PennDOT will likely toll 5 to 10 interstate bridges in the Commonwealth with the approved initiative for a period of likely 30 years or longer.
In Pennsylvania, the Major Bridge P3 (Public-Private Partnership) initiative was approved this week that will add tolls to yet-to-be determined bridges to help speed up and pay for the “reconstruction and rehabilitation” of major bridges throughout the state.
According to the initiative, PennDOT is currently carrying an annual funding gap of over $8.1B to maintain and improve state-owned bridges and highways.
How will the Major Bridge P3 initiative help the state?
According to the initiative, the goals of the funds collected include:
- accelerating the renewal of major bridges to ensure public safety,
- avoid time and financial impacts of travel diversion resulting from bridge restrictions and closures due to bridge conditions,
- help offset gas tax revenue losses which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic,
- ensure in-state and out-of-state traffic to contribute fairly to the replacement or rehabilitation of the bridges based on usage, and
- create a sustainable funding model for the state’s major bridges.
How will the Major Bridge P3 initiative affect the trucking industry?
This is the second initiative approved in the past decade aimed at improving roads and aging bridges on top of the highest fuel tax rates in the nation that lean heavily on the trucking industry.
According to Joe Butzer, Interim President of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, “the trucking industry in PA already pays more than $2B in Federal and State Highway taxes and pays 39% of all taxes owed by Pennsylvania motorists despite trucks only representing 9% of all the miles traveled.”
Fleets will need to plan to pay more toll bridge fees as they travel through Pennsylvania.
Do you remember the beginning of 2020 when the crash of the FMCSA’s CDL Clearinghouse website caused registration confusion?
The launch was supposed to be a smooth process as companies had three months prior to register. But few did.
As a result of so many people attempting to register through the website at the last minute, the website was overloaded and crashed, causing registration errors and quick fixes just to get people in the system.
The FMCSA Clearinghouse is an online database where new drug and alcohol testing violations and return-to-duty information of CDL drivers is stored and searched.
This database has worked well in preventing drug users from job hopping, as well as open the book on what is happening real-time with the trucking industry drug testing statistics.
In the first 8 months the Clearinghouse was in effect, over 35,000 drivers were found with a positive drug test forcing them to begin the return-to-duty and SAP process before getting back on the road.
DOT’s Clearinghouse faces a key test as fleets will likely flood the system in the coming weeks — CCJ ArticleCCJ Article – Nov 4, 2020
“We’ll see what happens with it,” said Lucas Kibby, marketing specialist at Compliance Navigation Specialists. “There’s going to be a large influx of people going to the site around the end of December and into the first few weeks of January, when people start realizing the rules.”
According to the latest Clearinghouse report, marijuana accounted for nearly half of the positive drug test results, followed by cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine.
However, we are now less than three months away from another major Clearinghouse deadline where companies could face fines, if in violation.
Clearinghouse website may crash again as required annual query deadline approaches
With the FMCSA Clearinghouse now in effect for pre-employment, random testing and return-to-duty processes, employers of CDL drivers must follow a new drug testing process when hiring a potential new driver before a pre-employment drug test can be done at a collection site.
Violations can occur if required information is not loaded into the database, or if pre-employment drug tests are performed before a new hire gives consent for a detailed query.
Before the new hire driver can be tested, the employer needs to make sure the driver is registered to the FMCSA Clearinghouse, then request electronic driver consent to run a detailed query, run a query on the driver (employer or C/TPA), and ensure no recent negative drug testing history is present.
After the detailed query is done, the pre-employment drug test can continue as part of the pre-employment new-hire process.
The other major required process for employers, including owner-operators, is to annually query all current CDL drivers at least once a year to make sure no violations appeared in the database. If the limited query returns any results, a detailed query is required.
This means the majority of CDL drivers need to have had a limited query run on them by January 6, 2021 or face potential violations and fines if found to be done late or not at all during an audit.
Early Clearinghouse registration issues led officials to advise employers to wait to register until December 2020 or January 2021. Consequently, a large spike in DOT Clearinghouse web traffic is expected as companies rush to register and submit annual queries to the DOT Clearinghouse before the deadline.
