Washington Insider
Unjustified regulation amounts to government's $16 muffin

By Laura C. O'Neill, OOIDA Government Affairs Counsel

Recently, an astonishing inspector general’s report was released criticizing the U.S. government for paying nearly $16 per muffin as part of a legal conference food bill.

While the IG Office appears to have backed off that specific claim, they are still sticking to their overall point that the U.S. government overpaid. Regardless, when the story broke, it was entirely plausible to the American people because we are all too familiar with the inefficiencies of government – particularly in the trucking industry, which recently had its own version of the $16 muffin in the electronic on-board recorder rulemaking, which carried a tab of more than $1 billion.

It’s expensive to make a bad idea seem like a good one. That point was underscored when President Obama released his list of most expensive rulemakings. It wasn’t at all shocking to learn that the U.S. government has spent a pretty penny trying to justify the existence of these electronic devices that are no more reliable than a paper logbook.

EOBRs are simply a solution being pushed by special interests in search of a problem. And just like the muffins, little thought or research went into how much this entire affair was going to cost the American taxpayer or the impacts it will actually have on safety.

In short, it’s because the government is obsessed with finding the magic bullet that will address all safety concerns instead of pursuing cost-effective, practical solutions. This is no way to run a railroad … or rather regulate a trucking industry.

Although it is often said that trucking is the safest it’s been in years, certain entities in government are still pursuing these magic technological solutions without supporting research.

Following closely on the heels of EOBRs is the idea of mandating that all heavy-duty trucks have a speed limiter set at roughly 65 mph. If vigorously pursued, this idea is certainly going to be an expensive side of bacon next to that $16 muffin.

The majority of prevailing research indicates that the byproducts of speed limiting trucks can actually detract from highway safety. As with EOBRs, the government has not spent a significant amount of time or resources researching this issue, yet certain folks are in love with the idea that if we cap truck speed we can magically make highways safer.

This unjustified pursuit simply flies in the face of existing research indicating that the majority of truck accidents are not caused by exceeding the speed limit. Moreover, introducing dramatic speed differentials into the flow of traffic is a certain detraction to safety as highways tend to be safest when all vehicles are traveling at the same speed.

It’s actually counter-intuitive to safety when you consider that it could take a trucker an additional two days to get a load across country. It must be considered that drivers will be forced to look for opportunities to make up for lost productivity. Instead of 100 percent compliance, drivers could actually find themselves driving while fatigued or perhaps driving at maximum speed in areas where posted speed limits are considerably lower.

Instead of relying on the proposed regs to be some sort of magic bullet, what about pursuing adequate driver training rules that actually educate drivers about safe and efficient operation? What about a simple hours-of-service rule that offers drivers the flexibility to rest when they are tired instead of attempting to enact an overly rigid and complex regulation that no one in particular seems to appreciate? What about a simple rule that says you can’t tie up trucks for hours on end at shipping and receiving facilities? Excessive detention is one of the leading causes of fatigue, yet no rulemaking targeting time lost at the docks is being pursued.

The simple fixes of driver training and addressing detention time come without costly mandates or an expensive implementation price yet they are considered pie in the sky. Well, it seems that pie is a lot cheaper than the muffins on the menu and maybe the government needs to have a slice of that instead.  LL