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Sandberg: Trucking rules delayed but not stopped

Sept. 17, 2015
Issue dates for a slew of new trucking regulations are being pushed back, former FMCSA administrator says, but they will be published before Obama leaves office.

INDIANAPOLIS. A spate of long-awaited trucking regulations, such as mandates for electronic logging devices (ELDs) and truck speed limiters, are going to be delayed yet awhile further, noted Annette Sandberg, the former head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and now CEO of TransSafe Consulting, explained here at the annual FTR Transportation Conference. But she expects most of them will be published before President Obama leaves office.

“I suspect some of these often-delayed rules will get pushed out one way or the other before the President leaves office,” she said. “So stand by: next year will be fun.”

The major new trucking-focused rules being delayed are:

  • Drug and alcohol test database: the final rule forming this database was previously delayed to March 2016 but is expected to slide again, said Sandberg. “It’s surprising the agency is taking so long; this is a rule the industry wanted to put in place,” she explained.
  • Increases to minimum insurance levels: A backlash to what Sandberg described as an effort to raise insurance levels by agency fiat resulted in FMCSA agreeing to issue an advanced noticed of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on the subject. “But not that ANPRM is just sitting there; other regulations have moved to the top of the priority list,” Sandberg said.
  • Speed limiters: An expected notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was to be issued later this month, but Sandberg expects it to be delayed. “It should be an easy push but we won’t probably see a final rule on this until the end of 2016,” she said.
  • ELDs: A final rule expected at the end of this month is now going to be delayed until the end of October.
  • Entry level driver training: Though an NPRM on this subject got previously delayed by a month to Nov. 15, Sandberg expects it to be delayed again. “Congress set a deadline for this rule two years ago but it’s hard to justify it from a cost benefit standpoint,” she noted. “FMCSA conducted listening sessions on this issue over the last 6 to 8 months and is still digesting those inputs.”
  • Prohibition of Coercion: The intent of this rule is not only to prevent driver coercion by trucking companies but by brokers and shippers too. That’s why enforcement of this rule will be turned over to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) via a memorandum of understanding signed with the FMCSA last year. “OSHA is anxious to get started enforcing this rule,” Sandberg pointed out. “But the issuance of this final rule has now slid to the end of October.”
  • Safety fitness determination: This is only rulemaking still on schedule, with an NPRM due for release at the end of this month; a rule informally dubbed “CSA part two.”

Sandberg stressed, however, that many of the rules above are expected to get bogged down in lawsuits, thus delaying their implementation even further.

“If the ELD rule comes out this year, I’d expect a two year compliance window to be established for it,” she noted. “But OOIDA [Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association] has already said they will sue the agency when it is issued.”

Indeed, almost every rule on the agenda above has faced lawsuits, forcing FMCSA in some cases to go back and start the rulemaking process over. “That’s why it takes so long,” she emphasized. “The agency is trying to write a rule that will fit thousands of industries using the same tool – a truck. That’s why it’s never a clean-cut issue, especially in terms of analyzing the cost-benefits.”

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