What fleets need to do before 2021 deadline
Every employer with CDL drivers needs to verify that they are registered to the FMCSA Clearinghouse. After registering, employers will purchase query tokens that will be used to when they want to run limited or detailed queries on their drivers or potential new drivers.
Owner-operators should purchase around 5 query token to run their annual queries each year, lasting them five years before they need to purchase more tokens.
Larger fleets should purchase query plans around two-and-a-half times their driver size to last two years of annual queries and a handful of new hire drivers.
Finally, annual queries can be ran on all CDL drivers within the company.
Drug and Alcohol Services
Do you need help registering to the FMCSA Clearinghouse or looking to switch to a trusted drug testing consortium?
At CNS, we offer a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Consortium Service and are a certified consortium and third-party administrator (C/TPA).
In the last few years, the number of younger truck drivers has been decreasing, according to a recent study by the American Transportation Research Institute.
This means the trucking industry is relying even more on drivers in the 45 to 54-year-old age group.
According to the American Trucking Associations, in 2019 the trucking industry was lacking about 60,800 drivers at the end of 2018 and the industry could be short more than 100,000 drivers in five years if conditions don’t change.
In hopes to increase the share of younger drivers in the industry, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed an under-21 commercial driver pilot program allowing young drivers aged 18, 19, and 20 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce. Currently 18 to 20-year-olds are only allowed to operate intrastate commerce.
The FMCSA is requesting comments on the program that would allow:
- 18 to 20-year-old commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who operate CMVs in interstate commerce while taking part in a 120-hour probationary period and a subsequent 280-hour probationary period under an apprenticeship program established by an employer, or
- 19 and 20-year-old commercial drivers who have operated CMVs in intrastate commerce for a minimum of one year and 25,000 miles.
The drivers in the pilot program would not be allowed to haul passengers or hazardous materials or special configuration vehicles.
This pilot program comes after a 2019 military recruitment program that is studying the details of allowing 18 to 20-year-olds with military CDL-equivalent training to operate CMVs in interstate commerce.
This military pilot program will be expanding the military positions allowed as an effort to provide additional younger service members with opportunities in trucking, according to a notice scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on Oct. 9.
The new roles include combat engineer, field artillery cannoneer and Patriot launching station operator from the originally approved roles as motor transport operator, fueler, and pavement and construction equipment operator.
The new roles were not included previously because FMCSA was not aware these classifications required heavy vehicle training.
DOT Compliance Services
Our compliance specialists can assist with a number of needs related to hiring and training new drivers including CDL training, new and ongoing driver training and even managing your driver qualification files.
Whether you are a large trucking company that is on-boarding drivers quickly or a construction outfit with multiple trucks in your fleet, you need to stay aware of FMCSA regulations.
2020 has been a year of validating the future of electronic vehicles and testing of autonomous long-haul driving.
Electronic and autonomous trucking will be here quicker than you think. Don’t worry, truckers will not be effected tomorrow, but it is definitely something to think about over the next decade or two.
Last week, Tesla held their battery day event revealing new battery technology and plans to dramatically increase battery production for electric vehicles (EVs), including the Tesla Semi that will be in production after Gigafactory Texas is built.
For those who were not excited about Tesla Battery Day, then you probably did not understand it.
Tesla, an automotive and energy company currently valued at double that of Texas’ oil company Exxon Mobile, showed a big step in the right direction for EVs and autonomous driving, and not just for Tesla.
The California Governor just signed an order that will ban the sales of new gasoline cars by 2035 in the state after previously announcing California fleets to phase out sales of new diesel trucks and buses by 2045. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) estimates that 2 million diesel trucks cause 70% of smog-causing pollution in the state.
Furthermore, autonomous trucking company–Locomation—will be equipping their platooning technology into 1,120 of Wilson Logistics trucks as early as 2022.
For the trucking industry, let us break down what technology is available now and what may be available by the end of the decade.
Tesla Semi is planned to be in production by the end of 2021
Tesla confirmed recently that the Tesla Semi will be produced at Gigafactory Texas alongside Cybertruck, Model 3, Model Y, and battery production.
The current timeline for “first completion” of the Austin, Texas factory is planned for May 2021, which has been under development for almost two months. The Tesla Semi is currently planned to be in production by the end of 2021 in Texas and Gigafactory Nevada will support Tesla Semi production.
