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As trucking changes, so do regulations

Feb. 9, 2021
A new administration could bring good news and the potential for changes in regulations with the opportunity for the people will have a voice on the societal impacts.

Oversimplification is so alluring. We say that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates commercial trucks and buses. Oh, and their drivers, too. There, we’re done.

Of course, it’s not so simple. Every FMCSA regulation directly affects commercial vehicle enforcement agencies across the country, who seek to apply the rules in a clear and uniform manner. FMCSA itself has relatively few people in the field. Most commercial vehicle law enforcement personnel and inspectors are state employees. And so, FMCSA rulemakings also affect state-level agencies that employ those folks and deal with trucks and buses.

State legislatures also feel the effects. As a condition of receiving Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) grant money, FMCSA requires states to have intrastate regulations on trucks and buses that are compatible with FMCSA regulations and mirror federal hazardous materials regulations. FMCSA allows states certain variances (“tolerances”) as long as they do not diminish safety. But if states opt to use variances, when FMCSA changes its regulations, state agencies may need to adjust theirs, which may, in turn, require state legislative action. At that point, states have three years to come into alignment with FMCSA.

Alignment between FMCSA and states is good. Motor carriers and drivers, for example, should be able to follow the federal hours of service (HOS) rules on rest breaks without running afoul of California’s rest break regulations. Alignment also helps the technology providers who build and program electronic logging devices. They are an extension of the regulated community, too, just as the truck and trailer manufacturers whose products must meet federal standards on items like rear underride guards.

Shippers and receivers feel the effects on FMCSA rules. Congress required their inclusion when it directed FMCSA to adopt a regulation against the HOS coercion of drivers. But, unlike the brokers and freight forwarders that Congress placed in FMCSA’s statutory charter, shippers and receivers sit outside of FMCSA’s usual regulatory orbit. So, it will be interesting to watch the breadth of the regulated community grow as FMCSA takes up issues like driver detention.

Highway safety is a societal issue. So, in that way, FMCSA regulations affect us all, even if we are not part of the regulated community.

A new administration could bring good news and the potential for changes in regulations. FMCSA understands the breadth of its regulated community and the fact that its regulations may have societal impacts.

Even more importantly, we all have the opportunity to make federal regulations practical and workable. FMCSA has requested public comment on new regulatory proposals. Federal administrative law requires the agency to read and account for each and every comment filed, whether from us or from our representatives, like trade associations. Comments that provide facts and real-world experiences, founded in highway safety, can help build regulations that are accepted throughout the community.

We’re all in this together. It’s a simple as that.

Steve Vaughn is the vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass service. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

About the Author

Steve Vaughn | Senior Vice President of Field Operations

Steve Vaughn is senior vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and electronic toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

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