The year 2022 is an election year. All 435 House seats and one-third of the evenly-divided Senate go up for election in November. During 2022, the actions of Congress, the White House and the regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and others, will be driven by and compared to their impact on the November elections.
Two issues dominate today’s politics – and today’s trucking — COVID-19 and its variants and the supply chain crisis. And both will factor in heavily when it comes to Uncle Sam creating and refining trucking regulations in 2022.
COVID-19 and its variants. The FMCSA already extended several waivers from federal regulations to Feb. 28, 2022. The trucking regulator kept these waivers in place to facilitate the transportation of COVID-19 relief supplies and to address commercial driver access to state licensing offices, medical facilities and driver training. With the emergence of the Delta and Omicron COVID-19 variants, elected officials will be wary of appearing unresponsive. In 2002, expect further, if limited in scope, extensions of these regulatory waivers.
Supply chain crisis. The FMCSA extended the waiver on maximum driving time in part to address supply chain issues. Transportation experts predict that the supply chain challenges will not untangle until mid-2022, at the earliest. That becomes a convenient target for continued supply chain-related waivers. In addition, expect these supply chain actions from federal regulators:
- FMCSA will jumpstart rulemaking for the Apprenticeship Pilot Program for Under-21 drivers adopted in the Infrastructure Bill.
- The oft-delayed Entry-Level Driver Training requirement may not begin exactly on February 7, 2022 as planned. State licensing offices and driver training facilities continue to recover from COVID and some related regulations have already been extended to February 28, 2022.
- Various states will propose truck productivity improvements and efforts to attract and train new truck drivers.
The Fall Regulatory Agenda Just Released. The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) publishes a Spring and a Fall edition of the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, displaying the status of current and intended federal regulatory actions. It is a good source of what is to come on the regulatory front.
The 2021 Fall edition displays three new FMCSA regulatory items:
1) Updates to Electronic Logging Device (ELD) regulations.
2) A new look at safety fitness evaluations (potentially opening all Compliance, Safety Accountability scores to public view or perhaps a re-evaluation of using Item Response Theory in CSA).
3) Requiring universal identification devices, also known as UID, on all trucks, per a petition from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).
Each of these three new FMCSA items is an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, meaning that the actual regulatory approach and language has not been settled. Public comments will be critical in determining the direction of these new developments.
Regulations we can expect. With the passage of the Infrastructure Bill and it becoming law, Congress has directed these new regulations:
- Automatic emergency braking on new trucks (as found in the FMCSA regulatory agenda).
- A 150-airmile radius from destination HOS exemption for livestock haulers.
- Higher strength standards and mandatory inspections for rear underride guards.
- As well as rules necessary to implement the Apprenticeship Pilot Program.
The Unified Regulatory Agenda shows anticipated dates for these rulemakings.
Regulations under discussion. Not mandated by the Infrastructure Bill, these trucking topics were widely discussed and may be among the rulemakings proposed in 2022, if the political climate allows:
- Mandatory speed limiters for commercial motor vehicles.
- Increased minimum insurance levels for motor carriers.
- Time or mileage limits on the personal conveyance use of CMVs.
- Mandatory sleep apnea screening.
Study we must. Congress has directed several studies important to trucking. In 2022, watch for the start of these studies:
- An electronic logging device oversight study on just how FMCSA utilizes the data obtained from ELDs.
- A study of side underride guards.
- A two-year study on increasing women in trucking.
- A study of human trafficking violations in commercial motor vehicles.
- A task force on leasing practices in the trucking industry.
Each of these studies will have opportunities for public comment beginning next year.
Study we will. Congress also directed studies that can have a major impact on truck taxation and on future safety regulations:
- A Highway Cost Allocation Study, showing whether cars and trucks are paying their fair share of highway taxes.
- A Mileage Tax Study to look at a national fee by mile charge.
- A Commercial Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Study, which will influence future FMCSA regulations.
Member of the trucking industry will have opportunity to offer comment on these major studies along their course.
National Roadway Safety Strategy. Early in 2022, per Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, there will be a nationwide plan to address highway safety. Among the expected areas of attention will be speed enforcement, failure to use seat belts and distracted driving. Speed enforcement, in particular, may bring wider installation of roadside devices and cameras to track drivers.
Whichever way the political winds blow, 2022 promises to be a very busy year for trucking regulations.