When Tesla first announced the Class 8 heavy-duty truck, they said it would have a 500 mile (805 km) range on a full charge and would be able to run for 400 miles (640 km) after an 80% charge in 30 minutes using a “Tesla Megacharger” charging station.
CEO Elon Musk also said that the Tesla Semi would come standard with Tesla Autopilot that allows semi-autonomous driving on highways.
Tesla’s head of the Tesla Semi program, Jerome Guillen, said back in June that they currently “have a few trucks that keep driving around and that can deliver cars. But we’re going to accelerate that. I want to be clear that the first few units, we will use ourselves, to carry our own freight, probably mostly between Fremont and Reno, which is a fantastic test route. We’re going to prove that we have very good reliability. So far, the early units do have it, but we’ll do that at a larger scale. And we have also promised some early units to some long-term, very patient, and supportive customers, and we’ll do that.”
The bottleneck slowing down the Tesla Semi program has been battery cell supply, but he mentioned that Tesla expects to have more cells to expand the lineup next year.
Tesla has been taking reservations for the electric truck and said that the production versions will have 300-mile and 500+ mile range versions for $150,000 and $180,000, respectively. Walmart just announced that they will more than triple their order of Tesla Semis to 130 as a part of a serious sustainability push.
With the new batteries to be produced in Gigafactory Texas, Tesla forecasts a 54% boost in range along with a 56% reduction in cost per kilowatt hour, given 18 months to three years to see the impact.
For the Tesla Semi, a 54% boost in range would expand reach to 462 and 770 miles respectively.
According to CCJ, Mike Roeth, executive director at the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), said that while range improvements will help win over fleets, it’s simply too early to tell how Semi might benefit and that “the industry has reached some consensus that electric trucks make complete sense in about 300 miles of range.”
“Range is a crucial determinate for battery electric trucks replacing engines, specifically diesels in trucks,” Roeth said. “These improvements are impressive and will help accelerate adoption. But the 300 and 500 mile range announcements from 2017 have yet to be validated as Tesla has not delivered Semis to customers or shared third party verified data.”
There is much that still needs to be considered before mass adoption of electric fleet vehicles like the Tesla Semi. This includes dozens to hundreds of megacharging stations to be built at trucking terminals and over the road chargers meant for truckers, showing they can handle consistent next day maintenance repairs if the truck breaks down, etc.
However, US electric truck sales are now expected to increase to over 54,000 units by 2025.
Other Electric Trucks:
Hyliion: There are already 20 trucks operating with Hyliion’s electric powertrains, built via ventures with Dana Corp. and Volvo. The e-axle could be retrofitted onto old trucks, or built into new ones. The benefits were clear—the e-axle would provide a helping hand, adding power and torque that allowed the diesel block to work more efficiently, improving fuel mileage and lowering emissions. Naturally, the system also captures power via regenerative braking, which, given the mass of a semitruck, can be substantial. Batteries must be able to absorb 5 kilowatt-hours of power from braking on a steep hill, then turn around and feed that power back to the drivetrain during acceleration.
Dailmer: Daimler/Freightliner’sheavy-duty eCascadia was premiered in Portland, Oregon in June 2018 and is currently undergoing practical tests with customers in the United States in a variety of applications including regional and local distribution, food distribution and parcel delivery.
The eCascadia has a target range for series production of up to 250 miles (compared to Tesla Semi’s 300 and 500+ model range). Production of the eCascadia is scheduled to start in mid-2022.
Nikola: If you are wondering about the Nikola semi, do not hold your breath. The company is facing incredible scrutiny after a scathing report by short-seller firm Hindenburg Research that accused the company of fraud.
Unlike Tesla Semi, the Nikola semi displayed in their video announcement was a “pusher” going downhill, not producing its own power. Additionally, there are no hydrogen stations being built across the U.S, no vehicle production in the works as of yet, and the company is facing a big legal battle after their founder recently “stepped away” from the company.
Autonomous self-driving is seeing massive progress from multiple companies
The race is on for fully autonomous driving to become reality. The aim is Level 4 autonomy, meaning full automation without human intervention under “defined driving conditions and applied in all markets.”
