Redoing lease rule to ‘get it right’

SAN ANTONIO – A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration official updated motorcoach operators on key issues – including the retooling of the lease and interchange rule and the drug and alcohol clearinghouse – during a regulatory update during UMA Motorcoach Expo.

Loretta Bitner, chief of the commercial passenger safety division’s office of enforcement and compliance for FMCSA, acknowledged flaws in the agency’s first bite at the lease and interchange rule and encouraged operator feedback on the next iteration.

“Did we get it right?” Bitner said. “Based on your petitions and your comments after the final rule came out, no, we didn’t get it quite right. That’s why we’re redoing it.”

FMCSA is working on a notice of proposed rulemaking to alter the final rule and then will seek comments on those changes, she said.

“It’s a proposed final rule – expect that out later this spring,” Bitner said. “When it does come out, comment; please, I’m imploring that you comment.”

That will help FMCSA craft a better rule, she said.

“Give us real examples of how what we’re proposing will affect or could affect your company,” she said. “We want to get it right this time.”

On the drug and alcohol clearinghouse, a database will contain CDL drivers’ drug and alcohol program violations and will indicate whether they have completed their return-to-duty rehabilitation process. The clearinghouse final rule went into effect last January and Bitner reminded operators of its compliance date of January 2020.

“This is two years from now – both drivers and companies have to start getting this in their mind that this is the way that things are going to work in the future,” she said.

One issue she’s heard over the years from operators is that they may have a driver on the weekends who works for someone else during the week and don’t know if the driver tested positive while working for the other company.

“This is how you’ll find out,” she said.

Also, if an operator terminates a driver who tested positive, which is recorded, and that driver didn’t complete the return-to-duty process with a substance abuse professional and the operator knows the driver went to work for another company, the requirement for pre-employment testing will bring that driver’s status to people’s attention, she said.

FMCSA will check whether companies reported positive tests and whether they checked drivers before hiring.

“This (clearinghouse) was really to try to close in on the drivers that are abusing illegal substances,” Bitner said.

“The clearinghouse we’re really hoping will solve some of these issues for you,” she said. “We want the reportability to go up and the accuracy to go up so that you’re not unaware of positives for your employees.”

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