Trucking regulation changes may very well be underway with the new administration, and the industry is preparing itself as much as possible.
“When there is a change in administrations, it is standard to have a regulatory freeze so new agency staff have some time to review the issues at hand, and the review can delay or pause the regulatory process,” said American Trucking Associations’ vice president of safety policy, Daniel Horvath.
Even recently-implemented regulation updates may have big changes coming, so preparation in advance is key.
“These reviews can, on occasion, reach back to impact rules that have already been finalized, which can be a concern,” explained Horvath. “ATA will be closely watching final regulations like the hours-of-service rule, which became effective last September after a long data-driven process.”
Currently, a variety of proposals and recently-passed regulations from the Trump administration are in the midst of a two-month freeze instated by the Biden administration, and all regulations at hand could potentially see major changes.
For example, the new administration is reviewing proposals such as: the latest final rule and opinion letter released by the U.S. Department of Labor which sought better clarification regarding whether or not independent contractors should be reclassified as employees by motor carriers; a pilot project announced recently by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration which would aim to conduct a study determining if sleeper berth splits of 6 and 4 hours or 5 and 5 hours are efficient or beneficial for truckers; decisions regarding FMCSA’s lack of direction regarding how to best ensure collaboration surrounding the Item Response Theory, a method that has been deemed particularly data-driven and precise that would work to boost driver and carrier safety evaluations; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to create a nation-wide rule regarding heavy-truck oxides of nitrogen, which has already been delayed for a while and has been waiting for the Biden administration’s guidance; and the decision of whether or not to continue FMCSA’s regulation mandating that brokers keep their pricing documents public.
Additional regulations which may see further review include: a mandate allowing truckers not meeting federal vision standards (of distant visual acuity, field of vision, or both) in at least one eye to be physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle within interstate commerce; a final rule allowing for hair sample drug tests to be conducted by carriers on potential hires and current drivers; a rule change in regards to third-party skills tests, allowing an examiner to administer a skills test for a driver that he or she has also trained; and the decision of whether or not to undergo an updated study following FMCSA’s 15-year-old report which worked to determine all factors playing a role in large-truck-involved crashes that resulted in fatalities, injuries, or tow-aways.
In Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s confirmation hearing, he noted that President Biden has initiated a “new climate vision,” and it appears that environmental policy may see the greatest number of regulatory changes.
“Future generations are counting on us to deliver on our climate goals this decade, and infrastructure will play a key role in making that possible. It’s time to go big!” said Buttigieg in a tweet.
Buttigieg has also explained that he would be focusing heavily on current hours-of-service regulations and the ways in which they may affect all aspects of a trucker’s experience while on the job. He noted that he would be making new regulatory decisions in collaboration with Congress “based on the best available data and science.”
Scopelitis Transportation Consulting LLC president, Dave Osiecki, isn’t confident about the expected delays and changes to recent proposals.
“If history is a guide, the FMCSA-proposed pilot programs aimed at studying greater hours-of-service flexibility for drivers will be shelved,” he lamented.
Heavy-duty truck federal excise tax examination will be a priority of Buttigieg’s, who said that he would be taking speed limiters carefully into consideration and would be working to add side underguards to trailers. He also ensured he would focus on the challenges surrounding the current driver shortage, and would potentially seek ways to safely allow 18-to-20-year-olds to operate commercial motor vehicles within interstate commerce.