For fleets to realize economic gains from autonomy requires a new set of processes and systems designed to assure safety and provide a positive return on investment. Over time, fleets would expect to see more balanced routes and reduction in mixed traffic and commuter congestion. If the technology is nailed, then peak hours of travel can be circumnavigated to provide greater assurance on cargo arrival times, partnered with improved safety of fellow road-users.
For long-haul truckers, many hope the slow diffusion of autonomous technology should leave plenty of time for operations optimization and new opportunities rising across the supply chain as traditional driving transitions.
Let’s take a look at several companies striving for autonomous driving.
Daimler and Torc Robotics: In 2019, Daimler bought autonomous vehicle firm Torc Robotics, acquiring “advanced, road-ready technology” for level 4 autonomous driving while Plus.AI conducted the first real-world commercial freight delivery by a self-driving truck, carrying 40,000 pounds of Land O’Lakes butter in a three-day trip across the United States.
Waymo: Part of Google parent Alphabet, Waymo has done driving tests in Georgia, Michigan, California, and Arizona. Their testing still had a human operator behind the wheel if anything goes wrong. They have 40 autonomous trucks right now and hope to have self-driving trucks operate between Los Angeles, California and Jacksonville, Florida by 2023 or 2024.
Kodiak Robotics: Kodiak is backed by some big names and is working to bolster the opportunity by using the driverless technology on the more predictable and less dynamic highways. They are focusing on autonomous vehicles that are used between a drop-off or pick-up sites that can include more technical challenges.
TuSimple: An autonomous driving technology start-up focused on heavy-duty commercial trucks, TuSimple currently operates in China, San Diego, CA and Tucson, AZ. They operate 40 self-driving truck fleet in the United States that are used for transporting freight between Arizona and Texas. The trucks have accrued more than 1 million safe miles so far and run routes for UPS and McLane Co. They recently joined with Traton’s Scania trucks to roll out autonomous vehicle operations to Europe with TuSimple’s Level 4 automation system that can drive without any human intervention.
Locomation: A company spun out of a prestigious university robotics lab, Locomation will equip 1,120 Wilson Logistics trucks with their convoy technology, which enables driverless trucks to follow a lead-truck piloted by a human, combining the best of autonomous technology with reliable human-in-the-loop driving protocols. The first units will be delivered in early 2022.
This agreement followed a successful pilot program involving two Locomation trucks hauling Wilson Logistics trailers and freight on a 420 mile-long route from Portland, OR to Nampa, ID. As opposed to truly driverless technologies pursued by Waymo, Embark, TuSimple, and others, Locomation always requires at least one driver to be alert and in control.
Tesla: Tesla will likely release a new fully functional version of its Full Self Driving package to private beta testers in Fall 2020 after undergoing a “fundamental rewrite” of its software that boasts over a million cars with full self-driving computer and hardware that has been collecting tons of data.
Tesla has released various components that will eventually equal the sum of Full Self Driving, including Smart Summon (slow speed in carparks), Navigate on Autopilot (high speed on freeways) and most recently, stop and go through traffic lights. The full self-driving technology will be built in with Tesla Semi that is to be in production in late 2021.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, fully autonomous trucking will be here faster than you think.
With new HOS rules on the horizon, it is time to start training company drivers so they understand how their workday will improve.
This week will be the first time the hours of service rules will have a major update in years that were highlighted after the ELD rollout.
Drivers could begin operating under the new HOS regulations on September 29, 2020 after the rule was debuted on May 14, 2020.
The four HOS rules changes will improve the workday for many truckers, including short-haul and team drivers, and will increase overall flexibility while the overall structure of HOS rules have not changed.
Drivers must still abide by the:
- maximum 11 hour driving limit within a 14-hour window/workday (except for adverse driving conditions)
- 10 minimum hours off between workdays; and
- continued weekly 7 or 8 day driving time maximums
What is changing and how will this affect the trucker’s workday?
What are the 2020 HOS Rule Changes?
The 4 major changes in the 2020 hours of service reforms will affect the: 30-minute rest break requirement, split-sleeper berth exception, short-haul exemption and adverse driving condition exemption.
30-minute rest break: The changes to the rest break requirement will affect most long-haul truckers on the road as it will allow drivers to take their required 30-minute break during an “on-duty, not driving” status, rather than “off-duty” status.
