By Bill Davis, Contributing Writer, Email: [email protected]
Virtually every contractor in California has been given an added government compliance program, whether they know it or not—a new truck safety program—complete with new fees and possible exposure to federal government enforcement issues.
This one came courtesy of the state legislature a couple years ago when AB 529, strongly supported by the trucking industry, passed and was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. There was a two-year period to set the new rules in place, but that ended January 1, 2016.
The bill was a major revamp of the state’s trucking inspection program, which is now called the Basic Inspection of Terminal program (BIT for you acronym fans). The stated intent behind reforming the BIT program was to allow California Highway Patrol (CHP) to target its almost 300 inspectors on unsafe motor carriers including expanding the program to ALL trucker operators in the state that operate commercial motor vehicles (CMV’s).
By ALL truck operators we mean any commercial motor vehicle of 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW), which includes pickup trucks or greater. This puts the rules on owners of Class 3 trucks (Dodge Ram 3500, Ford E-350, Ford F-350, and the GMC Sierra 3500. The Hummer H1 is another example of a single rear axle Class 3 truck, with a GVWR of 10,300 lb.)
Federalizing Your Fleet
This lowering of the GVW (The old BIT program was capped at 26,000 GVW) is going to greatly increase the number of companies captured in the BIT safety net. It also will expose many to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, (FMCSA) even if they only operate within California’s borders.
For example, every motor carrier in the state that did not have a U.S. DOT number has now been assigned one. Motor carriers can display either their CA number or U.S. DOT number or both on their vehicles. The assignment of the U.S. DOT number lets CHP to upload all vehicle, terminal, and carrier inspections conducted on a motor carrier into FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS). This system pours carrier information and safety data into the Compliance, Safety, Accountability SMS, from whence enforcement action flows.
CHP uses the safety data uploaded into FMCSA’s SMS to select when to con- duct terminal inspections, but, under the new law CHP must inspect every terminal at least once every six years. For truckers and contractors who were in the old BIT Program this is a bit of a break, as the previous inspection requirement was every two years.
Here’s the other criteria CHP uses to decide who to inspect—roadside inspection results and no accidents—if you have an inspection that turns up deficient or an accident, you can add a BIT “performance based program” inspection to your potential liabilities.
You can’t get out of the new BIT Program by leasing your trucks as used to be allowed under the previous program with short-term (four month) leases. Now you have to present the vehicle for inspection and follow maintenance record requirements.
There Will Be Fees
You can’t hide out from these regulations either as the fees for the program will be paid to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) when you get a new or renew and existing motor carrier permit (MCP). For the time being, motor carriers that possess a non-expiring MCP, will no longer pay BIT fees since there is no annual renewal for a non- expiring MCP (as long as you keep current with paying annual Unified Carrier Registration fees). But, you can expect legislation to correct this oversight so that everybody pays the fee.
There will no longer be a separate BIT application to complete for new carrier operations. You will be automatically enrolled in BIT during payment of your MCP fee. The BIT fee will be called a “Carrier Inspection Fee” or “CIT” on your MCP renewal form.
Here’s the new fee schedule for “for hire” motor carriers (dump truck fleets, for example). You’ll note the fees start with one truck. The fees for private fleets are supposed to be lower but you’ll have to get them from DMV.