During the period of transition between any two presidential administrations of differing parties, there is a flurry of regulatory activity. The departing administration issues so-called “midnight regulations” before it leaves office, while the incoming administration responds by putting a freeze on those actions. In the last few months, TCA has filed comments to the Federal Register on three of the Trump Administration’s final proposals.
First, TCA responded to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) request for comments on proposed revisions to the regulatory guidance concerning recording time operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) as a “yard move.” The Agency put forward this proposal due to the present ambiguity over the definition, which has led to drivers and carriers largely not utilizing this regulatory flexibility. Crafted with input from members, TCA’s comments explained that the proposed definition put forth by FMCSA verged on being too narrow, and that there were several other valid uses for this status that were not being considered. We also noted that many of TCA’s members strongly believe drivers should be permitted to utilize the yard move provision while moving at a truck stop.
Second, in reply to FMCSA’s proposal to eliminate the requirement for drivers to annually prepare and submit a list of their convictions for traffic violations to their employers, TCA filed supportive comments. This requirement for the driver is largely duplicative of the provision calling for carriers to annually obtain the motor vehicle record for each driver from every state in which the driver holds or has held a license or permit in the past year. The recordkeeping and reporting burden on both drivers and carriers would be reduced by eliminating the driver requirement, and the data will also be more accurate moving forward since there was never a guarantee that the self-reported list from the driver truly contained all their violations.
Third, prior to leaving, the Trump Administration’s leaders at the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) to include rear impact guards on the list of items that must be included as part of the required annual inspection for each CMV. While rear guards have already been mandated through the FMCSRs for over 65 years, they were never included in the annual inspection list. TCA commented in support of adding rear guards to the list, but we cautioned against expanding any federal regulation to include side underride guards. These side guard devices lack significant scientific evidence proving their effectiveness and adding them to the federal requirements would result in the largest unfunded mandate ever imposed on the industry.
As the Biden Administration’s appointees at DOT settle into their new roles over the coming months, we expect to see more regulatory activity and final decisions on these and other pending proposals. For now, TCA and our industry partners wait for the calm after the midnight regulatory storm to end and for policymaking to ramp up again.