Previously, drivers had to be “off-duty” to take a rest break, meaning they could not perform any work functions during their break.
Now, drivers can be “on-duty, not driving”, which allows them to perform paperwork or fuel their truck while on break.
For many truck drivers, this change is exciting as it allows them to complete some of the busywork required of them.
Note: This change does not affect short-haul drivers as they do not need to take a 30-minute break.
Team driving split sleeper berth exception: Team drivers can now choose to spend only seven hours in the sleeper berth instead of eight as drivers can split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 or a 7/3 split.
While this does not change the 14-hour driving window, the FMCSA hopes this will reduce driver temptations to speed or operate unsafely because their workday is ending.
Short-haul exemption: For short-haulers operating larger or heavier vehicles, drivers can now increase their maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extend the short-haul radius from 100 air-miles to 150 air-miles. Learn more about the original Short-Haul Exemption
This change is simply being consistent with short-haulers driving vehicles under 26,000 lbs.
While drive-time is not being extended, these short-haul drivers, such as local delivery, construction, or waste drivers, can increase their driving distance by 50 air-miles, and allow them to work at their job site or office for a couple more hours.
Drivers and fleet managers can now be more creative with a driver’s work schedule and should be trained on these hours of service rule changes to make sure they understand the boundaries of the FMCSA regulations.
Adverse driving conditions exemption: Truck drivers who experience unanticipated adverse road conditions, such as unexpected inclement weather, vehicle accidents, or road closures can extend their 11 hour drive time to 13 hours and allow the 14-hour driving window to be extended to 16 hours.
This flexibility gives drivers more time to slowly drive through poor road conditions or find a safe place to park and wait without rushing to finish their shift.
Drivers need to be trained on exactly what situations are considered “adverse driving conditions,” what their options are regarding log books, and how to notate or document the exemption.
DOT and Driver Training
Truck drivers and fleet managers need continuous training on new FMCSA rules
These HOS rule changes provide an important opportunity for fleets to update their driver training.
CNS offers a variety of in-person and online training courses for the specific needs or weaknesses of your company or its’ drivers.
Fleets that incorporate training alongside driver qualification, drug testing and fuel tax management can create a complete picture of fleet safety.
Our complete DOT Compliance Programs promotes proactive safety and will complement or become your current safety department, without the cost of employing the many staff members it takes to run an effective safety program.
This waiver, effective October 1, 2020 and expires on December 31, 2020, will provide the same relief for CDL holders, CLP holders, and non-CDL drivers that was provided by the March 24 and June 15 waivers.
After 6 months of the COVID-19 health emergency, most states that reopened their State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) have only resumed limited operations.
As a result, many commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learners permit (CLP) holders may be unable to renew their CDLs and CLPs or provide medical certificates to their state driver licensing agencies.
Similarly, many physical exam sites are dealing with limited operations or backlogs, preventing drivers from scheduling appointments for their federally required medical card physicals.
For this reason, the FMCSA has announced a waiver effective until the end of the year, that includes previous waiver extensions, for CDL holders, CLP holders, and non-CDL drivers transporting essential supplies and equipment.
