Scopelitis June Legislative Trends Newsletter

Posted June 14, 2017 by Erin

Cline Wood works closely with Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary (The Scopelitis Law Firm), a leading Transportation industry law firm. They have been a valuable resource to many of our customers because of their understanding and involvement in the transportation industry.

The Scopelitis Law Firm recognizes that, in order to prepare for potential risks and strategic opportunities, businesses of all sizes must stay informed regarding regulatory and legislative change. This newsletter includes a sampling of noteworthy developments or trends affecting transportation in Congress or the state legislatures during the last two months.

Trends covered in the Scopelitis June Legislative Trends Newsletter include:

  • Scopelitis Law Alert: U.S. DOL Announces Withdrawal of Joint Employment, Independent Contractor Informal Guidance
  • States Seek Infrastructure Funding
  • Lowering Roadblocks to Platooning
  • States React to Gig Economy
  • FY 2018 Presidential Budget
  • DOT Personnel Changes
  • Regulatory Reform
  • Tax Reform
  • FMCSA Withdraws Minimum Insurance Limits Rulemaking
  • Entry-Level Driver Training Rule
  • FMCSA Split-Sleeper Berth Pilot
  • Rescission of USDOL Persuader Rule Submitted to OMB

Find the full version of the newsletter by clicking here. For any additional information on their Firm, please follow Scopelitis on social media, visit their Legislative Services Practice Area page, or contact the Scopelitis legislative team – Greg Feary, Shannon Cohen, or Prasad Sharma – to further explore how they may provide the most well-tailored service for you.


The Scopelitis Legislative Trends Newsletter is intended as a report to clients and friends on legislative developments affecting the transportation industry. The published material does not constitute an exhaustive legal study and should not be regarded or relied upon as individual legal advice or opinion.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

 

Are Your Drivers Employees or Independent Contractors?

Posted June 13, 2017 by Administrator

In recent years, federal and state entities have engaged in an effort to reclassify independent contractors for motor carriers as employees. Sometimes authorities will conduct preemptive audits on the Department of Labor (DOL) compliance status to determine if companies are in compliance with federal and state labor laws as they apply to worker classification.

In order to ensure your company is in compliance, there are important tests that need to be adhered to when it comes to independent contractors versus employee status. Important tests to know are:

  1. The right to control

The overarching test of the right to control is whether or not the owner-operator controls the manner and means of completing the work. The one caveat to this test is when the control is originating from rules or regulations imposed by the Department of Transportation (DOT), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) or other entity that governs the trucking industry. External regulatory controls are seen as mutual between the company and the owner-operator and therefore are not a determining factor in whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor.

  1. ABC

The ABC test refers to three parts, listed as “A”, “B”, and “C.” In this test, the DOL has taken the position that most workers in the U.S. are employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA.) The one primary exception to this is if the owner-operator operates under the authority of multiple carriers.

  1. 3. Relative nature of the work

The nature of the work helps to define the relationship. If the work is considered integral to the business, it is more likely that the worker is an employee. Work that is temporary or non-integral may imply independent contractor status.

  1. Economic realities

The economic realities test is something that has been devised by some courts and federal agencies to help businesses determine the differences between an employee and independent contractors. Basically, the economic realities test considers how dependent or independent the worker is on the business. If a person gains a large part of their income from one business then they are likely an employee. Other factors to consider are level of skill, nature of the work, intent of the parties and social security taxes and benefits.

  1. IRS “20 Factor”

Tax liability is determined by the workers’ employment status. In order to help businesses determine whether a worker should be classified as an employee or independent contractor the IRS has devised twenty questions or factors called the “IRS 20 Factor Test on Employment Status.”

It’s critical that motor carriers and owner-operators understand the differences and legal implications of operating as an employee versus an independent contractor. While it may seem attractive to call your drivers owner-operators or independent contractors, it is vitally important that the tests for independent contractors are met if the driver is considered an owner-operator.

An important factor to consider is the right for an individual to sue the company should the driver be involved in an accident. If the driver meets the employee test, damages can be collected from the trucking company. If the driver can be classified as an independent contractor, then the other party in an accident is limited to the amount of damages they can recover from the contractor. The law does not accept the word of an employer in such a matter; the aforementioned tests will be taken into consideration in determining who is liable in the event of an accident.

