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The start of the new year puts new regulations in effect, while others are still in progress, and prompts inquiries about one controversial issue.

While recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Colorado and Washington, the Federal Department of Transportation clarifies that it is still off-limits to commercial vehicle operators. Truck drivers living in or driving through either state are barred from marijuana use, on or off duty.

The Federal DOT Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance confirms that marijuana may not be used by “safety‐sensitive transportation employees,” including, but not limited to “pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, subway operators, aircraft maintenance personnel, transit fire‐armed security personnel, ship captains, and pipeline emergency response personnel.” The DOT’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation forbids the use of Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, for any reason, recreational or medical. Anyone whose job involves federally mandated drug testing will be expected to produce clean test results, regardless of different state initiatives.

Speaking of medical issues, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reminds drivers that no later than January 30, 2014, all CDL holders must inform their SDLA about their type of commercial motor vehicle operation. Certain drivers will need to submit proof of certified medical status. For details, see http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration-licensing/cdl/faqs.aspx

The American Trucking Associations, the trucking industry’s largest national trade association, asked in November for the White House to speed up efforts to mandate electronic logging devices in commercial trucks. As of January second, an electronic logging proposal was on the desk of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Approval could come as early as February.

Citing safety recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board, the ATA had also urged improvements to the Compliance, Safety, Accountability fleet safety monitoring and measurement system. This system is used by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to pinpoint commercial carriers more likely to become involved in accidents.

When Congress returned to work in January, the ATA called for several further improvements to the nation’s economy, highway safety and infrastructure.

Reflecting on the new year, ATA Chairman Phil Byrd said, “… we sincerely hope that our government leaders will take some time to reflect and to take these common sense, and in some cases, long delayed actions to improve highway safety, the environment and the efficiency of our economy.” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves expressed hope that “our leaders in Washington will take the necessary steps to make our roads safer and improve the flow of goods in our economy.”

The ATA’s recommendations include identifying sustainable, efficient and reliable alternatives to tolls and privatization of highways and bridges. Closer examination of the first phase of the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for large trucks was also suggested.

Regarding “large trucks”, the ATA would like to see more explicit and accurate definitions of truck size and weight regulations, eliminating vague terminology in measuring the trucking industry’s safety record.

In the interests of highway safety, The ATA urged Congress to create a clearinghouse for drug and alcohol test results. Like the e-log proposal, this is awaiting approval at the OMB.

The ATA would also like to see more state enforcement of traffic laws for all vehicles, as opposed to more roadside inspections; the advancement of laws incorporating other safety technology in addition to e-logs; and further examination of the hours-of-service rules.

In other safety legislation, the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offer a joint proposal to limit heavy trucks to a speed of 68 mph. This proposal is expected to reach the OMB in February and be published in June. The FMSCA is further crafting a proposal to require a proficiency exam of trucking knowledge for those planning to operate as carriers, brokers and freight forwarders.

While timetables are subject to change, early in December, the FMCSA planned to resubmit a Carrier Safety Fitness Determination Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation by January 16; submit a NPRM on truck speed limiters to the OST by January 20; provide a final rule mandating electronic stability control systems for trucks to the OST by March 21; release a NPRM amending the diabetes standard to the OST July 11; and send a NPRM on enhancements to the Unified Registration System by April 7.