Insider Exclusive: Upcoming DOT Rules and the Motorcoach Industry

Insider Exclusive: Upcoming DOT Rules and the Motorcoach Industry

By:Daren Hansen

Regulatory activity from the U.S. Department of Transportation may have slowed in recent years, but significant new rules—many affecting the motorcoach industry—are still in the works.

Perhaps no rule has raised more concern than the 2015 Lease and Interchange rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which cast a wide net to target a few small fish.

In effect, the mandate was going to apply truck rules to the bus industry in an effort to catch rogue operators who use lease agreements to shield their identities.

Although the compliance deadline of Jan. 1, 2019, is fast approaching, the FMCSA issued a new version on Sept. 20, 2018, that slashed the number of carriers affected and extended the deadline to 2021. The FMCSA is asking for public input until Nov. 19.

Diabetic Drivers
Nov. 19 is also when a new rule affecting insulin-using drivers goes into effect. These drivers will be able to operate motorcoaches across state lines without needing to apply to FMCSA (and wait months) for a special exemption.

A driver with properly controlled diabetes will be able to obtain up to a one-year certification directly from his or her medical examiner. The only catch is that the drivers will first need to have their treating clinician fill out a new form, the Insulin-Treated Diabetes Mellitus Assessment Form, which will be available on the FMCSA website later this year.

Military Veteran Licensing
A new rule going into effect on Nov. 27 will further clear the path for military veterans to become motorcoach drivers. It will allow (but not require) states to waive:

  •   The knowledge test needed to obtain a commercial learner’s permit
  •   The knowledge and driving tests needed for a passenger endorsement

To qualify, the drivers must have recent experience operating buses for the military. Check with your state licensing agency for details on whether or when they will be implementing the rule.

Structural Integrity
Next summer, watch for a new DOT rule that could increase purchase and operating costs—but also save lives in the event of a rollover.

The rule will require manufacturers to increase the structural integrity of their motorcoaches to prevent collapse, the unintended opening of emergency exits, and the detachment of windows, seats, and overhead luggage racks.

Future Actions
Late 2019 will bring the final compliance deadline for electronic logging devices (ELDs), and in early 2020, expect to see implementation of the national clearinghouse for drug/alcohol testing and new training rules for entry-level drivers seeking a commercial license.

Two other rules in development have a more uncertain future:

  •          The FMCSA is considering whether to extend the 12-hour limit to 14 hours for drivers using the 100-air-mile exception in 49 CFR §395.1(e).
  •          Later this year, the FMCSA expects to propose elimination of the rules requiring drivers to fill out a specific type of job application (§391.21) and to complete an annual list of their violations (§391.27).

Like death and taxes, new regulations are inevitable. Knowing what’s coming can help you stay prepared and in compliance.

Daren Hansen is senior editor of transportation safety for J. J. Keller & Associates Inc., specializing in compliance with FMCSA regulations. He can be reached at

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.


Melanie Hinton, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, ABA
Office: (202) 218-7220
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)