To learn more about the issues that concern truck drivers today, trucking coverage and risk management, contact the experts at Cline Wood.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

Smart Agriculture and the Internet of Things (IoT)

Posted June 5, 2017 by Administrator

With the combination of both advanced technologies in hardware and software, the Internet of Things (IoT) is able to track and count almost everything, which can greatly reduce waste, cost and loss for agriculture operations. The IoT will transform the agriculture industry by enabling farmers to find solutions to their challenges faster and more effectively. Innovative applications can be designed to address complex issues and therefore increase the quality, quantity, sustainability and effectiveness of crop production.

Here are some breakthrough examples where agricultural businesses are using the IoT in innovative ways:

  • A cutting-edge greenhouse operation uses the Waspmote Plug and Sense IoT Vertical Kit air quality application. Sensor probes are installed a various points to measure identified parameters. The system is programmed and connected to an XBee network with star topology. Two of the sensor modes send the extracted data to the central node at 15 minute intervals. The data is sent via 3G to a server and stored in an internal memory. The information is then visualized through its web interface. Users can take action by controlling the irrigation system through the web.
  • A farming operation is using the IoT to address its labor shortage. Limited by time, the farmers are unable to monitor and provide the required conditions for plants at certain times such as during the night or emergency conditions. To overcome the limitations of the irrigation system in conventional farming and maintain the crops in their optimum environment for growth in terms of soil moisture and temperature. The model of smart irrigation provides and maintains the optimum conditions for their crops. By growing their crops in an environment with sufficient water supply and ideal temperature, plant quality is improved and the productivity of the field is increased as well. Using electronic devices such as smartphones and remote computers, users can log into the Cloud storage to extract sensor data. Users can monitor the crops and control the water pumps and fans using the control panel of the user interface, which does not have to be located at the farm. Also, being able to supply the water directly to the root of the plant prevents weeds from growing, reducing the need for farm hands to help with weeding. Soil temperature also plays a major role in plant health. Being able to use sensors to measure the soil temperature and remotely switch on fans that will reduce overly heated soil will help keep roots moist and retain nutrients.
  • A small, urban farmer looking for a reliable, innovative solution worked with an IoT platform partner to develop a modular, scalable farm operation. Together, they designed a hydroponic farming model that operates inside of an atmospherically-controlled shipping container that allows for year-round growing to provide local, urban environments with produce 365 days a year. They use a connected product management tool to provide more usability and access in how they interact with the farm. A big advantage of the connectivity platform is in the data collection that indicates how well the freight farms are performing, including optimal conditions, various crops and best practices. The data is being used to help farmers proactively prevent problems and troubleshoot to improve quality control.

By providing and maintaining the ideal environment for the growth of crops using innovative applications of IoT, the productivity of crops can be increased and the goal of ensuring adequate food supplies to feed the estimated human population of 9 billion people by the year 2050 will be achieved.

 

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

2017 International Roadcheck Event to Focus on Cargo Securement Inspections

Posted May 26, 2017 by Administrator

This year the International Roadcheck event sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) is being held June 6-8, 2017. The event is held across North America, including the United States, Canada and Mexico, where nearly 17 trucks or buses will be inspected, on average, every minute during a 72-hour period. Inspectors will primarily be conducting the Level 1 roadside inspection, which is the most thorough, to make sure the big rigs should be on the road.

The North American Standard Level I inspection is very detailed. Here is a highlight of what the CVSA inspectors really do. It is virtually impossible to tell, just by looking at a rig, if it is in compliance or not. Visually, a vehicle can look old and still be able to pass an inspection and, vice versa, a newer vehicle can look like it should be in tip-top shape but not be in compliance. It takes a highly-trained, certified inspector to complete the comprehensive inspection.

The Level I inspection entails the following checks:

  • driver credentials
  • valid commercial license
  • no outstanding warrants
  • up-to-date log books
  • driver hours are in compliance
  • medical card is current
  • major vehicle components (front, back, sides, rear and underneath)
  • check chassis, frame and braking components

The message the CVSA International Roadcheck is sending to trucking companies and drivers throughout the event is the same message for every day of the year: make safety your very highest priority. When transporting hazmat and securing cargo, remember that keeping your truck in compliance will help to ensure that you, and everyone that shares the road with you, will get home safely. Lives, and livelihoods, depend on it. For more information about trucking safety, compliance, and coverages, contact us.

 

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

Insurance Solutions for High Livestock Mortality Rates

Posted May 18, 2017 by Administrator

Raising livestock and poultry is a risky business. That is why farmers need adequate insurance to cover their animals from unexpected events. Farmers have a variety of options available to them when it comes to farm animal insurance. They can opt for customized coverage for the specific types of animals they raise or combine several different policies.

