiter rule will only apply to vehicles manufactured after 2003. 

Competency and Skills Testing 

The FMCSA’s competency and skills testing rule is based on a proposal submitted by a safety alliance group back in 2009. The rule would implement a competency test for commercial drivers and targets carriers that are new to the industry. If enacted, the rule would require new trucking operators to take a standardized proficiency test before being granted operating authority.  

Elimination of MC Numbers  

In an effort to cut down on fraud, the FMCSA has decided to eliminate the use and distribution of MC Numbers. Beginning in the 2025 fiscal year, or Oct. 1, the FMCSA plans to have a complete overhaul of the registration process.  

The FMCSA encourages stakeholders in the industry to submit their comments regarding proposed safety rules. Visit to view proposed rules and submit your comments.