Regulatory Scoreboard

By Jami Jones, managing editor

A constant undertow of resistance from truck drivers has started to turn the tide against costly and oppressive regulations. The big issue – the mandate of electronic logging

devices – is still an active battle and the end result is yet to be determined. Whatever that outcome, there has been a fair amount of progress for truck drivers in just the first half of the year. That progress is defined by an impressive number of successes compared to recent years.

Sometimes the biggest wins are when a regulation doesn’t happen.

No increase to insurance requirements

In early June, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration withdrew a proposed rule that would increase the required minimum amounts of liability coverage. As you may recall, some within FMCSA and Congress were pushing for dramatic increases in insurance requirements. Not only is this great news, but it’s also significant that they have formally announced the withdrawal. Normally they just leave the docket open.

They didn’t have a change of heart. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association led the hard-charging opposition, targeting not only the agency but Congress and the executive branch. Had it gone forward, it would have been a devastating blow. (See more on page 21.)

No automatic carrier rating

Another example of something that “didn’t happen” is the agency’s withdrawal of a proposed rule that would have tied a carrier’s “safety fitness ratings” automatically, in part, to their CSA scores.

The Association has long protested the serious shortcomings in the agency’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability, or CSA, program. The Safety Fitness Determination Rule based on disputed data and methodologies was issued in January 2016 and was promptly met with heavy criticism from OOIDA.

The notice, published March 23 in the Federal Register, stated that the plans for a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking, or NPRM, were also canceled.

It’s notable that on Feb. 15 a letter from OOIDA and more than 60 national and regional organizations of motor carriers urged Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao to withdraw the NPRM.

Other changes or progress comes in the form of axing current provisions in the regulations.

The 34-hour restart is fixed

OOIDA scored another big win in March, when FMCSA basically conceded that truckers were right about restrictions the agency added to the 34-hour restart.

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 to a congressionally mandated study on the 34-hour restart. The study was signed off on by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.

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 until they could be studied.

Now that the proof is in the statistics, the restart will not have the restrictions added back.

Rest easier on your schedule?

Since 2005, truckers who want to split up their 10 hours of off-duty time have been limited to two periods with one being at least eight hours long. The 8-and-2 split, as drivers began referring to it was met with swift and loud criticism.

The change marked a significant clampdown on the flexibility drivers had under the previous versions of the hours-of-service regulations. Before the 2005 version was rolled out, drivers who wanted to split up their sleeper berth time could choose how they wanted to take it.

FMCSA announced in June it wants to put the “old way” to the test. The pilot program will have to be approved, but it’s another start in the right direction toward giving truckers some say about when they rest out on the road. Stay tuned for updates on this pilot program.

Actual training for newbies

Progress and change also happens when truckers work together to make something happen. Something that will really make the roads safer.

That’s what happened when the first-ever driver training regulation was announced in 2016. It was the result of 30 years of work and pressure from truck drivers. OOIDA President Jim Johnston helped draft the first proposed regs back in the 1980s.

Its future was uncertain when President Trump signed the regulatory freeze the day after taking office. The move was to review all eleventh-hour laws and regulations implemented during the previous administration.

June 5 the driver training rule went into effect. Its compliance date of December 2020 remains unchanged.

Capitalizing on change

There’s a whole lot of “we told you so” that truckers can lay claim to in the wins noted here. But, there’s more that can be done.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Jeffrey A. Rosen has been appointed regulatory reform officer and chairman of the DOT’s Regulatory Reform Task Force. That task force will evaluate current and proposed regulations in yet another opportunity to attack the electronic logging mandate (See Page 40) and help keep the speed limiter chatter to a minimum. Speaking of speed limiters, heard much lately? Nope. And that’s a good thing. LL