Weekly Compliance Digest – FMCSA Coercion Rule, EPA Renewable Fuel Standards

December 4, 2015 By
In this edition of the Weekly Compliance Digest, we take a look at a final rule from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on coercion, and a final rule from the U.S. EPA on renewable fuel levels.

FMCSA – Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers (Document Citation: 80 FR 74695)

What is it?

The U.S. FMCSA announced the publication of a final rule in the Federal Register that aims to safeguard commercial truck and bus drivers from being compelled to violate federal safety regulations. The rule provides FMCSA with the authority to take enforcement action against motor carriers, shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries.

The FMCSA heard from commercial drivers who had reported being pressured to violate federal safety regulations through such threats as:

  • Implicit or explicit threats of job termination
  • Denial of subsequent trips or loads
  • Reduced pay
  • Forfeiture of favorable work hours or transportation jobs
  • Other direct retaliations

Who is affected?

The rule applies to the U.S. transportation sector, and more specifically to:

  • Motor carriers
  • Shippers (entities that tender property to a motor carrier or driver of a commercial motor vehicle for transportation)
  • Receivers (entities that take delivery from a motor carrier or driver of a commercial motor vehicle of property)
  • Transportation intermediaries (entities, such as freight-forwarders and brokers, that arrange the transportation of property or passengers by commercial motor vehicle)

What are the requirements?

The rule prohibits coercion of drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). It aims to prevent entities in the transportation sector from compelling CMV drivers to bypass important federal safety regulations, such as:

  • Drivers’ hours-of-service limits
  • The commercial driver’s license (CDL) regulations
  • Drug and alcohol testing rules
  • Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs)

For example, CMV drivers can not be pressured to follow a schedule if they say that meeting the schedule would be impossible without violating hours-of-service restrictions or other safety regulations.

The rule enables FMCSA to take enforcement action against anyone in the transportation chain who knowingly and recklessly jeopardizes the safety of the driver and of the motoring public. The rule also includes:

  • Procedures for commercial truck and bus drivers to report incidents of coercion to the FMCSA
  • Steps the agency could take when responding to such allegations
  • Penalties that may be imposed on entities found to have coerced drivers

What is next?

The final rule was published in the Federal Register on November 30, 2015. It will be effective as of January 29, 2016.
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EPA Renewable Fuel Standards for 2014, 2015, and 2016, and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2017

What is it?

The U.S. EPA announced final volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and final volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2014 to 2017. This rule finalizes higher volumes of renewable fuel than the levels the EPA proposed in June 2015.

The RFS requires the EPA to set annual volume requirements for four categories of biofuels that apply to all motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016:

  • Cellulosic biofuel
  • Biomass-based diesel
  • Advanced biofuel
  • Renewable fuel

As a result of the annual volumes set by the EPA, refiners must blend a certain amount of renewable fuels into the fuel that they supply in the U.S.

Who is affected?

Entities potentially affected by the rule are those involved with the production, distribution, and sale of transportation fuels, including gasoline and diesel fuel or renewable fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel, renewable diesel, and biogas. Potentially regulated industries include:

  • Petroleum refineries
  • Ethyl alcohol manufacturing
  • Chemical and allied products merchant wholesalers
  • Petroleum bulk stations and terminals
  • Petroleum and petroleum products merchant wholesalers
  • Manufactured gas production and distribution
  • Other fuel dealers
  • Other basic organic chemical manufacturing

What are the requirements?

The rule includes annual volume targets for the four categories of biofuels. The EPA will translate those volume targets (or alternative volume requirements established by the EPA in accordance with statutory waiver authorities) into compliance obligations that refiners and importers must meet every year.

The final volume targets will push the fuels sector to produce and blend more renewable fuels in 2016 in a manner that is consistent with the goals Congress envisioned, the EPA says. The final volumes are less than the statutory targets for 2016 but higher than what the market would produce and use in the absence of such standards, according to the EPA.

What is next?

The EPA Administrator signed the final rule on November 30, 2015. The EPA will submit the rule for publication in the Federal Register. The final rule will be effective 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

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Categories: EHS

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