Experts Update Trucking Executives on Legal Issues
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AUSTIN, Texas — With an eye toward avoiding litigation and complying with complex regulations, two legal experts updated trucking executives on pending and future legal issues at an Oct. 16 session of American Trucking Associations’ 2023 Management Conference & Exhibition.
The session, presented by two attorneys from the Indianapolis-based law firm of Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson and Feary, cautioned executives that government regulators and plaintiff attorneys are continuing to challenge their companies to operate successfully.
Foremost among the issues discussed is a pending plan by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for possible changes to the agency’s safety fitness determination rule to tweaks of the agency’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.
“Imagine somebody said to you that you have to use X in place of Y, but X is hardly available,” said Scopelitis attorney Prasad Sharma. “But X doesn’t do what Y does, and there’s nothing in place to support the use of X.
“Well you don’t have to imagine. The California Air Resources Board has done that for you. It’s the Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation,” he added, tongue-in-cheek.
Sharma was referring to California’s new regulation that will require motor carriers operating in the state to transition their trucks to zero-emission vehicles beginning as soon as next year. Some truckers expressed concerns that battery or fuel cell electric trucks may not be available as soon as required, or that there might not be an adequate electric-charging infrastructure ready in time.
Portions of the rule go into effect next year, Sharma reminded truckers.
Sharma and Scopelitis attorney Shannon Cohen briefed executives on legal and regulatory developments, including:
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• A plan by FMCSA to allow requests for waivers of a ruling by the agency that truck drivers are exempt from following California’s meal-and-rest-break law. “The timing of it is very suspicious,” Sharma said. “We should have a decision on the proposal by election time next year.”
• A possible second attempt, expected as early as later this year, by the Biden administration to finalize an independent contractor determination rule less favorable to the trucking industry. An earlier attempt to revise a more favorable Trump administration rule was blocked by a federal court, Sharma said.
• A warning that truckers should expect a flurry of rulings by the National Labor Relations Board favorable toward unions. A majority of Democrats added to the board has shifted aggressively toward a pro-union tilt, Sharma said.
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• An enhanced commercial motor vehicle inspection program is just one example of the changes that will be needed to implement automated vehicle operations. A continued lack of federal guidance requires a thorough understanding of involvement by the states.
• Two recent court of appeals with 9th Circuit broker negligent selection claims were ruled pre-empted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994.
• States are continuing unclaimed property audits. If money was not paid out due to a lack of information, be careful that it might be deemed state money, Cohen said.
• Be aware of local attempts to reduce environmental impacts or congestion relating to last-mile delivery, he said.