CCJ Daily Dispatch, Jan. 5: Pending independent contractor ruling, under-21 pilot program could be halted by Biden

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Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021: 

Biden administration could halt several pending trucking regs
A handful of regulations recently finalized or proposed during the final months of the Trump administration could be halted or delayed when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office on Jan. 20.

During a press briefing held last week, the Biden administration announced it would publish a memo after noon eastern time on Jan. 20 to halt or delay what they called “midnight regulations” – actions taken by the Trump administration that have not taken effect by Inauguration Day. The regulatory freeze would apply to both regulations and guidance documents, according to Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki. Regulatory freezes are standard practice for incoming presidential administrations, she added.

Of note to owner-operators, Psaki specifically mentioned the Department of Labor’s proposed rule to expand the definition of “independent contractor” as a rule that would potentially be affected by the freeze. Proposed in September, the rule would better define independent contractor in the context of the Fair Labor Standards Act. It would take into consideration five “economic reality factors” to determine a worker’s classification.

According to nonprofit news organization ProPublica, there are also a few other trucking-related regulations that are considered “midnight regulations.”

One which has already taken effect but may be targeted by the incoming administration is the preemption of the Washington state meal and rest break rules. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted a petition in November to preempt the state’s rules.

There are also two proposed pilot programs proposed in recent months that have yet to be finalized that may be halted. One is a pilot for 18-20-year-old truckers to run interstate to broaden the driver pool in the industry.

The other is a pilot to test pausing the 14-hour clock for as few as 30 minutes and as long as three hours, as long as the driver takes 10 hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.

Daimler hit with $30M fine from NHTSA
Daimler Trucks North America will pay $30 million in penalties following a consent order issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A NHTSA investigation found that Daimler failed to recall vehicles in a timely manner and to comply with other reporting requirements, the agency says. The investigation was into four recalls initially from 2017 and 2018, and it was expanded to include three more recalls from 2018.

The consent order includes both monetary and non-monetary provisions designed to improve DTNA’s compliance and safety practices. Daimler will develop and implement an advanced data analytics program to enhance its ability to detect and investigate potential safety defects. The order also notes that Daimler will improve its IT systems to collect potential safety information from its business units more effectively and to report that information accurately to NHTSA.

The company will also develop written procedures and conduct training for its employees on the recall and reporting requirements of the Vehicle Safety Act, take actions to ensure that its reporting to NHTSA is complete, and meet regularly with NHTSA to discuss potential safety issues.

DTNA’s consent order with NHTSA is for two years, which the agency may extend for an additional year if warranted. The order requires the company to make an upfront payment of $10 million, to spend an additional $5 million on specific projects to enhance safety and includes an additional $15 million deferred penalty that may become payable under specified circumstances.