New Rule Aims to Reduce Truck Accidents Involving Intermodal Transport

A new regulation, the Intermodal Equipment Final Rule, will be enforced as of December 17, leaving some companies scrambling to make sure they are in compliance.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the new rule:

adopts regulations to implement section 4118 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users or SAFETEA-LU. The regulations require intermodal equipment providers (IEPs) to: register and file with FMCSA an Intermodal Equipment Provider Identification Report (Form MCS-150C); establish a systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance program to assure the safe operating condition of each intermodal chassis; maintain documentation of their maintenance program; and provide a means to effectively respond to driver and motor carrier reports about intermodal chassis mechanical defects and deficiencies.

The rule, which applies to ocean carriers, railroads, lessors and anyone else providing chassis to truckers, marks the first time that IEPs will be subject to FMCSA regulations. It is aimed at improving maintenance on intermodal transportation systems and thereby reducing the number of truck accidents directly related to or caused by malfunctions of poorly maintained intermodal chassis. Congress implemented the rule in large degree to address truck drivers’ concerns that, in the event of a truck accident, they were legally responsible for defective equipment owned and poorly maintained by others.

IEPs like the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) are now working quickly to develop methods of meeting the new requirements.  According to the IANA they are working on a database that will help government officials as well as truck drivers and chassis providers keep track of and report on the maintenance status of the estimated 850,000 chassis that are currently on the road. Other groups such as the trade group Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association (OCEMA), whose members own or lease 85% of the chassis on the road, is considering proposals for a system that would communicate information about chassis.

Such plans are up against a hard and fast deadline as December 17 fast approaches. Curtis Whalen, executive director of the Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference of American Trucking Associations stated in an interview with Transport Topics, “We are running out of calendar here. It’s hard to envision that anyone could put together an adequate system and have it in place in December.”

However, compliance with this new regulation must be met and met now. Put plainly, this new rule will save lives.

The rule will also help provide forensic analysis in crash investigation. In many of my cases, I am able to find maintenance violations that contribute to or are a cause of the crash, such as improper maintenance on brakes. In a case I’m currently handling, the air to the service brakes and emergency brakes were switched on the rear axle of a trailer. This new rule will help track these type of defects in cases involving an intermodal chassis. These chassis look like flatbed trailers, but are designed to attach to box containers.  It is common to see the containers on ships or trains before they are transferred to a trailer-which is why they are called intermodal.

If you are a lawyer seeking co-counsel in a case involving intermodal transport or negligent maintenance, or if you are the victim of such an occurrence, we welcome you to contact our truck accident attorneys.

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