Is it a deep freeze?

March 7, 2017
Concern over pending regulations is clearly on the rise

This time of year always seems to accompany uncertainty and unpredictability when it comes to weather. As I write this column, Washington, DC, broke heat records, as temperatures soared into the 70s in the middle of February. And this was just days before the Northeast got slammed by a winter storm that dropped two feet of snow in some locations.

All of that uncertainty and unpredictability seems to accompany what has recently come out of the White House and its regulatory freeze and rollback initiatives. Now, we find ourselves in the midst of questioning what regulations are involved in the regulatory freeze and what could be “identified” for repeal in the regulatory rollback.  Here’s the thing, though; some of these regulations that could get caught up in all of this may be ones that we actually want. 

It comes as no surprise that our industry is highly regulated. In fact, we can probably make sense out of just about every rule out there that has an impact on us.  Sure, we could argue over the provisions of many rules and definitely advocate for changes to some, but we know that our industry will continue to be one of the most regulated-deregulated business environments in our country. 

In noting this, concern over much needed pending regulations is clearly on the rise.  The pipeline contains rules regarding a drug and alcohol clearinghouse, entry-level driver training, and electronic logging devices, just to name a few. And while the industry has waited long enough for these rules, the freeze and uncertainty regarding regulations could mean an even longer wait. 

To further that sentiment, a recent exemption request is being considered for six carriers over the incorporation of hair testing into our nation’s Dept, of Transportation drug testing protocols.  Surely, this request can be viewed as admirable; in reality, this regulatory kick in the pants is somewhat based on the fact that we continue to wait for guidance and changes to a rule in an effort to make our industry safer. 

The logical explanation would be that we should not have waited this long for guidance on this; however, the reality is that we have and will continue to do so—a shining example of the industry wanting to move the needle on a regulation and waiting for a regulatory body to catch up. 

Unfortunately, this seems par for the course and examples of this can be found all over any of the recent lists that identify trucking-related issues.  Any list, especially if you look at that of the American Transportation Research Institute, contains little change over the years, and as much as our industry would like it to, our wait to move the needle on issues continues to grow longer. 

“We find ourselves in the midst of questioning what regulations are involved in the regulatory freeze and what could be 'identified' for repeal in the regulatory rollback.”

- David Heller, TCA vice president of government affairs

Reliant upon what I would refer to as a government version of a blessing, members of the Truckload Carriers Assn. and trucking as a whole continue to be at the forefront of safety—improving technology and ideas, continually waiting at the finish line for our governing bodies to catch up, thus creating a need like the recent exemption request regarding hair testing for drugs and alcohol. 

The harsh reality is that these six carriers have demonstrated exactly what I am talking about—carrier need outpacing government regulations—and the time has come to actually move the needle on industry issues that we constantly surround ourselves with.

As we engage in discussions surrounding constant technological improvements, it becomes an industry imperative to clean the regulatory docket so that conversations regarding autonomous vehicles can be substantive enough to become reality rather than the perceived science fiction that we thought it was. Self-driving vehicles are here. In order to truly wrap our arms around them and the technology that accompanies them, we must defrost the regulatory freeze, do some spring cleaning on the old issues, and welcome new technology so that we can prepare trucking for the next 50 or so years.   

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