Fundamentals of Livestock Insurance

Farmers can often combine their livestock coverage into their overall farm package. This way, they can have adequate protection for their buildings, livestock, and poultry in the event of a death due to accident or injury. Some policies cover animal deaths due to illness as well, but this is specialized coverage.

Farmers can use the following methods to insure their animals:

  • Herd Coverage: This is the most basic and common coverage. Farmers use this type of insurance to cover a precise number of animals.
  • Blanket Coverage: This type of policy insures all farm property. It includes buildings, livestock, equipment, and so on.
  • Individual Coverage: This policy covers animals with higher worth. The policy explicitly states which animals are covered. The corresponding animals often have an identifying feature such as an ear tag.

Farmers can also purchase insurance unique to their livestock. Some examples include:

  • Cattle insurance
  • Pig insurance
  • Poultry insurance

Farm insurance packages often cover animals such as sheep and goats, so farmers do not need specific policies for these animals.

Farmers invest a lot of time and money into their animals. For many farmers, their livestock is their livelihood so they cannot afford to neglect insurance. To learn more about insuring livestock, contact the experts at Cline Wood.

 

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

Safe Parking for Commercial Trucks

Posted May 11, 2017 by Administrator

Truckers need and deserve safe parking. Shipping and receiving facilities are sometimes in very bad neighborhoods. When there isn’t a safe place to park, drivers may be mugged, beat up or have their equipment damaged. Between 2010 and 2014, 40 big-rig drivers were killed while working, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. And homicides are only part of the problem. Truck cargo thefts occur at the rate of at least twice daily; 86% of those when commercial vehicles are parked in unsecured location such as public parking and truck trailer drop lots.

The issue of safe and adequate parking has been an issue for decades. The FMCSA has conducted studies on the issue. One study, “Commercial Driver Rest and Parking Requirements” was originally conducted in 1996 and was updated in 2014. The study found that there are 1700 miles of interstate highway that are not within 30 miles of a truck stop or rest area. Some drivers choose to ignore important Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) hours-of-service rules so they can keep driving until a legal and safe parking spot is available. The shortage of parking suitable for commercial motor vehicles puts tired drivers in a bad position.

The FHWA has established the National Coalition on Truck Parking. So far, several major trucking organizations, such as the American Trucking Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have joined the coalition. The coalition is looking at concerns such as why $231M in parking projects across the U.S. have been submitted, but only $34M has been allocated. Most of the $34M ($20M) has been awarded to pay for intelligent transportation systems technology that alerts drivers when parking spaces are available through in-cab messaging notification systems. Some drivers advocate for cities to change zoning laws to permit additional commercial vehicle parking accessibility. Other advocates want shippers to take more responsibility and allow truckers to park in their lots when resting or waiting.

Clearly, the truck driver parking shortage remains a stubborn issue that just won’t go away. Trucker parking shortage is costing the trucking industry time, money and productivity, not to mention the risk for drivers in terms of stress, fatigue, security for their equipment and, most importantly, their personal safety.

To learn more about the issues that concern truck drivers today, trucking coverage and risk management, contact us.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

Pros and Cons of Electronic Log Books for Commercial Truck Drivers

Posted May 2, 2017 by Administrator

Many commercial truck drivers that have not started using electronic log books are skeptical, if not worried, about implementing an electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) system in their vehicle. Although most drivers will admit the system is not yet perfected, many have been pleasantly surprised. The general consensus is that there are more good points about e-logs than bad.

Positive aspects often cited by drivers include:

  • the system forces you to get the proper amount of rest. Getting enough rest is important not only from a regulations point of view, but for the health and safety of the trucker and the public.
  • despite having to adhere to the hours-of-service regulations, drivers do not feel they are losing money in the long run. This was a major concern of many drivers. Most drivers report that by having the proper rest and sleep they reduce stress, which actually leads to increased productivity.
  • e-logs prevent drivers from being pushed or pressured by dispatchers requiring unreasonable delivery schedules because the driver’s hours are documented in the log.
  • if a situation arises – such as inclement weather or sleepiness, the log book becomes the driver’s ally because it documents the condition that causes them to pull over, ensuring that they will operate your vehicle safely.
  • upper management of fleets like the e-logging system because records are accurate and legible. The logs can be reviewed at any time by the company’s safety team, which saves money and time.

The major complaint heard by drivers using the EOBR is that there’s no leeway when using an e-logging system. For example, if a driver gets stuck in traffic there’s absolutely nothing they can do to get off the road safely in the time the machine allots. Drivers feel there should be some latitude built into the system for uncontrollable circumstances.

