“I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” We’ve all heard that punch line. Today, though, there is change in the air. Regulatory agencies, like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), must still carry out their Congressionally-mandated missions. When FMCSA, for example, proposes new regulations, it does so to further its mission of “reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.” And those new regulations can indeed bring new costs and new responsibilities to motor carriers and professional drivers.
But today regulators are also charged with reducing the burden of regulatory cost whenever possible, incorporating compliance, efficiency and flexibility, and avoiding duplicative regulations.
You need only look at the official registry of federal regulatory actions. The “Unified Agenda of Regulatory Actions” has now become the “Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.” This title change reflects Executive Order 13771, directing all agencies to repeal at least two existing regulations for each new regulation issued in fiscal year 2017 and thereafter, and imposing a cap on the total incremental costs of regulations.
Here are some of the ways this directive is playing out at FMCSA:
Hours of Service Proposal — An FMCSA news release reads, “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Publishes Hours of Service Proposal to Improve Safety and Increase Flexibility for Commercial Drivers.” The agency leads with “safety” (its mission) but now adds “flexibility” to its goals. As FMCSA has said before, electronic logging devices (ELDs) make this flexibility technically possible, but the new government directive makes it important to this administration.
Crash Preventability Proposal — For years the trucking industry argued the unfairness of FMCSA including non-preventable cashes in its safety assessment of motor carriers. FMCSA responded in 2017 with the Crash Preventability Demonstration Program, focused on eight types of potentially non-preventable crashes. This year FMCSA added eight more categories and proposed to make this a permanent reduction of government involvement. (See the PrePass blog “FMCSA Proposes Permanent, Expanded Truck Crash Preventability Demonstration Program” for more details.)
Welcome New Drivers — FMCSA has taken several actions to decrease the costs of obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and to increase the pool of potential new truck drivers:
- In March 2019 it eliminated duplicative theory coursework for those upgrading from a Class B to a Class A CDL, saving driver trainees $18 million annually, according to the agency.
- In June, the agency published a proposal it said will streamline and simplify the process by which states are currently required to conduct skill tests for individuals seeking to obtain a CDL, and included the authority for a CDL instructor to also test the driver applicants. FMCSA has also expanded the expiration time for a Commercial Learner’s Permit to a full year.
- In July, FMCSA proposed to increase flexibility and reduce costs for driver applicants by allowing them to take the CDL knowledge tests in states other than applicant’s state of domicile.
- The agency published three Federal Register notices about research on drivers 18-20 years of age, who are members of the armed forces or reserve components, and who are qualified in a military occupational specialty or rating to operate a truck or similar vehicle. The goal, according to FMCSA, is to reduce costs for obtaining a CDL.
Diabetes — For many years, CDL drivers with diabetes had to obtain a federal diabetes exception from FMCSA to continue driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). This was a costly and time-consuming exercise for drivers and fleets. As of late 2018 a new FMCSA medical qualification standard permits U.S. commercial drivers with a stable insulin regimen and properly controlled insulin-treated diabetes mellitus to operate CMVs in interstate commerce.