Welcome to Transportation Law Today

Managed by Paul J. Loftus, a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, Transportation Law Today provides professionals in the rail, transit, inland maritime, and trucking industries with current news and analysis of laws, rulings, and regulatory policies.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

House to hold Hearing on Trucking Hours of Service

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommitee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending, is holding a hearing today which represents the lastest in the on-going saga of the Federal Hours of Service regulations for commercial truckers.

The attached written testimony of FMCSA Anne S. Ferro, provides a concise summary of the tortured history of the hours of service regulation over the last 8 years. Ultimately, the latest iteration of the FMSCA rule reduces the current consecutive driving time to 10 from 11 hours, with certain mandatory rest periods.

The prepared testimony of industry groups, and safety advocates, is available at this link. The prepared statements of the witnesses can be viewed by clicking the name of the individual witnesses.

The title of today's hearing: "The Price of Uncertainty: How Much Could DOT's Proposed Billion Dollar Service Rules Cost Consumers This Holiday Season," rather bluntly indicates the Committee's focus on the potential economic impact of shortened hours of service.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Feds Shut down Trucking Firm Related to Closed Carrier

As a follow up to my post of November 17, 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has also shut down a recently created Maryland trucking business tied to one it shut down earlier this month.

The subject of the current order, Clock Transport, LLC, shares the same address of the previously closed Gunthers Transport LLC, as the head of Clock Transport is a relative of the prior operator of Gunthers.

Peter Hermann in the Baltimore Sun, has this news account.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

MD Trucking Firm Ordered off Road - FMCSA to Reduce Fines for Small Businesses

We have a two Trucking industry items today.

First, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has ordered a Maryland-based carrier off the road for safety violations. According to the FMCSA press release, the imminent hazard out-of-service order followed an intensive review of the company's compliance with hours of service and safety regulations.

Next, the FMCSA has announced that trucking companies that are considered small businesses will face reduced fines for violations. According to the Agency's Notice, small businesses will generally face fines that are 20% lower than those imposed on larger entities for similar violations. The fine decision is based on the Agency's Uniform Fine Assessment algorithm, and the requirements of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA). SBREFA generally requires agencies to provide for the reduction or waiver of civil penalties for violations of statutory or regulatory requirements by small businesses. A copy of the Agency's Notice is linked above.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

FRA Publishes Conductor Certification Rule

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published its Final Rule requiring Certification for railroad conductors in today's Federal Register. The effective date of the rule is January 1, 2012.

The new conductor certification program, mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA), parallels the existing regulations for certifying locomotive engineers under Part 240 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Like engineer certification, railroads must submit their proposed certification program to the FRA for approval. Also similar to engineer certifications, individual railroads will certify its conductors, under criteria required by the FRA, and under the program of the railroad approved by the FRA.

At the effective date of the Final Rule (1/1/12), Class I railroads are required to designate as certified conductors all of their personnel authorized to perform the duties of a conductor (49 CFR 242.105). Each designated conductor of a Class I railroad would then need to be certified within 36 months under the procedures for testing and evaluation required by the Rule.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

DOT Urges High Speed Rail - California Shows Sticker Shock

As Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood continues to promote the economic impact of high speed rail projects, California officials face sticker-shock as the cost of their proposed high-speed rail network balloon to $98.5 billion (yep, with a "b").

In his "Fast Lane" blog post today, Secretary LaHood extols the impact of high speed rail on the creation of jobs and the economy in general. As detailed in the blog post, LaHood was addressing the U.S. High Speed Rail Association (USHSR) meeting concluding today. Citing the construction of the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge during the Great Depression, LaHood urged the passage of the transportation portions of the President's American Job Act.

Acknowledging the less than shovel-ready aspect of high-speed rail projects, LaHood compared the rail project to work on the interstate highway system, when "we didn't know where all the routes were to going to be drawn on the map" or "where every dollar of funding was going to come from."

Meanwhile, the cost of high-speed rail is front and center in California. California was the recipient of federal funds initially set aside for other states, such as Ohio and Florida, where high speed rail projects stalled over cost concerns.

Segmented construction may be where California's ambitious high-speed network is headed. This ABC News report by Juliet Williams details the expanding cost of the California projects. The California rail authority is proposing breaking the project into smaller projects, in part because of lack of funding for the entire project.