What this fully encompassing waiver will do until 2021
- Extends expiring Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) waiver until December 31, 2020 due for renewal on or after March 1, 2020
- Extends expiring Commercial Learners Permit (CLP) waiver until December 31, 2020 due for renewal on or after March 1, 2020, without requiring the CLP holders to retake the general and endorsement knowledge tests
- Waives the requirement that CLP holders wait 14 days to take the CDL skills test until December 31, 2020
- Waives the requirement that CDL holders, CLP holders, and non- CDL drivers have a medical examination and certification, provided they have proof of a valid medical certification and any required medical variance that were issued for a period of 90 days or longer:
- If medical certification was valid on February 29, 2020 and expired on or after March 1, 2020 but before June 1, 2020, the requirement is waived until October 31, 2020
- If medical certification expired on or after June 1, 2020, the requirement is waived until December 31, 2020
- Waives the requirement that, in order to maintain themedical certification status of “certified,” CDL or CLP holders provide the State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA) with an original or copy of a subsequently issued medical examiner’s certificate and any required medical variance:
- Who have proof of a valid medical certification or medical variance that expired on or after March 1, 2020 but before June 1, 2020, the requirement is waived until October 31, 2020
- Who have proof of a valid medical certification or medical variance that expired on or after June 1, 2020, the requirement is waived until December 31, 2020
- Waives the requirement that the SDLA change the CDL or CLP holder’s medical certification status to “not certified” upon the expiration of the medical examiner’s certificate or medical variance:
- Who have proof of a valid medical certification or medical variance that expired on or after March 1, 2020 but before June 1, 2020, the requirement is waived until October 31, 2020
- Who have proof of a valid medical certification or medical variance that expired on or after June 1, 2020, the requirement is waived until December 31, 2020
- Waives the requirements that the SDLA initiate a CDL or CLP downgrade upon the expiration of the medical examiner’s certificate or medical variance:
- Until December 31, 2020, FMCSA continues to recognize the validity of CDLs issued by Canadian Provinces and Territories and Licencias Federales de Conductor issued by the United Mexican States when such jurisdictions issue a similar notice or declaration extending the validity date of the medical examination and certification and/or validity of the corresponding commercial driver’s license due to interruption to government service resulting from COVID-19
The FMCSA also issued an Enforcement Notice, explaining that it will not take enforcement action against drivers and motor carriers that fall under the terms of the waiver. However, we have seen some roadside enforcement still give violations out when drivers are meeting the waiver guidelines.
Our DOT Compliance Specialists can help with DataQ’s. You can 888.260.9448 to talk to a specialist or request more information in the form above.
Incorrect violations can be challenged and our DataQ process and our DOT consultants are well-versed in the FMCSA rules and regulations, with specific knowledge on what officers are required to note in their report. We are able to challenge one DataQ or schedule a monthly review of all roadside inspections and report on which violations can be challenged.
Regarding accident reporting, each employer must notify the FMCSA within 5 business days of an accident involving any driver operating under the terms of this waiver. For more information on accident reporting during the waiver, go to the FMCSA press release.
School Bus Safety Driving Tips for Motorists
School buses have been designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries and are the most regulated vehicles on the road.
Keeping students safe is the top priority, so let’s discuss some important school bus safety driving tips when near a school bus.
School Bus Safety Tip #1
What do the flashing lights on a school bus mean?
There are three main lights that a school bus has beyond headlights and brake lights and they are designed to help communicate to other motorists and keep children safe.
White strobe lights are used when there is low visibility, such as fog in the morning or severe rain so other drivers know the bus is there and that children are nearby.
Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. While yellow lights are flashing, motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles. With that said, the yellow lights are not a signal to motorists to speed up before the red flashing lights illuminate.
Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off.
Before driving again, motorists must stop their cars and wait until:
- the red lights stop flashing,
- the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and
- the school bus begins moving
School Bus Safety Tip #2
When do you need to stop for a school bus?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, all States require the traffic in both directions to stop on undivided highways when children are getting on or off a school bus.
For multi-laned highways with a paved middle turning lane, generally traffic on both sides must stop for the bus. However, traffic in the state of Washington, for example, does not have to stop in the opposite direction when drivers are on a road with three or more marked lanes, and that includes roads with two travel lanes separated by a turn lane.
State law varies on requirements on a divided highway and what constitutes a divided highway. However, in all cases on divided highways, traffic behind the school bus must stop.
When facing a school bus with its flashers on at an intersection, traffic must stop and wait until the bus moves again.
Below is a simple graphic to depict these three situations and what is required for all lanes of traffic.
School Bus Safety Tip #3
How do you pass a school bus safely?
If you do want to pass a school bus, be sure to do so with caution. Children can be on any side of the roadway and can be unpredictable when the bus approaches, even with the flashing lights are not on yet.
Drivers always need to follow general road rules, such as not passing when there is a double yellow line.
However, there are additional rules when it comes to passing a bus.
Drivers cannot pass a school bus while its’ flashers are on when traveling in the same direction. Similarly, traffic cannot pass the bus on the right where students are getting on or off.
Knowing your state laws becomes more important when it comes to passing or stopping when a school bus is turning around in a driveway or parking lot.
For example, in Pennsylvania, Maine and New York, it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus with red lights flashing on school property, on any undivided highway or parking area.
The bottom line is always be careful, watch your speed, and use common sense around buses, children near roadways, and school zones.
