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August 20, 2008 10:20 AM, EDT
FMCSA to Send Hours, EOBR Rules to Peters for Review

By Sean McNally, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the Aug. 18 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is preparing to send several proposed rules, including regulations governing driver hours-of-service and electronic onboard recorders, to Transportation Secretary Mary Peters for review.

FMCSA’s final draft of its rule on intermodal chassis maintenance “was submitted to [Peters] last week, and we plan to submit the other rulemakings in the near future,” agency spokeswoman Kristin Schrader said Aug. 12.

The intermodal chassis final rule, which was ordered by the 2005 highway bill, would assign responsibility for maintenance of shared intermodal equipment to the owner of the equipment, rather than to the driver or the company transporting it.

The Department of Transportation report had that rule pegged for final publication in the Federal Register in early December.

Among the rules FMCSA is expected to send to the secretary in coming weeks, in addition to the chassis rule and final rules on hours-of-service and EOBRs, are a revised new-entrant safety audit program, the unified registration system and a proposal for a revised carrier safety fitness

rating system.

The other regulations FMCSA is working to complete include:

A pair of high-profile medical rules, one creating a national registry of medical examiners for drivers and one linking the medical certification to the commercial driver license, which already have been sent to the secretary, with an eye on publication in late November or early December.

A revised audit program for new motor carriers, slated for publication in mid-November.

The fitness rating proposal, a key part of the agency’s Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 plan, which is slated for publication in early February 2009.

 A proposal to restrict the way drivers cross highway-grade railroad crossings, which is projected to be published in April 2009.

Steve Keppler, director of policy and programs for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, said several of those rules are “contentious.”

FMCSA officials have said they hoped to get the regulations finished before the end of the year.

“There are a series of major rules that FMCSA has committed to getting out, and they’ve been pretty public about that,” Keppler said. “They’re working real hard on these things, and they’re meeting their deadlines internally, is what they are telling me.”

As part of the rule-writing process, agencies must send their proposed regulations to the office of the secretary, who in turn sends them to them to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for final review.

In May, FMCSA Administrator John Hill told Transport Topics he hoped to get the HOS and EOBR rules to OMB by September, which would give the White House the required 90 days for review (6-2, p. 28).

Keppler said he believes the agency is committed to publishing the rules, but “whether they can get through the secretary’s office and OMB is another question.”

Earlier this year, OMB Director Jim Nussle said the Bush administration would not publish a spate of rules toward the end of the year as it leaves office, but Keppler said, “That directive is pretty wishy-washy, and there’s a lot of room for interpretation.”

However, he added that “the closer we get to the end of the year, the less likely that things are going to go.”

Schrader said the DOT report on significant rulemakings “is not a real-time display on the status of rulemakings,” but she added that the next release of the report in September “will provide status updates to reflect more recent information.”