The physical economy was in sharp focus for regulators and lawmakers around North America in 2023. State, provincial, and federal policymakers in the US and Canada spent the year addressing (or attempting to address) several issues that the businesses that power the physical economy have faced for years related to safety, operations, modernization, and sustainability. Their efforts yielded mixed results, prompted impassioned debates, and proposed interesting initiatives.
Here’s my take on some of the key developments we saw in 2023 and what we can expect to see in 2024 and beyond.
- Regulators’ efforts in mandating and incentivizing safety technology adoption were met with mixed reactions.
- Truck parking and its public safety impacts will finally be addressed with potential changes coming next year (2024).
- Programs aimed at sustainability and modernization are going into effect soon, which are seen by some as models for other states and federal governments, and you may need to be ready.
Speed limiters and automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems
FMCSA’s efforts at imposing a speed limiter requirement for commercial motor vehicles were met with a mixture of support and pushback from the trucking industry, with the ATA, CVSA, and safety groups voicing general support while OOIDA and some interested legislators in opposition. Bills in both the House and Senate were introduced to prohibit FMCSA from imposing this limit, though neither has seen much activity.
Critics of the FMCSA proposal raise concerns about creating hazardous road conditions when trucks are unable to keep pace with passenger traffic. Proponents point out that a slower heavy truck is a safer heavy truck. FMCSA and NHTSA also explored a mandate for automatic emergency braking systems for commercial vehicles, a proposal that was met with a similarly mixed reaction. One thing’s for sure: The debates surrounding these safety technology mandates will continue into next year.
Electronic logging devices (ELDs)
Authorities in the US and Canada continue to consider changes to the functional requirements for ELDs. Forthcoming changes may include addressing the applicability of the ELD requirement, automatic duty status change functionalities, account configuration permissions, and ELD certification and removal procedures. Motive maintains close relationships with the decision-makers, stressing in our communications with them the importance of harmonizing functional requirements across the jurisdictions, avoiding stymying technological development, and ensuring that any changes they make closely consider the driver’s and motor carrier’s experience.
A nearly forgotten congressional directive to FMCSA finally got the attention it deserves in 2023. The concept of Beyond Compliance emerged from a provision in a 2015 law, requiring FMCSA to identify ways to recognize motor carriers for going above and beyond existing safety requirements. In the years since, the agency has found it difficult to decide which tools and practices should be included in the calculus, and how motor carriers should be rewarded for employing them.
In no small part due to Motive’s consistent efforts, a coalition of influential stakeholders has emerged intending to help FMCSA meet Congress’ mandate by focusing on the technology and practices that have the greatest impact on road safety — AI-powered dash cams and driver coaching. Based on data within the Motive network, I can say with confidence that if every heavy truck were equipped with a Motive AI Dashcam and every motor carrier coached drivers on unsafe behaviors through Motive’s coaching product, thousands of lives would be saved annually through the reduction of heavy truck accidents.
The coalition members agree that motor carriers responsible for saving these lives should be recognized and rewarded by the FMCSA for furthering its mission to reduce commercial motor vehicle crashes; early signs indicate that the agency is inclined to agree. I anticipate that we’ll see meaningful movement on this important initiative in 2024.
Truck parking and its impacts
For years, industry and enforcement groups have been sounding the alarm on the lack of available safe parking options for commercial vehicles, not to mention the public safety risks it presents. By some estimates, there is only one parking space for every 11 trucks on the road. Some reports say the US is 40,000 spaces short of meeting the demand for safe parking for our nation’s 3.5 million truck-driving professionals.
In 2023, regulators and legislators got to work on addressing this problem. Using money specifically appropriated by Congress in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the USDOT announced numerous grants to states to build new parking facilities and improve existing facilities across the country. Legislative efforts continued with the bipartisan Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, looking to allocate more than $750M over the next three years to commercial vehicle parking projects.
In 2024, we can expect to see more of the same from regulators and legislators trying to ensure safe parking options for the trucking industry, and we should see fewer trucks parked on the berm or highway on-ramps.
Modernization and sustainability
While efforts to usher in the era of a clean and sustainable trucking industry are underway outside the Golden State, California still bears the standard. The Clean Truck Check Program is a new iteration of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Heavy-Duty Inspection and Maintenance Program.
With enforcement set to begin in January 2024, the new aspects of the program require most commercial vehicle owners whose vehicles operate in California at all to register with the CARB, pay an annual fee per vehicle, and submit test results to the CARB demonstrating that the vehicle meets the state’s strict emissions standards.
Another requirement, CARB’s Advanced Clean Fleets rule adopted in April 2023, seeks to set the state’s trucking industry on a path to becoming a zero-emissions industry by 2042. It requires fleets operating in California to use zero-emission vehicles to meet progressive thresholds.
While the rule’s first phase is slated to go into effect in January 2024, the California Trucking Association, with the support of many, is suing the CARB to prevent the rule from going into effect. Time will tell whether this effort will be successful. Still, we can be sure that 2024 will see continued regulatory activity trying to limit and ultimately eliminate the carbon footprint of the physical economy.
I will end it here by reiterating that 2023 had a lot going on with plenty that I didn’t get to address in this piece including proposed changes to how FMCSA’s safety scores (SMS) and safety fitness determinations work, changes to the DataQ and crash preventability challenge processes, and work going on related to autonomous vehicle regulation. 2024 promises to see as much or even more regulatory and legislative activity that will profoundly impact the physical economy. We will continue to monitor and influence regulatory and legislative developments that affect Motive and its customers. We look forward to continuing to build leading-edge technologies and providing the support that physical economy businesses need to be safer, more efficient, and more profitable in 2024 and beyond.