Focus in DC turns to regulatory burden on trucking

By Jami Jones, senior editor

Compliance comes with a cost – especially when you’re talking about the cost of complying with regulations in the trucking industry.

Attention to the expenses businesses shoulder as part of their compliance with regulations is growing on the Beltway, and a lot of that attention is on small business and trucking.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, recently released a report, “Assessing Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association was one of many groups and businesses Issa reached out to for input when he was crafting the report.

OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz provided Issa with a wealth of information on the cost to truckers for regulatory compliance – a cost they see growing in 2011.

“The trucking sector is a highly regulated industry and faces continual regulatory challenges in 2011 that are certain to adversely affect the profitability of small-business truckers,” Rajkovacz told Issa.

Rajkovacz listed a number of regulatory actions that OOIDA sees as significantly increasing the costs of operations in the trucking industry. Those include actions by the Environmental Protection Agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Rajkovacz highlighted concerns with the cost of compliance with the EPA-NHTSA greenhouse gas proposed regulations, FMCSA’s electronic on-board recorder proposal, and the potential cross-border trucking program with Mexico.

In addition to highlighting the potential costs of each of the proposed regulations, Rajkovacz stressed to Issa that costs of operations were already expensive enough and heaping on more regulations is hurting the industry even more.

“Certain regulations being promulgated by agencies may, at first glance, not appear as financially onerous until they are viewed from the cumulative burden placed on the trucking industry,” Rajkovacz said.

“Collectively, these kinds of rulemakings are obtrusive and costly to small-business truckers with little or no scientific substantiation regarding improved highway safety.”

The focus on the financial impact of regulations on small busineses doesn’t stop with Issa and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

President Barack Obama actually started the ball rolling in mid-January when he issued an executive memo to department and agency heads.

“My administration is firmly committed to eliminating excessive and unjustified burdens on small businesses, and to ensuring that regulations are designed with careful consideration of their effects, including their cumulative effects, on small businesses,” Obama wrote.

The memo specifically referenced the agencies’ obligation to review the impact of regulations on small businesses before enacting the regulations.

Shortly after Obama’s message to the agencies, the House of Representatives passed a resolution in early February that calls on various committees to review existing, pending and proposed regulations with respect to their effect on jobs and economic growth.

Capitalizing on the growing trend toward oversight, OOIDA amped up the pressure and urged the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to hold hearings on the recently enacted and pending regulations coming out of the Department of Transportation.

“For the past several months the department has vigorously embarked upon a series of regulatory actions that are certain to have a profound negative impact on small businesses and professional drivers in the trucking industry,” says OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

Spencer urged the T&I Committee to “move swiftly” to review existing regulations and activities that “have promise to cause undue regulatory compliance and cost burdens.”

“The trucking industry has been particularly hard hit over the past few years by the economic downturn,” Spencer told the committee leadership.

He said that even though things are looking up in the economy, the DOT’s actions could hit truckers hard financially and “have a damning effect not only on the trucking industry, but also on the manufacturers, producers and retailers who heavily depend on that industry.” LL