Cover Story
Knock Out Bad Regs

By Jami Jones, managing editor

The attitude toward regulations in Washington, D.C., is far different than under any previous administration in recent history. And this shift in thinking could not have come soon enough for truck drivers.

For years the barrage of new and revised regulations has been relentless. Over-regulation has taken its toll. There has been no accounting for the varied needs throughout this diverse industry. And, worse yet, regulations have been driven by a big business agenda hell-bent on strangling small business out of the trucking industry.

New ground rules

After being sworn in, President Donald Trump went to work and signed a number of executive orders targeting regulations.

A freeze on eleventh-hour regulations enacted by the Obama Administration was the first order of business. It’s a common tactic used by incoming presidents to review and evaluate regulations that have been signed into law but have either not yet taken effect or hit a compliance deadline.

Trump followed that up with a second executive order that could have a wide-sweeping effect on the way regulations are implemented in the future. Dubbed the “two for one” order. It seeks a zero net effect on regulatory cost when a new rule goes into effect. That means agencies are to offset the cost of any new ones by eliminating the costs associated with at least two current ones.

The final executive order, to date, enforces the Trump administration’s Regulatory Reform Agenda. In that order each agency must appoint a regulatory reform officer. That officer is tasked with not only ensuring that new regulations toe the new line, but also reviewing current regulations.

Wait and see mode

The trifecta of executive orders slowed the submission of new regulations needing White House review and approval to a standstill. At one point toward the end of February, no significant rulemakings were being reviewed. That’s a first, D.C. insiders and watchdog groups say.

Slowly, very slowly after the regulatory freeze expired on

March 21, a few items began to be submitted by a variety of agencies. Just not from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

While Elaine Chao has been confirmed as DOT Secretary, sub-agencies under the DOT umbrella are still without administrators, thereby slowing work to be done at those agencies like FMCSA.

Routinely, the DOT releases a monthly report to the public on the “significant” rulemakings it has in the works within the various agencies. Since the regulatory freeze went into effect, the agency has opted not to release the report.

In its place, the agency posted this:

“As DOT rulemakings are being evaluated in accordance with Executive Orders 13771 and 13777, the schedules for many ongoing rulemakings are still to be determined.”

In the meantime, score two big wins

The flurry of new regulations being sufficiently stymied for the time being by Trump’s executive orders is refreshing for truck drivers. It’s actually like the icing on the cake.

Come to find out, truckers were right. The tweaks to the voluntary 34-hour restart that added two mandatory overnight periods and limited its use to once every seven days did not benefit driver safety, fatigue or health.

That is the conclusion of a congressionally mandated study on the 34-hour restart. The study was mandated by an amendment to the 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations legislation that was signed into law in December 2014.

The amendment, introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, suspended the requirements that a voluntary 34-hour restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. overnight periods and not be used more than once in a seven-day period.

The clincher on the congressional language is that the DOT Office of Inspector General had to sign off on the study. The intent behind that was to make sure, in short, that the study took a legitimate, impartial look at the two versions of the 34-hour restart. The study complied, according to the inspector general.

“We found that DOT’s study met the act’s requirements. We also concur with the Department’s conclusion that the study did not explicitly identify a net benefit from the use of the two suspended provisions on driver operations, safety, fatigue and health,” an inspector general press release stated.

The Safety Fitness Determination proposal has been a sore spot for truckers and motor carriers alike. Motor carriers, including owner-operators, are given a rating of Satisfactory, Conditional or Unfit following a compliance review. FMCSA wanted to automate the process on a monthly basis and tie the ratings to data used in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability, or CSA, enforcement program.

Given the concerns about data quality and bias within CSA, the Safety Fitness Determination was met by widespread opposition. The agency continued plodding ahead and announced a proposed rule last year.

Before the swearing in of President Trump, the agency announced it would issue a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Safety Fitness Determination. That usually indicates that more comment is needed before the agency can proceed.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, along with 61 other groups, wrote a letter in mid-February to Secretary Chao, asking her to drop the whole idea.

FMCSA withdrew the proposal in late March.

“Based on the current record, including comments received in response to the NPRM and the February 2017 correspondence to Secretary Chao, FMCSA has decided to withdraw the January 2016 NPRM and, accordingly, cancels the plans to develop a (Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)” the Federal Register notice announcing the withdrawal states.

Tackling even more bad regs

OOIDA launched the campaign in response to the changing environment in Washington, D.C.

“With the new president and Congressional leadership on Capitol Hill committing to reduce regulatory burdens on small businesses, we need OOIDA members to help us Knock Out Bad Regs,” OOIDA’s recent communication to members states.

Launched during the Mid-America Trucking Show, OOIDA intends for the campaign to help keep the pressure on the administration and Congress to make good on their promises to reduce regulatory burdens.

“We are concerned that the promise to reduce regulations will instead turn into an effort by policy makers in Washington, D.C., to add even more burdensome regulations,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president. “Congress should be working to eliminate costly regulations like ELDs and speed limiters rather than adding even more rules and red tape.”

The campaign includes member activism and targeted efforts on proposed regulations in Congress as well as holding FMCSA accountable to the regulatory reform set out by President Trump.

OOIDA is also calling on members to schedule meetings with their lawmakers to discuss the burdens faced because of excessive regulations. Truckers wanting to do more can learn more about the campaign at FightingForTruckers.com and can sign up for Call To Action alerts.

“Our members have always been highly engaged in the process,” said Spencer. “But there is an urgent need to increase the volume going forward.” LL