The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is proposing a rule that would require entities that interchange intermodal equipment to motor carriers to systematically inspect, repair, and maintain that equipment, according to information published December 21 in the Federal Register.
The proposed rule (49 CFR Parts 385, 386, et al) also would impose additional requirements on motor carriers and drivers operating intermodal equipment. Proposed Section 390.44 prescribes the responsibilities of drivers and motor carriers, as opposed to intermodal equipment providers, when operating intermodal equipment. Drivers would be required to make a pre-trip inspection and would not be allowed to operate the equipment on the highway if the equipment is not in good working order. Drivers or motor carriers also would be required to report any damage or deficiencies in the equipment at the time the equipment is returned to the provider.
FMCSA proposes a limited timeframe for repair or replacement actions because, in the intermodal sector, drivers' income is usually based upon the number of trips they can complete in a day. Drivers who report defects or deficiencies to equipment providers face potential delays in leaving the ports or terminals while waiting for a container chassis to be repaired or replaced. FMCSA said it wishes to reduce the amount of time that drivers may have to wait after pointing out defects or deficiencies, thereby encouraging drivers to make such reports.
The proposed regulations would, for the first time, make intermodal equipment providers subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. FMCSA said the new requirements would ensure that intermodal container chassis and trailers tendered to motor carriers by steamship lines, railroads, terminal operators, chassis pools, etc, comply with the applicable motor carrier safety regulations. Intermodal equipment providers would be subject to the same enforcement proceedings, orders, and civil penalties as those applied to motor carriers, property brokers, and freight forwarders.
The rule would require any intermodal equipment operated in interstate commerce in the United States to be marked with a Department of Transportation (DOT) number or other unique identifier. Otherwise, the motor carrier pulling the chassis/container combination would have violated these proposed regulations. FMCSA specifically seeks comment on what other unique identification numbers could serve the same purpose as the DOT number.
In addition to intermodal equipment providers establishing a program of inspection, repair, and maintenance, they would be required to maintain records documenting the program. Equipment providers would also be required to comply with FMCSA's periodic and annual inspection regulations. Furthermore, intermodal equipment providers would be required to establish a process by which motor carriers or drivers could report the defects or deficiencies on container chassis that they discover or that are reported to them. Intermodal equipment providers would then be required to document whether they have repaired the defect or deficiency, or that repair was unnecessary, before the intermodal equipment was interchanged.
If the proposal is promulgated as a final rule, FMCSA would initiate reviews of intermodal equipment providers' maintenance programs similar to the reviews FMCSA currently conducts on motor carriers' safety management controls.
All comments on the proposal must be received by March 21, 2007. The proposal can be seen by clicking here.