9 Laws Poised to Reshape Trucking Regulations in 2023

By: | February 3, 2023

Slawomir Platta, Esq. is a Founding Partner for The Platta Law Firm, PLLC. Platta earned his degree from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. He’s been handling truck accident cases throughout the Courts of New York for almost 20 years and has been featured as a Super Lawyer consecutively since 2015. He can be reached at [email protected].

Nearly every business is subject to rules and regulations from federal and/or state agencies, and the trucking industry is no exception.

With the health and safety of so many people at risk, it’s vital that truck drivers, as well as other commercial vehicles, adhere to the laws put in place to protect the public.

The primary organization that oversees the trucking industry is The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA. It is a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The FMCSA enforces nationwide rules, including the size and weight restrictions of different commercial vehicles, the number of hours truckers can drive in a specific time period, and proper labeling and delivery of hazardous materials.

While all commercial truck drivers are legally obligated to follow federal laws on roads and highways, states may also impose specific regulations on vehicles traveling within their borders. Failure to comply with these industry regulations is usually considered an act of truck negligence, which can result in significant fines and legal consequences, especially when an infraction creates an accident.

Truckers doing business across state lines and even within local municipalities need to be aware of the rules and regulations that may affect them.

Here is a selection of new trucking laws that either are likely to be introduced in 2023 or are in the process of being phased in via prior legislation.

At the Federal Level

Truck Speed Limit: Federal regulators are working on a proposal that would create a truck speed limit using electronic engine devices in a proposed rule anticipated in 2023. Leading trucking officials of national and multi-regional carriers by and large backed the plan. But the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) reiterated its long-standing opposition to any mandatory devices to limit speed.

OOIDA says it opposes mandating speed limiters because they would lead to increased interactions between trucks and passenger cars, thereby decreasing safety. But privately, industry sources say OOIDA’s opposition is more economic than safety. That’s because most long-haul truck drivers are paid by the mile, not by their time. So any decrease in miles driven is essentially a pay cut for drivers.

FMCSA lowers 2023 UCR fees for carriers: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced in a Federal Register notice published Sept. 1 that it is lowering fees collected by states from motor carriers, brokers, freight forwarders, and leasing companies as part of the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) Plan for the 2023 registration year and beyond. The new fees are effective immediately. The new fees are an approximately 31% decrease for all fee brackets, which equates to a reduction between $18 and $17,688, depending on the number of vehicles owned or operated by the company.

Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act: Although it has not yet gone into effect, this bill would introduce speed limiters to keep trucks down to a speed of 65 mph. These devices, designed to boost safety, would need to be used at all times during vehicle operation.

NHTSA automatic emergency braking: Congress has prioritized research into collision avoidance technology for heavy trucks, and automatic emergency braking may well be the first technology that moves forward. It’s unclear when these systems might become mandatory, but it’s worth paying attention.

Hours of service (HOS) changes: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting supply chain issues, the FMCSA changed its hours-of-service regulations to allow some expansions to the workday. These changes were intended to be temporary, but no expiration date was set, so HOS regulations will likely shift once more as we come out of the pandemic.

Driver safety-fitness rulemaking: This is still in the early stages, but the focus is on laying out a series of steps to ensure that a driver is fit to operate a truck. Exactly what the steps will be and how often drivers will need to go through the process is still undetermined.

At the State Level

California: Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, if you’re one of an estimated 76,000 owners who lives or operates in California with a pre-2010 emissions-spec engine, your ability to operate in the state will be in jeopardy. Nearly 10 years ago, the California Air Resources Board’s Truck and Bus Regulation banned the use of all trucks powered by 2006 and older emissions-spec engines, with some narrow exceptions, and beginning in 2023, the rule, along with the similar Drayage Rule for dray operators, takes vehicle bans a step further.

If the deadline stands as currently written in the rule, all 2007-2009-emissions-spec engines will be prohibited.

Colorado: The Polis administration’s plan to encourage the adoption of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks, which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from these vehicles by at least 45% in Colorado by 2050, has been finalized after extensive public input. The strategy is part of a package of initiatives undertaken by Gov. Jared Polis and the Polis administration to improve air quality, reduce emissions and save people and small businesses money.

New York: New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) in 2021 signed bellwether legislation to slash greenhouse gas emissions from new trucks and cars. The new bill, 4302/S.2758, will require OEMs to sell only zero-emission commercial vehicles in New York by 2045, with the ramp-up starting with the 2025 model year. The bill also requires that 100% of in-state sales of new passenger cars and light-duty trucks be zero-emissions by 2035.

In addition to all the new laws and regulations, as we look towards the future, the production of goods and local shipping will be of utmost importance to boost the United States’ economy.  By 2045, more than 70 million people will join the American population and freight volume will increase by more than 40%. Trucking will become an ever more vital service industry—and the new laws will hopefully help it perform its services even more safely and efficiently. &

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