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FMCSA regulation increases OOS penalties

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a final rule that addresses several driver/carrier issues, including penalties for out-of-service (OOS) order violations, denial of access to carrier records and property, and certain driver exemptions to the hours-of-service regulations, according to information published July 5 in the Federal Register.

Driver disqualifications

The rule (49 CFR Parts 350, 375, 383, 384, 385, 386, 390, and 395) increases the minimum commercial driver license (CDL) disqualification periods for drivers convicted of violating an OOS order while transporting nonhazardous materials. A driver must be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle for no less than 180 days for the first conviction and two years for the second conviction. The rule does not affect the maximum disqualification periods already in effect for violating an OOS order in those cases.

The minimum and maximum disqualification periods for OOS violations while transporting hazardous materials are unchanged.

Driver penalties

However, minimum civil penalty assessments for drivers have been increased. Under previous rules, OOS violations carried a minimum civil penalty of $1,000 for both a first and second conviction. That amount has now been increased to a minimum penalty amount for the first and second convictions to $2,500 and $5,000, respectively.

Employer penalties

At the same time, maximum civil penalty assessments for employers also has been increased. Under a previous rule, an employer that knowingly allowed or required an employee to operate a commercial vehicle in violation of an OOS order was liable for a civil penalty of not more than $10,000. The new rule increases the maximum civil penalty assessment to $25,000.

In addition, interstate motor carriers transporting hazardous materials are subject to a fine of $100,000 per offense in a specific OOS order violation that comes from a final unsatisfactory safety rating--in cases where a violation results in death, serious illness, or severe injury to any person, or substantial destruction of property.

FMCSA access

The rule also addresses copying of records and access to equipment, lands, and buildings for a person subject to 49 USC chapter 51, or to a motor carrier, broker, freight forwarder, or commercial vehicle owner or operator who does not allow, upon demand, FMCSA to inspect and copy any record or inspect and examine equipment, lands, buildings, and other property. Motor carriers and other entities or persons subject to FMCSA regulations must promptly submit accounts, books, records, memoranda, correspondence, and other documents for inspection and copying, as well as make their lands, buildings, equipment, and other property available for examination and inspection by FMCSA (or an employee designated by FMCSA) upon demand and display of a proper credential. The civil penalty for violating this requirement is not to exceed $1,000 for each offense. Each day that access is denied is considered a separate offense; however the total penalty for all offenses related to a single violation may not exceed $10,000.

Propane exemption

The rule also exempts from the HOS rules drivers of commercial vehicles used primarily in the transportation of propane winter heating fuel or used to respond to a pipeline emergency, if such a regulation would prevent the driver from responding to an emergency condition requiring immediate response.

NAFTA regs

The final rule also addresses the safety ratings of interstate carriers that also operate in Canada and Mexico and the carriers' safety records in those countries. The rule states that FMCSA is authorized to consider such data from operations in Canada and Mexico, if the owner or operator also conducts operations within the United States. FMCSA points out in the publication that discussions on harmonizing procedures for safety fitness determinations and expanding data sharing efforts are currently in progress with Mexico and Canada. Implementation of such agreements and procedures will be necessary to make more Canadian and Mexican data available for this purpose.

State requirements

The rule also provides that if a state receiving Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program funds and using FMCSA's safety rating methodology prohibits the intrastate operations of a carrier whose principal place of business is in that state, FMCSA must take reciprocal action by prohibiting the motor carrier from operating in interstate commerce.

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