There’s no doubt that the EOBR system is the future of the trucking industry. It appears that this is a good thing because our country’s drivers will be rested and less stressed, and the roads will be safer for both drivers and the general public who share the road with them.

To learn more about the issues that concern truck drivers today, trucking coverage and risk management, contact us.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

Weight Limit Exemption for Dairy Truck Drivers

Posted April 25, 2017 by Administrator

A recent federal regulation now allows states to adjust how they treat milk trucks versus other haulers. This amendment to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act authorizes states to issue special permits to milk truck drivers regarding weight limits as well as treat their dairy cargo as a non-divisible load.

One state, Connecticut, has already taken advantage of this revision. Prior to the change in law, Connecticut milk haulers had to travel with their trucks at 80 percent capacity. This meant it required five trucks to haul four trucks worth of milk. This provides two significant benefits:

  • Small and mid-sized farmers can now use the full capacity of their dairy trucks, which helps them save money
  • More economic use of milk trucks means less traffic on state roads

Exemption Improves Road Safety

While helping dairy farmers save money is a considerable benefit, improving road safety is a much farther-reaching advantage. Traffic congestion is not only aggravating, it is a major source of risk to truck drivers and passenger vehicle alike. Commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are harder to maneuver and bring to a complete stop than passenger vehicles. While CMV drivers can do their part to ensure they are following safe driving practices, they cannot account for how other vehicles will drive around them.

Reducing the number of trucks to deliver the same amount of cargo is a necessary step for improving road safety.  It is vital for dairy farmers and milk truck drivers to stay up to date with which states are cashing in on this amendment to the FAST Act. Dairy haulers often cross state lines, so they need to ensure their cargo weight meets each state’s rules. To stay up to date with the latest federal regulations affecting agribusinesses, contact the experts at Cline Wood.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

Fertilizer Manufacturers Cannot Neglect Insurance

Posted April 18, 2017 by Administrator

Agribusiness Insurance CoverageManufacturing fertilizer, like many things, used to be a simpler process – create and distribute high quality organic material for enriching soil. Now fertilizer manufacturers must remain aware of a variety of factors to avoid potential lawsuits, from pollution liability and cyber liability to employment practices liability and beyond.

For example, individuals who live near fertilizer plants may complain of the smell and raise concerns about water contamination from runoff. There are numerous ways fertilizer can damage the environment. To avoid financial ruin, manufacturers need to ensure they have ample insurance to protect their business.

An Overlooked Risk Within the Industry

Many agribusiness companies invest in the standard types of insurance coverage such as farm liability protection or equipment coverage. However, the fertilizer manufacturing industry has one lesser-known risk that business owners cannot afford to disregard: the combustible properties of stored fertilizer and related chemicals.

In the spring of 2013, an explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant proved deadly. While investigators determined the fire was set on purpose, the explosive nature of materials found at fertilizer plants is undeniable. The investigation determined that the company in question, West Fertilizer Company, failed to take proper precautions when storing chemicals at their facility. The company became the target of numerous lawsuits as a result.

While the West Fertilizer Company explosion is a worst-case scenario for businesses, it represents why fertilizer manufacturers cannot afford to neglect known threats. Investing in the right types of insurance can reduce your risk. Cline Wood can help you manage your risk to protect your bottom line. To learn more, contact us.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

Helping Feed the World

Posted April 17, 2017 by Erin

To watch the video, click here.

Argo Group has a role in protecting vital industries across the globe, from agriculture to manufacturing and hundreds of others. One reason for Argo’s success in so many sectors has to do with the partnerships it forms, prompted by its emphasis on collaboration with clients.

One such collaboration is helping Cattle Empire, one of the nation’s largest cattle-feeding operations. Argo, in partnership with broker Cline Wood, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company, covers the herd and property against loss.

Lucas Christensen, chief financial officer for Cattle Empire, grew up on a cattle ranch in Montana. He understands the importance of having an insurance partner dedicated to the concept of sustainability.

Christensen recalls a bumper sticker on the car he drove as a teenager when he fed the animals. It read: “Ranchers: the original environmentalists.”

“I think that’s something I grew up understanding and learning that we live off the land and off the animals, and so it’s in our best interests to take care of those,” Christensen says.

He appreciates the role that Argo plays in keeping his operation running smoothly.

“More so than the monetary recovery of loss, which is important, is the speed in which we are helped,” Christensen says. “If we have a major loss, we need partners with us that will stand by us and be ready to aid us at a moment’s notice.”

Article originally published on Argolimited.com, to view the full article click here.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

 

 

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