Regulatory and legislative concerns can certainly take up a considerable amount of a fleet manager’s time and energy. During the 2012 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference, nearly 100 fleet executives from about 60 investor-owned electric utilities, electric cooperatives and electrical contractors across the U.S. and Canada heard firsthand about the latest issues that could impact their operations.
Pat O’Connor of Kent & O’Connor, legislative counsel for NAFA Fleet Management Association, provided EUFMC attendees with a comprehensive update on a wide range of topics. Three in particular could impact technology on vehicles.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has restricted the use of handheld mobile phones by drivers of commercial motor vehicles and the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended a prohibition on the use of handheld and hands-free cellular telephones by all commercial drivers while driving in commercial operations.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed voluntary guidelines calling on auto manufacturers to integrate technology in cars that automatically disables built-in phone calling, texting and other distracting devices unless the vehicle is parked. This rule would apply to vehicles under 10,000 pounds GVWR and cover communications, entertainment, information gathering, and navigation devices or functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle. Approaches could include locking out electronic functions unless the vehicle is stopped and in park. At a later date, NHTSA will issue guidelines for mobile devices that are brought into the vehicle and address voice-activated controls.
OSHA is also addressing this subject by partnering with the DOT to focus on texting, including advising employers to prohibit any work policy or practice that requires or encourages workers to text while driving. When OSHA receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving or organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity, it will investigate and issue citations and penalties when necessary to end this practice.
NHTSA is delaying a final rule until late this year that would expand the required field of view for all passenger cars, pickup trucks, minivans, buses and low-speed vehicles with a GVWR up to 10,000 pounds so drivers can see directly behind the vehicle when in reverse. NHTSA believes automobile manufacturers will install rear-mounted video cameras and in-vehicle displays to meet the proposed standard, but manufacturers have raised technical concerns.
Brake Throttle Override
A proposed regulation by NHTSA is intended to minimize the risk that drivers will lose control of their vehicles as a result of accelerator control system disconnections, accelerator pedal sticking or floor mat entrapment.
Other legislative and regulatory issues that utility fleet managers may want to monitor include those concerning hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, neighborhood electric, and natural gas vehicles and refueling properties, as well as biodiesel and ethanol blends. Regulations covering underground storage tanks are also undergoing review and updating.
The focus on regulatory and legislative issues at EUFMC was a direct result of the interest in that information among fleet managers. “EUFMC this year was the largest ever,” said Gerald Owens, senior vice president of Oncor Electric Delivery and the new EUFMC president. “The Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference continues to hold great interest for fleet managers because the subjects we address help them meet the challenges they face every day in their organizations.”
The 60th annual Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference will be held June 2-5, 2013, at the Williamsburg Lodge and Conference Center in Williamsburg, Va. For more information, visit www.eufmc.com.