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New safety rules issued for intermodal trucking equipment

In my trucking litigation practice, I have found that one of the weak links in truck transportation is the quality of equipment used in transporting freight containers from ports to ultimate destinations. Too many of the truck chassis used are apparently old trailers spray painted to look sharp but with inadequate mechanical and safety features, and too many of the key players in the system were not subject to safety regulations.

Now the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued proposed rules to augment safety requirements for intermodal container chassis-the trailers that transport cargo containers when they are transferred from ship or rail to truck for final delivery. The new regulations for the first time make intermodal equipment providers subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), and define shared safety responsibility among intermodal equipment providers, motor carriers, and drivers.

A spokesman for the American Trucking Association noted that this will mark the first time that intermodal equipment providers have been required to maintain their equipment and be responsible for it, as motor carriers are required to maintain their equipment.

The Intermodal Association of America expressed reservations. The organization said it is disappointed that the rules failed:

* to recognize existing industry standards and processes that could have been utilized to facilitate the objectives of the regulations;

* to clarify what party would be considered the “IEP” for purposes of regulatory compliance and in fact might have “muddied the water”;

* to accept the existing alpha/numeric equipment identification number; and
* to definitively accept the industry solution of a Web-based intermodal equipment registry as an alternative to physically marking/labeling equipment with a new DOT number.

IANA said it will consider filing a petition for reconsideration upon completion of a thorough review of all provisions of the rules and the projected impact on intermodal industry participants.

Ken Shigley is a trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute, is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, and is a frequent national seminar speaker for the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he was a faculty member for ten years at the Emory University Law School Trial Techniques Program.