FMCSA tells Congress COVID-era CDL testing waiver shouldn't be permanent

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Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, June 6, 2023:

FMCSA voices safety concerns over COVID-era CDL testing waiver

In a new report to Congress, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it has identified some safety concerns with its COVID-era waiver that allowed certain third-party CDL skills test examiners to also conduct CDL knowledge tests.

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 required that FMCSA consider making the waiver permanent, or submit a report explaining why it won’t make the waiver permanent. The waiver allowed some state-authorized third-party skills test examiners to administer the CDL knowledge test without completing a CDL knowledge test training course. Those examiners had to have maintained a valid CDL test examiner certification and have had previously completed a CDL skills test examiner training course that satisfied regulatory requirements.

At the time the waiver was in place, FMCSA had official regulatory guidance in place that stated that third parties could not administer the CDL knowledge test unless a state employee was present. The agency amended that guidance on Feb. 3, 2022, to clarify “that its current statutory authorities and regulations do not prohibit third party testers from administering the CDL knowledge tests.”

FMCSA said it felt the waiver provided an equivalent level of safety as not having the waiver, given the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 emergency. Making it permanent, however, “is another matter entirely and calls for consideration of a comprehensive regulatory framework applicable to the states’ discretionary use of third-party knowledge examiners, subject to public notice and comment.”

The agency said its primary safety concern is that, without additional safeguards, there is a lack of regulatory requirements for states to audit and monitor the operations of third-party knowledge examiners to make sure the tests are being administered properly. FMCSA said the absence of additional safeguards would undermine the “integrity of the CDL knowledge testing program, and the safety benefit derived from CDL knowledge testing.”

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FMCSA said it is developing a proposed rulemaking that will offer minimum regulatory standards for states opting to allow third party knowledge testing, which should address the agency’s safety concerns.

[Related: FMCSA issues guidance regarding third-party CDL testers]

ABS issue prompts recall of 91,000 International trucks, buses

Navistar is recalling approximately 91,288 trucks and buses for an issue related to the anti-lock brake system (ABS) dash light, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents.

The recall affects model year 2021-‘24 International HV, HX, LoneStar, LT, MV, eMV, and RH trucks, and 2021-‘24 IC Bus CE, 2021-‘23 IC Bus RE, and 2022-‘23 IC Bus TC commercial buses. 

In the affected units, the ABS indicator light does not remain illuminated when a malfunction exists, whenever the vehicle's ignition is on and the vehicle is in motion. As such, the vehicles don’t comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 121, "Air Brake Systems."

Dealers will update the software, free of charge, to fix the issue. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed July 24. Owners can contact Navistar's customer service at 1-800-448-7825 with recall number 23515. NHTSA’s recall number is 23V-370.

[Related: Navistar recalls 4,000 trucks over lights issue]

Arrow Truck Sales leaving Texas

Arrow Truck Sales will discontinue selling operations at its branches in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, effective July 31.

All other Arrow branch locations in the United States and Canada will continue operations, business as usual, the company said. Arrow also will continue to support its Texas customers on after-sales situations through its corporate customer service department.

The closure of the Arrow branches in Texas comes as a significant disappointment to Arrow and its business partners and is an unfortunate loss to the overall trucking industry in the state of Texas, the company said. The closure is driven by Texas state regulations, which prohibit motor vehicle manufacturers from operating as a motor vehicle selling dealership. 

Arrow, a subsidiary of the Volvo Group, is classified in the state of Texas as a manufacturer, and thus is affected by this regulation. 

In 2007, the company secured a temporary exception that allowed Arrow to continue operations through Aug. 31, 2023. With the expiration of that exception approaching, the company is working to orderly discontinue selling operations, in accordance with state regulations, while transitioning employees, business partners and customers as smoothly as possible.

Employees who are open to relocation will be eligible for transfer to other Arrow locations. Business partners have been notified and are working in parallel to modify their own operations to adjust to this impact, the company said.

Additionally, Arrow says existing customers will continue to communicate directly with Arrow’s customer service and warranty department on any after-sales-related concerns. All Arrow warranties and third-party vehicle service contracts will be honored in accordance with sales agreements. Any related repair service will continue to be conducted by affiliated repair shops in the state of Texas, as they are not affected by this legislation. 

Arrow said customers with financing through its sister company, Transport Funding, will continue to be serviced without interruption. Texas customers interested in purchasing subsequent trucks from Arrow will be able to do so through other Arrow locations outside of Texas. Additional information will be shared with existing customers over the coming months to ensure a smooth transition, the company said.

Massachusetts-based AMA Transportation acquired

RIST Transport, a family-owned carrier operating in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, announced Monday the conclusion of its acquisition of AMA Transportation Company, based in Billerica, Massachusetts. The acquisition expands direct service routes throughout New England, along with improved customer service solutions and technological advancements for both companies.

Founded in 1976 by Alfred Bruzzesse, AMA Transportation Company, a regional LTL carrier, offers overnight delivery throughout New England. AMA has easy access to major interstates from their strategic service centers in Lakeville, Massachusetts; Northford, Connecticut; and Westbrook, Maine, including 90, 93, 95, 495, and US Rt 1. According to FMCSA's SAFER database, AMA's fleet boasts 67 power units and 65 drivers. 

"The acquisition of AMA Transportation Company was the subsequent step in expansion for our company,” said Steve Wadhams, president of RIST parent company Wadhams Enterprises. “We have thrived with AMA over the past 20 years as service partners. The well-established working relationship with the owners of AMA, brothers Mark and Anthony Bruzzese, allowed both companies the confidence to move forward.”

Wadhams said the fact that both companies are family-owned and operated made the acquisition decision more compelling.

“The family-owned business model and the implied values and philosophies are fundamental aspects of overall operations,” he said. “These principles are the very backbone of our business and influence everything from day-to-day functions, customer service, and even employee recruitment. We aim to continue providing the same great customer service, timely deliveries, and satisfaction for all of our customers."

[Related: TFI announces two acquisitions to expand LTL business]