FMCSA Issues Rule Designed to Improve the Safety of Equipment Used in the Transportation of Intermodal Containers

John H. Hill, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced new rules just before the 2008 holidays designed to strengthen safety requirements for intermodal container chassis, the special trailers that hold cargo containers when they are transferred from ship or rail to truck for final delivery. “We want to ensure that every piece of equipment traveling on our highways is operating safely,” said Hill. “These new rules will bring new safety and enforcement focus on the chassis and equipment used to haul goods on our nation’s roads every day.”

The new regulations make intermodal equipment providers subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) for the first time, and establish shared safety responsibility among intermodal equipment providers, motor carriers, and drivers.

Beginning in December 2009, intermodal equipment providers must have in effect regular and systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance programs for intermodal chassis; they will also need to track defects reported and repairs made. By December 2010, each intermodal provider is required to identify its equipment with a USDOT number. FMCSA’s final rule also outlines inspection requirements for motor carriers and drivers operating intermodal equipment.

Intermodal equipment providers will be subject to on-site reviews to ensure compliance with the new rules. Penalties for violating these rules range from civil fines to a prohibition on providing or operating intermodal equipment found to pose an imminent hazard.

In my experience as a truck accident lawyer, I have come across several instances in which the lack of conspicuity tape on intermodal carriers has resulted in a crash. Red and white reflective tape — or “conspicuity” tape, is required on at least half the length of every trailer. Intermodal containers are an exception. Many truck trailers aren’t actual trailers, but containers that can travel on ships or rail, and “clip” onto a chassis. The new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administratin (FMCSA) proposed regulations do not address this.

The final rule on this Intermodal Chassis is available for review at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/rulemakings/rule-programs/rule_making_details.asp?ruleid=257&year=2008&cat=final.

[taken in part from the FMCSA press release]

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