With a new administration come many questions about what changes could be seen in the trucking industry. While it will take a few months to know for sure, President Trump called for a regulatory rollback or deceleration during and after the election, which will likely trickle into trucking.
In his first week in office, Trump issued an order to federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation (DOT) to halt publication of new and pending regulations until they can be reviewed by the new administration. In his second week in office, Trump issued an executive order stating that for every new regulation submitted to the Federal Register, government agencies must identify two regulations that should be repealed. In addition, he has stated that all department heads will “submit a list of every wasteful and unnecessary regulation which kills jobs, and which does not improve public safety, and eliminate them,” according to Heavy Duty Trucking. Those factors—coupled with the time it will take to re-staff the DOT with Republican appointees—leave an uncertain future for the following rules:
Entry-Level Driver Training:
In December 2016, the FMCSA released a final rule to create and implement a core curriculum for new truck drivers receiving a CDL. The driver training rule was not slated to go into effect until February 6, 2017, which means it will be halted. According to Commercial Carrier Journal, Trump’s order tells agencies to postpone the effective date of new or pending rules for 60 days so that the new administration can review them and alter them if deemed necessary. On February 1, the agency delayed the rule’s effective date to March 21, 2017. It could be delayed further, pending review by the Trump administration.
About the Rule: While the proposed rule draft included a requirement for drivers to have 30 hours of behind-the-wheel (BTW) training before earning a CDL, the final rule requires drivers to show “proficiency” in both knowledge training and BTW training on public roads. Training providers must determine that each CDL applicant demonstrates proficiency in all required elements of the training in order to successfully complete the program, according to Fleet Owner. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) favors this skills-based standard over the “arbitrary” hours-based training regimen originally proposed. The compliance date for the rule will be three years after the effective date.
Safety Fitness Determination:
In May 2016, the FMCSA issued a rulemaking proposal to determine a motor carrier’s safety fitness within Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA). However, the trucking industry nearly unanimously dislikes the proposed rule, citing a flawed foundation in the data collected by CSA.
“ATA is strongly opposed to FMCSA’s Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) proposal and calls on the agency to rescind it,” according to the ATA. “Congress has clearly communicated its concerns about the reliability of CSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) data in assessing the safety performance and crash risk of individual fleets. Proposing to use this same data to make SFDs with strong consequences (prohibitions on operating) is inappropriate.”
About the Rule: As proposed, the Safety Fitness Determination rule would replace the current rating system of satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory. If a carrier was determined to be “unfit,” it would be required to improve operations or shut down. FMCSA estimates the determination system, which would factor in investigation results and roadside inspection/violation data in five of the seven BASICs, would allow the agency to assess the safety fitness of nearly 75,000 carriers monthly rather than the 15,000 it currently evaluates annually, according to Commercial Carrier Journal. Congress ordered FMCSA to remove CSA data from public view in late 2015 due to concerns about inaccuracies and inconsistencies across states.
The Trump administration will likely put this rule on hold and continue to hide CSA scores until the SMS data is made “reliably indicative of individual fleet safety performance,” according to the ATA.
The DOT issued a proposed rulemaking the end of August 2016 that would require heavy-duty trucks (weighing more than 26,000 pounds) to be equipped with speed limiting devices. However, the agency did not issue a specific speed at which trucks would be governed. The agency relied on public comment to help determine what the limited speed should be—likely either 60 mph, 65 mph or 68 mph. Many states—especially those with Republican majorities—have higher speed limits and are concerned about speed limiters because they would create a greater speed differential on their roads. Industry experts expect the speed limiter ruling to be put on hold, largely because of the set speed ambiguity of the proposal, as well as the greater speed differentials in many states.
Unlikely to be impacted by Trump’s presidency are:
Electronic Logging Device Mandate:
A final rule mandating the use of electronic logging devices (ELD) in heavy duty trucks was published December 10, 2015, which means enforcement of the rule will begin December 16, 2017. The two-year delay until the rules are enforced allows carriers to prepare for installation and stagger implementation costs among their fleets, as well as allow manufacturers time to produce devices and systems that are compliant with the technology specifications outlined in the rule. The mandate will impact approximately 3 million commercial drivers, and the FMCSA estimates it will result in an annual benefit of nearly $1 billion, largely by reducing paperwork. Roadside law enforcement personnel will also save time reviewing driver records during stops. The Trump administration will likely not touch this rule.
Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse:
In December 2016, the FMCSA issued a final rule to create a clearinghouse of drug- and alcohol-related violations for those with a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The central database will house verified positive drug and alcohol tests, as well as names of drivers who refuse to be tested. Beginning in January 2020, carriers will be required to report positive test results and refusals to test into the database. Employers will also be required to access this database when looking to hire potential drivers—and to query the database annually for current drivers. According to the DOT’s Significant Rulemaking Report, this rule is intended to increase highway safety by ensuring CDL holders, who have tested positive or have refused to submit to testing, have completed the DOT’s return to-duty process before driving, as well as ensure that employers are meeting their drug and alcohol testing responsibilities. The FMCSA estimates the rule will have annual net benefits of $42 million thanks to crash reduction, according to Heavy Duty Trucking. The Trump administration will likely not touch this rule.
During his term, Trump’s administration will be tasked with creating a new highway bill—or extending the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act passed in 2015. Trump has proposed a 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which would be good for trucking in many ways, including reducing congestion, potentially adding truck parking and enhancing safety.
The DOT will likely continue to tackle driver health issues, particularly how to handle obstructive sleep apnea. The issue has been on the radar for several years, but no rule proposals have been published. So far, the FMCSA has only requested “data and information concerning the prevalence of moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea among individuals occupying safety-sensitive positions in highway and rail transportation, and on its potential consequences for the safety of rail and highway transportation,” according to the DOT’s Significant Rulemaking Report.
As the next few months unfold, the transportation industry will get a glimpse of how much regulatory deceleration Trump truly plans to administer.