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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Limited Waiver in Response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency to Permit the Operation of Intermodal Equipment with Expired Annual Inspection Decals

June 1, 2020

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Grant of waiver.

SUMMARY: FMCSA grants a waiver to the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA), on behalf of intermodal equipment providers (IEPs) and motor carriers operating intermodal chassis, from the requirements of 49 CFR 396.17(c) to allow the operation of intermodal chassis with annual inspection decals (or similar documentation) that show an expiration date of March 31, 2020, or later. IEPs may include ocean carriers, railroads, and equipment leasing companies. This waiver is limited to the operation of intermodal chassis included in IANA’s Global Intermodal Equipment Registry (GIER), a database that includes more than 700,000 chassis and provides an electronic means of identifying the responsible IEP with specific pieces of intermodal equipment to facilitate compliance with FMCSA’s safety rules. Approximately 90 percent of the chassis in North America are managed in GIER. The waiver will help ensure the continued availability of intermodal chassis to transport critical products and supplies during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency and recovery.

DATES: This waiver is effective June 1, 2020 and, unless otherwise extended, expires either on September 1, 2020, or upon the revocation of the President’s declaration of national emergency under 42 U.S.C. §5191(b) concerning the COVID-19 public health emergency, whichever is sooner.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Luke Loy, Senior Engineer, Vehicle and Roadside Operations Division (MC-PSV), Office Bus and Truck Standards, 202-366-2551, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590-0001.

Legal Basis

Under 49 U.S.C. 31315(a) the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is authorized to grant waivers from certain Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to a person(s) seeking regulatory relief. The Agency must make a determination that the waiver is in the public interest and that it is likely to achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained in the absence of the waiver. Individual waivers may be granted for unique events for a period up to three months. FMCSA may grant waivers without public notice and request for comment.

Background

Currently, pursuant to 49 CFR 396.17(b), intermodal equipment providers must inspect or cause to be inspected intermodal equipment that is interchanged or intended for interchange to motor carriers in intermodal transportation. A motor carrier may not use a commercial motor vehicle (including an intermodal chassis), and an intermodal equipment provider may not tender equipment to a motor carrier for interchange, unless each component identified in appendix G of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations has passed an inspection in accordance with the requirements of § 396.17 at least once during the preceding 12 months, and documentation of the inspection is on the vehicle (49 CFR 396.17(c)).

The President has declared a national emergency under 42 U.S.C. § 5191(b) related to the public health emergency in response to COVID-19. This waiver is in response to COVID-19 and the effects on people and the immediate risk presented to public health, safety, and welfare.

IANA, an association with membership that includes intermodal equipment providers, requested that FMCSA grant a waiver from the restriction imposed by 49 CFR 396.17(c). The reason for the requested relief is that with the spread of COVID-19, the movement of intermodal equipment has been disrupted resulting in large numbers of intermodal chassis, both loaded and unloaded, being parked at locations other than the intermodal equipment providers’ maintenance facilities where the mandatory annual inspection would be conducted by qualified individuals. During the period that the chassis have been parked, many of the units’ annual inspection decals have expired, or soon will expire, with no practical means of having a qualified individual conduct the mandatory annual inspection that would be necessary to return the chassis to revenue service.

The requested relief would allow motor carriers to operate the chassis, and intermodal equipment providers to tender the chassis to motor carriers for interchange, with an expired inspection decal for a limited time until the chassis could be returned to the respective intermodal equipment provider’s facility where the annual inspection could be performed by a qualified individual. IANA estimates that for each month, over the next three months, 5-8% of the chassis in their members’ fleets will be due for annual inspections. This equates to a potential of 105,000 to 170,000 chassis (based on the 705,000 chassis that are listed in IANA’s GIER) that are at risk of having the inspection decal expire over the next three months. Some of these chassis may be inspected, but there will be difficulties inspecting a large percentage of chassis that are not readily accessible to the intermodal equipment providers’ maintenance personnel.

FMCSA’s Determination and Regulatory Provisions Waived

Consistent with the statutory requirements for waivers, FMCSA has determined that it is in the public interest to issue a waiver, limited in scope and circumstances, which is likely to achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained in the absence of the waiver.

To respond to this unique event, prevent a possible shortage of intermodal chassis from becoming a transportation emergency, and continue the ability of motor carriers to transport goods and supplies during and following the COVID-19 public health emergency, this waiver:

Waives the restriction imposed by 49 CFR 396.17(c) that a motor carrier must not use a commercial motor vehicle, and an intermodal equipment provider must not tender equipment to a motor carrier for interchange, unless each component identified in appendix G of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations has passed an annual inspection. The waiver would apply to intermodal chassis in situations where chassis are with motor carriers or at facilities, and intermodal equipment providers’ maintenance personnel or maintenance vendors do not have access to conduct annual inspections of the chassis prior to the expiration of the annual inspection decal currently affixed to the chassis. The waiver therefore grants the motor carriers the ability to operate the chassis until they can be returned to an IEP facility where the annual inspection can be performed by a qualified individual, not to exceed three months from the date of the waiver.

