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Final rule trims truck inspection paperwork requirement

Dec. 10, 2014

A final rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) going into effect Dec. 18 will absolve truck drivers of the responsibility to file reports for the 95% of pre- and post-vehicle inspections where no equipment problems or safety concerns are discovered – a change the agency expects will save the industry $1.7 billion annually.

Yet David Heller, director of safety & policy at the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), emphasized to Fleet Owner that the majority of those savings will only really be experienced by carriers still filing paper-based reports.

“Is this new rule a big deal? It really depends on the carrier and how they file such reports,” he said. “If they file paper reports, it’s a big deal. But if they file DVIRs [driver vehicle inspection reports] electronically, it’s not a big deal.”

FMCSA reached savings figure based on its calculation that truck drivers spend 46.7 million hours every year compiling DVIRs. Eliminating DVIRs when no safety defects or mechanical deficiencies are identified will result in time savings valued at $1.7 billion dollars annually, noted Scott Darling, the agency’s acting administrator.

“Until now, truck driver vehicle inspection reports were the 19th highest paperwork burden across all federal agencies,” he said. “By scrapping the no-defect inspection reports, the burden is reduced to 79th.”

Yet many think the agency is overestimating the projected savings from this new rule. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) trade group, for one, questioned FMCSA’s $1.7 billion figure back in 2013 as too high and also pointed out that many fleets integrate DVIR reports – defect-free or not – into their maintenance programs and thus may continue to compile them.

TCA’s Heller is hopeful that this effort is a “symbol of things to come” in terms of the industry moving away from paper-based data reporting in favor of electronic systems.

“For the most part, the adoption of technology in this area has been a slow process for the trucking industry,” he noted.

Comments by Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) indicate the DVIR reporting change is part of an ongoing effort by the Obama administration to eliminate overly-burdensome regulatory requirements.

The administration’s Regulatory Review and Reform initiative, launched in January 2011 via Executive Order 13563, initiated a government-wide review of regulations with the goal of eliminating or modifying out-of-date, ineffective or overly-burdensome rules and reducing regulatory burdens on the private sector.

“Ensuring regulatory flexibility for businesses and reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens through the retrospective review process are top priorities.” Donovan noted.

“This [DVIR] effort is one of the largest paperwork reduction rules in the last decade,” he added. “We look forward to working with the Department of Transportation and other agencies on ways to further institutionalize retrospective review as an essential component of government regulatory policy.”

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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