FEDERAL SURGE BRAKE RULES FINALIZED! -- Click Here for a copy of the final rules!
After more than 10 years of struggle, rental businesses can finally declare victory on surge brakes. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in Washington, D.C., has announced publication today of their final regulations that will allow surge brakes on all small and medium-sized trailers, even those used in interstate commerce. The new final rules are effective 30 days from March 6, 2007, which is April 5, 2007.
FMCSA previously issued guidance and regulatory interpretations that made surge brakes illegal for use in interstate commerce. Many states, but not all, followed the lead of FMCSA and also outlawed the devices. The result was a patchwork of inconsistent regulations that allowed surge brake use by private individuals while banning the same devices in commercial applications. This created great confusion, problems and numerous fines for rental companies, as well as a difficult situation for trailer and boat manufacturers. All three groups came together to form the Surge Brake Coalition, an ad hoc group, to address and change the FMCSA rules.
“The publication of these final rules is a major victory for ARA, our members and the Surge Brake Coalition,” says John McClelland, ARA vice president for government affairs, who led the coalition’s activities for the past four years. “I really appreciate the outstanding work FMCSA staff did on these final rules, which vindicates the position ARA and the Surge Brake Coalition took in our original requests for regulatory changes.”
The new rules eliminate the guesswork in the selection of a braking system for rental trailers. The dedication of many ARA members also helped bring the issue before the FMCSA and kept it there. An enforcement suspension was issued in September 2004, allowing surge brakes to be used and the enforcement suspension remains in effect until the new rules are effective on April 5.
“This is a great example of how leadership by ARA with grassroots support, political support and a strong technical program came together to produce a positive result,” says Stan Crumbaugh, ARA’s president. “We had the support of the ARA Board; the work of dedicated volunteers like John McKibben of Universal Rent All in Georgetown, Ky., who served as a co-chair of the coalition; grassroots member response when it was requested; and a strong technical program that got the facts to FMCSA. Each aspect of this process was critical in achieving positive regulations for the rental industry,” he says.
“On a scale of one to 10, in my opinion this is a 10 for ARA and its legislative efforts,” says Dave Wilcox, General Rental Center, Frankfort, Ky., who was ARA president in 2002 when ARA submitted its petition. “In this case, the issue was targeted and it impacted our industry the most. If we didn’t get it resolved to our satisfaction, it would be quite an economical impact on our industry. People in our industry were getting cited for technically having illegal trailers, so the ARA got involved and it took 10 years to get this accomplished. I can assure you it would not be resolved if we had not put some legislative pressure on the process.” Wilcox says.
The rules published in the Federal Register have the force of law. The new rules also contain sections that repeal previous FMCSA guidance and interpretations that were used to make surge brakes illegal in many situations. To see the rules, click here.
ARA suggests that all rental companies that currently have trailers equipped with surge brakes in their inventory read the summary of the regulation and keep a copy readily available at their business for use with enforcement officials that may not be aware on the new regulations.
ARA anticipates the rules will apply to all uses of surge brakes and that FMCSA will ask states to conform to the new regulation. Check with your local authorities to ensure that this federal action is amended into your local regulations. If ARA members continue to have problems with enforcement they should contact McClelland at 202-289-4460 or email email@example.com.