FAA Waiver Permits Use of Drones For Long Distance Logistics Flights

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations, better known as the “Part 107 Regulations,” impose strict guidelines for the operation of drones in the United States.  Among these regulations, for example, are requirements that drones be operated only within the unaided line of sight of a designated visual observer, and prohibiting the flight of drones over people not directly participating in their operation.

On May 27, 2020, however, the FAA issued a first-of-its kind Part 107 waiver to Novant Health, Inc. in partnership with Zipline, a leading drone logistics company.  The waiver lifts the usual visual line of sight and overhead requirements, thus permitting the companies to use long-distance drone flights to deliver personal protective equipment and medical supplies to healthcare facilities and workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina.

While the FAA’s waiver is narrow in scope, it marks an important development in drone regulation, and one that, if successful, could certainly pave the way for the wide-scale implementation of drones in the logistics industry.

Avoiding Improper Use Of CARES Act Airport Grants

Like much of the transportation industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s airports are experiencing significant losses in revenue. Airports Council International predicts that the U.S. airport industry will lose $23 billion as a result of COVID-19. Title XII of Division B of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act addresses these significant economic disruptions by providing approximately $10 billion to U.S. airports “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency.” The funding is somewhat discretionary, with a requirement that it be used for any purpose for which airport revenues may lawfully be used, so long as the use of funds is related to the airport,

To read the full text of this article by Duane Morris attorneys Alan C. Kessler, Jamie E. Brown and Rachel Kubasak, please visit the firm website.

American Association of Railroads Responds to COVID-19 Crisis

Recent comments from American Association of Railroads (AAR) CEO Ian Jefferies highlight the critical role freight rail carriers have played in shoring up America’s national supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic.[1]  Mr. Jefferies noted key developments in the government’s response to COVID-19 that have allowed freight railroads to continue operations, and gave special recognition to the contributions made by railroad employees during this national emergency.

Freight railroads deliver a wide variety of goods, including consumer goods, commodities, chemical products, and raw materials to virtually all corners of the nation.  As the COVID-19 pandemic has ratcheted up demand, freight rail carriers and their employees have had to work overtime to ensure an uninterrupted supply.  To that end, from the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) published Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, advising state, local, and industry regulators that freight rail workers should be considered “essential” and thus, exempt from state “stay-at-home” orders put into place.

Mr. Jefferies credits organizations such as the National League of Cities, National Governors Association, National Association of Counties, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors for effectively communicating CISA’s recommendations to governments at all levels to ensure railroad workers can continue their vital work.  And, in order to safeguard essential railroad employees, the AAR has adopted the CDC’s Guidance on Critical Infrastructure Workers, which implements measures such as social distancing, regular cleaning and sanitation of work environments, and regular mask usage.  Measures such as these, in conjunction with the railroad industry’s commitment to service, will ensure a steady supply of much-needed goods to businesses and consumers nationwide, even during these unprecedented times.

[1] See Ian Jefferies on Railroads and the Coronvavirus Pandemic, C-SPAN Apr. 14, 2020, available at https://www.c-span.org/video/?471162-102/washington-journal-ian-jefferies-discusses-railroads-coronavirus-pandemic; see also Coronavirus – Our freight rail network also delivering for America during COVID-19 pandemic, Ian Jefferies, https://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/coronavirus-freight-rail-network-covid-19-pandemic.

USMCA Implementation Will Require Changes – Especially for the Automotive Industry

The U.S. Trade Representative recently notified Congress that Canada, Mexico and the United States have taken the necessary measures to comply with their commitments under the United States–Mexico‒Canada Agreement (USMCA), and that the agreement will enter into force on July 1, 2020. As discussed in this Alert, the USMCA, which will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement upon its implementation, will impose a wide range of new requirements. Companies operating in certain sectors of the economy, especially the motor vehicle industry, should strongly consider taking actions to prepare for and comply with these new requirements as soon as possible.