On Thursday, September 10, 2020 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an emergency declaration for Washington, Oregon, and California due to the current wildfires sweeping the West Coast, which will last the duration of the emergency or until October 19.
The Extension of the Emergency Declarations addresses ongoing emergency conditions creating a need for immediate transportation of supplies, goods, equipment, fuel and persons that are providing necessary relief.
The emergency declaration grants relief from Parts 390 through 399, suspending hours of service regulations for carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the wildfire emergency region.
Low Air Quality Due To Wildfire Smoke
For the last 6 days, wildfire smoke stretches across most of the region and is expected to be hazardous or severe for the next few days.
The wildfire smoke is causing low visibility and poor air quality in the region, the worst in the world. It is important to wear masks if outside and to circulate air in the cab to prevent much of the smoke from entering the truck.
If ash is on the road, beware of harsh braking as it can be very slippery.
Emergency Declaration Restrictions & Limitations
Motor carriers and drivers must continue to comply with the following Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and conditions:
- 49 CFR § 392.2 related to the operation of a commercial motor vehicle in accordance with State laws and regulations, including compliance with applicable speed limits and other traffic restrictions.
- 49 CFR § 392.3 related to the operation of a commercial motor vehicle while a driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the motor vehicle.
- Motor carriers shall not require or allow fatigued drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle. A driver who informs a carrier that he/she needs immediate rest shall be given at least ten consecutive hours before the driver is required to return to service.
- 49 CFR §§ 392.80 and 392.82 related to the prohibitions on texting while driving and using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving.
- A motor carrier whose driver is involved in a crash while operating under this Extension of the Emergency Declarations must report any recordable crash within 24 hours, by phone or in writing, to the FMCSA Division Office where the motor carrier is domiciled. The carrier must report the date, time, location, driver, vehicle identification, and brief description of the crash.
- Drivers are required to comply with the portions of 49 CFR Part 395 related to the preparation, retention and accuracy of a driver’s record of duty status (RODS). Drivers are directed to note “Emergency Declaration” in the remarks section of the RODS to identify that their operation is in direct assistance to the emergency relief.
- Nothing in the this Extension of the Emergency Declarations shall be construed as an exemption from the controlled substance and alcohol uses and testing requirements (49 CFR Part 382), the commercial driver’s license requirements (49 CFR Part 383), the financial responsibility (insurance) requirements (49 CFR Part 387), the hazardous material regulations (49 CFR Parts 100-180), applicable size and weight requirements, or any other portion of the regulations not specifically exempted under 49 CFR § 390.23.
- Motor carriers or drivers currently subject to an out-of-service order are not eligible for the relief granted by this Extension of the Emergency Declarations until they have met the applicable conditions for its rescission and the order has been rescinded by FMCSA in writing.
- Direct assistance terminates when a driver or commercial motor vehicle is used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services that are not in support of emergency relief efforts or when the motor carrier dispatches a driver or commercial motor vehicle to another location to begin operations in commerce. (49 CFR § 390.23(b)). Upon termination of direct assistance to emergency relief efforts, the motor carrier and driver are subject to the requirements of 49 CFR Parts 390 through 399, except that a driver may return empty to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal work reporting location without complying with Parts 390 through 399. When a driver is moving from emergency relief efforts to normal operations a 10-hour break is required when the total time a driver operates conducting emergency relief efforts, or a combination of emergency relief and normal operations, equals 14 hours.
Be sure to monitor traffic and road closures on your route that may increase your travel time.
There may be closures due to normal construction, as well as closures related to wildfires that may be meant to direct you away from high risk areas.
If driving through Portland, Oregon, a nine-day closure of the northbound span of the I-5 Interstate Bridge began Saturday, Sept. 12, with crews replacing mechanical parts that help lift and lower the I-5 bridge.
An unusually early September snowstorm is hitting the Rockies and Front Range through Wednesday from Wyoming to northern New Mexico, including Denver, Colorado.
Unpredictable weather systems can happen anytime, however snow often begins sticking to high-elevation routes in Colorado as early as mid- to late September.
According to Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), from Sept. 1 through May 31, all commercial vehicles traveling on I-70 between the Dotsero exit (mile point (MP) 133) and the Morrison exit (MP 259) must carry sufficient chains to be in compliance with the Colorado chain law.
