The long-awaited revisions to the “Lease and Interchange of Vehicles; Motor Carriers of Passengers” was released last month with an industry sigh of relief.
The rulemaking process began in 2013 with the (first) final rule released in May 2015, with an effective date of July 27, 2015, and an enforcement date of Jan. 1, 2017.
In August of 2015, the United Motorcoach Association (UMA), joined by the American Bus Association, filed a “Petition for Reconsideration” with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and then-Administrator Scott Darling.
The petition was granted, and FMCSA embarked on the long journey to reconsider the regulation, holding a series of “listening sessions.” UMA volunteers from around the country traveled to Washington, D.C., to lend their voices. It became clear the agency had little insight into how common contracting, subcontracting and chartering was among passenger carriers. For decades, passenger carriers have contracted with other passenger carriers to supplement their services when consumer demand exceeds their capacity or in emergencies.
Fortunately, the enforcement dates were delayed several times; subsequently the industry was never burdened with complying with the original rule.
UMA filed comments with FMCSA, stating, “The rule should not compel two or more carriers, all possessing the requisite valid Federal operating authority, to enter a lease they would not otherwise enter when engaging each other’s services. UMA believes that inspections and crashes should be attributed to the chartered, contracted, or subcontracted carrier that possesses the sole, direct responsibility for compliance and control of vehicle maintenance and driver qualifications and behavior.”
FMCSA responded by stating, “The Agency adopts without change the proposed general applicability section to the leasing requirements for passenger carriers, including the proposed exception for passenger carriers with active operating authority registration…”
In the future, when a passenger carrier vehicle is inspected, the operating authority reflected by the USDOT number must be active at the time of the inspection; otherwise, the driver must have a lease from another passenger carrier with active operating authority in hand. The absence of active authority, or a lease with an active passenger carrier, will result in the passenger carrier vehicle being placed out of service. In the past, enforcement officials have stated they were often advised by a passenger carrier’s driver they were operating under someone else’s authority; however, absent this revised regulation they were unable to require proof. The revised regulation closes this gap.
There are times when a lease is appropriate and compelled by the regulation. The final rule provides clear and concise language to address those instances, including marking of the vehicle.
FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez and staff listened to the industry and reversed their course. The alternative would have been unnecessarily burdensome for the industry and consumer. We appreciate their efforts to listen and accommodate the industry. The agency estimates the changes will save the industry over $8 million annually in regulatory costs without reducing safety.
“We listened to bus-industry stakeholders and narrowed the leasing regulations to focus on carriers that do not hold operating authority from the agency. This commonsense revision of the rules will reduce regulatory costs and maintain safety,” stated Martinez upon release of the revised rule.
Considering where we started in 2013 and the 2015 final rule, we think this deserves a green light. Let us know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.