To read the full text of this Duane Morris Alert, please visit the firm website.

FAA Gives Details on $10 Billion in CARES Act Funds for Airports

On April 14, 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued information regarding the application for and distribution of approximately $10 billion in relief funds to airports that fall within four categories under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), signed into law on March 27, 2020.

To read the full text of this Duane Morris Alert, please visit the firm website.

U.S. D.O.T.’s NHTSA Proposes Easing Federal Safety Standards For Autonomous Vehicles

By Alyson Walker Lotman and Theresa A. Langschultz

The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a notice of proposed rule-making on March 17, 2020 designed to modernize federal safety standards on autonomous vehicles. The proposed rules are intended to pave the way for the future of autonomous vehicles by amending the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). Proposed changes include allowing autonomous vehicles – specifically, those designed solely to carry property and goods – to be built without “traditional manual controls” and protective safety features meant for humans. Continue reading U.S. D.O.T.’s NHTSA Proposes Easing Federal Safety Standards For Autonomous Vehicles

Third Circuit Weighs In On Strict Products Liability for Artificial Intelligence

By Matthew Decker

In Rodgers v. Christie, a recent non-precedential decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit examined whether traditional strict products liability doctrines apply to artificial intelligence-based software. 2020 WL 1079233 (3d Cir. Mar. 6, 2020). There, plaintiffs asserted claims under the New Jersey Products Liability Act (“PLA”), arising from the State’s Public Safety Assessment (“PSA”). Id. at *1. The PSA is a “data-based” risk assessment algorithm which provides quantitative scores and a “decision-making framework” to assist courts in “assess[ing] the risk that [a] criminal defendant will fail to appear for future court appearances or commit additional crimes and/or violent crimes if released.” See Roders v. Laura and John Arnold Foundation, 2019 WL 2429574, at *1 (D.N.J. June 11, 2019), aff’d sub nom. Roders v. Christie, 2020 WL 1079233. Plaintiffs’ strict products liability claims put the PSA at issue, claiming the algorithm had assigned an erroneously low score to a convicted felon, who allegedly murdered their son three days after he was released from detention on non-monetary conditions. 2020 WL 1079233, at *1. Continue reading Third Circuit Weighs In On Strict Products Liability for Artificial Intelligence

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Revisit Decision Upholding Design Patent Validity for Automotive Repair Parts

By John E. Munro

The United States Supreme Court refused to take up a request to revisit the Federal Circuit’s decision regarding design patents covering automotive repair parts. The Supreme Court’s denial to revisit the decision keeps the long-standing principles of functionality with regards to design patents unchanged. The decision stands, however, as a reminder of the importance and usefulness of design patents to protect repair parts in industries that have significant commercial interests in preventing third-parties from copying designs of repair parts. Continue reading U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Revisit Decision Upholding Design Patent Validity for Automotive Repair Parts

The National Labor Relations Board Changed Its Joint Employer Standard… Again

By Elizabeth Mincer

On February 26, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a final rule changing the standard for determining joint-employer status under the National Labor Relations Act. This final rule will affect companies across industries, but could be particularly impactful on entities operating in the transportation, automotive, and logistics industries. Continue reading The National Labor Relations Board Changed Its Joint Employer Standard… Again

Security Screenings and Overtime Pay: Could Pennsylvania Join Other States in Requiring that Employees Remain “On-the-Clock” for Mandatory Security Protocols?

By Elizabeth Mincer

Pennsylvania could be joining the ranks of states that require employers to pay employees for time spent in post-shift security screening (federal law does not require employers to do this). In December 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to consider whether the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (PMWA) qualifies such security screenings as compensable time in Neil Heimbach v. Amazon.com, Inc. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision has the potential to affect a wide range of industries operating in Pennsylvania, including those in transportation, automotive, and logistics.   Continue reading Security Screenings and Overtime Pay: Could Pennsylvania Join Other States in Requiring that Employees Remain “On-the-Clock” for Mandatory Security Protocols?