Several rules focused on safety are left in limbo under Trump administration
Is the trucking industry over-regulated? Good luck finding anyone in the industry that would say no. But ask which regulations should be repealed and chances are each one will be mentioned at least once.
The fact that there is no industry consensus on what regulations are good and which ones are bad only complicates the matter. For nearly every regulation, there are three sides – those for, those against, and the government.
Take the electronic logging device (ELD) rule, for example. The ELD mandate, which goes into effect in December of this year, seeks to eliminate paper logs, automating the process with a tamper-proof technology. But even this rule has been met with opposition.
Since President Donald Trump signed his executive order requiring the elimination of two rules for every new one, several proposed industry regulations have been slowed and a few even pulled from the regulatory docket. Without consensus among the industry, let alone regulators, on which rules should stay and which should go, the era of more industry regulation may be quickly coming to an end.
The bigger question, though, is whether that makes the industry safer as some argue. Regulations such as the drug and alcohol clearinghouse and entry-level driver training rule are, by most accounts, a boon for safety. The entry-level driver training proposal has been pushed to at least May. More controversial rules like the proposed carrier safety fitness determination rule has been removed and it’s likely that the proposed speed limiter rule will also be pulled.
“We as an industry have to ask what regulations we have that are truly bad?” asks David Heller, vice president of governmental affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. “I don’t know that there really is one; they are all needed.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has a different take and in fact last week asked the Supreme Court to intervene and stop the electronic logging device (ELD) rule set to take effect in December.
Heller though, says that as much as the industry may not like regulations, many are needed and without the government providing support, the industry ends up with a patchwork of solutions.
“Having the federal government not moving the needle is maybe not what we need,” he says. An example is the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) rule. CSA has been in effect since 2010, although the industry has been asking for FMCSA to make several changes to the program to improve its effectiveness.
“Our industry is one that is progressive in nature,” Heller explains. “As an industry, we need the government to keep pace.
“As an industry, we are ahead of the curve,” he adds. “The forward-thinking companies are doing the right things because they prevent accidents. Industry should lead, but it’s at the point where we would like the government to have our backs.”
Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for FTR, writing in a blog post on FTR’s website, noted that the expectation of fewer regulations could benefit trucking.
“Some onerous regulations are being eliminated or delayed,” he wrote. “Trucking was a favorite regulation target of the previous administration. It is expected that most pending, non-safety related regulations will either be delayed, changed, or eliminated. In addition, future greenhouse gas standards on trucks and trailers could be modified. Less regulation could lead to greater economic growth in the general economy.”
Possible rules that may be delayed or altered include the drug and alcohol clearinghouse, entry-level driver training, Phase 2 Greenhouse Gas regulations, hair testing for drugs, changes to CSA, and split-sleeper flexibility within hours-of-service rules.
One complication is the lack of a sitting administrator for FMCSA. The most recent person in the job, Scott Darling, left the politically appointed position on President Barack Obama’s final day in office. While Trump’s pick to run DOT, Elaine Chao, has been confirmed, he has yet to name an administrator.