For drivers and the public’s safety, it is important to use chains in compliance with Colorado’s chain law for commercial vehicles fitting into one of the following categories:
- Vehicles with a gross combination weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds, inclusive of a towed unit, which has a gross vehicle weight-rating of more than 10,000 pounds
- Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, or
- Vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
The fine for not carrying chains on I-70 between mileposts 133 and 259 from September 1 to May 31 is $50 plus a $17 surcharge. Statewide, the fine for not chaining up when the chain law is in effect is $500 plus a $79 surcharge. The fine for not chaining up and subsequently blocking the highway is $1,000 plus a $157 surcharge.
At a minimum, the CDOT will notify the public of the travel restriction with erected static and electronic variable message roadway signs. Additionally, CDOT may utilize radio channels, the official CDOT travel website (www.cotrip.org/), phone message system, email, text and other automated personal notification systems.
Tire Chains Allowed in Colorado:
Metal chains must consist of two circular metal loops–one on each side of the tire–connected by not less than nine evenly spaced chain loops across the tread. Commercial vehicles that have four or more drive wheels must chain four wheels and dual tire chains are acceptable.
Alternate Traction Devices
Approved Alternate Traction Devices (ATDs) in Colorado are:
- wheel sanders, which carry enough sand to get the vehicle through the restricted area
- pneumatically driven chains, which spin under the drive wheels automatically as traction is lost, and
- textile traction device (TTD), a fabric boot which encompasses the tire. Currently, the only TTD that has been approved for use on Colorado state highways is the AutoSock.
With only two exceptions, Colorado chain law rules do not permit tire cables as alternate traction devices.
The exceptions are:
- tire cables with high strength steel cross member rollers 0.415″ or greater in diameter, which can be used on all commercial vehicles except single drive axle combinations; and
- on a tandem power drive axle commercial vehicle, where any type of cable can be used only if there are chains on the two outside tires of one of the power drive axles and cables on two or more tires of the other power drive axle.
Colorado Chain Law Levels
There are two levels for chain laws in Colorado—Level 1/Code 17 and Level 2/Code 18—and each level has specific conditions in which it can be implemented.
Chain Law Level 1/Code 17:
All single-drive axle combination commercial vehicles must chain all four drive wheels; cables are not permitted as ATDs. All other commercial vehicles must have snow tires or chains.
Level 1/Code 17 may be implemented any time there is snow covering any part of the traveled portion of pavement on an ascending grade.
Chain Law Level 2/Code 18:
All commercial vehicles must chain up. Single drive axle combination and tandem drive axle commercial vehicles must chain four drive wheels.
Auto-transports must comply to the extent possible without causing damage to hydraulic lines. Buses must chain two drive wheels to be DOT compliant.
Level 2/Code 18 may be implemented any time there is snow covering the entire traveled portion of pavement on an ascending grade, or when driving conditions dictate that this level is necessary to protect safety and to minimize road closures.
All fleets need to conduct proper and thorough pre and post trip inspections, which consists of implementing quality:
- driver training that is ongoing and consistent
- driver education, and
- driver awareness of current and changing traffic laws
All of this will help prevent being targeted by the DOT at roadside inspections and is a valuable resource to ensure a healthy fleet, and compliant safety practices.
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced Tuesday that, in response to statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts, expiration dates for commercial driver licenses and commercial learner’s permits will be extended for Pennsylvania residents through September 30, 2020.
This PennDOT extension now lines up with the Federal extension announced in June.
Expiration extensions will apply to the following credentials:
- Commercial learner’s permits: if scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 – September 30, 2020
- Commercial driver licenses: if scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 – September 30, 2020
- Hazardous Materials Endorsements (HME): for individuals who are a Pennsylvania-licensed commercial driver’s license holder and held a valid, unexpired HME with a determination of no security threat on or after March 6, 2020
The extension for deadlines related to expiring non-commercial driver license, photo identification cards, learner’s permits and camera cards is on August 31, 2020.
For a list of open driver license and photo license centers and the services provided, as well as their hours of operation, please visit www.dmv.pa.gov.
Schedule a DOT physical or drug test by calling CNS today at 888.260.9448.
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