Public Interest

FMCSA finds that the issuance of this waiver is in the public interest, given the urgent need to deliver necessary property, including, but not limited to, shipments of essential supplies and persons to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency. This waiver will facilitate the movement freight currently loaded on chassis parked at motor carrier facilities, shippers’ facilities, distribution centers and intermodal terminals.

Safety Equivalency

Due to the limited scope of this waiver and the extensive safety requirements provided under 49 CFR part 393, concerning safety and features for commercial vehicles, including chassis, and 49 CFR part 396, concerning inspection, repair and maintenance rules, FMCSA has determined that this brief waiver is likely to achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to the level of safety that would be obtained absent the waiver. The waiver of a particular regulation should not be looked at in isolation, but rather as part of the whole of all regulations governing the condition of intermodal equipment.

It is important to note that this waiver does not alter any of the safety requirements under 49 CFR 392.7, concerning daily equipment inspection and use, or 49 CFR part 393 concerning parts and accessories necessary for the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles. Section 392.7 requires that drivers transporting intermodal equipment conduct a pre-trip inspection, and be satisfied the vehicle is in good working order. The rules in 49 CFR part 393 cover critical safety equipment and features such as lamps and reflectors, brake systems, tires, wheels, axles, suspension systems and frames.

In addition, the waiver does not alter the requirements for motor carriers and intermodal equipment providers to ensure that parts and accessories are in safe and proper working order at all times, and that inspection, repair and maintenance records be maintained for the commercial vehicles they control (49 CFR 396.3). This means intermodal equipment providers would continue to be responsible for maintaining inspection, repair and maintenance records for the chassis. The GIER enables the equipment providers to determine whether there are maintenance issues with any of the chassis covered by the waiver.

Furthermore, motor carriers remain subject to the prohibition against unsafe operations (49 CFR 396.7), which explicitly states that a motor vehicle must not be operated in a condition as to likely cause an accident or a breakdown of the vehicle.

FMCSA believes the current regulatory framework ensures that, under the waiver, an equivalent level of safety will be achieved.

Unique Circumstances

The COVID-19 public health emergency has led to disruptions at shippers’ and receivers’ facilities, resulting in possible delays in motor carriers being allowed to deliver freight. For certain intermodal shipments, the disruptions have resulted in some of the freight being held at motor carriers’ facilities or terminals until the receiver is prepared to handle the freight. FMCSA finds that the circumstances surrounding this waiver are unique because the intermodal equipment providers are not able to conduct the annual inspection while the chassis are with the motor carriers or other parties.

For the reasons discussed above, FMCSA grants a waiver as provided above, subject to the terms, conditions, and restrictions below.

Terms, Conditions, and Restrictions of the Waiver

This waiver applies to the operation of intermodal chassis included in IANA’s GIER in situations where the chassis are with motor carriers or at facilities, and intermodal equipment providers’ maintenance personnel or maintenance vendors do not have access to conduct annual inspections of the chassis prior to the expiration of the annual inspection decal currently affixed to the chassis. The waiver is effective beginning at 12:01 a.m. (ET) on June 1, 2020, and continues through 11:59 p.m. on September 1, 2020.

  1. Intermodal equipment providers and motor carriers subject to the waiver may operate intermodal chassis with expired inspection decals provided the decal expired on or after March 31, 2020;
  1. Intermodal equipment providers and motor carriers subject to the waiver may operate the chassis until they can be returned to an IEP facility where the annual inspection can be performed by a qualified individual, not to exceed three months from the date of the waiver.
  1. All the parties involved continue to comply with the rules under 49 CFR 396.12 prohibiting IEPs from offering unsafe chassis for transportation, and carriers being coerced into accepting such chassis.
  1. Motor carriers and their drivers continue to be responsible for reporting chassis defects to the IEPs, and IEPs continue to accept responsibility for addressing the defect reports.
  1. Motor carriers must ensure that their drivers conduct a pre-trip/pre-dispatch inspection as required by 49 CFR 392.7 prior to using a chassis with an expired annual inspection decal to ensure there are no visible defects or deficiencies likely to cause a mechanical breakdown while on public roads.
  1. FMCSA reserves the right to revoke this waiver for IANA’s intermodal equipment provider members’ failure to comply with the terms and conditions of this waiver.

Issued: June 1, 2020
______________________________

Jim Mullen
Deputy Administrator

Last updated: Monday, June 1, 2020